A secret girlfriend, divorced parents… you can guess what happened next.

Don’t worry, says our elder, this can all work out.

Dear EWC

This is probably one of the most awkward and most unpleasant situations I’ve ever been through. I’m a 20 year old man, and I live with my divorced mom. I have been dating a girl from my neighborhood for four months and it’s going great for both of us. She lives with one parent, too: her father, who’s also a divorcee. You can probably guess what happened next: our parents (by ‘our parents’ I mean her father and my mother) met by coincidence. A few days later, there was her father knocking our door, having brought us a home-made cake. What me and my girlfriend didn’t expect is that they’ll start casually hooking up. By the end of this week, they will have been seeing each other often for about two weeks. We talked about this and decided not to make early judgments about the relationship between our parents, but we still have concerns, and a lot of confusion. I always encouraged my mother to mingle with men and find someone with whom she’d be happy and comfortable, but I can’t imagine her dating the father of my girlfriend. What if their relationship developed into something more serious?

I don’t want to be selfish, but at the same time, I share concerns with my girlfriend about our relationship. We feel very confused because we don’t what to do. Maybe that could’ve been avoided if I had told my mother from the very beginning about my then-new girlfriend, but I never felt comfortable enough sharing this part of my life with her. Same thing applies to my girlfriend and her dad. Besides, I know my mom well and I know my girl isn’t my mom’s favorite type of girls at all. She, for the most part, won’t be supportive to our relationship (you know, parents!). I really wish the best to my mother. Her relationship with my father was one long, appalling experience and I’d be so happy for her if she found a suitable partner. But what about me and my girlfriend? A strong emotional bond may haven’t been formed between us yet as it’s only been four months, but I feel we’re gradually getting more attached to each other. She’s just so mature, independent, funny and beautifully weird. Fortunately, they’re just hooking up now. I might have jumped straight to the worst case scenario but I can’t help it. Do you think our parents have a priority over us? How should we deal with this situation? Thank you for your help!

Roxie replies

As someone who has been divorced, and who watched my son become involved with my new husband’s daughter, I immediately identified with your letter. Although you understandably find the situation to be strange, you would be surprised to learn how common it is (as I discovered when people told me about similar experiences.)

The fact of your parents’ relationship does not eliminate the possibility of a relationship between you and your girlfriend, and vice versa. You are entitled to pick your own partner, and your mother is entitled to pick hers. There is no reason that the two need be mutually exclusive, and neither relationship has priority over the other.

However, the reality can sometimes be complicated (and your letter suggests that you and your girlfriend clearly sense this.) For example, how would you feel if your mother married this man while you broke up with your girlfriend? Seeing her at family gatherings could be awkward. What if you feel that this man isn’t treating your mother properly, but your girlfriend takes her father’s side? Your parents’ relationship could become a source of tension between the two of you, and whenever family is involved, the tension can become hard to manage. What if you tell your girlfriend something private, which she lets slip to her father, who then tells your mother? This may sound far fetched, but it can happen, believe me. Please understand, I’m not saying that relationships like these don’t work, just that they can create challenges.

However, you are already facing the possibility of this situation, and it sounds as if it is too late to avoid dealing with it. The best thing that you can do is for you and your girlfriend to tell your parents that you are dating each other, and the sooner that you do this, the better. If they decide to end their involvement (and it may be for reasons unrelated to their children), it will be a lot easier for them at this stage than if their relationship has become serious. Moreover, you certainly don’t want them to learn that their children are dating from the neighbors. If your parents decide to continue to see each other, you and your girlfriend will have to make your own decision. (On the bright side, your mom may be more likely to approve of your girlfriend if she is dating her father.)

I hope that this has been helpful, and not too negative. Families are complex, and families of divorce are often more complex than others. Open communication is almost always the best approach. And, it is quite possible for things to resolve positively.

Letter #: 436109
Category: Family

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