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I am doing a PhD in the US. I am in my mid-twenties and will graduate next spring. My advisor was very good and nice to me. He invited me to have dinner at his home many times and then I met his daughter. I did not realize at the beginning but she told me she had a crush on me. I have known her for some years now. She is above the age of consent.

I went to a party last week and had an extra couple of beers and I could not resist her. I am here alone and had not been with a woman in two years until then.

Now she wants to start a relationship with me and is threatening to tell her father, who is my PhD advisor, that I seduced her if I do not agree.

This is a very difficult situation for me because I do not want my advisor to think I took advantage of his daughter and the trust he has in me.

Also, I do not have time for a relationship. I just want to finish writing my thesis and then graduate.

Aside from those issues, I would love to date that girl: she is cute and hot. In normal circumstances, for me it is extremely difficult to get a girl. I am like Leonard from the Big Bang Theory TV show.

I do not know what to do. I just want to graduate and go home. But she is threatening me.

What should I do? What should I tell my advisor? I do not want him to feel betrayed and that I took advantage of his daughter. She is the one that came to me because under normal circumstances I cannot get a girl. But also I do not want her reputation to be damaged.

I tried explaining that to her but she told me I got sex and I want to get away with it. I am afraid and worried.

Some additional information: There is no way I could have seduced her. I am not good with women.

I do not know what happened. As I can remember, I had very few interactions with her. Never shared anything but a few encounters in social meetings. That is all. And then she tells me she has feelings for me. I did nothing to get into that situation. I was invited to a party and then she appeared. I had a couple of extra beers and she offered to take me home and there she jumped over me and kissed me and I could not resist. I had been a very long time without sex.

I am very worried and scared.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. In particular, do not post answers as a comment. Please read this FAQ before posting another comment. – Wrzlprmft Sep 3 '18 at 8:56
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    Meta discussion related to post vandalism: academia.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/4311/… – Allure Sep 6 '18 at 5:55
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    The OP wanted this question closed (please see the Edit revision history). I am honoring his request by voting to "Leave Closed". – scaaahu Jan 21 at 5:28

10 Answers 10

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First off, you haven’t committed a crime (assuming she was above the age of consent) and you haven’t engaged in academic misconduct (since there is only an indirect academic relationship between you). However, the fact that she is threatening/blackmailing you is very concerning. The fact that she is your advisor’s daughter makes things more complicated, but being threatened or blackmailed by a sexual partner would be deeply concerning in any circumstance.

I do not know the exact nature of the threats or blackmail, but I would not engage in a relationship with someone who is threatening or blackmailing me. Only you know the exact situation, but your choice of words rings alarm bells. My primary concern in your situation would be worrying about whether she will make worse threats — e.g., false rape accusations. That would be much worse than a spat with your advisor.

If I were in your situation, I would try to record my conversations with her so that I have some evidence to protect myself if she does carry out her threats. Save text messages and get a voice recorder app on your phone. (Check the laws on recording conversations in your state first.) The only thing other than “he said, she said” you have to defend yourself is such evidence.

Maybe I'm misreading the situation from your question, but your choice of words "threatening" and "blackmail" is concerning. And there is no harm in trying to protect yourself from possible future accusations. Hope for the best, plan for the worst.

This is not a complete answer, but I think you should worry about being threatened/blackmailed before you worry about dealing with your advisor.

In terms of dealing with your advisor, two (conflicting) points: Generally, honesty is the best policy (as Buffy's answer emphasizes), but she is an adult and her father has no automatic "right" to know about her sex life, and there is a good chance both of you would prefer him not to know (as Nicole's answer suggests).

In terms of dealing with her: It sounds like you are still on speaking terms with her and you should absolutely try to talk things through with her. Treat her with respect and acknowledge her feelings. (See Geoffrey’s answer.)

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – eykanal Sep 4 '18 at 14:51
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It may be worth thinking about the contrast between this:

I could not resist her. I am here alone and had not been with a woman in two years until then.

and this:

Now she wants to start a relationship with me and is threatening me to tell his father, which is my PhD advisor, that I seduced her

Perhaps she sincerely believes you did seduce her. If you felt unable to say no to this encounter, which you now regret, is it possible that she also felt unable to resist?

