Love and Relationships

[Two Pronged] I am attracted to my ex mother-in-law

Margarita Holmes, Jeremy Baer

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[Two Pronged] I am attracted to my ex mother-in-law
'We talk and email on a regular basis and our conversations always end up about sex'

Rappler’s Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr. Margarita Holmes.

Jeremy has a master’s degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in three 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 am really attracted to my ex mother-in-law. She is 52 and I am 37. My ex wife and I divorced five years ago and she has since remarried. My ex mother-in-law has been widowed for about five years as well.

We talk and email on a regular basis and our conversations always end up about sex. We seem to enjoy talking about how often we both masturbate and what kind of toys she has. She has not had sex with a man since being widowed and I really want to pleasure her in every way possible.

We are both single adults and if we are both willing, is there a problem with us proceeding forward? I have never told her I want to sleep with her but I think she probably knows just by the things I say to her. 


Dear Alan,

Thank you for your message.

In principle there is no reason why you should not pursue this relationship since as you say you are both unattached and consenting adults.

There are however a number of possible issues: there is a 15 year age gap; society may not react positively to a relationship with your former mother-in-law (xMIL); your ex-wife may not be thrilled by this relationship either.

Age gaps are now more positively viewed than previously, even if the majority feature older men rather than older women. If you and xMIL are both happy with the situation, then the potential problem is external: the reaction of family, friends and society in general. How much, or little, this matters to you will be one of the factors that you take into account but generally couples weather the storm of negativity which often serves simply to bind them together more closely.

The same is of course true of any criticism of a relationship specifically with your xMIL. There is no obvious reason why there should be any greater opposition to her than any other 52 year old woman but sometimes cultural mores can prove very oppositional, especially in so-called traditional circles.

When coupled with the age gap issue, this could generate considerable criticism, much of which could be exacerbated by social media, the ultimate haven of those who revel in criticizing without accountability or consequence (to themselves).

As for your ex, you are best placed to judge the extent to which she will react badly, if indeed at all. Maybe she has moved on; maybe she will feel protective of her mother, particularly given her negative experience with you.

All in all, you should plan for the worst while hoping for the best. If you yourself are willing to run the gauntlet, then make sure your xMIL is also forearmed to withstand the brickbats. Together you should weather the storm and emerge all the stronger.

Best wishes,

JAF Baer

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Dear Alan,

Thank you very much for your letter. Thank you too, Mr Baer, for giving the reasons people may criticize Alan’s and his exMIL’s (let’s call her Susan) liaison and the reasons it should not be considered a problem. You added: “…make sure your xMIL is (like you) also forearmed to withstand the brickbats. Together you should weather the storm and emerge all the stronger.”

One of my problems regarding Mr Baer’s above response is he seems to be talking about an emotionally intimate relationship between you and Susan, rather than what I perceive to be mainly a booty call between two people who get titillated sharing their sexual experiences with each other.

But you share something far more important than that: a history because of one woman who you both purportedly loved (in your case) and still love (in hers). True, you loved/love her in different ways – you as her ex-husband who in all probability promised to “love and honor” her till death do you part; and Susan as her mother, women who are supposed to love their children till the end of time (and many do).

Love and sexual attraction may seem similar, because there is a desire for completion, but they actually have different goals. Sexual attraction’s end goal is sex, whereas even if love might include sexual attraction, its end goals are much deeper than that. Love – whether for a partner or a child – wants the relationship to continue, a relationship so important the lover will usually do all he can for it to flourish.

If what you have is as you described it in your letter, “just sex”, then by all means continue to enjoy wonderful nights – and even days – of teasing, flirting, even consummating the attraction between you.

But it isn’t just that, is it?

Because if it were, you wouldn’t bother to write to us about it. Because if it did not niggle at your conscience – which many say is what separates us from non-sentient beings – you would not hesitate to just do with your mind what your loins tell you to.

So my questions to you are the very ones I am sure you are asking yourself: WHY?

True, wanting to have sex with a particular someone can become harder as your taste changes. Usually your taste becomes more discriminating so finding someone alluring may not be as easy as it used to be. Not as easy, perhaps, but not all that difficult either. So again I ask: WHY?

I urge you to explore any possible reason you may want to hurt your ex-wife. Because, in all likelihood, having sex with her mother will devastate her. She may try to convince herself it doesn’t matter, but do you really think she can succeed? Why pick the one woman who she probably trusts the most in her life? Man oh man, you must still be really angry to want revenge in such a brutal way.

Yes, you are no longer her husband; and yes, she has even remarried.

But again I ask why? Among all the women you could have a liaison with, why pick her mother? Why choose the one woman to have sex with that in all likelihood would hit her at her very core?

Of course, I could be wrong. Your ex-wife’s relationship with her mom might be so damaged, that nothing you did would make it worse. I could also be wrong that your sexual attraction is so strong no other woman could replace Susan…but somehow I doubt it.

In my opinion but also backed up by my clinical experience, the possible fallout if I am right about this affecting your ex-wife is not worth considering taking this any further.

My one request before you take things any further is to please ask Susan if she’s ever thought of how her daughter might feel if she found out about the two of you. Perhaps Susan’s answer, further illuminating what sort of person she is, will make your decision easier.

Good luck,

MG Holmes

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