Source: https://www.theguardian.com

The dilemma I’m a 17-year-old girl and I like my stepbrother. My mum starting seeing his dad a while ago and we used to hang out all day, then he would sleep in the same bed as me. We are the same age and I know I can’t feel this way because he’s my stepbrother, but I can’t help it. We sleep together every night and talk until 10 in the morning when he goes back home and my mum goes to work. He’ll hold my hands for the entire night and play with my face until I fall asleep because he knows I love those things. He told me not to go on top of him because he gets boners, saying it’s not uncomfortable for him but it might be for me. He has never kissed a girl before, but I have lost my virginity. After I said it’s OK he started putting me on top of him, and sometimes touching himself. What should I do? I don’t want things to stop, all I want is for it to go further, but I still don’t even know if he likes me.

Mariella replies I’d like to talk to your mum! It sounds like you two have been thrown together by circumstance at an extremely vulnerable age. No wonder you have feelings for him – that was almost inevitable – although they could have been negative rather than positive, which might have been easier.

I’m shocked you’ve been left to your own devices and tempted to get you to call in the authorities. However, your email doesn’t really offer me enough detail to establish whether you are in real danger of a very inappropriate relationship, or simply falling for a boy who has recently and emphatically been thrown in your path. That your parents are in the early throes of dating doesn’t make you family, but you give me little sense of how long this has been going on. If you do have serious worries about the nature of your connection to each other you need to call Childline (0800 1111) for professional advice.

Embarking on a relationship needs to be a choice made with your options open, not simply because you’ve been shoved into the same room for the convenience of the adults in your lives.

Passions can escalate at speed. It’s irresponsible of your parents to throw you together in a bedroom
While you feel, not unreasonably, that you want something more with this boy, you both need the space to work out whether those feelings are real or simply inspired by your circumstances. I’m really surprised that your parents haven’t had a chat with you and I’m hoping it’s a topic you could raise with your mum. If not is there another mature adult in your life with whom you could confide? My advice may be hard to put into action, but I feel certain that some distance between you is what you need to in order to work out your real feelings for each other. Your parents’ affair has made it all too easy to develop an unhealthy level of intimacy, and it will be much more difficult to extract yourselves if it goes wrong.

No matter how great this boy is, your presence in his life is involuntary and what you don’t choose you often treat with less care. I wouldn’t want you taking things further sexually just to find there was only physical familiarity to keep the affair afloat. Both of you are at an age where passions can escalate and evaporate at dizzying speeds. It’s wholly irresponsible of your parents to have thrown you together in one bedroom. As far as I can tell what’s occurred so far is not a disaster – it’s by mutual consent, you are not related and you are no longer children – but that doesn’t mean the relationship is a good idea. The freedom to make that choice can only come when you are not cooped up together every night.


It’s essential that you have time to reflect in order to establish the credibility of those impulses. You sound like the more experienced of the two of you, certainly physically, so maybe you need to take the helm and help steer you both clear of these murky waters. There are so many hurdles to creating a happy coupledom, and the fact that your parents are romantically involved is definitely not an asset. Relationships are forged not simply from mutual attraction but a host of other extremely tangled emotional impulses and you may well need help to work out whether that’s occurring in both your rational and emotional brain.

Complex and overwhelming impulses are unavoidable at your age, but your situation greatly escalates the level of difficulty of negotiating this. My sense is that this boy is a recent entry to your life and calling him your stepbrother is more of a hopeful claim to a connection than a reality.

I really would discourage him from staying over and I think you should ask him to back down from the relationship until you have taken advice and established that it’s appropriate to pursue it, if that is, in fact, what you both want. I’m certain of one thing – taking the heat out of this liaison will save you a lot of heartache in the future.

If you have a dilemma, send a brief email to mariella.frostrup@observer.co.uk. Follow her on Twitter @mariellaf1

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