I am in a relationship (6mos)with an awesome guy, he’s 30, I’m 33.He’s a very charismatic, fun-loving guy and he keeps us laughing all the time.

My daughter who’s 12 really likes him, she definitely seeks his approval. She’s a sort of at the stage where she wants to be seen as an adult but looks very “child-like”. She has a great relationship with her bio father, he’s very active in her life, hugs and kisses her still.

My boyfriend, from the time we met, seemed to really like her. As of recently, they’ve been out alone for water ice, to Target etc…. He becomes VERY fixated on her when she’s around.

My concern, and something that’s been making me feel uncomfortable and triggering my “something’s not quite right” instinct is his physical interaction with her. He teases her, a lot…..nothing mean just things like “So, you’re 10yrs old right?” or “Who’s the boys you were with at the park?” He loves to rough house or wrestle, he does it to me, I think it’s funny.. but he’ll sit on her when she’s on the couch, or pin her down and tickle her, lift her up by one leg and smack her rear, pinch her shoulder… She laughs, but what else is she suppose to do?

He has a son (5yrs) and does not interact w/ him this way. Last night he was teaching her self defense techniques (he’s a Marine) and had her wrap her legs around him from behind. I felt really uneasy and said “Let’s not do that!”

He’s always been really concerned and talked with me about boys her age and what they are thinking and doing together, he’s expressed to me that sending her to a co-ed overnight camp is a huge mistake.

Recently going to a friends house and watching him literally light up when their 13yr old daughter walked in. Then spent the majority of the evening hanging with her and my daughter… made me feel uncomfortable as well.

My Aunts boyfriend growing up was kinda like this…and we all loved him! I remember being so excited if he was at a family party cause he’d play with us and give us the same attention my BF id giving my daughter.

Am I being overly protective, I keep telling myself how lucky I am to have found someone who’s so good to us and fun loving, but I can’t shake the feeling that something is off. I want him to like her, but I don’t want to have any issues with molestation or inappropriate contact. Thanks

A: I certainly don’t want to accuse your guy of being inappropriate when I have so little information. On the other hand, you are her mother and you don’t feel right about something you can’t quite put a finger on. That’s something to pay attention to.

I think you should trust your instincts. You use words like “fixated” and “attracted.” He’s holding her down physically and seems to enjoy spending time with teenaged girls more than with his own young son or with other adults. It makes you repeatedly uncomfortable. So, no. You are not being overprotective. You are being reasonably cautious about possible overinvolvement of a man who is not related to her and who doesn’t seem to know his proper role in her life.

Girls that age need to feel attractive, yes. But they also need to feel absolutely safe with the male adults (father, uncles, older brothers and mom’s dates, etc.) in their lives. They want male approval. They may even try out flirting. But that doesn’t mean that they are provocative or seductive. It means they are trying to figure out how to relate to men appropriately. It is up to the adult men to give her feedback about what is and isn’t appropriate and safe.

If your boyfriend wants to be part of her life, it’s time he stops trying to be a playmate and starts asserting boundaries that are appropriate when an adult male is around an adolescent girl. He can tell her she looks pretty. He can tease a bit, as long as it doesn’t embarrass her. He can help you think through whether she is ready for camp. But he can’t be stimulating her or himself with physical play.

As you pointed out, your daughter is kind of trapped when he interacts with her. Instead of treating her like he treats you, his adult sexual partner, he needs to show her fatherly respect and teach her how to assert her own boundaries when with someone who has more power than she does. That’s what is going to prepare her to manage difficult situations with men when she is out in the world.

It’s past time to have a frank talk with your boyfriend about his behavior. Yes, it will be uncomfortable. But you have the right to be concerned. It’s your responsibility to make sure he doesn’t cross a line.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 8 Jul 2013

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2013). Boyfriend Overstepping Boundaries with Daughter?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 19, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2013/07/08/boyfriend-overstepping-boundaries-with-daughter/