[Two Pronged] I'm still close to my son's ex. Is that OK?
Jeremy has a master's degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives
Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.
Dear Dr Holmes and Mr Baer,
I have a "situation" dealing with my son's ex-girlfriend. She is not a usual "ex" – I had wanted my son to marry her. Up to this day, I am sad that they broke up
For my family, their split was akin to a divorce – so their split also meant a separation from his family. This is a sad, sad thing. She continued to be my FB friend and monitored my health during critical times of my illness. We have many things in common.
My youngest daughter says she herself wouldn't like me to continue being friendly with her ex-boyfriend, so maybe my son's feelings are similar. What do you think? If they had a divorce/separation, I would have continued a relationship with her.
My son does not talk about their break-up, looks like he’s moved on, dating etc. But he may still hurt. Help!
Managing the myriad relationships (romantic or otherwise) that one forms throughout the years has always been a challenge. Arguably it has become more complex now that there are so many ways in which to communicate: face to face, letter (does anyone actually write letters these days?), cell phone, text, FB, Twitter, Skype, Viber etc. The etiquette of each can differ as can the way different generations use them.
Your relationship with your son’s ex has successfully weathered their breakup and this is surely something to be celebrated. Not only did she almost become a member of your family but you have other things in common and a continuing relationship seems perfectly in order. However, your youngest daughter appears to think otherwise.
It is not clear whether she is speaking merely for herself or on behalf of her brother. If it is the former, then she is, of course entitled to her opinion, even to declaring it, but it is certainly not the case that she can impose it on others. If, however, she is in fact her brother’s spokesperson, then matters are slightly different because her words then tend to belie your understanding that he has moved on.
Perhaps it is time to dispense with intermediaries and have a direct discussion with your son to discover his actual position re your relationship with his ex. While to you dealing with his ex at arm’s length – an occasional exchange of FB
messages is scarcely the equivalent of regular lunches, after all – he just may think differently and it would be sensible to know for sure.
As for whether his ex ranks as equivalent to, higher than or lower than a divorced or separated wife, that can also be a point of discussion. At the end of the day, the only two viewpoints that really matter are yours and your son’s; reaching an accommodation without third party interference should not be beyond you.
All the best,
I disagree with Mr Baer that the only two viewpoints that matter are yours and your son’s. In my opinion, the two viewpoints that really matter are yours and your friend’s; i.e., his ex girlfriend’s.
Let’s call her Emma and, to your credit, you continue to view her as a distinct identity separate from your son’s. Your daughter is unable/prefers not to do so, and insists your son be treated in the pre school manner: To prove my love for you, your enemy becomes my enemy, no matter the reason for your estrangement.
Your son is a grown man and, should he have strong feelings about your relationship, it is up to him to share them with you; you cannot be expected to second guess his feelings forever. By all means, ask him directly if you want to and should he say he has no problems with your friendship with Emma, take him at his word. And should he say he does, perhaps his realizing that neither you or Emma are his possessions whom he can dictate to, would be a step to really moving on.
Fr Bulatao, one of the co-founders of the Ateneo de Manila University's Department of Psychology and the Psychological Association of the Philippines, used the egg and family analogy in class once. Using admittedly grossly unfair generalizations, he said hard boiled eggs, still in their shells in a saucepan, are like American families—“aggressively” independent members with clear boundaries, who occasionally “bump” into each other but maintain their individuality.
Scrambled eggs are like “typical” Filipino families – without any clear identities/boundaries and thus confused about one’s own needs and other family members," each trying to accommodate the other too much, which makes for great assimilation, but not for great mental health. This seems the way your daughter wants you to behave.
Then there are fried egg families, with clear boundaries, but with a little give so other feelings are accommodated, but not made the priority; since it is your own needs that should be your priority, as their own needs should be theirs.
Your daughter is a hard boiled egg who wants you to be a scrambled. We are talking about adult relationships here, not a game of “Follow the leader” where everyone embraces the leader’s flavor of the month and eschews him once he becomes a former favorite.
Your son seems a fried egg and happy that you are too. Whatever it is your kids want/expect you to do should be taken into consideration but never ever be the rules by which you live your life. It is a burden being responsible for their happiness as well as your own. Hells bells, when will they ever learn otherwise?
I wish you, your children, Emma, your children’s ex’s and “currents” the freedom to be with and enjoy whoever they wish.
All the best,
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