Do you think Dad is jumping into a new romance too soon after Mom’s death?
Do you feel Mom’s new boyfriend is too controlling?
Do you feel uncomfortable around Mom’s new boyfriend or just find you can’t warm up to him?
Are you conflicted about asking Dad’s new girlfriend to attend family events?
These and many other questions arise when your aging parent gets involved in a new romantic relationship. We all know (intellectually at least) that it’s natural for people of all ages to want love and companionship. We likely want our aging parents to be happy and have someone to spend time with and enjoy. But, the reality may be a lot more complicated. You might be grieving over your deceased parent and trying to deal with those feelings while Mom or Dad is embracing a new relationship. There might be all kinds of family history and emotions involved.
Our feelings about our parents’ sexuality, or sex and aging in general, can make us uncomfortable about issues related to intimacy too. Do you put Mom and her new boyfriend in separate rooms when they come to visit or ask them what they prefer? Do you feel embarrassed when you see Dad being affectionate with his new girlfriend?
Even when family members get along well, new relationships can be tricky. The issues are exacerbated when there’s pre-existing conflict or concerns come up over money, control, care disagreements, etc. When an aging parent decides to get married or make major life changes related to a new relationship, our discomfort might turn to concern.
Here are a few tips when your aging parent gets involved in a new romance and you’re feeling conflicted:
- Explore your feelings and try to separate your emotions from concerns about the relationship. There are times when you may spot legitimate concerns that an older relative might be in an exploitative or unhealthy relationship (for more on this topic, visit EasyLiving’s article “Exploitation or Love?”). On the other hand, age does not always bring the wisdom we hope and our older loved ones may have every right to make questionable relationship choices.
- If you are feeling conflicted or struggling with grief over a deceased parent, seek out a support group or counselor. Feel free to contact our team for recommendations.
- Get an outside party involved with family mediation or moderating discussions about conflicts or big decisions.
- Question your own beliefs and stereotypes. Are you treating your parent more like a child? What feelings might be impacting the way you perceive Dad’s new girlfriend?
- Try to get to know the new partner. Keep in touch with your loved one and be welcoming to the new partner. Unless there are signs of mistreatment, you probably don’t want to let your negative feelings cause major damage to your relationship.
At other times, you might be concerned that your aging parent is isolated and lonely. Depression is often misinterpreted as a normal part of aging or grieving. Keep an eye out for signs of depression and encourage your loved one to stay involved in activities and relationships. Check out some of our tips for helping a depressed, isolated older relative. Varied relationships and social engagement keeps us emotionally, and even physically, healthy.
Our team is here to help, whether you just need someone to talk to, a neutral professional to evaluate or mediate, or help with assessments, counseling or professional services. Call us at 727-447-5845.