About 20 years ago my friend Laura lost her mother after a lingering illness. Within a few months, her father’s old friends fixed him up with Maggie, an attractive divorcee.
A whirlwind courtship followed, and Joe and Maggie, both in their late 60s, were married within a year after the mother had died. Laura and her brothers were stupefied, especially when they saw their father doing things that looked strange to them: dressing differently, vacationing in Palm Springs, becoming less and less like the man who shared their pain of losing their mother. They would squirm when Maggie would talk effusively about how great it was to have a “lover” in her life. When Joe died a few years later, his children felt a mix of grief; relief that Maggie was out of their lives; and outrage when they found out how much Joe left her in his will.
I bring this up because over the past month several acquaintances have talked about their mixed feelings about their older parents “moving on” to new relationships. On one hand, they feel glad that the parent has the chance for companionship as he or she moves into their twilight years. On the other hand they may mistrust the new partner, especially if the parents’ relationship ended in divorce or they are still grieving over the other parent’s death. They may not like the new partner, especially if he or she is very different from the first one.
And as with any relationship, money can complicate things. Some children mistrust the motives of the new spouse, who may or may not want to influence how their inheritance is spent and might be called upon to make decisions about the parent’s long-term care. While Anna Nicole Smith was vilified for her share of her husband’s estate – after one year of marriage – she maintained that she gave him one of the happiest years of his life.
One of the reasons I started this blog is to serve as a place for adults to talk about how their relationships (with parents, spouses, kids) evolve as they grow older. I’d love to hear from some of you about your experiences and candid thoughts about an older parent’s remarriage. My plans are to publish a blog on this topic around Valentine’s Day. And it goes without saying that names and other details would be disguised to protect your identity (as I did with Laura’s story.)
My hope is that we can all learn from one another’s perspectives. Feel free to comment below or send your thoughts privately to my email – firstname.lastname@example.org . Thank you!!!!