Our Au Pair is Dating My Husband’s Close Friend. Now what?

by cv harquail on February 4, 2012

And speaking of trying to maintain some privacy around ones adult social life,

Here’s an email that has me completely stumped.  How do they stay “host parents” to their au pair, and friends with their friend, and have any separate adult social life?

We really need your ideas here, folks.

Dear Au Pair Mom,

I am in desperate need of advice. First, I want to give you a little background on our Au Pair and our family. I am a 37 year old stay at home mother of four boys, ages 9, 5, 2 and 4 months. My husband works from home and is closely involved in our day to day lives. Our 5 year old son has a severe epilepsy syndrome and requires constant care. Because we have 3 little ones that always need to be watched, we have hired two au pairs to live with us this year. We have a 20 year old au pair from South America who speaks English very well and a 24 year old au pair from Thailand who speaks English moderately well. My issue is with our South American au pair.

She has been absolutely amazing in every way…she loves our kids, is always eager to help out, has the same religious beliefs as we do and is so conscientious in her work. Provacy.png

Yesterday, I dropped her off at the airport because she is taking a long weekend trip to visit her friends. Later that day, one of my husband’s closest friends came over and said he had to talk to us about our Au Pair. Uh oh.

In the past, we had some trouble with a nanny we had for 3 years…found out she was not at all what we thought she was. So my first thought was that our South American Au Pair had done something really horrible…I never would have imagined what he was going to say!

It turns out that, over the past few weeks, he has been giving our au pair a ride to the gym because they both took spinning classes. He had told us before that he just drops her off and they don’t even speak to each other while they are at the gym.

But things between them are more serious than he’d let on….

Yesterday, he told us that every night this week, they had spent all night at the beach together. And, on their last night together, she had told him she loved him. His feelings for her are not as strong, but he does like her. He is single and 27 years old. He didn’t seem to think that either of them had done anything wrong by sneaking off to spend time together…that her personal life is her business. But now that things are more serious, he wanted to let us know.

I am absolutely blown away by this and really don’t know what to do. If we didn’t know her and he had introduced her to us as his girlfriend, we would have been happy for him…concerned that she is so young…but happy…because she is an amazing girl. But this is different.

One of the ways my husband and I make having au pairs in our house work is by having a clearly defined line between them and us. We are very friendly and helpful – I believe that both au pairs are happy with us. But our personal life is ours! So now I’m left wondering how to navigate this.

I can’t help but feel betrayed by both of them…why didn’t they come to us before they started sneaking around our backs? Why did she go after my husband’s best friend? He is our friend, and a grown man….why would he do this?

If I tell them that if she wants to keep her job, they can’t see each other anymore, then I’m the bad guy. But how do we navigate them dating? How can I ask her to go take care of my kids while he is over at our house having dinner with us?

I feel like they have put us in an impossible position.   It totally changes the dynamic.

My husband feels like the damage is already done and maybe everything will be ok if we just let it play out. But I’m angry at both of them and don’t know how to rebuild trust. I wish you could see a picture of our lives…my son has between 8 and 20 seizures a night and is at constant risk for sudden death. We have a very difficult and stressful life. And this is the last thing I need right now.

Thank you for any advice you can give me.


Image: There is no such thing as privacy, on Flickr AttributionNoncommercial Some rights reserved by Ben Husmann


Nadzy February 4, 2012 at 3:48 pm

I honestly couldn’t believe it!!!!
Well, when I was an au pair, my host family couldn’t wait for me to meet my HM’s brother, because “wed be perfect for each other”. Of course, they nefver said that to me directly, but to him and when I was around, so I could hear. But still, i think they meant it as a joke. we did become sort of friends, as he is young and stopped by to help with the kids often. but nothing more.

But in this case!!! WOW! I’m speechless! I even get the idea of any woman being attracted to a single man that goes often to the place where she lives (not for her, though) , when she is home sick and feeling maybe a bit lonely. But from that to actually do it, it feels weird, doesnt it? I’d feel weird. if I had fallen in love with the brother I was telling you about(almost same situation, young single man, attractive and came by the house occasionaly), I think my host mom would be the first to know and even before anything could have happened between me and him!

