My mother recently passed away after a short illness and now my father has taken up with a new, young lady friend that he met at a casino. My parents were married for 54 years; I can’t believe that my dad has found someone so soon after my mother’s death, especially someone who is so young (my dad is 79 and his lady friend is 30). I tried talking to him about my concerns that he is grieving and acting out by dating someone so young, but he will not discuss it with me. What can I do to make him listen to me?
Dear Worried Son,
First, I am sorry for the recent loss of your mother. Your father’s current behavior is most likely connected to the grief he is experiencing and the fact that he had a partner for 54 years. He misses the connection he had with your mother. The age difference between your father and his lady friend is of concern, as that is quite an age difference between two people to be romantically involved. I also wonder what they have in common. I suggest you arrange a dinner date with the two of them and observe how they interact with each other. If they have genuine affection for one another it will be obvious. If she is taking advantage of your father for his assets that too will be obvious by how much she engages with him (e.g. does she pays attention to you father’s conversations, his needs). Later, ask to meet with your father alone and state your thoughts about this relationship and your feelings of concern for him, taking the time to mention that you love him and want him to be okay moving forward in his life without your mom. When we tell our loved ones how we feel from a position of love, we allow them the space to open their hearts and hear everything we are saying vs. putting them in a defensive position that makes them want to shut down. Good luck.
Kari O’Neill, MSW, LICSW, is a licensed independent clinical social worker and a resident of Issaquah Highlands.
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