I Wasn’t Emotionally Ready for My Daughter to Have a Boyfriend

Watching your child fall in love brings with it a whole lot of triggering.

Here’s another thing to add to the long list of ‘things they don’t teach you in parenting school’ (imagine if such a place existed?) With my eldest child entering her teen years, came a barrage of problems that I had naively never anticipated.

In my mind, I had made it through elementary school bullying, several moves post-divorce and her being “the new girl,” and an ADHD diagnosis.

I thought to myself, “the worst is over.” She’s a teenager now. She’s becoming self-sufficient. She does lots of chores and she helps out with her three younger siblings. She’s a high-honor roll student, an athlete, and an all-around kind human. I was patting myself on the back. Until…

She suddenly started ‘dating.’ I put that term in quote marks because, well, how much are 13-year olds really getting emotionally invested in a relationship. I mean, they’re kids, right? Turns out, they emotionally invest the sh*t out of it. I remember I called my ex-husband and I said “she likes a boy.” He wasn’t thrilled, obvi. Neither was my current husband. That ended in tears within one week.

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We said, OK, she’s had her first heartbreak. Got that out of the way! Phew. Not so fast.

Almost immediately, she liked another boy. That lasted maybe a week longer than the first. Moving on. The third boy though — he was different. My daughter is a generally happy person but, this time, she was downright giddy. I called my ex-husband echoing the same statement as earlier and he nonchalantly replied “ok,” to which I said “no, I’m telling you she really likes a boy.”

He would show up at her soccer games with a 7-Eleven slurpee in hand for her when it was over. He gave her his favorite sweatshirts to wear, which she did so much, they were in constant rotation in the wash. He would post the most adorable TikTok videos about her. Best of all, we met him and we really liked him. He was a sweet boy. They would exchange “I love you’s” over text, and each would tell the other how much they meant to one another. My ex-husband would say “we know it’s not going to last but we’ll just see how it goes.”

I personally, was just thrilled that my daughter was thriving and happy — it’s all you ever hope for as a parent — but I always had this nagging voice in the back of my head. What if it ends or worst case scenario, ends badly? There is nothing worse than seeing one of your children hurting. Sometimes, emotional pain is even worse than a physical injury — because with four decades of experience you know that those scars can last a lifetime.

It was triggering for me. At that age, I felt that I was ugly and boys didn’t like me. I chased after them, in a desperate bid to prove I was wanted. I was devastated when they didn’t reciprocate. No one ever told me I was doing it all wrong.

So, I made it my mission with my daughters to constantly tell them they were beautiful and worthy and don’t ever let anyone show or treat you otherwise.

Apparently it worked. She was well-liked, and positively radiant. I experienced some sort of secondhand radiance whenever she was around and giggling over a text message he’d sent, or sharing some cute gesture he’d made in school that day.

But, yet again, that nagging voice would reappear to remind me “she’s a lot like you Jene.” She is sensitive, and also, a little bit naive. So what happens if she gets her heart broken?

I recall being in 6th grade and having a “boyfriend” for a total of two-weeks. In tweendom, that seems like a lifetime. But when he suddenly dumped me because I wouldn’t hold his hand at recess, my response was to spend the weekend in bed crying. It was all I knew, having seen my mom go through similar heartbreaks. So that is what I thought I was supposed to do.

Would my daughter handle it differently? I knew in my mind I simply wasn’t ready to find out. But like a speeding freight train, even the strength of the Incredible Hulk couldn’t stop that one from coming.

Two months to the day of when they “officially” started dating, it ended. While we did our best to counsel her through it (lucky for us, she trusts us enough to tell us everything), we couldn’t stop the pain. Much like her earlier moments of radiant joy, I felt the pangs of pain along with her — as if it was happening to me, too.

Of course they both made mistakes. Grown adults make mistakes, and this is a whole lot of maturity for a teen to be taking on. And there were lessons to be learned. But there was also heartbreak, and sadness, which was unbearable as a parent to witness.

I know that time heals all wounds and this is likely just a blip on the radar for her — but it may take me just a bit longer to recover. Hopefully when the next boy comes around we’ll both be a little more prepared for what’s to come.


Jené Luciani Sena
Jené Luciani Sena is an accredited journalist and internationally-renowned bestselling author, regularly seen on national TV outlets such as Access Daily, Today and Dr Oz. Touted as one of Woman’s World Magazine’s “Ultimate Experts,” she’s a TEDTalk speaker and a busy Mom of 4. Read more
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