Q: I am 51 and was married for 30 years. After my husband passed away almost four years ago, I dated a few men, and now I've been in a relationship for 2 1/2 yrs with a very nice man. My son, who is 32 and married, won't even meet him. I feel like I live two separate lives. My boyfriend owns his own painting company, which my son stereotypes and says, "I'm sure he's like the rest of them - a heavy drinker." We're homebodies but do like to go out for a few hours on Friday, have a few drinks and play shuffleboard. My grandson's first birthday is coming up and my friend can't come. He has helped me keep the baby at different times and loves him very much. The holidays are coming and I must plan a different day to do Christmas with my son. I feel like this keeps holding me back from really moving on. I still grieve for my husband and am living with my memories of 30 years. Help. What should I do? -- Kim, 51
Dr. Susan: Your son is being incredibly selfish. After two and a half years of your dating one man, it's unimaginable that your son won't even meet him. I'm sure you understand that your son is still grieving his father profoundly. Not "allowing" you to move on is his way of holding onto the past. Just like a small child after a death or divorce, he feels, on some level anyway, that if he doesn't see the new man you've chosen, he is being loyal to his dad. You really don't need to apologize to anyone for going out for drinks on Friday nights. In some cultures widows are never allowed to resume a normal life, and your son is acting as though you're going against some strict rule like that. But you're only trying to find a bit of comfort and happiness, and you're entitled to!
What to do? Sit that son of yours down and have a serious talk. Weep if you feel like it. Tell him how much you miss your husband and how hard it was for you to give yourself permission to live again. But emphasize that you're still young, and that you're certain your husband wouldn't have wanted you to curl up and die. Tell him how hard he is making things on you, how deeply sad this all is making you, and also, by the way, how unfair his actions are to his own baby. His misplaced anger toward your boyfriend is no way to teach compassion. Regardless, I don't think it's so awful to spend private time with your son this year. That might be a good time to talk about how hurt you are by his actions, and how you are sure your husband would not have wanted you to suffer unnecessary pain. Perhaps your son will become wiser and more generous with more time.
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.