The ability to handle things in life often comes through the process of anticipation. Here’s what I mean: you’ll be surprised at everything that happens if you’ve never had an imagination for what could happen, even if it isn’t likely. As mothers, we want to believe that our bond with our children will always be steady and strong. We know it will change as they move into adulthood, but we still crave that connection with them. We want to be needed, and the proof is that our adult children will still come to us for a listening ear, advice, concern, and consolation. Sometimes though, things don’t turn out the way we planned.
When my oldest son was just 14 years old, he was asked to the snowball dance at school. It’s the one where the girls ask the boys. Many of the kids just go as friends to enjoy the tradition of the dance and see it as a fun group activity. In this case, my son became fast friends with the girl who asked him to be her date.
In the weeks after the dance, they continued communicating often, and in a matter of months, they were in a committed relationship, at least as much of a commitment as a couple of 14-year-olds can have with each other. While I did monitor their relationship, I didn’t get too involved. The likelihood that their fondness for each other would continue into something long-term seemed small. I didn’t anticipate that they’d be inseparable through their high school years together or that they’d be contemplating marriage shortly after high school, but that is what happened.
Your Child’s Relationship With A Partner Will Change Their Relationship With You
At the time, I had no way of knowing how my son’s young relationship would completely alter his relationship with me. I assumed I had the benefit of time to spend with him, parent him, and continue to establish a strong, healthy bond. The reality is that as he grew closer to his girlfriend, he spent more time in her parent’s home and integrating into their way of life. He slowly grew more distant from me and began comparing her mom and me.
Suddenly I was immersed into a world of failed expectations, not malicious on my son’s part, but inevitable as he started to compare the differences between our families and me as his mother. In retrospect, I wish I had been more prepared, not to have stopped the relationship, but to have personally understood how drastically his new relationship would change the one he had with me. Here’s an important question you need to ask:
Have you really been dumped, or is your relationship with your child just different?
The first thing to consider is that when your children get into a serious relationship, how they relate to you will definitely change, and not all change is bad. In fact, most often, these changes are necessary and healthy as their time and attention shift to prioritizing their spouse or potential spouse. That is to be expected, and if you’re struggling with feelings of jealousy, loss, or remorse, make the time to work through that on your own without pushing those ideas and emotions onto them.
If you still have time…
Ideally, you’ll want to have specific conversations with your kids before being in the middle of their new relationship. This goes back to having an imagination for what the future might hold. Sit down with them, even if they’re already young adults, and talk about the effects those future relationships will have on you and your entire family. This is the perfect time to be specific, as there’s no ill will that will be directed specifically at a potential partner. Obviously, waiting to discuss this when they’re already involved makes it tough to navigate a conversation that will seem inflammatory. For example, “Why are you choosing them over me?” will never be a healthy perspective.
If You’ve Already Been Dumped For Your Child’s New Partner
There are two important factors in this scenario, and it’s critical that you consider both:
- Is your child in an unhealthy relationship with their new partner?
- Or is their new relationship resulting in less time and attention for you?
If your child is in an unhealthy relationship with a partner that’s exhibiting red flags such as any sort of abuse, this is a case where your family should discuss what the healthy options might be for intervention. In situations of an abusive or controlling partner, your actions and reactions would reflect that and be entirely different from how you handle the natural changes that occur in a relationship with your kids when they’re with a healthy partner.
Important Advice When You’ve Been Dumped By Your Child For Their New Partner
Here are some action steps you can take when your child has dumped you for their new partner:
- Understand that you have prepared your child for independence and growth into future relationships that are different from the one they have with you.
- Learn how you can relate in a new way with your child and their significant other rather than relating to your child independently in the way you’re used to.
- Respect your child’s relationship and look for ways you can enhance the lives of both them and their new partner.
- Be patient. It can be easy to take your child’s shifting focus and make it personal when they are also adjusting their priorities, which is a good thing!
- Reassure your child that you’ll always be there. Our kids will tend to run toward independence and new relationships because they’re grounded in their relationship with you, not because they’re running away from you.
Sometimes, what feels like getting dumped really isn’t. When a child shifts their priorities, it can change your relationship with them, and that change can be painful. The fact that, as parents, we feel the pain of change doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be happening. Most often, it means it’s time to develop a strategy for the new place that you hold in their lives.