Here is one possible scenario (I don't claim it's the only one) that might explain her reactions:

You're six years older than her. She's known you since she was a child, and you're part of her father's social circle. (The power gap between you and her father probably isn't as visible to her as it is to you; when I was a kid and my father had his PhD students over for dinner, I tended to think of them as "Papa's friends", not as his juniors.)

She probably doesn't see that you're lonely and haven't been with a woman in two years, nor that you view yourself as somebody who's awkward with women. She probably also isn't factoring in how alcohol might have affected your judgement, especially since she's not even old enough to buy alcohol herself.

What she sees is a guy six years older than herself, almost a PhD. From a 19-year-old's perspective, mid-twenties seems very old and mature. She probably had more faith in your maturity and judgement than you do yourself.

Then she slept with you, and things didn't end up the way she had hoped, and that hurts. So how does she interpret that hurt?

From her perspective: you are a very old and mature person, so presumably you knew how this was going to turn out. Therefore, the fact that she got hurt is perceived as being due to callousness on your part - you took advantage of her, "seduced" her. She may find it hard to comprehend that you felt "unable to resist".

IMHO, the best course of action here is to acknowledge that things didn't go the way they should have, take ownership of the fact that you did choose to sleep with her, and express sympathy for the hurt she is feeling. Were I in your situation, I might say something along the following lines:

I want to apologise to you for what happened. I like you and I find you attractive, but I didn't think enough about what us sleeping together might mean to you and I'm sorry I didn't talk to you about that first. You're an adult and I think of you as an equal; I didn't think that you might be counting on me to look out for both of us.

(I'm struggling a bit with that wording, suggestions for improvement welcome.)

Attempting to blackmail you is unacceptable behaviour. But if you acknowledge the hurt and if you can shift her perception of why it happened, you might find that the blackmail issue resolves itself.

If you can't resolve things with her, then you may need to talk to your professor and explain the situation, which is going to be an uncomfortable discussion. But I'd recommend doing all you can to make things right with her first.

One of the problems with conversations about sex-gone-wrong is that the emphasis almost always ends up on "whose fault is it?" rather than "somebody is hurt, what can we do to heal that?" Often the latter is actually more tractable, especially in situations that break down to poor communication and mismatched expectations.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – eykanal Sep 4 '18 at 14:51
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Personally, I would tell her to go for it. There's a pretty good chance she's bluffing. Kids do not tell their parents when they're having sex. If, in addition, she's as you described, "cute and hot", it's far more likely she's merely manipulative than desperate to have you at any cost.

Even if she's not bluffing and does tell her dad, so what. You can't change the past, it is indeed a fact that you had sex with her and I don't see how your situation improves by preemptively "kissing and telling". If you tried going first to your adviser, what would you even say? "Hi, Prof! Guess what? I had sex with your daughter and now she's blackmailing me!" How's that going to go over?

Look at this as a game-theoretic problem: There's no payoff to blackmail unless the blackmailer gets what they want without carrying out the threat. It's a one-shot deal. Once the threat is carried out, it's no longer a threat because the information has been released. If she knows she's not getting the relationship either way and that the only thing that will happen if she carries out the threat is that Dad will know she's having sex, that's not much of a payoff. Telling her to "go for it" explicitly informs her that you intend to ignore the threat and that you will not be swayed by it.

What I would not do is escalate or mirror the bad behavior. If you think responsible adults do not secretly record, collect evidence against and blackmail people they have sex with, then don't respond to that by doing it yourself. Instead, simply end the relationship and end all contact.

