DEAR AMY: I have a son who is 33 years old. We are very close. We see him every day. He met a girl in Arizona (we live on the East Coast). This girl lives 2,000 miles away! I know he is grown and has every right to do as he pleases. My concern is he has only known this girl three months and is leaving behind his family, friends and a good job in order to change his life. I love him dearly and I am having a very hard time understanding and accepting his decision. Do I have the right to feel like he is being selfish, leaving us all behind, in order to be with someone he has only known a short few months? Any advice would help this heartbroken momma!
DEAR HEARTBROKEN: I’m always intrigued when someone with a problem asks if they “have the right” to feel a certain way.
Generally, each of us simply feels the way we feel, and we all have the right to our feelings.
However, I’m going to break with my long-standing practice of responding empathetically to this whole “do I have the right...” query and say to you, now:
No. you do not have the right to brand your 33-year-old son as selfish for wanting to live his life the way he wants to, with whomever he wants to, and where he wants to.
So stop it. His choice is fraught with risk, but if he has lived his whole life so close to home and family, then this is a risk he probably should take.
I realize it is challenging to face the reality that your son wants to break away from hearth and home. You have two choices: to accept this situation with your fingers crossed for the best possible outcome, or to react in such a way that makes your son’s choice all about you. If you choose the second path, you can expect him to perhaps never return.
DEAR AMY: Nine months ago, I got a job here in America and moved from my home country of Ireland. When I moved, my girlfriend and I decided that we would stay together long distance but that we would be allowed to “hook up” with other people. I recently spent the night with a woman I met here in the States, which would be well within the arrangement my girlfriend and I have, except that I have developed feelings for this new woman. My girlfriend in Ireland means a lot to me, but I won’t be returning there anytime soon, and she isn’t planning to move to the United States. The thought of letting go of my relationship with her pains me deeply, but I understand that it may not be entirely viable in the long run. This new woman and I have a meaningful connection, but I only recently met her. I feel caught between my desire to pursue a relationship with her and my desire to be loyal to my girlfriend. Do you have any advice?
Foot in Both Worlds
DEAR FOOT: You and your girlfriend made this naive agreement because you were going to be living a world away from each other. You knew the temptations you would both be facing, but didn’t want to break up. This current situation is a completely expected outcome of your “hook up” manifesto.
At this point, she, too, might have decided to have a second date with someone she slept with.
Your long-distance relationship is unsustainable. You have found someone else. You seem to be asking for ways to avoid feeling torn and sad about this situation, but feeling disloyal is a natural consequence of being disloyal. So don’t be disloyal.
There are no guarantees that this new relationship will work out for you, but the most compassionate thing you can do at this point is to be honest with your girlfriend, and formally release her to pursue other relationships, just as you are doing.
DEAR AMY: “Frustrated” described a classic enabling situation where the whole family of siblings was expected to basically help their father continue to be an addict (to alcohol and gambling) after their mother’s death. I really appreciated your response to this question. Establishing boundaries and trying to alter a lifelong family dynamic is really hard, but it’s worth it. I did it!
Recovering from Enabling
DEAR RECOVERING: Sometimes addicts rely on a very large and complex system of loved ones (and others) in order to maintain their addictions. Congratulations for breaking the chain.