But I also think that this friend sort of took advantage of the situation too, because he didn’t say anything when it started, didnt tell her probably that they should wait and now that she isn’t around to talk about it, try to solve it or give her opinion on it, he comes to you and say it. It’s bit doubtful that he had good intention by comming to you now. Why not do it before her leaving (well, it didnt got serious after she left right?) or why not wait until she is back… ? Maybe his feelings are even less string when she is back…

I don’t get his actions, I think he is more wrong then she is as a friend. Becausehe is knownly your friend and she is the au pair, works there… and as you mention you had someone that worked for you for a long time and you didn’t know her. This au pair could’ve been the same, perfect outside and not trust worthy inside, you couldn’t know, she was a perfect help but not a close friend. Of course, it is HORRIBLE she didn’t come to you first. But him… I don’t know… I’m thinking even worst things… :(

BoysMama February 4, 2012 at 4:46 pm

I think the first thing you have to recognize is that neither of them betrayed you personally. The second is that you can’t change a 20 year old girl’s mind if she thinks she’s in love. And finally, you have an incredible Au Pair whose skills shouldn’t be compromised by this relationship. He should have known better. Any damage done has already been done, hopefully it’s worth it.

Yes, you should ABSOLUTELY ask her to go take care of the kids regardless of who is over for dinner, and she is to be treated as your Au Pair for as long as that is her job. In all probability, you will not be dancing at their wedding, but if you tell her not to see him, you may as well ask for a rematch instead as the result would be the same.

Treat her with respect as an Au Pair, period. If their relationship extends beyond yours, you have a solid relationship on which to build. But it probably won’t, so leave it alone and appreciate her, great APs are very hard to come by.

lifestartsnow February 4, 2012 at 5:32 pm

i’m not sure i see where you have been betrayed personally (but i may be missing some details). it seems like this has been evolving in the past weeks (not months) and that your friend talked to you as soon as he realized it is more serious.
do you wish your AP had come and talk to you instead of him? or do you suspect her having the wrong motives?

what i don’t understand is this sentence:”why didn’t they come to us before they started sneaking around our backs?” — these things happen and sometimes AP/host family dynamics are that of teenagers/parents meaning you don’t tell them everything you do, especially if there isn’t something to tell (yet) anyways.

i’m in a similar situation as your AP – my boyfriend is a friend of my host parents and i met him through them 10 years ago. we stayed in touch but did not become close until 2 years ago. my host parents now know but deal with the situation very different. while my hostmom tries to be understanding my hostdad is ignoring the issue altogether to the point that a conversation with him and my boyfriend stops when i am mentioned.
my host kids by the way (and i believe part of your worries is what you are going to tell your kids) are ok with it. of course i only told them when we both knew it was serious. now in conversations and when we meet it is normal that the guy they knew as a friend of the family is with their former AP.

my suggestion is to sit down with the AP and tell her specifically about your worries like having her work in the house when he is a guest. let her know about your expectations (kids and work #1 priority, behavior when your kids are around even when she is off etc.) and also think about letting him know about these expectations also.

you can be worried and it is ok to feel frustrated right now. but i think the fact that you were told at this early stage is an opportunity.

Should be working February 4, 2012 at 8:26 pm

I wasn’t sure what to say, but since apparently only APs and an irrationally hostile person have commented so far, I guess a HM perspective might be helpful.

I can see why the HM is so freaked out and angry. I can see why a HM might FEEL betrayed here, even if it’s not really a betrayal per se. We have certain implicit boundaries and psychological contracts of different kinds with different people in our lives, and for two people who are close to your lives in very different ways to mix those up would feel like a betrayal, especially given the highly stressful situation with the sick child.