Ultimately, you can't control what she says but you can control what you say. If she tells her dad and he confronts you, I would point out that you consider one's sex life to be a very private matter, not something adults discuss with others. I would express surprise and disappointment at his daughter's behavior but otherwise refuse to discuss the matter except to deny any false accusations.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – eykanal Sep 4 '18 at 14:51
  • Your game-theoretic approach is good, but one must also consider the theoretical possible benefits if the daughter decides to falsely claim rape. That situation has no up-side for the OP. – Wetlab Walter Oct 22 '18 at 17:46
  • @WetlabWalter I don't think there are any. Any preemptive disclosure admits you had sex, which is half of what needs to be proved in a rape allegation. – Nicole Hamilton Oct 22 '18 at 18:09
  • Admits you had sex (against your will). The qualifier changes the balance. If she claims she was young, drunk, and taken advantage of by her dad's co-worker at the university, I would hope things got pretty serious pretty quick. That isn't the same reading of the facts as the OP, but it is a valid one. All of his comments about not having sex for 2 years and being shy and not able to seduce, are just his opinions about himself (whilst defending his actions). Honestly, if the OP could do something now that encouraged the girl to rule out rape in the future, for example, go on a date with her. – Wetlab Walter Oct 22 '18 at 19:57
  • In plain English, I thought your answer was spectacular, and your point of view accurate. The only thing you may not have considered, being a false accusation of rape. Men these days are a little more on edge about that than ever before, i think. If he can nullify that then the cards are in his favour, because otherwise i'd have probably taken her side, particularly after he added "As I can remember, I had very few interactions with her. Never shared anything but a few encounters in social meetings. That is all." The romantical naive girl who also has sex on the first night is a porn trope. – Wetlab Walter Oct 22 '18 at 20:00
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So there is a girl. She is cute. She is hot. She is totally into you. And you'd love to date her.

And additionally, you are a nerd who usually has difficulties finding a girlfriend.

Then unfortunately there are two problems: You don't have much time. This thing might blow up your relationship with your advisor in a really bad way.

My solution would be: Tell her that you'd love to date her. Because she's hot and cute. But you are in a stressful situation with your thesis and this will only work if she can accept that you have very little time for her. Then set up a date.

Before you go on the date, you need to talk to your advisor. Tell him that his daughter asked you out on a date. And that you hope that that's ok for him. If he says no, you can go back to her with that and maybe deflect her anger, after all it's her father's fault.

But most likely he'll say that its not a problem. Then you are mostly out of trouble. Even if you break up with her after a month or so, the whole situation is not going to be as radioactive as it would be if she started to tell her father lies or half-truths about you right now.

Now, the remaining Elephant in the room is that she has been threatening and "black mailing" you. This is your judgement call to make. But given that you write that you'd love to date her, I judge optimistically from afar that maybe that was more an expression of disappointment and passion in the spur of a moment or something ... ;-)

If you judge her to be truly crazy and vicious and ready to destroy your life with unfounded accusations, don't take my advice. Go and immediately talk to your advisor about her.

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    As others said, a toxic personality like this girl allegedly has is probably not the best for a long term relationship, but I think BlindKungFuMonster's answer could be the best bandage on the short-term situation. Also keep in mind that 19 year olds are still children - often pretty emotionally immature. It could be likely that it's not truly her intent to blackmail -- maybe she's just a bit heartbroken and feels "used", and this is her (poorly managed) immediate response. My advice to OP would be to ask her to talk about it in a couple days to let any of these immediate emotions "cool off" – galois Sep 5 '18 at 19:58
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Assuming she is of legal age and you don't have an issue with the law. And assuming you aren't in a culture in which you can be killed for this, the only real way out is to talk to your advisor yourself. Painful, but true. You messed up and may have to pay the penalty. But every other option could wind up worse. There is no guarantee that your relationship will last - I assume marriage is not in the options here. There is no guarantee that she won't tell her father whenever she is unhappy with you for any reason. As painful as it is, the best person to deliver the news is yourself.

And be aware that "he seduced me" is NOT the worst accusation she can make.

But be prepared for whatever consequences occur.

But, it is possible that you don't need to mention the physical/sexual aspect and first present it as you are "seeing/dating" his daughter, assuming you want to continue. He may make the connection himself. He may tell you to stop. He may drop you as an advisee.

If you don't want to continue the relationship you may need to be more explicit, or not. But the message is still better coming from you than from any other.


Since this answer and other of my comments here have been controversial, let me explain the assumptions I made and didn't make.

First, I assume I've heard one side of this only and the person has a vested interest. I don't assume I know all.

