Dear Crabby, I don’t know what to do about my son. He seems to have a revolving door when it comes to girlfriends. This last one, I thought she was “the one.” I included her in family photos, took her on trips, etc., only to learn after nearly three years, he was done and moved on.
I don’t think I can do this again. How do I open myself up and allow someone in; only to have them removed from me? It’s almost like a death. I have stayed friends with some of his exes. It can be awkward, but I manage.
It’s just that this time around I don’t care to make an effort. They want me to join them for dinner, road trips or events. It’s hard. I just smile. I’m polite. I’m trying to keep a distance without looking standoffish; if that’s possible. I don’t want to ask too many questions because then I’m being drawn into this person’s life. A life I may not get to be a part of for very long. Oh son, what is a mother to do?
Dear Again? Really? Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whooooooooooa. You’ve got to slow down and take a look at yourself here, because just reading what you wrote it appears that you’re a concerned, well-meaning parent whose priorities and sense of proportion are distressingly out of whack. I’m going to lay down a bit of tough love for you, and some of it may be difficult to hear.
You should not put your relationships with your son’s girlfriends above your relationship with your son. If your son breaks up with a girlfriend, that’s his prerogative. Would you have him stay in an unfulfilling relationship just because you think she’s “the one”? Of course you wouldn’t.
Now, you say losing HIS girlfriend from YOUR life is “almost like a death.” It’s not. (Here’s that sense of proportion thing I was talking about.) But I know why you would say that; breakups can be life-altering and can take years to recover from. In general, though, that only goes for the people who were actually, you know, in the relationship. You were not one of those people. If this breakup was tough for you, imagine what your son went through. Even if it was his decision to end things, this was a significant shift in his life. And you were feeling sorry for yourself? Seriously?
Your job is to be there for him. He put three years of his life into this relationship, which — wait, wait, wait. Hold on a minute. That just hit me. You’re complaining that your son goes through girlfriends in a revolving-door kind of way, and his last relationship lasted three years? I’m not sure you’re familiar with the mechanics of revolving doors or the manner in which “revolving door” functions as a colloquialism. OK, that aside, like I was saying, your job is to be there for him, which means you have to be on his side even if you think he made a mistake. Being on his side means that your friendship with the ex must be sanctioned by your son. If he’s uncomfortable with it, you can’t be friends with her.
And the reason for that (and basically the whole point of my response) is: Your friendship with your son’s girlfriend or ex-girlfriend is not supposed to mean a damn thing compared to your relationship with your son. It’s insane that I have to tell you that. With this in mind, I’d urge you accept his offers to spend time together. Get to know his new girlfriend. That’s part of being a good parent. But if it ends — and it probably will on account of how most people go through a few significant others before settling down — you have to be loyal to him, not to her. Bite back your own pain and think of him. That’s what I mean by priorities.