Mom’s been lonely since your father passed away last year. But ever since she met Ed, who is also a widower, she’s seemed much happier. You suspect Mom and Ed are becoming more than just friends and may be dating, but your mother seems reluctant to share details, which concerns you. How do you know when to let mom be or when you might need to dig a little deeper into her private life?
Starting the conversation
Remember back when you were a teenager or young adult and your mom would ask you about your relationships. Did you like her probing? Probably not. So be respectful, cautious and thoughtful in how you proceed.
You could introduce the topic with a gentle inquiry such as, “So it seems you have been seeing quite a lot of Ed recently.” That might open the door to a conversation. Wait to see if your mother wants to share additional information. If she doesn’t, that’s her prerogative.
Check your feelings at the door
It’s easy to let feelings and emotions spiral out of control in situations such as this. Try to look objectively at what you see happening. Your mother might be worrying whether you and your siblings will accept someone new in your lives. Family dynamics and personalities often come into play in cases such as this.
If it looks as though the relationship is progressing, suggest to your mother that she introduce Ed to the family, which will help you all begin to interact with him and get to know him better. Daughters and sons can sometimes worry that the new man or woman is trying to replace a mother or father. Reassure your mother that you are not worried about this happening.
Time will tell whether the family is going to mesh well. Although it’s not unreasonable to want your mother to consider your feelings, remember you no longer live at home and have lives of your own. Your mother’s happiness is likely important to you, and if Mom expresses that this new person makes her happy, it may be easier to accept Ed into your lives.
What if something just doesn’t seem right?
Situations could arise where a more proactive approach is warranted, such as in a case where you may suspect senior abuse or exploitation. For example, if you think Ed could be taking advantage of your mom financially, some additional probing might be justified.
If your mother has money and her friend suddenly shows up with a new car, you could ask: “Do you know who bought Ed that nice car?” Or, if Ed moves in with your mother and a lot of new things start to appear around the house that don’t really fit your mom’s style, you might ask: “This doesn’t really look like your thing, Mom. Did you buy this?”
If you really think something is up, try to discuss your concerns with your mother. If that doesn’t work, consider approaching a family friend who you think could
exert some influence on your mom. Or perhaps a trusted attorney, financial advisor or faith leader may be willing to help serve as a liaison.
No matter what our age, we all need companionship and love. Your mother’s happiness could have a positive effect on the entire family. You too may eventually love and accept someone Mom has grown to care about if you give that individual a chance.
Julie Ann Soukoulis is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park, mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her own two parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, www.homeinstead.com/sonoma to educate and encourage seniors & caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern? She’d love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.