I don't presume to know anything about the advisor or his relationship with his daughter.

I don't presume to know the state of mind of the 19 year old, whether she is rational or emotional. People (men and women) of that age can act out emotionally.

I think that the probability that the young woman is bluffing is somewhere between 0% and 100%. I have no way to know where to put a marker and am curious that others think it quite low, not knowing any of these people. I can't extrapolate from my kids to the situation here and wouldn't care to try. I doubt, for example, that my daughter would blackmail anyone, but am pretty sure she doesn't bluff.

I know that the charge of "seduction" may be a bit serious, but a charge of rape is devastating and can be made whether true or false. Refuting a false charge in such a case could be difficult to impossible.

I think that putting my head in the sand as the victim of blackmail would be very dangerous. I would rather be in front of the story than behind it while charges were being made.

No, I wouldn't describe the details to my advisor unless pressed. I wouldn't present it as the OP did in the question (I had sex with your daughter and she is blackmailing me). That would be stupid and I don't know why it was suggested.

It might even be (no assumption here) that the dad knows his daughter well and would roll his eyes if told. But, of course, that isn't highly likely.

The OP, of course, is in a better position to evaluate all of this and has knowledge that we, mere commenters, do not. It is up to him to make a rational decision about action. I still point out the extreme danger of letting someone else control the message and, hence, the future. Especially someone who is being accused here of blackmail.

Finally, I do assume that this has a high likelihood of ending badly. If the young woman is unhappy with the OP now, she will be more unhappy if he gives in to the blackmail for now but ends it later. Given that the situation may be bad, I would personally look for the least bad outcome.

Finally, the answer of Geoffrey Brent is clearly more refined.

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    I don't agree with this answer at all. The OP's thesis advisor is his thesis advisor, not his priest or life coach or....There is no conflict of interest here whatsoever: of course the OP can work with his advisor and have personal relations of whatever kind with his advisor's adult daughter. The "blackmail" is based on the fallacy that there's some inherent connection here to be exploited. Telling your thesis advisor about your sexual encounter is buying into the fallacy. – Pete L. Clark Sep 2 '18 at 14:24
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    Is it possible that if the advisor knew about what happened, he would take it badly and retaliate against the OP? Yes, of course it's possible. But having the conversation with the advisor trades in the possibility of the advisor's making an inappropriate connection for the certainty of the OP's making an inappropriate connection. Maybe the daughter will not actually tell her father at all -- if the OP tells her straightforwardly, kindly and earnestly not to do so, there's a good chance she won't. Maybe she'll tell her father and he will not bring it up to the OP. – Pete L. Clark Sep 2 '18 at 14:30
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    I also feel that aspects of your answer don't hold a firm enough distinction between the OP's personal and professional lives. You write: "You messed up and may have to pay the penalty." As a student the OP did nothing wrong. Nor did he commit an illegal act that could affect his professional life. His personal behavior was not beyond reproach, but it was his personal behavior. "He may drop you as an advisee." Dropping your advisee for sleeping with your adult daugher is the stupidest, worst, most actionable reason to drop a student I can think of. I find this very unlikely. – Pete L. Clark Sep 2 '18 at 14:34
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    @MassimoOrtolano While I think that some questions on the site aren't appropriate here, I also think that the OP has a need for advice. I don't find it inconsistent at all. Not all are as "loaded" as this one, of course. Voting to close is a statement about this site. Answering a question is an attempt to help the OP. Orthogonal, in my view. – Buffy Sep 2 '18 at 15:09
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    @Buffy Not orthogonal, really, because an answer prevents the closed question to be deleted and gives the message that we answer off-topic questions anyway. I understand the willingness to be helpful, but probably a comment would be better, helping the OP anyway. It would be helpful to write your point of view in an answer to the meta question. – Massimo Ortolano Sep 2 '18 at 15:14
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Let me read your question again through my expertsexchanging glasses:

I am a 25 year old female in the US. I went to a party last week and had a couple beers. The 19 year old son of my boss followed me home. I never had much contact with him before, but he was suddenly all over me and due to being drunk I did not think enough to resist, and ended up sleeping with him. He is now blackmailing me, threatening to tell my boss about the night, if I do not follow his orders against my will.