I don’t, however, think it would have helped if they had ‘come to you’ before getting involved. You would have been against it, for reasons I understand, and then other tensions would have arisen anyway. You also don’t know that she ‘went after’ HD’s friend. Maybe he ‘went after’ her and she responded.

Here are some questions: Do the religious beliefs that you mention sharing with the AP involve strictness around dating or premarital sex? If that is the case, certainly I can see why it would feel like a betrayal.

I tend to believe, with your husband, that the only thing to do here is to see how it works out. You certainly should feel comfortable having your AP work while friend is over. You could also tell both of them that you feel angry and betrayed, pointing out how little wiggle room your life has for unexpected things, and see how they react. Maybe they will surprise you, esp. the AP, with desires to make amends, show a clear recognition of boundaries with respect to your private life, restore trust, and extra effort at work to make things good again.

Maybe you could try putting the onus on them to figure out how to make you feel ok–like showing how easy it is for him to be over and her to work, or for her to be extra careful about those boundaries. It certainly is worth saying to both of them what you write here about boundaries. Then it is their problem, since they both care about you, to figure out how those boundaries can be respected enough that you feel ok.

We’ve got some wild scenarios on this blog lately–bedbugs, testifying APs, now this…

Taking a Computer Lunch February 4, 2012 at 10:07 pm

I disagree. I think having the AP work while the friend is over is a means to “put her in her place,” especially given that there is another AP in the home who might equally well do the work.

I understand feeling betrayed, regardless of whether or not the feelings are entirely rational. Love or infatuation are rarely rational. Take a deep breath – your husband’s friend has told you he is interested but not in love. Given the fact that he appears to be not much older than your AP he may not be in a much different place. (I had one 23-year-old AP date a 37-year-old man at a time when DH and I were 39/41 – that was weird and we only had dinner together once.) He may or may not be dating your AP for long. How you treat her will have everything to do with how long she stays in your home, but it will not change her relationship to him.

Don’t leap to conclusions, your AP may not want to get together socially with you. (However, asking her to care for the kids while you have dinner with your friend/her boyfriend will force her into an awkward position – better to give her the night off and let her make herself scarce if you don’t want to dine with her socially.)

Be aware that if you develop a good relationship with your AP it will change over time. We have had APs return with friends and fiances. They return as our friends, not as our employees. While that may not work for everyone, I feel my life is richer for it.

Anna February 4, 2012 at 9:46 pm

I understand that your life is very stressful; however I don’t see why you see your au pair’s love life as a betrayal or a disruption of your relationship.

It can put you in an awkward situation if their dating doesn’t work out and they break up; but she is here for just a year, maybe not enough to have a relationship start, mature and then fall apart. In the best case, they’ll get married. You say she is a terrific girl – maybe your friend is her intended? Don’t you want the best for her in her life, including building her personal life and eventually, a family? Here in America 20 is considered too young; but even though many marry later, many met their husbands young. My parents met at 17 and married at 20, and they are still married. I think you should not rush to judgement, just have sincere conversation with her about your concerns, and live and let live!
I don’t feel it is your role to police her dating and personal life.

TiredMama February 4, 2012 at 11:19 pm

Personally, I don’t understand why the OP is so upset. I was expecting this post to be about an au pair who was involved with a much older and/or married friend. Then I would understand the harsh attitude and feelings.

Make it clear that while she might be dating one of your friends, she still is employed as your au pair, and as such needs to keep her mind focused on your kids and family during work hours. Outside of that, her free time is hers. I highly doubt she is going to want to double-date with you and your hubby. As you need and want a break from her, I am sure that she feels the same way.

She didn’t betray you anymore than she would if she had a different boyfriend. Or is that the part that is upsetting you? Would you prefer that she not date during her year with you?

