When a senior citizen finds a new romantic companion late in life, it’s a wonderful moment for both. Romances late in life can provide a much needed source of companionship and love that may be missing if the senior has lost a spouse or is going through their golden years alone. But it’s common for children of seniors to go through some anxiety when they see dad or mom enjoying the company of another romance in their lives.
Getting the kids to accept your new girlfriend or boyfriend, especially if that romance is going to result in a wedding, can be a challenging task.
Part of your children’s resistance to you dating comes from anxiety about losing their parent. This may be just as deep and lasting a grief as you had in losing your wife or husband. It may seem strange but often it is the children of the marriage who go through the longest grief when a parent passes on. You may have already moved along in your processing of that loss much more than they.
To children, the parents are a permanent institution and the idea that one of them would go away seems inconceivable. And this feeling often survives well into adulthood.
That is the first big adjustment your family has to make when they see you beginning to enjoy the company of the opposite sex. They must be assured you are not going to replace mom or dad in their hearts and that this romance will never remove the love you cherish for that departed spouse. To the children, that love must endure forever because it is the foundation of their concept of family which is a big part of their own identity as well, even though one parent may have passed away.
This is a next step in life that calls for you, the senior citizen and the wise old Grandma or Grandpa to use some of that sensitivity and wisdom of your years to help your children and even grandchildren accept your new romance and evolve with you to a new phase of life. If you have the chance as you begin a new relationship, the time to begin the acceptance process is before that friendship becomes a romance.
By joining with your children and discussing that this will happen, even before it happens, you begin the acceptance process. In their minds and emotional systems, they begin to understand your need for companionship and for love and for romance. You need that as much as they do. So you explain it to them.
Then as you begin to see a romantic interest, be open with the family about what you are doing. Adult children can even get to the point that they will be your advisor and your cheerleaders as you enjoy a new era of dating and romance. Once that arena of life is open, then when you do “bring home the date to meet the family” it wont be such a difficult thing.
By keeping the adult children always in the loop, they can talk with one another, agree that this is the best possible thing for you and even work to help the grandkids accept your new romance. Before long, he or she will be able to come for dinner, join in the holidays and really become part of the family. Just as you opened your heart when your kids were dating and finding new loves, you will teach your kids to open their hearts to someone who is becoming important to you.
Helping your family accept your new romantic companion is a cycle of life, but if we handle it lovingly and honestly, it’s a good cycle.