How to Handle Your Senior Parent Dating

By Alyssa Ball

If you have lost a parent or if your parents have split up, you might have to deal with the fact that your mom or dad is going to start dating again. When your parent picks up a new partner, it can be surprisingly disconcerting.

While we might want to be happy for our aging loved ones, adult children can find their parents dating again can elicit all kinds of weird feelings. You might find that seeing your dad smile at his new fiancee is entirely pleasant. But you might end up harboring jealousy, frustration, or other negative feelings. 

There are also very real concerns about inheritance and finances, especially in states which tend to favor spouses if somebody dies intestate. So, how do you deal with the situation?

Accept Conflicting Feelings

It is perfectly normal and acceptable to find your parents dating weird. It can be hard enough for children to accept a stepmother or stepfather into their lives. It can be even harder for adults, especially if your other parent is deceased. "That person can never be mom" is a common reaction. So is jealousy.

You may also feel overprotective towards your parents, similar to the way you might feel overprotective towards your kids. You might be worried that the person your parent is dating will break their heart, especially if they're considerably younger. Are they moving too fast? Are they going to abandon you to this new person? You might even see them as competition. Or you may find yourself getting every detail of their love life or worse, their sex life.

If your parents are divorced, then the new relationship may be the final nail in the coffin of a lingering hope that your parents would get back together. It is okay not to be 100% happy with that.

Deal with Those Feelings

Once you identify underlying feelings, you need to learn to deal with them. It's easy for those feelings to lead you to be resentful and bitter towards the new partner and maybe be irritable around them, especially if you don't hit it off right away. You should work on controlling your negative reactions, and try not to show them unless you have a real concern. In that case, you should bring it up calmly and privately.

Tell yourself that accepting your mother's new flame is not disrespectful of or disloyal to your father. Understand that your parent has needs too, and that people can fall in love at any age. Bear in mind that they may also have conflicted feelings, including a fear of being disloyal to their other parent. Sometimes they may come to you for reassurance. 

One thing to bear in mind is that if your parent seems to be moving into a new relationship very soon after widowhood is that so is actually often a sign that their previous relationship was a happy one! People who were not happy in their marriage are more likely to want the single life once they are away from their spouse. 

In addition, we are all social beings, even seniors. If your senior parent lives alone, it is natural for them to crave socialization and the love and attention from a special someone. Dating someone new or getting re-married can help them combat feelings of loneliness or depression.  

At some point, your parent or their new partner may ask you for your blessing, which can be a really awkward moment. If they do, though, this is a sign of their respect for you. This is particularly the case if it is initiated by the new partner, who may be uncertain about whether they will be welcomed into your family.

If you really can't deal with your feelings, consider talking to a counselor about them. A therapist can help you work through the issue without ending up burning any bridges or saying things you regret.

How to Treat Your Parent's New Partner

While your loved one may be excited for you and their new partner to spend time together, it is perfectly fine to ask your parent to visit without their new partner or spouse some of the time so you can spend more time with them.

You do not have to call the new partner "mom" or "dad," even if they get married. You're an adult, it's fine to use their name. While you should try and build a relationship with them if possible, you can also do what you need to do to keep it from feeling as if they are replacing your other parent. Your children don't have to refer to them as grandparents either, although with very young children the distinction is often less important.

Finally, you may not like your dad's new wife, but that's perfectly fine. You don't have to. But you should not let that ruin your relationship with your parent. You should never put them in the position of having to choose. Nor should you let this damage the relationship between your parent and your children. If all else fails, do your best to maintain a separate relationship with your parent and avoid one on one meetings with the new partner.

Talk to Your Parent About Finances

If your parent is talking about remarriage, it is fair and reasonable to talk to them about finances. A lot of senior couples do not bother with marriage but prefer to live together. (In a few cases, getting married can result in a financial penalty for senior couples, especially if one of them is disabled).

Especially if there is inheritance that you know your other parent wanted to pass to you, it is not at all unreasonable to ask your parent to make a will to protect everyone (including the new partner if they aren't getting married). Another thing you might suggest is a prenup, even for couples who don't have that many assets. This makes sure that you get what your parent wants to pass on and their spouse's kids also get their due.

Always remember that everyone involved in this situation is an adult. Even if you have strong feelings of jealousy or discomfort, you can be mature about them. 

If you are looking for more advice and information to help out your loved ones as they age, contact a Caring Senior Service near you today.

Tags: Senior Living