My friend said she will ruin a friendship if I don’t date her

I’m a widower with a 12 year old daughter. My wife died 6 years ago and it was super hard on both me and my daughter.

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I’ve been focused on being the best parent and I can be and with support from family plus therapy for us both, we’re managing okay. I do know how hard it was for my daughter to make friends for a while after that.

For the past 2 years she’s had this really good friend. They are pretty much inseparable. I’ve seen the difference this friend has made to my daughter’s life and it’s been amazing.

The friend has a mother who is also a single parent. We started interacting more a year ago when our daughters got closer and I thought we were pretty good friends. A few weeks ago she said she had feelings for me. I do not feel the same way unfortunately. She’s a great person but I just don’t feel that way about her and I was honest about it.

She didn’t take it well, and I empathize, I think we’ve all been there. But in the past 2 weeks, she asked me again. She’s said things like she wants me to give it a chance, she feels we’d be great together and “it’s good for the kids”. 2 days ago, she said she might have to restrict her daughter from being friend with mine because it’s a ‘painful reminder’ to her about me.

I really really don’t know what to do. Her friend cutting off contact will set my daughter back and really mess with her. And I will feel 100% responsible for that. But on the other hand, being forced into a relationship feels so wrong and weird. It’s not fair to anyone.

Any ideas at all? I have no idea how to proceed

The ethicist’s answer:Dealing with a situation like this is incredibly tough, and I’m sorry you’re faced with such a dilemma. Your priority, understandably, is your daughter’s well-being, but it’s also important to consider your own feelings and the long-term effects of any decisions you make.

Firstly, your feelings are valid. You are not obligated to reciprocate someone else’s feelings, and honesty is typically the best policy. It is good that you were upfront with your daughter’s friend’s mother about your lack of romantic interest. Continuing to lead her on would only cause more pain in the long run.

Her reaction, while hurtful, is also understandable from a human perspective. Rejection is tough and can cause people to react in ways that are not always rational or fair. However, using children’s friendships as leverage is not appropriate. It’s a form of emotional manipulation, whether it’s intentional or not, and the children should not be made to suffer because of adult issues.

Here’s a suggested course of action:

  1. Communicate Your Concerns Clearly: Have another conversation with her. Acknowledge her feelings but explain your concerns about the impact on the children. It’s important for her to understand that the kids’ friendship should be separate from whatever happens between the two of you.
  2. Set Boundaries: Be clear about your boundaries. Let her know that you value her friendship as your daughter’s friend’s mother, but the romantic relationship she desires isn’t possible. Setting this boundary can help prevent further confusion.
  3. Seek Mediation if Necessary: If she persists or the situation escalates, it might be worth seeking the help of a mediator. This could be a mutual friend, a family therapist, or a professional mediator who can help navigate the conversation.
  4. Support Your Daughter: Prepare to support your daughter in case her friend’s mother follows through with her threat. Continue therapy if that has been helpful in the past, and find new ways for her to build relationships and resilience.
  5. Explore Alternative Solutions: Encourage the girls to maintain their friendship through school or extra-curricular activities if possible. This could lessen the direct involvement you have with the other mother while still allowing the children to be friends.
  6. Document Conversations: If the situation deteriorates, it might be wise to document your interactions with her in case her actions towards the children become punitive or concerning.

Remember, you’re not responsible for someone else’s emotional reactions, but you are responsible for how you handle the situation. Approach the matter with empathy, but also with firmness about what you can and cannot offer. Your first responsibility is to your own emotional well-being and that of your daughter’s. A relationship entered under duress or guilt is unfair to all parties involved and is likely to lead to resentment and further complications down the line.

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