So your mam has a boyfriend… Whether your mam’s always been a single parent, she recently became a widow or your parents have split, it can be tricky to get used to the idea of a new man in your life. The same applies if your dad or the person who’s always looked after you starts dating again. Here’s how to deal with his tricky, life-changing situation…
The end of an era:
|f you’re parents have split, one of the hardest things to accept when they announced they’re dating other people, is that they’re probably not getting back together. Sure, you might have been handling the whole separation thing quite maturely (if you do say so yourself) but truth be told you’ve been harbouring the tiniest bit of hope that they’d one day reconcile. But now that there’s a new bloke on the scene, things aren’t looking so likely. This can be very hard to handle as all those emotions of betrayal and rejection you felt when they first split can return with a vengeance. “It’s always going to be difficult to accept the end of a relationship,” says psychologist Dr Sarah. “It goes as deeply as affecting your own sense of who you are. If you’re the product of a relationship that no longer exists or where the love has ended, it can go to the very core of who you are.” The best way to deal with the fact that your parents may never reconcile is to confront your feelings about the situation head on and then work through them. Talk to your parents and maybe even friends who are going through the same sort of situation. Work out your feelings of grief, because just like bereavement, your parents splitting is the end of an era in your life.
New lease of life:
Okay, so you’re working through the idea of ‘the end of an era’ and all that, but this isn’t going to help you handle that gruesome notion that your mam or dad might be in love with someone else. Seeing your parents as people who might have actual sexual and affectionate needs can be pretty tough but it’s a really important part of growing up. It’s about realising that it’s not always about you and that your parents also need to feel young and happy.
The ground rules:
You can’t ‘forbid’ your mum or dad from seeing someone they like. They are after all, still your parents and deserve to be happy and to be with someone who makes them happy. However, there’s a difference between coping with your mam getting dolled up for a hot date, and feeling uncomfortable or upset in a situation. If a situation arises and you’re not comfortable with it you should definitely have a chat with your mum about setting some house rules. It’s worth remembering that before you approach your mam for ‘the talk’ think about what you’d like to happen – a full-on wobbler isn’t going to get desired results. You’re looking for a compromise and it’s highly unlikely she’ll let you lay down all the rules, especially if you behave like a spoilt child. However, if you handle the situation maturely you can guarantee your mam will respect you and take your feelings into account.
Feeling nervous about approaching the topic? try writing out a note, email or text explaining how you feel to get the ball rolling and give your mam an understanding of how it feels to be in your shoes. If you just can’t face talking your mom or dad about it just yet, try confiding in someone who knows you both – an aunt, a friend of your mom’s and explain how you’re feeling and what you’d like. This way you can get all your feelings out first before having a chat with your parent, but you still have an adult’s support.
The ‘other’ guy:
You see your mum’s boyfriend coming up the drive and you run upstairs and shout: ‘mam, that fool is at the door.’ Now, it’s not to be expected that you instantly welcome this man with open arms but if it’s six months down the line and you still can’t bear to be in the same room, there’s a problem. “Disliking a new boyfriend is tough. Just because mum likes him does not mean you have to,” Dr Sarah explains. “You may see things that she – so wrapped up in flushes of love – does not. Ask yourself do you dislike him only because he is with your mum. Is there actually anything wrong with him, or are you going to dislike anyone who replaces your dad in your mum’s affections?”.
If you really feel uncomfortable in his company then you need to sit down with your mum and talk it through. But first, start with a reality check. What you have to do is realise that if you blame this new person for the break-up of your parents remember that if one of your parents embarked on a relationship, there was something wrong with the marriage to begin with and they probably would have parted ways sooner or later.
The new dimension:
When your folks were together and even after they split you always felt like the most important person in their life, right? These days, though, you might not be top priority and if you’re honest, you’re not liking it one bit.
“A new romance is always going to take time to become established and your mum or dad may spend more time than you’d like on this person,” explains Dr. Sarah. “A considerate parent should take your feelings into account but if they don’t, you should speak up.”
Okay, so let’s say you turned the tables for 30 seconds. Imagine you’re in your early 40s and you’ve been told you’re destined to live without romance for the rest of your life. That would suck right? Well, your mam or dad probably think so too. That’s why neither of them have resigned themselves to a lonely life. At the end of the day, you want them to be happy, don’t you? If you’re still not completely convinced, consider this – the more time your parents focus on their own love life, the less they have time to focus on yours. That has to be a good thing.