DEAR AMY: My 21-year-old daughter broke up with her boyfriend of four years, "Bradley," about six months ago. It was the right decision for her and she has moved on. From what my daughter tells me, he was devastated. Bradley is a hardworking young man who put himself through college and has plans to continue his education. My husband and I offered guidance to him when he was with our daughter, as his family was not able to. He was like a son to us. My husband and I are grieving! Bradley spent countless hours in our home. He was part of our family. We have seen him once since the breakup and have exchanged a couple of short emails. In hindsight, I realize we should not have allowed ourselves to get so attached. Knowing this situation, what are your thoughts on us staying in touch with him? My head tells me that we should not, but my heart says otherwise.
-- Saddened Parent
DEAR SADDENED: It is not a mistake to get attached to your kids' partners. Certainly when they are teenagers, your attachment is a genuinely positive thing.
It's also OK to continue a friendship post-breakup, as long as you realize that this is one relationship where the other parties' interests must come before your own emotional needs or desires. Your daughter does not have the right to pick your friends, but if this quasi-familial attachment to her ex continues, it could impede other relationships she might have.
You should convey to her: "We know you made the right decision, but we miss Bradley. We'd like to keep in touch with him and want to make sure this won't make you uncomfortable." Keep your contact with him casual, positive and friendly. My own relationship with ex-in-laws has been rich, deep, supportive and very rewarding over the years. If you're lucky, this relationship will survive this tender time of adjustment and settle into something good for everyone.