“I think many couples who plan to marry and have grown children assume that this relationship won’t really impact the kids,” said Dr. Susan Hickman, local psychologist. “The adult kids on the other hand are thinking the exact opposite. Questions concerning how this new marriage will impact holiday celebrations, whether mom will still be available to help out with the kids and is this person a good fit for our parent, are being discussed among the siblings.”
Melissa’s* parents have been divorced for years. Her mother is seriously dating someone which has caused Melissa to think about her relationship with her mother in a whole new light.
“We have always been close, maybe too close,” said Melissa. “Now there is a third party in our relationship. It is a huge adjustment for me. I used to be able to call her at the drop of a hat to go somewhere with me, now she considers her boyfriend first and me second. A lot of her attention has turned to him and at times it seems like I have been left in the dust.”
Even though the people in this scenario are adults, the reality is, a new partner is often viewed as interfering with the adult child’s ability to have access to their parent.
“This can be a very puzzling time for all parties involved,” said Dr. Hickman. “The parents are thinking the kids are off the payroll and living their own lives so why would they be so concerned about this relationship? And the kids are thinking a virtual stranger has come into their lives who might become a part of our family.”
There is no “one-size fits all” approach in this situation.
“Most people can remember when they were young and their parents told them they didn’t like the person they were dating,” said Dr. Hickman. “More than likely you resented their input and the more they tried to get you to end the relationship, the more you wanted to prove them wrong. As an adult child trying to be protective of your parent the shoe is on the other foot. It is important for people to remember that in relationships it is very difficult to accept someone else’s opinion when you are emotionally involved.”
Dr. Hickman offers these suggestions for adult children:
- Do your part to get to know the person your parent is dating.
- Acknowledge that you may not have a good perspective – believe it or not you are biased.
- If you have concerns, appropriately communicate them to your parent.
- Plan activities so your family can get to know your friend and vice versa.
- Expect concern, it is a sign of love.
- Don’t make demands like, “If you’re going to love me, you will love my spouse.
- Be patient.
*Name has been changed