Dad Is Dating Again
“My dad has fallen for another woman since Mom passed away. We are generally supportive, but it’s a bit awkward for us, children, because we are Dad’s primary caregivers. We manage most of his life, feeding, cleaning and transporting him every day. He seems to be getting pretty serious about this lady. We are concerned because we don’t want Dad to be taken advantage of. We don’t know about her, her finances or her family because Dad keeps most of his affairs to himself.
Can we help Dad navigate dating at his later age?” – READER
Although your father lost your mother, because of factors like increasing life expectancies (The World Bank, 2019) and the increasing divorce rate growing among baby boomers (McGinty, 2019), it has become more and more common for single elderly parents to date. So your father’s situation is far from unique.
That being said, your situation does add some complexity to your relationship with your father. Since becoming a caregiver of his, it is only reasonable for you to wonder about his girlfriend’s needs, her finances, and their future relationship. While your father is a decisional adult, he is also dependent on you to meet some of his needs. It reminds me of a college student in reverse.
I believe it is best to communicate early on with your father about your concerns, rather than wait.
With that said, your father can do as he wishes. Since you did not indicate signs of your father experiencing any mental deterioration or deficiency, you do not have the right to interfere with their relationship from a legal standpoint. I’m sure you understand that. As his caregiver, however, you have plenty of opportunity for discussion.
Now before you get all parental and decide to set expectations for your father, take a step back and think about something for a moment. Remember yourself as a teenager or young adult in love. Would anyone have been able to stop your feelings back then? Your dad may feel this is his last chance at love. He may care what you think, but his emotions may override your concerns at this time.
I recommend that you spend some quality time with Dad talking about future-planning.
Find out what his goals are. One way people do this is by filling out Advance Directive paperwork. This would certainly open the dialog. Talk about your own planning with your father, perhaps discussing your plan for your own children. Making it an adult-to-adult conversation offers the greatest chance of a successful outcome. Have a similar conversation about finances. Asking for his advice and offering yours is a healthy exchange between father and son that breaks down all sorts of barriers. As a brief side note, I always recommend that children never count on their parents’ finances for future inheritance. Plan and save for your own future.
Hopefully, your father is not willing to walk away from his relationship with you or family for a possible short-term dating situation. Although it has happened, I would say it is unlikely. Regardless, I recommend that you stay close with your father, support his relationship, and help set up his finances to protect him. Talk about care needs. Find out about his girlfriend’s goals and her family. Her children may be just as concerned as you are. Try to be helpful, and avoid being pushy. You have not indicated any conflict thus far, which is good.
Your past relationship with Dad and his prior decision-making is the greatest predictor of how this situation will play out. The most important thing you can do is be present.
McGinty, J. C. (2019, June 21). The Divorce Rate Is at a 40-Year Low, Unless You’re 55 or Older. Retrieved July 19, 2019, from Wall Street Journal: https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-divorce-rate-is-at-a-40-year-low-unless-youre-55-or-older-11561116601
The World Bank. (2019). Life expectancy at birth, total (years), US. Retrieved July 19, 2019, from The World Bank: https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.DYN.LE00.IN?locations=US
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