How do we feel when a widowed or divorced aging parent finds a new love?
When we love our parent and we’re focused on helping parents age well, what happens emotionally? Are we happy? threatened? suspicious? Now add these specifics: the father is seventy-something-years-old and his girlfriend is four years older than his devoted daughter.
This is the situation and while not the norm, it’s probably not that uncommon. Senior advisor, Dr. Bud, MD. (psychiatrist), weighs in:.
“We know this daughter’s hurting.” But, according to Dr. Bud, it’s not her problem. “It’s a problem she’s going to have to deal with,” he says. I like that phrasing. My instinct would have been to say “It has become her problem.” Dr. Bud’s response suggests there’s a solution..doesn’t just leave it as a problem hanging out there.
Injecting a girlfriend into a family’s dynamics no doubt requires getting used to under most circumstances. But the adjustment can be tempered by the knowledge that having a girlfriend, in and of itself, should be a positive as we think about helping aging parents. It’s an additional and important connection that adds, we can assume, vitality and interest to an aging father’s life.
Indeed we’ve discussed in previous posts the fact that relationships help aging parents to stay engaged. “Social connectedness” is identified as one of the three lifestyle factors that are the most significant predictors for healthy aging,”according to the MacArthur Study on Successful Aging, (which studied people age 70-79). Further proof that relationships help parents age well.
So we ask: would the daughter’s feelings be the same if the girlfriend was a more appropriate age? “This age thing is a problem that’s out of the ordinary scheme of things,” according to Dr. Bud. He calls it “a violation of expectations” (the same is true when a child dies before his/her parents).
Other questions we’re wondering about:
- Is she worried she may lose her father?
- Is there concern about inheritance?
- Is the girlfriend a “gold-digger?”
- Does the daughter fear her father will be taken advantage of?
Suggestions in Tuesday’s post.
Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely tips, information and research from top universities and respected professionals–to help parents age well.