Sons reject dad’s date

Joey Garcia

I divorced eight years ago, but my sons (both in their 20s) refuse to accept the women with whom I have had serious, loving relationships. At graduations, birthdays and holidays, I have been rudely informed that my girlfriend was not welcome. Immediately after the divorce, my former spouse and I fell into a habit of celebrating “as a family” to make the transition easier for the boys. When I confronted them recently, saying I was no longer going to accept their disrespectful, childish behavior, they were surprised and angry with me for “suggesting such a thing.” I am so pissed I can’t see straight.

Anyone can be successful by social standards—well-employed (even brilliant), the owner of a home and car, involved in church or civic functions, and chronologically an adult—and still be strikingly immature emotionally. For example, Carl Jung, the eminent psychoanalyst, insisted on bringing his mistress to Sunday supper each week with his wife and children. His belief that this behavior was appropriate was rooted in his tortured childhood relationship with his own mother, which, despite his credentials, he never gave much attention to healing. Although Jung’s behavior and yours are quite different, it probably doesn’t seem so to your sons. Here’s why: When you introduce a girlfriend into family functions, you are bursting the illusion of being an intact family. That’s the illusion that your sons, you and your ex-wife carefully colluded to maintain for holy days. Because this illusion requires that reality be denied, it is feasible that your sons are unaware that they are being rude to your girlfriend. They are, consciously or not, defending the family against an interloper.

You must take some responsibility for creating this situation. Doing so will help you to release your resentment. Focus on what you may have taught your sons through your behavior and how to clean that up. Then, have an honest (no blaming or reprimanding) conversation with each of them separately. State your wrongs, apologize and leave. Do not require or expect an apology in return. Then live in the present as a man with two sons he loves, a current relationship with a woman who was integral to his past development and still is to his sons’ development, and a current relationship with a woman who is (hopefully) helping him develop now. In other words, enjoy being an adult.

After only six months of practice, my parents want me to get my driver’s license and drive to school on my own. I am afraid I will get into an accident because I am afraid of other drivers. One of my parents usually follows me, and I leave early enough so I don’t hit much traffic. I cannot imagine doing this on my own, and I don’t want to. Please help.

It’s normal to be afraid during a rite of passage. Accepting a driver’s license means accepting responsibility for making safe and compassionate choices for yourself, for other drivers and for the roadside landscape. The good news is that your parents believe you are capable of this. While it’s true that some drivers think only of themselves, they are the exception (that’s why their behavior stands out so stunningly). So, continue to be cautious, but remember that other drivers are usually our family, friends and neighbors. That may help you to ease into this experience.

Meditation of the week
The ever-inspiring Heather Hutcheson of the Sacramento Poetry Center sent this quote by Christopher Edley Jr.: “Each generation must decide whether to dig defensive trenches or build bridges, and each of us must choose whether to participate in that decision or just let others decide for us and for our children.” How do you love your neighbor?

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