Late Life Love: Your Aging Parents & Their Relationship Choices
When it comes to our aging parents and their relationship choices, we tend to pass judgment even though we totally hate the thought of them passing judgment on us for the same sorts of things. Gail offers insights and tips on this issue that can cause serious rifts in families.
When it comes to your aging or elderly parents and their relationship choices, do you think of yourself as:
* Enlightened?; or,
* At least, moderately cool?; or,
* How about, somewhat willing to give the benefit of the doubt even though you're all scrunched up inside at the very thought that they - your beloved, getting older by the moment - parents would do what you believe they're up to?; or
* Totally shut down, do not mention that in my presence, unwilling to consider the options?
Interesting, isn't it? We pass judgement on our parents even though we totally hate the thought of them passing judgement on us for the same sorts of things. Talk about a double standard!
But, you have to admit that by our midlife perspectives, some things are tougher for us to imagine our parents doing than to imagine ourselves pulling off.
Things like .................. sex.
Things like ................... having a perfectly healthy relationship with a member of the opposite gender after losing a spouse.
Things like ................... falling in love with someone we (their children) neither know nor approve.
Did I mention things like sex?!
Of course, who do we think we are to be sticking our midlife noses into their private lives? Why, we're their kids damn it! We have a stake in this! Shouldn't we/you have first right of refusal?!
You're so funny.
Let's think about this for a moment:
- I'm not talking about extra-marital stuff here. However, if your parent has lost a spouse (i.e., you've lost one of your parents), they spent how many years loving - or at least tolerating - the emptiness can be incredible.
- You have your own life. Yes, you feel the loss and the hurt, but for the most part you have your own family or involvements. Remember how busy you always say you are when those same getting older by the minute parents ask for a little of your time? Umhmm, that.
- Are you really so selfish that you feel you've any business denying your remaining parent happiness? How would you feel if they did that to you? And, even if they did do that to you . . . didn't you learn anything from the experience?!
- Do I note a little fear that you might have to start sharing what you thought was yours alone (i.e., your parent) with someone else (i.e., that other person)?
- Even worse, what about your inheritance?! You don't really believe your parents' things are owed to you, do you? And then having to share, or even worse, to sacrifice your "rightful belongings" to your parent's happiness or some such. Oh come now.
I see your point.
No, actually, I don't.
You know, relationships are strange and amazing things no matter what the ages of the participants. We get so caught up in how things ought to be done in our narrow little view of the world, that we forget we aren't the only ones living in that world. If that's how you've been living your life, come out from under your rock. Try breathing a little!
If nothing else, consider how you would want to be treated given similar circumstances a few years down the road. Or, think of how you might have preferred being treated when you were younger - if your choice wasn't your parents' choice - and respond through that learning.
Your parents, no matter what their ages, are adults. In fact, they were adults before you even arrived on the scene! That means they've seen more, felt more, and lost far more than you my friend. They're survivors. Now, just because you don't necessarily approve of some of the choices they've made to survive and perhaps even to thrive - in life's second half, so be it.
And if one of those choices involves "love", who are you to stand in the way . . unless, of course, there are some serious physical, emotional, psychological issues going on . . which are actually not as common as you might want to imagine? As I said, relationships are strange and amazing things. And, they keep us young at heart. Now, that's healthy!
You know, a friend of mine wrote a book a couple years ago that focuses on just this sort of thing: Late Life Love: Romance & New Relationships in Later Years by Connie Goldman is a godsend of a book to adult children and their aging parents as well. It consists of a series of interviews with 22 couples who have connected and discovered romance - of varying sorts - in their later years.
If you're having a tough time coming to terms with your aging parents' "choices of the heart" get your hands on this book and sit down for some real learning. You owe it to yourself. Heaven forbid, you owe it to your parents!
Just do it . . . if for no other reason than to give yourself hope that aging isn't a dead end. (Of course, most dead ends are turns in a direction we hadn't anticipated. But, they can be a little scary while we're trying to figure them out). Just like growing older can be scary, and falling in love can be scary, and living life to the fullest can be the scariest of all.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
An expert on "letting go in aging," Gail McConnon helps midlife adults clear out the emotional baggage that interferes in their relationships with their aging parents. Gail is a professional aging coach & mentor & holds BA, MPH, and MS degrees. Gail also was the adult child of & primary caregiver to her mother for the last six years of her mother's life. Visit http://www.celebrateagingparents.com for info, resources, free reports & Gail's blog.