Ask Stavroula: Widow Facing Disapproval of Her New Boyfriend

Dear Stavroula,

I am 42 years old and I have a 16-year-old daughter. We live with my mother in my parents’ house because my husband passed away ten years ago and my mother has helped me greatly in raising my child since I work long hours. During all these years my relationship with my mother was good, and she stood by and supported me, like no one else. I don’t know how I could have done it, raising a young child on my own and with such a difficult job and I acknowledge it. But now we are constantly fighting.

For six months, I’ve been dating a man my age. He is a remarkable man and we are very much in love. This man asked me to rent a house with him and since I told my mother, she became very aggressive with me, constantly telling me that she is against this relationship and is pushing me to break up.

She tries to persuade me to give up my partner, tells me that he is too good-looking and will cheat on me, that he wants me only for my inheritance, that he will act inappropriately towards my daughter, and a bunch of other nasty things to scare me.

The ugly thing is that it affects my daughter, who also has a negative attitude towards my partner, without even having met him yet. She tells me if I want to live with him, she will stay with her grandmother and will never speak to me again. I feel that after so many difficulties and so much loneliness, I deserve a little happiness. Why can’t they understand that? I’m at a dead end… what should I do?

L.

Dear L,

For many years you have lived alone in your family home with your mother and daughter. You were all accustomed to this situation and you were doing well in it. Suddenly, however, you decided to bring another person into your life and this situation changed dramatically. It is only natural for your loved ones to worry and feel insecure and express their concerns.

Under no circumstances should they try to influence you negatively, especially when they see you happy. You have every right to make your own life decisions and live with any partner you want. Try, therefore, to calmly explain to your mother that you understand her concerns but that you alone will make your own life decisions and treating you this way has no benefit either for you or your relationship.

On the other hand, you have a daughter who is emotionally reliant on your relationship and it makes sense for her to worry about losing or at best being forced to share your love and interest with a man she has never met. And because she is a teenager, which is a difficult age anyway, this situation adds even more stress and she does not know how to manage it. Her attitude does not mean she does not want to see you happy, but she’s afraid you will distance yourself, that maybe you won’t have time for her at a time when she needs you more than ever. As you wrote to me, you work a lot and you already have very limited time. You should probably talk to her with love and honesty, to show her how much you love her and how much you care, to reassure her that no one can separate you but that she must also understand that you are a woman who has been deprived in life and you need a man to love and share moments with, especially now that she is growing up and soon will have her own life.

You should, however, also take into account the fact that a teenage girl living with a stranger in the same house is not an easy task. Particularly, since your child grew up without a father, with no male presence in the house. Your daughter is not ready at this moment to change her life. Perhaps this is what your mother sees and tries to “protect” her from, though, obviously, in the wrong way.

I would therefore suggest, since you have a good relationship with your partner, not to rush to move in together, but wait for your daughter to turn 18 and to follow her own path, either going off to college or work. In any case, you’ve only been in this relationship for six months and that is a very short amount of time to make such an important decision. And if there is love in your relationship as you say, there will also be understanding and respect for your needs.