Melissa February 5, 2012 at 2:14 am

I very much disagree with those who say they don’t understand why the OP would be upset. I would very annoyed by this situation and was extremely shocked when I read it. Yes, the AP is only 20 years old, but also deserves some degree of privacy regarding her relationships. However, she was clearly aware that this person was her host family’s close friend and she should have discussed this with them. I feel that the friend has much more responsibility however. Although he is quite a bit younger than the host mom (27 yrs old), he is 7 years older than the AP and frankly, he should be adult enough to know that he is taking advantage of a young woman from another country. Not to mention the complete lack of consideration for his friendship with the host family. He is 27 and the AP is 20 — it is only 7 years gap but at that age it can make a big difference, but add in the additional factors that she is their AU PAIR and from another country (therefore possibly experiencing culture shock, homesickness, etc, and more vulnerable than your typical 20 year old), honestly, I find this reprehensible on his part and he should have known better.
That he would have come to the HM at this point is just kind of weird. Sounds he had other opportunities to discuss the fact that they had a relationship (vs. just driving her to the gym and lying about it), and he chose now to be able to extricate himself from an otherwise uncomfortable situation. Sounds like things got carried away at the beach and now he realizes he is not as emotionally involved as she is and wants a scapegoat for discussing that with her.
I’m not sure I could go on with either of them at this point. Plus, it sounds like the OP has enough real life issues with her medically fragile son going on that she doesn’t need this voluntary drama right now. I get that it makes it so much harder when you really like an AP. You’re so much more open to feeling betrayed and hurt, unfortunately, because you connect with her as person (vs. just an employee). However, I think I would say that the AP either needs to break it off with the friend (unlikely, or if she agrees it might likely be with resentment), or a rematch is best for all involved. I’m so sorry you have to deal with this mess and wish you the best. Please keep us updated.

Taking a Computer Lunch February 5, 2012 at 9:19 am

How do we know that he is much younger than the HM? I recall, when I matched with my first AP, that one of the moms in my cluster was the same age as her AP. That mom imagined a friendship born out of that commonality. She reacted with anger and hurt when her AP did not become her best friend – and spent very little time at home during her free time. (After all that HM had 3 kids and the AP was single and free.) That AP spent a lot of time at my house that year as the rules governing her became increasingly strict.

Could it be that the OP is in a similar situation? Could it be that she’s not that much older than her AP, but imagined the lines dividing them were deeper than they really were?

hOstCDmom February 5, 2012 at 11:14 am

OP mentions that she is 37, 10 years older than friend.

WestMom February 5, 2012 at 9:20 am

I totally feel how you would feel betrayed. But as other posted have mentioned, not one really betrayed you. And it’s a good thing that DH’s best friend came to speak with you this early in their ‘relationship’. Unfortunately, this puts you in an uncomfortable and stressful situation, but you can make it work.

This is not that different than relationships in the workplace. In tight-knit organization, it is not acceptable for two employees to be dating (especially if the roles are not even organizationally). One typically takes it upon him/herself to find a new job to continue to the relationship free of drama. In this case, she seems like a great AP worth keeping. Maybe it’s the other party that has to give for a little while.

I feel that there needs to be a heart-heart between DH and BF. He probably can better than anyone express how this situation puts your family in an awkward position. More importantly, he should make sure to communicate that BF needs to be very careful about APs feelings, not taking advantage of her, and respect your family’s privacy. (Personally I would sternly warn him against ever dumping her while she is working for you. That’s the last thing you need!)
Additionally, I would make a break with the BF (even if only temporarily, until AP’s year is over). I would let him know that since they decided to pursue this relationship, the family needs to establish/maintain boundaries between your and their private lives. This might mean not inviting BF into your home until her AP year is done. You should let them develop their relationship, but you don’t have to make your home an uncomfortable enabler for that. Sucks for BF (and DH to a certain extent), but that is the choice BF naively decided to make, somewhat inconsiderate of your already stressful family situation.

JJ Host Mom February 5, 2012 at 11:43 am

What Westmom said. I think this is great advice.

