Hello everybody, welcome to episode 234 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. Today's question is from a listener who's concerned about her adult son moving in with a long distance girlfriend.
I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino reminding you before we begin that if you have a question you would like help with on the show, we welcome you to email it to us at advice AT oldpodcast.com
And with me today – besides you fine people – is a question that we’ve received from a mother who’s not so sure about her son’s decision to move in rather quickly with his long distance girlfriend. She wants to stop him, but how can she do so without wrecking the relationship? This is a good and interesting question that I’m excited to look into. Let’s take a look at how to navigate these rough waters as a parent. Here’s her question…
QUESTION: “I’m concerned about my 23 year-old adult son who is planning to move in with his long-distance girlfriend of less than a year. I haven’t met her and neither has his father. My son himself has only met her three times. He is smart and has a good head on his shoulders, but he’s always fallen a little crazy in love and I worry that he’s rushing into this too quickly. I’ve tried carefully to tell him that this might be a mistake and he’s disagreed adamantly. I admit that I’ve held back and I want to say more, but I worry that he would lose his temper and would be even more set on going. He describes her as a sweet girl, but I know in my heart that he’s rushing into this and I don’t know how to stop him.”
Looking Out for Your Adult Son
A loving, thoughtful mother. Thank you ma’am for sending this in and for looking out for your son’s best interest. My mother would be proud, I’m sure. However, I do think you’re missing the mark on this a little bit.
Let’s start by talking about long distance relationships, because the fact is that they’ve changed. They still have the same stigmas attached to them, but they’ve changed.
Now in the past, even more recently than when you were your son’s age, people in long distance relationships did not keep the same type of contact. Rarely did they keep the same amount of contact as modern long distance couples do, and jumping right into living together happened less too because there was a lot more emphasis on religious ideals about not moving in until marriage, or at least spending a lot of time together before moving in so you could have some type of idea of one another’s living style.
And if I had to guess, that last part is all that your son’s relationship is missing. I assume he and his girlfriend are like any other long distance couple of this day and age, and are incessantly texting and hopping on FaceTime most, if not all, nights.
That didn’t happen in the past. It can’t replace time together, but it goes a lot farther than you think, and frankly, it goes a lot farther than everyone thinks, including millennials who aren’t in long distance relationships.
Building Connection Through Distance
Nobody loves staying away from the phone and doing more in person than I do, but I’d be lying if I said that a lot of legitimate connection can’t be built with all the time on the phone. Not so much texting, but you have to understand that couples who are regularly on the phone or FaceTime are putting aside say 30 minutes to an hour a day to get to know one another without distractions, ask big questions and engage in deep conversations.
They’re missing out on time in person, yes, but you’d be hard pressed to find couples who aren’t long distance spending that much concentrated time on listening to one another rather than just watching TV together or something else that dilutes both party’s attention. This isn’t necessarily a recipe for success – not by a long shot – but it’s also not given nearly enough credit for how beneficial it can be.
So these are just things to keep in mind that can maybe help you see this relationship from a different angle, but really they’re beside the point.
Parenting Adult Children
You said your son has a good head on his shoulders, maybe he knows what he’s doing here. You also said he falls a little too hard in love, maybe this is another one of those times and the relationship won’t end up working. You don’t know, I don’t know.
But what I do know is that on your end, the goal is not to try harder to get him to rethink it, and summon the courage to be more aggressive or at least up front about your disapproval. Instead, the goal is for you to release how you mothered him as a child and realize that you, your son, and the relationship you share are all entering new phases.
At this stage of his life, it’s no longer in your hands to direct him too much. It’s not on you tell him right from wrong, to discipline him too hard, or to hover over him and monitor his every move. You’re clearly a devoted mother, and if you want to serve him as best you can at this juncture, you have to get comfortable offering him advice when he asks for it, and supporting him when he doesn’t.
You have to let him make mistakes at some point or give him the agency to do what he wants to do, try what he wants to try. You can caution him, but this isn’t something serious enough for you to not support him if he acts against your wishes.
Concerns about an Adult Son: Conclusion
Right now, he wants to see your love through supporting him and doing what you can to help him with his relationship and other parts of his life should he ask for it. He doesn’t want to see your love in the form of telling him what he can’t do even if it’s because you worry he’ll get hurt.
This is going to happen more and more now that he’s old enough to start branching out on his own. It’s time to accept this transition in both his life and your life and understand that your relationship has changed. It may feel like it’s something worth grieving, but it isn’t. It’s simply a change.
You’re both more independent now and he’s exploring his identity in this new stage, so you should be too. Remind yourself that you do have value and identity outside of being a mother. Maybe it’s a little fuzzy after 23 years of love and care towards your son, but it’s in there.
This is a perfect opportunity for you to follow in your son’s footsteps and get to know yourself by following your heart towards what makes you happy, and maybe taking some risks along the way.
Thanks a lot to the asker for sending this question in. It’s my hope that you found my advice today to be compassionate and that you’re able to change your parenting style with the times. Not easy, but important for both of you, as it’s important for all of us to really be aware of just how much our loved ones need us to look out for them and keep an eye on them.
This obviously changes between romantic relationships and family relationships, age, culture, and so on, but we don’t always take those changes into account. So take this opportunity to sit back and reflect on what your loved ones really need from you rather than what you’re choosing to give them. Could be a good exercise.
That wraps us up for now though, everyone. Means a lot that you showed up and continue to support the show. I’ll be back with you again next time to help out another listener, and I hope you’ll join once again. See ya then.