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Ask Ellie: Mom's later-life relationship is her own business

SCWW senior on phone
What should you do when your senior parent begins online dating?

Dear Ellie: My mother, a retired executive of a large company, is 72, and very active — walks every day, does yoga and gardens. My father divorced her in her 40s, to marry a younger woman.

A couple of years later, Mom started a long relationship with another man. He sold his own house and lived with her until he died last year.

Because they were both financially comfortable, he sought nothing from her and wasn’t in her will.

Now there’s a new man with her, and my husband and I are very concerned about him. They met through online dating, though I’d strongly warned my mother beforehand.

I told her of the many stories of men who seek relationships with older, financially-secure women, so they can benefit from them when together and inherit from them later.

My mother still refuses to listen to me. She says she outsmarted would-be scammers throughout her business years, and is no fool now. She said she now enjoys her home-life again with this man, and he’s also a great travel companion.

My husband and I see a disaster looming, for her and for us. I told my mother that she’d be safer and have male and female friends all around her, if she’d move into an upscale retirement home. She brushed me off.

Since I’m an only child, I always believed my mother would be very generous to me in her will. She’s lived a very good life all these years, and we felt very secure.

But times are difficult now, with the stock market declining and inflation on the horizon.

To have Mom’s wealth and her other assets be diminished by this man, would change our life considerably. And we’d have difficulty affording the appropriate seniors’ residence for her when she absolutely needs it.

What should I do?

— Protecting Mom

 

Back off. Your approach has your mother ignoring your attempt to end a relationship she enjoys.

A far more respectful and common chat with aging parents, is to simply ask whether there’s a will on file with her lawyer, and whether she’s willing to reveal its contents regarding you and your husband.

Instead, you’ve raised your preference (intention?) for moving her out of the house she enjoys and giving her current “partner” the boot, with no knowledge whether he’s mentioned in her will, or seeks common-law status.

Their travel and other expenses are her business if she chooses to pay some of it, unless there’s evidence of him using coercion or her showing signs of dementia.

Look to your own finances: Do both you and your husband work, own your home together, maintain expenses beyond your means? That’s where your concerns should start, followed by an open, honest chat with your mom regarding you and her only.


FEEDBACK regarding the woman, 43, whose new partner is a younger man, 28. She’s happy with him but wondering which one is the “wrong” age (July 1):

Reader: “Age gaps actually shrink over time.

“A 15-year gap now seems large. But, when she’s 90 and he’s 75, it’ll seem less. Even in 15 years — with 58 and her boyfriend then 43, it’s no longer so big an age gap.

“Check statistics: Generally, women outlive men. My father passed 15 years ago and my mother’s still with us.

“Today may bring snide comments. But in 20 years this woman will be admired by her detractors!

“If the couple are right for each other, age doesn’t matter.”


Dear Ellie: My parents’ division of labour went out with the 1960s, as women proved equal to men in many fields.

I’m a recent University graduate, and now see my parents’ choices differently. My mother took charge of the children’s schooling, overseeing homework, even choosing our courses in higher grades (though I rejected some).

My dad handles all family/household/ personal finances. My parents still know little about what the other’s doing. They’ll accuse one another of a wrong decision, but never discuss things first. What can I do to change this?

— A Modern Woman

 

First, manage your own future “partner-related” decisions, in a more mutually respectful manner than your parents’ ways.

Next, recognize their long-term marriage and choices as their business, despite your preference for equality and sharing leadership.

Your current confidence and future relationships may catch their attention, but being true to your own values should now be your focus.


Ellie’s tip of the day

Healthy seniors may enjoy added years of happiness with a new partner, barring adult children’s interference.

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca.

Follow @ellieadvice.

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