I might add that sometimes people who are in another country on a temporary visa tend to “fall in love” faster, if there’s a chance of getting a green card out of it. It is what it is; it was one of the reasons that my husband and I got married, and we’re still happily married, but wanted to point out that the AP and BF may have different levels of engagement in this relationship. The BF should be made aware of this.

cv harquail February 5, 2012 at 2:23 pm

There’s an additional complexity that hasn’t been raised, and that’s how the BF/AP relationship might affect the other AP. If the OP made adjustments in her relationship w/ AP1 so that they could (somehow) accommodate the BF relationship, what happens with AP2? Is she ‘less close’ since AP1 is ‘more close’? I wonder how you deal w/ the different levels of intimacy (knowledge of someone, not romantic intimacy) that AP1 and AP2 might have, if AP1’s relationship with the Host parents changes.

To my mind, the issue is not as much about status as it is about the host mom being able to keep parts of her life private from au pairs — which she should be able to do. And, if privacy is what she needs most, then talking with the BF and asking him not to discuss the family, not to talk to AP1 about her relationships with the Host Parents, etc. will be necessary. And, it will also be hard for him to do, since anyone wants to talk about work sometimes. … oi.

OB Mom February 7, 2012 at 9:30 pm

minor, likely irrelevant questions, but what does OP stand for?

I know AP=Au Pair; HM=Host Mom; DH or HD = Darling husband and Host Dad … I always thought that HP=stand for host parent?

I always thought OP was a misspelling of Au Pair?

Taking a Computer Lunch February 7, 2012 at 9:53 pm

Original poster

ReturnAuPair February 5, 2012 at 10:35 am

Some User writhe like the AuPair is kind of evil, because she falled in love with a young guy (27 is still young). The truth is, if you fall in love, you dont think about your hostparents. You dont plan to fall in love. This just happen and its normal.
She is (like you said) a wonderfull Aupair and if you would not known about that, you would not feel different about that.

The other side is, you know just the story of your family friend and not here story. Theire are always to sites. You should talk about that with here and ask about here feelings. If you start to forbid here the relationship, then you will go to far. She is nice to the Kids, she is nice to you (even if she is not telling you, that she falled in love) and thats the importent think. Do you want end up in rematch just, you dont like that she is dating the friend.

Talked to each other, if theire is a realy relationship. Maybe if he doesent have the feeling, he loves here like she does, than the problem is gone. And if he comes over and you need an Aupair to work, choose the other on.

Gianna February 5, 2012 at 3:01 pm

I have a hunch that the boyfriend ( who is still fairly young ) is in over his head. Why would he he share intimate information like your aupair telling him that the aupair said she loves him ? Maybe I missed something but he never said he loves her, did he ? It sounds to me like he is saying that wasn’t looking for trouble and then things just happened. But that doesn’t mean that he
1. loves her
2. wants to marry her
It seems to me that he knows he is in a sticky situation. If he breaks off with her , you will find out and may be angry so he is covering his tracks by coming forward. An older, wiser man would have ruled her out of bounds due to the friendship with your husband or he would have behaved like a gentleman and waited to approach her until the year ended. Maybe he is hoping that you interfere so that he doesn’t have to end the relationship himself or look like the bad guy. I think that is the biggest problem. Many romances do not end in marriage which is why lots of people do not get involved in a situation like this unless they know they are serious. And he doesn’t sound serious to me at this point

WestMom February 5, 2012 at 3:57 pm

‘An older, wiser man would have ruled her out of bounds due to the friendship with your husband or he would have behaved like a gentleman and waited to approach her until the year ended.’

Lapse of judgement from the best friend. Completely agree.

HRHM February 5, 2012 at 8:49 pm

Yes, this.

