Dating With Grown Children
"Single File" - April 2023 Issue
by Susan Deitz
I've been divorced for three years and dated on and off, with many one-time dates. For the past year, I've been seeing a man very different from me in many ways. His life has been harder, and he hasn't had the opportunities that I've been fortunate to have in my life, such as education and a stable family life. During the 20 years of his marriage, he often worked two jobs to help support his wife while she completed college and they raised two children. I really enjoy this man's company; we have fun when we're together, and he always lifts my spirits. He is tender, caring and a hard worker and has values comparable to mine.
Each of my grown children (24, 22, 19) has a hard time accepting his presence in my life. He talks a lot when he's nervous, making it hard for them to carry on a conversation with him when he feels uncomfortable. His lack of social skills can sometimes be frustrating. My kids make him nervous, and he feels they are judging him. The three of them have let me know they don't care for him and think I could do better. (Their father has remarried, and I feel I'm being held to some other standard.) Sometimes I feel that no matter who it is I'm with, the man wouldn't be fully accepted by them. I understand the feelings that probably lie beneath their words, but at the same time, I would hope they'd want to see me happy. And I believe I am with this man. What can I say to my grown children when they express resentment or negative feelings about the man I'm seeing?
—From the "Single File" blog
When you call a family council—and I do hope it's soon—the most important thing is that you speak from your heart. Each word isn't parsed; it's the general idea behind your words that counts. Judging by your letter, I'd say there's a good chance you'll convince your children that this man merits a closer look. He makes their mom happy, and she's pretty discerning, so the least they could do is get to know him better and not prejudge him the way they've been doing. He may have a rough exterior, but that's not the measure of a man. If he's good enough for their mom, well, they'd better take a deeper look into the heart and soul of her suitor. The important thing at this first of (I hope) several family councils is that each person feels perfectly free to say what's on his or her mind, to speak plainly and honestly about this man—and whatever else is bugging each person. Maybe they'd like more time with their mother; maybe they resent her dating in general (an issue that I suspect is close to the surface of this issue and that needs to be talked about openly and thoroughly). Make room on the living room carpet for the group. Silence your phones; order in pizza; take notes. And fasten your seat belts, because it may be a bumpy ride. It may turn out to be the happiest ride of your life, though. I hope so.
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