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Relationships - July 2016

Son is in love


Maggi Stamp is a highly qualified relationship counsellor and trainer who writes each month about emotional and practical concerns and challenges that many of us meet in later life. For 20 years, as well as running a private practise, Maggi worked with the organisation Relate to help married and single people, cohabiting couples, same sex couples, families, young and old people and the bereaved to develop, foster and enjoy healthy and fulfilling relationships. No less important, as she is herself a wife, mother and grandmother, she brings a lifetime of varied and eventful experience to enhance her empathy and understanding.  

Many of her examples are based on concerns that clients, family and friends have presented over the years. In the monthly articles where she responds to issues raised by readers, she strictly respects confidentiality and never identifies those who write to her. But the individual worries they raise are invariably felt by others, so her responses can help many.

You can write to Maggi at maggi@laterlife.com for her to respond in the column.


Son is in love

Hi Maggi,
I am having a difficult time with my son, he seems to have an obsession with his girlfriend. He spends all his free time with her and neglects the family.
We used to be close before he met his girlfriend and now his relationship has put a strain on our family. He wakes up early to go to work, after work he comes home showers and runs out to go see her. He hardly has dinner with us anymore.
When I try to talk to him about it, he gets real angry and starts swearing at me. He never cursed at me before he met her. I feel like he hates me because I tell him how much we miss him having him at home. I have no clue of what I can do to let him know how we feel without him losing his temper.
Can you please help, thank you so much.


As I have written about this subject many times in my column, this feeling of abandonment is not unusual, but it is usually unfounded.
(See the list of my 'Topics Covered' on the website. There is plenty to read there under: Older Parenting, Relationships with our Children and Partners, Estrangement).             

You might owe your son an apology. He is in love. That is, I suppose, an obsession of sorts, and most of us have, by our age, felt what it is like. The person we fall in love with is in our minds every waking hour and we can't wait to be in their company when we are away from them. It changes our body and brain chemistry for a while – indeed, many writers and poets refer to it as some strange altered state, a feeling of being slightly out of control. It is not surprising that the family someone has grown up in, no matter how happy and loving, takes back seat for a while.

Because the love your son feels for his girlfriend, whether fleeting or permanent, is nothing like the kind of love he feels for you and his family of origin, there is no need to feel jealous or unloved. But you do need to accept that his allegiances will change. That doesn't mean he loves you less - he just wants to be with his girlfriend 24/7 - for now. Given time this will settle and broaden into a love he wants you all to see and celebrate with him.

The surest way to trigger his anger is to berate him for neglecting the people who 'really' love him.
The surest way to dispel the bad feeling is for you to accept that you will see little of him for a while, and now and then to suggest he brings her home for a meal, nothing elaborate, just the normal family meal, so you can all get to know her - and her you. Often, those first meetings are a little tense because the girlfriend will feel she is being 'checked out', especially if he's told her of your general unhappiness at not having him around so much. So, it'll be scary for her - however well you cover those feelings.

Be kind - and not too inquisitive. Talk to her about the family, their hobbies, pets, holidays and so on. Reminisce about any funny stories that involve your son which won't embarrass him, and ask very few questions.

Work on your own feelings too. No-one else has control of those, so you can be sure that all this is normal and that you have given your son a fine and loving start in life. Feel pleased that he is capable of feeling such love for someone and know that at this early stage his relationship has little to do with where he came from but everything to do with where he is going. A relationship is a sign that he is moving towards his future. Hard though it is for you, it is time to let go. You can do so in the knowledge that you have done your best. Your son is not behaving as he is to make life hard for you but because he is young.  When he’s ready, he’ll be able to share more of his life with you again, as long as you have not driven him away by provoking his anger.

After all, you have more control over the home situation than you realise. By telling him you will back off and not pressure him any more, that you hope that he will feel happy about bringing his girl home to meet you all sometime, no matter how briefly, and that you will be pleased for that to happen.

In your youth you had your moment: let him have his.

 

So now readers, let me ask YOU something. How often should I expect him to come into the garden and give me a helping hand now and then?!



You can write to Maggi at maggi@laterlife.com for her to respond in the column.


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