It sounds to me like he was having fun with a cute young girl, hanging out for a few weeks, having sex at the beach – what’s not for a guy to like!? Then she tells him she loves him? After a “few weeks”. You can be sure he was not expecting or wanting that. Now he is trying to find a graceful exit and is hoping you will put the kabosh on the relationship so that he won’t have to be the bad guy.
Remember the “wolf sydrome” from college? The guy wakes up with a girl laying on his arm and chews it off to escape… looks like that’s where he’s at. :)

DCMomof3 February 6, 2012 at 9:38 am

HRHM nails it, I think. Its not beyond the realm of possibility for a 20 year old to tell a guy that she loves him after a few nights together. Instead of blaming her for this, it sounds like she could use some guidance and help from her HM in navigating the situation. Perhaps I am generalizing here, but I’ve had some pretty sheltered au pairs from close-knit families in South America get in over their heads once they are in the US and free to go out all night and have sex on the beach or whatever else they do here. At home, she may not even have been allowed to date. So, while the age difference is not all that great, maybe this girl just doesn’t know what she is doing. Once she used the “L” word, the guy realized that maybe messing around with his buddy’s au pair is leading to more than he bargained for. I would try to gently steer her in the right direction and not worry too much about this being a long-term problem, since it sounds like friend is going to extricate himself from the situation ASAP.

Seattle Mom February 6, 2012 at 4:17 pm

I agree with everyone here- Giana, HRHM, and DC Mom. Sounds like a youngish guy with poor judgment getting into a sticky situation when he was just trying to have fun (stupid man!), and an even more inexperienced young woman.

I lived in a foreign country for 2 years when I was around the same age (22) and I was very vulnerable. Not just because of youth and inexperience (I was sheltered and less experienced in love than most of my peers) but being overseas added another element- I was homesick and feeling in love made me feel better. I wanted companionship, but I also wanted love, and it got me in a few bad spots (but nothing terrible, thankfully)! I can see how this would happen to a young au pair.

What to do next? I agree with DC Mom of 3- be supportive of the au pair, don’t allow yourself to be baited into being the “bad guy,” but there’s not much else to do unless you want to make things worse.

PA AP Mom February 5, 2012 at 4:00 pm

I am not sure that I feel the AP or friend has “betrayed” anyone, but I do see why this host mom might be upset.

Either it becomes more serious and throws off the family/AP dynamics, Hard to have your AP be your “employee” during work hours and your dining companion at other times (as friend’s date), or it ends badly and then you have to deal with that awkwardness.

Either way, I think it’s a bad situation and I wouldn’t want to deal with it.

It’s no one’s fault! It just happened.

azmom February 6, 2012 at 3:11 pm

i don’t think it is necessarily betrayal, but it could lead to tension and the unknown is always unpredictable. friend indicates that she says he loves him, but he isn’t at that level. What happens when (assuming) they break up? Suddenly friend can’t come over anymore? Then who resents whom?

Brazilian Au Pair February 7, 2012 at 4:04 pm

I think Gianna had a very good point. As I said before… this guy is trying to cover himself from future responsabilities and blaming. He waited until she left to go to you… it clearly means he doens’t really care for this girl that much… he cares first for himself, so probably doesn’t care for you or your husband as you though :(
He is just trying to get his way out when he needs to put her off… or maybe even getting that froom you, so he doesn’t have to do it…

OpinionatedHM February 10, 2012 at 3:28 pm

I’ve been following this one for a few days now and one thing stood out to me today. The AuPair has been very discreet about this, and from what we have read, she has been performing her job well and the family really likes her. The person who has been indiscreet and created the problem is the “friend”. I would consider which person is fulfilling their obligations to the family. If the AuPair continues to fulfill her responsibilities, then I would continue on with her as if I had never learned of this situation from the friend. If she decides to talk with you about it or if it begins to affect her ability to fulfill her obligations, then you can sit down and discuss it with her. I would argue that it is the friend who has not lived up to his responsibility to the family. A true friend does not put his own temporary pleasure ahead of his friendship nor does he make his mistake a problem for the friendship. You know the phrase “don’t borrow trouble”. You do not need to get involved in this situation until you see an issue with the AuPair. Your friend needs to resolve his own romantic issues. Once his relationship with the AuPair has ended, your husband should tell his friend in very clear terms that the members of your household should not be considered part of his dating pool. Until then, we’ll all keep our fingers crossed for you that this doesn’t get any worse before it gets resolved. Goodluck.

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