The very concerned father of a 17-year-old boy recently took to Reddit and outlined a truly impossible parenting predicament. His story about his son's problematic sexual relationship with a significantly older family friend illustrated a couple of stark truths.
First and foremost, kids are vulnerable people. They need the help and security of caring adults and sometimes they don't realize it.
And second, no matter how thoughtful and prepared a parent can strive to be, sometimes circumstances arise that are absolutely beyond anything one could ever be equipped to handle.
The father, known simply as throwra_mylifesuck, shared the story on the Relationship Advice subReddit, where folks turn when real-life interpersonal dynamics are too complex to take on alone.
He began the post with a succinct explanation of the facts.
"I (m/43) recently found out that my son [will refer to him as Tim] (m/17) Has been sleeping with my wife's best friend, Julia (f/36)."
"As a bit of background, Julia is a high school teacher, however Tim does not attend the school that she teaches."
From there, he moved on to a recounting of the moment of discovery. The moment was as awkward as it was necessary.
"This all started when Tim had a few of the boys over and a YouTube video came up in tv about a teacher in the US who dated her student, went to jail, was released and the two got married and stayed together until she died recently."
"Tim's friend made the comment 'haha how would you feel if she went to jail?' And I found this comment rather strange, as he went white in the face and started acting differently after he made the comment, as if it was a mistake."
"Tim also slapped him (jokingly) in that hey shut up kind of way."
With those alarm bells ringing in his ear, the father committed himself to learning more and addressing his concerns.
"So.. as a concerned father, I recently looked in my son's phone while he was asleep on the lounge and found texts to a contact name 'J'. Most of the messages were deleted, but the most recent one said 'hey boo are you ok?'"
"Alarm bells immediately started ringing, so I cross checked the number to the contact saved on my wife's phone.... low and behold.. it is Julia."
"This came as a massive surprise as she has been somewhat like an 'aunty' towards Tim and never showed any warning signs when we went on holidays together or she was at our house."
Unfortunately, a simple confrontation or discussion about the situation would not be enough to alleviate the situation. The complexities of emotion, claims to trust, and even the letter of the law all came into play.
"Anyway, I confronted Tim about this and he fessed up (we have a pretty open/honest relationship) saying it was his instigating and begging me not to tell his mother in fears of it ruining her friendship with Julia and causing problems."
"The issue is that where we live in Australia, the legal age of consent is 16 yrs. So technically.. there isn't necessarily a legal issue.
"However, my gut tells me this may have been going on for a bit longer than Tim is letting on. He says he is in love with her.. I have no trust or respect for Julia any longer and want to tell my wife as soon as I figure out how to protect Tim."
The post concluded with him at a total impasse about how to proceed. His closing plea for advice was equal parts hopeful and desperate.
"I am worried that my wife will be furious and confront him and Julia. Tim threatened that if I told his mum that he would leave home and live with Julia. I feel like Julia is a predator and I worry he is being manipulated."
"I have no idea how to go about this..."
Advisory comments from the Reddit community varied a little, of course, but one detail was nearly always included: he needs to tell his wife, like yesterday.
"There's no good way to go about this but you don't want to be the husband who keeps this information away from his wife when she eventually finds out. Tell her however you best see fit." -- tercer78
"No, you tell her right now! You can't think you have control of the situation on your own and she is entitled to know. Don't try to 'fix' it on your own." -- monty_kurns
"You need to have this conversation alone with your wife, and as far away from Tim as possible. Find a way to remove Tim (and maybe your wife's phone) from her presence so that she won't have the space to react emotionally toward Tim or Julia."
"Give her the space to react and cool off before she speaks with either of them. You both have every right to be upset with Julia as she was the adult in this situation and still allowed it to happen." -- shameonme2
"Sorry bud you are in a lose lose. So pick the side that has you and your wife on the same team looking out for your son."
"Your wife is allowed to be furious at Julia, so that's inevitable, gonna have to just accept that that's a thing that will happen. Best to have the two of you on the same team to mitigate damage and maximize the chances of getting through it."
"Or you can not tell her, have it come out, have your wife lose all trust in you, be divided, lose the kid anyways and have no way to recover and protect him." -- Mindtaker
Some Redditors went beyond his due diligence to his wife. They reminded how that careful attention is owed to his son at a time like this.
"Imagine you had a 17 year old daughter in the same position and your wife knew and didn't tell you. You must tell her."
"Your son needs to understand this isn't a simple secret between the men in the house that intends the best for everyone involved. There are consequences to his actions."
"This could impact your son very negatively in so many ways. Your job is to protect him, not to be his agreeable friend. It's sad to feel you've betrayed his trust, but being a good father means his welfare always comes first." -- BrengMeNaarAnUisce
"Your instincts are screaming that your son is being abused. Your instincts aren't wrong. Tell your wife and confront your son's abuser." -- 2hot2bexhausted
"I would get a therapist, hopefully one who specializes in this sort of thing, on the phone right away. Hopefully the therapist will be able to provide guidance on what the best thing to do is. You can bet she's probably doing this sort of thing with some of her students." -- excelise
And many comments set their sights on Julia. They were outraged by her behavior, concerned about other possible victims, and advocated that she face serious consequences.
"Tell your wife immediately and inform her (J) place of employment. This woman should not be around children."
"She's basically groomed your son. She has watched him grow. It's disgusting, she's a predator. Your wife will resent you if you don't tell her." -- loomsie
"Tell your wife, confront Julia yourself, report her to the school she works for, tell the police you suspect she groomed your son. Tell everyone! She is a predator and deserves to be seen and treated as one!" -- winree
"There is nothing that a 17 year old and 36 year old have in common enough to be in love. She's a predator. I'm concerned for her students now." -- ChunkyPuppyKissez
"In Australia there's an exception for teachers when it comes to the age of consent. For teachers it's 18, just so they won't be able to f*** (their) high school students." -- eazeloxxIf this father puts even a little bit of stock in the advice of strangers on the internet, the path ahead seems to be quite clear.