Well, the agressor I was just reading about here seems like quite a jerk. Nowadays, some would even call what happened rape - as someone was too drunk to fully consent (personally, it is unclear to me).

I hope by this example it becomes more obvious that you are not at fault. Get rid of the mindset that you alone are responsible for the mess you both landed in.

With this in mind, I would try to disarm the situation and talk to her, as others advised. Be kind and understanding and try to find a workable solution for both of you. But also be firm in that you will not follow her orders for just her own sake. As you said, you have your own life to live first.

If she refuses, too bad for her. If she then presses the issue, go to the police.

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    Other than alcohol, this is not parallel to the situation here. Nothing in the original post says: "suddenly all over me and due to being drunk I did not think enough to resist" What OP says is that she told him that she had a crush on him, and that he slept with her because he was lonely and thought she was very attractive, but that he doesn't want a relationship. – Noah Snyder Sep 3 '18 at 18:48
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    @NoahSnyder Does this not warrant it? "I had a couple of extra beers and she offered to take me home and there she jumped over me and kissed me and I could not resist" - the rest of the question sounds like OP is rationalizing what happened to himself. – mafu Sep 3 '18 at 22:51
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    I am not sure how familiar the asker is with English (I'm only ESL myself) and how many thought he put into his word choice. But they way his descriptions can be read can be interpreted as something worse than just coercion. From my point of view, it is not clear. --- I'm aware this is answer does not reflect popular opinion, but I really ask to reverse the genders in the story and honestly consider the reaction in that case. OP would enjoy far more sympathy then. (Even though I agree that OP should have handled it better.) – mafu Sep 3 '18 at 22:58
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Refuse to be coerced, and accept the consequences. I don't think it is a good idea to engage in any relationship where your partner tries to force you to do something, whatever she is trying to "blackmail" you into doing.

If she wants a "relationship", where does that lead? Pregnancy? Marriage? How long will you be in servitude to this woman? The rest of your life?

Like Nicole answered previously, I do not think you should tell your PhD advisor; that is also being coerced by her into doing something you do not want to do.

In your position, I would refuse her demands. If she threatens to tell her father, I'd say "That is up to you. I cannot let you blackmail me with that, it will never end. If you tell him, I will suffer, I accept that."

As for your advisor (and I am a PhD), if he DOES find out, you will have to trust his academic integrity. Despite the fact that advisor/advisee relationships are often friendly, in the end this is a professional relationship and any offense he takes about this incident should be put aside in making ANY decisions about your PhD and defense. Failing to do so is academic misconduct. I would not mention that specifically, he should quite obviously know it. If he takes any punitive action as a result of knowing, I would say "I don't think what happened has anything to do with my research or my schedule to graduate."

Also, it is important for advisors to graduate their students, it helps with their career to do so, and hurts their career to NOT graduate a student. The college likes to get something for their money, and minting new PhDs is one of those things. Paying a professor and supporting a student for 4 years and having it end with nothing is not something your Advisor's supervisors will take lightly, and the excuse that you slept with his daughter so he dumped you is not a reason they would typically accept: That has nothing to do with the academic value of your work!

If you end up having to tell your side of the story; I'd say, "I went to a party with friends. I had drunk too much. Cindy was there and started hanging out with me, she said she had a long crush on me, we were flirting around and ended up in bed together. It was consensual."

I would not try to blame her as the aggressor, nor admit to "seducing" her, I would say it progressed and you both went along with it.

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I do not want him to feel betrayed and that I took advantage of his daughter.

I am a little bit concerned by the confusion and conflict in your question. You seem to be suggesting that you took advantage of her. Is this the case? Did you? Was it the case that she was half blind drunk and you just went in there at a party, or was it more of a kind of she got a bit tipsy and confessed some inner feelings she already had, which you shared at the time (at least). Why do you assume you took advantage of her and not the other way round?

Aside from those issues, I would love to date that girl she is cute and hot

Well, so what's the problem? Honestly, you both like each other, unless you are leaving some important info out. What's really going on here?

