For parents with adult children the scenario is a common one. You share that you’re finally dating and they stare with a look of terror. Is it fear? Jealousy? Appropriate Concern? We’ve put together a guide to help you deal with your children’s issue and find a loving relationship.
Raising children isn’t easy, but it’s usually one of life’s greatest blessings. If you can just make it through the terrible two’s, the confused tween years, the rebellious teen years, and the college debt, you’ll end up with a loving, hassle-free relationship to last the rest of your days – the conventional thinking goes. Certainly many parent-child relationships mature into a friendship of equals. Sometimes, however, grown children create a new set of issues trying to parent their parent, and nowhere does this create more problems than when the parent starts to date.
This guide can help older daters get a better handle on their new romantic life and their adult children.
Understand Where your Children are Coming From.
If you’re dealing with a disapproving adult child, it always helps to understand where their concern is coming from.
a) You are no longer with their mom/dad, and the thought of you in another relationship hurts them.
Perhaps you lost your spouse to an illness or your marriage ended in divorce. To your children, just the idea that you’re single and thinking about a new relationship can be depressing and hurtful. It is natural to idealize the relationship between your parents, and adult children often object to the “replacement” of their father or mother. In fact, some adult children will quietly endure a dating relationship and speak out only when a marriage proposal is revealed. The idea being that dating is one thing, but MARRIAGE feels like an official replacement of their parent.
On a logical level this may not drive a child to say to you, “Mom, I don’t want you dating,” but their behavior may reveal a subconscious attempt to sabotage your efforts. They may come up with odd objections, or being unwilling to help you make the time and resources to date.
The best remedy for this problem is a serious heart to heart about your needs. As hard as it may be to believe, many adult children don’t see their parents as real people — certainly not as human beings who need companionship, romantic love and sex.
It may be hard to have this conversation, but it is vital. Sit down with your children and tell them that you understand their concerns. Tell them that the love of children and/or grandchildren can’t satisfy a person who needs love, romance, and companionship from a significant other. Help them understand that you’re more than their parent – you’re a person as well.
b) You have a history of being abused or taken advantage of in relationships.
If your past relationships have a theme of abuse, your children are naturally going to be concerned about your new relationships. Their involvement may seem intrusive, but it’s easy enough for you to take their interest and use it as a helpful tool. After all, you don’t want to end up in an unpleasant relationship either.
Abuse can take many forms – from physical and emotional to smooth con artists who specialize in stealing money. Tell your children that you appreciate their concern, and that you want to let them help, but you need to define how that help will present itself. In most cases, you can set your children at ease by explaining that you will be choosing your dates, and they will be meeting your dates within the first few weeks. After that meeting you and your children can talk about the new person and compare notes. You’ll be making the final decision, but it will be helpful to get a more objective opinion.
Even if you don’t have a history of abusive relationships, it is common for children to fear that their parents will be taken by a con person – (it isn’t just men anymore.). If it’s been many years since you’ve dated, it’s also important to understand that caution is vital when meeting new people. If a person asks you for money, no matter how good the reason, the chances are 99.9% that a swindle is in progress.
Helping your children know that you appreciate this fact will set everyone at ease.
c) They may want to protect you from more heartache.
To someone who is 35, a three-year relationship that ends in the death of a partner may seem like catastrophe. To someone who is 75, a three-year relationship that ends in the death of a partner may seem like a sad, sweet, life-affirming blessing and well worth the pain. If your children have watched you endure the death of a spouse, they may fear that your next relationship could end the same way. If you’ve been through a draining divorce, they may worry that your next relationship could end in similar pain and disappointment.
It will be up to you to sit with your children and explain the different perspective that age brings. You’ll need to help them see that you accept the risk of some pain for the joy that you’re likely to get from a romantic relationship.
Don’t Feed Their Fear.
Do you remember the first time your child asked to take the car out on a Saturday night? Most parents are more than a little nervous and resort to quizzes: “What would you do if the car breaks down?”"What would you say if someone asked you for a ride?” The responses they get go a long way to assuage their fear.
Now, clearly you’re not a teenager trying to persuade your parents to let you have the car. But when it comes to managing your adult children and their fears, doing your homework and building some knowledge about the dating scene may be helpful.
Learn about the various online dating sites. Which ones have significant populations of older users? Do some thinking about the issues that older daters experience today. We’ve mentioned scam artists, but there are others: managing finances, dealing with a partner’s health issues, and understanding how your current health issues may affect your dating relationships – to name a few. The more you can speak to these with an informed opinion the easier it will be for everyone to see that you’ll do fine, no matter what happens.
Stand Your Ground and Enjoy the Ride.
After you’ve done all the listening and explaining that we’ve suggested above you’re eventually going to be left with the facts of the situation. Your children may completely get on board. They may grudgingly accept that you’re going to date. Of course, they could continue to voice objections and do everything they can to make it hard for you. In which case, you’re going to need to stand your ground.
Needless to say, you’re entitled to a love life. You deserve the love and fun that comes from having someone to share life with. Sometimes when you want something in this life, you have to go and get it. Join the online dating sites. Meet some interesting people, and hit the town. You’ll always want to give your children the chance to change their views – having their approval would be great. But in the meantime, keep your eyes and ears open and enjoy the ride.