It’s the moment you’re not sure that you’ll know how to deal with: your Dad (or Mom) starting a new relationship. If your ageing parents are involved in a new relationship, it’s reasonable to have mixed feelings. Especially if you’re recovering from your parents’ divorce or a loss of a parent, seeing Dad find a new partner can certainly complicate things. If you’re conflicted about the situation, here are a few helpful reminders.
1. Embrace your negative emotions
Remind yourself that it’s okay to have negative emotions, it’s part of the human experience. Rather than suppressing them, give yourself permission to express your thoughts and feelings. Grab a pen and a journal and write down how you feel. Or try sharing your feelings with a family member, friend, or a professional. Especially if you’re feeling conflicted or struggling with grief over a deceased parent, seek a support group or counsellor.
2. Ask yourself questions
Try and identify, specifically, what is it about the situation that’s troubling you. For instance, do you feel embarrassed when you see Dad being affectionate with his new partner? Or do you feel betrayed by him for jumping into a new romance too soon after Mom’s death? Although it may be difficult to ask these tough questions, doing so can help you acknowledge the source of your troubles and help you sort through your emotional turbulence. Sharing your experience with a close friend or counsellor can help you feel less alone.
3. Set healthy boundaries
If Dad is talking about dating, it’s natural for you to feel squeamish. Be sure to know when to draw the line and politely tell Dad you’re not interested in his sex life, but are happy for his new relationship. Conversely, while it’s reasonable to have concerns for your parent’s safety and well-being, it’s also important to respect Dad’s choice rather than trying to parent him. It’s always a good idea to check in on him every so often without being too invasive.
4. Respect your parent’s right to choose
We all know that it’s natural for people of all ages to want love and companionship. Even if you aren’t particularly fond of your Dad’s new partner, it’s important to respect his decision and be happy for them. Let Dad know that you that he has your support and that he deserves love and happiness. Hopefully, at some point, you’ll come to accept this new relationship as a normal part of your life. Because what’s important is that your father is happy.
5. Consider the positive effects of the relationship
Studies have shown that loneliness increases the likelihood of mortality by 26%, in which lacking social connections is as damaging to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Loneliness causes cognitive decline and increases the risk of dementia. Consider how Dad’s new relationship is helping him combat loneliness and maintaining his mental health and wellbeing.
6. Take things one day at a time
Although it may be difficult to see Dad enter a new relationship, it’s important to support his choice. If you’re feeling conflicted, be sure to sort through your feelings by reaching out to a friend or counsellor, writing your experience down, among other therapeutic activities. It may require some time for you to adjust to the changes in your life. So don’t be so hard on yourself and take things one day at a time.