I don't actually see what the problem is here. Again, unless you are not giving us the full picture, I would just go with her, enjoy it, but tell her you do like her, but your plan is to eventually go home after the degree and you are worried about breaking her heart at that point, or that maybe she could consider emigration too.

I think your advisor is nothing to worry about. If things progress, just both of you tell him that you are bf/gf at the moment.

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    You don't see any problem entering a relationship with someone who blackmails you? Really? – Nicole Hamilton Sep 2 '18 at 21:00
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    @NicoleHamilton: She's not threatening to murder his family, she's "threatening" to talk to her father. That's not much of a blackmail. – einpoklum Sep 4 '18 at 21:36
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    @einpoklum She is threatening to damage a professional relationship he has with somebody that has the power to mess up his academic career, costing him time and money and perhaps his PhD. That is a significant blackmail. – Amadeus Sep 5 '18 at 14:50
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    I guess the ultimate question is whether she really meant what she said, or whether she just threatened this because she was angry and hurt. – mb21 Sep 5 '18 at 16:39
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    @mb21 Yes, that is an extremely relevant point! I had a short affair with a woman, who wanted to force me into a relationship when she realized that I did not want that. She said all kinds of things to force me, like common stuff like "I will kill myself if you do not love me!". But then, I felt like she said this pretty often. And at some point, my intuition had decided "That's one time to many." I called 911, a police officer took her in handcuffs when she ran away, she was bound to the bed of the ambulance. The thanked me when I visited her in the hospital. I had learned a lot. – Volker Siegel Sep 5 '18 at 20:23
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Regarding the bit that in normal circumstance you would like to date her, the ultimate problem is, again, what do you want? Since you still want to date her even when (1) you want to prioritize your thesis first, and (2) she blackmails you, I guess that you just see this action as a desperation as describe in @Geoffrey Brent's asnwer, and you want to give both another chance? If so, I suggest you to tell her these points before re-entering the relationship:

  1. "This thesis is really important to my life, and I have to prioritize it over you. It doesn't mean that I will drop you, but I hope you understand this. Can you accept that?"
  2. "This is the last time you can do that to me. Can you promise?"

This will give both of you the best of both worlds. This will also not only forces her to have responsibility, but also forces you to have the responsibility too. Do you want that?

In all, in any situation, try finding a different perspective that you don't aware of. When we see the problem in a different perspective, we can be (1) more empathy to others, and (2) more rational to make a decision.

Recommended: Emotional blackmail - Wikipedia

0

tl;dr: Tell your advisor right now.

You have several concerns, not necessarily in order of significance:

  1. Your advisor's reaction (and the danger to your PhD)
  2. Your own feelings/interests in the proto-relationship with the daughter
  3. The daughter's feelings/interests in the proto-relationship

None of these is a trivial concern, but I'd say the greatest cause of fear and concern here is that they are all entangled, intricated with each other, making it emotionally difficult to approach any one of them.

My suggestion is to extricate the first one from the other two, while mitigating it or addressing it completely.

Your advisor - her father - will find out sooner or later. In fact, it is highly likely he'll find out before you graduate, and quite likely he'll find out very soon. It is far better for him to find out from you than from anyone else. Also, considering the fact that it was legal, consentual (you would say so, and she hasn't complained to her father, so he will believe you), and did not involve academic misconduct - he may be somewhat upset, but he will absolutely not be upset enough to hurt your PhD. Your relationship might suffer, or it might not - but this will happen regardless, since like I said - he will find out.

Tell him that you had not told him so far because you were afraid he will be angry and this will hurt your relationship, but that this was the wrong choice for you, for him and for his daughter. If he reacts favorably, consider even asking him for advice regarding how to deal with the fact that you will likely be leaving, and thus believe you cannot pursue a relationship with his daughter - something he might understand while she does not.


PS - If you are willing to entertain the possibility of maintaining the relationship until you leave at least, the daughter might be willing to tell her father together with you. That way is even better, because it would make him feel that nothing has gone on behind his back. Note that she might be at least as upset about what she perceive as cowardly behavior than about the fact that you might not be toghether after you leave.

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