How can we adapt to our parents’ new romantic relationships?

It was a Friday. I was to meet Edith, my father’s new friend, widower for ten years. He seemed very impressed, I had to put on a good face. She froze me at once: she took all the space, and at the end of the meal she said to me, “I have known your father longer than you.” War was declared. » Novelist and journalist Ariane Bois has published a powerful account of her last love for her seven-year-old father, turn off the sun (Plon). A story of influence and rivalry between two women: the daughter and the new friend. “But I was very happy to see him get back togetherconfesses Ariane Bois, him who had lost his son and his wife, my mother, in an accident. And me, I was not looking for a “mother bis”, but a big sister, a confidant. » Not easy to support his parents’ new loves, but he will have to deal with it!

According to the National Institute of Demographic Studies, with the extension of life, the number of separations among people over 60 has doubled in ten years, and the number of divorces after more than thirty-five years of cohabitation has been multiplied by nine out of forty more years. But if divorce rises among seniors … so do marriages! They have almost doubled in ten years. “Dating sites and social networks have a lot to do with it. Today we no longer close the door to our emotional and sexual life as we get older »decrypts psychoanalyst Catherine Bergeret-Amselek *, a specialist in intergenerational relationships.

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He’s handsome, your new boyfriend!

If, on the other hand, it’s good news for seniors, “the big kids,” they sometimes fall from above. Especially when the events accelerate: “Four months after the death of her husband, who was 88 years old, my mother started having ‘dates’ with other friendssays Erica, 48. Men who invaded my father’s place in the house … I felt betrayed, very uncomfortable. Not only did I lose him, but also her, who became a lover … It took me a really long time to digest this and understand that my mother had a great desire to live in her. »

“The image of seductive parents is often violent for children, regardless of their age, analyzes Catherine Bergeret-Amselek. We do not suffer from imagining that they love. » Hence the confusion when the new spouse is a little too eager, even exhibitionist: “This woman who kept running her hands through my father’s hair, on her knees, this spinning hand … He, so modest, must have been terribly embarrassed about it, and everyone looked away. A really missed first contact”, Ariane Bois apologizes. And yet, in old age, what a comfort to know that our parent has found a soulmate!

“I was 23 when my mother met Francis, the new man in her life.says Alexis. I lived alone at her home, as a good “youngest” of siblings. And the mood was not good. As I walked past her during a party, in the company of a sweet, bearded gentleman, they walked smiling side by side. I felt the lead leveling on my shoulders get easier. I whispered in his ear, “He’s handsome, you new guy!” She replied me surprised, “It’s not my guy … Not yet!” She then told me that they had kissed that night as if she had approved it thanks to me. »

Oedipus reappears years later …

For Erica, after the feeling of betrayal in the beginning, everything was in order when her mother met “good” spouse, three years ago: “I was not comfortable with the few friends before. With Bob everything changed. He is very caring and took care of her during the pandemic, which I thought was great. And above all “They left to live in a new house. Suddenly I do not have this feeling of seeing my family room squatted by a stranger and my father replaced by another man.” For Catherine Bergeret-Amselek, “Sometimes there is a replacement-lover syndrome, especially after the loss of one of the parents. It is even more painful when the spouse comes to invade the family domain.”

The child, even as he grows up, imagines that this companion slips into the parents’ sheets. And it’s a picture of rare violence. Why ? Because the primitive scene our parents are in the process of conceiving us is dormant all the life of our unconscious, which explains why the “new couples” often change places, furniture and decoration. Otherwise, there is some sacrilege in living in someone else’s bed.explains the psychologist. “The worst times adds Ariane Bois, that was when I came to visit them on holiday, in the house in the South, where I had spent so many happy summers with my parents. My mother’s shadow hovered permanently by their side. And me, I could not sleep a blink all night, as if I had to be on guard … One night I got up to flip through the photo album: in all of them she had taken my mother’s pictures. It made me sick. »“Repartnition repeats the question of the Oedipus complex, even in old age, the psychoanalyst analyzes. Coincidentally, a new triangulation emerges, which evokes feelings of aggression between the child and the spouse, even in adulthood!”

“I had to understand that my mother had a great desire to live in her. »

Another card that rearranges the relationship

When all goes well, once the calendar and rituals have been respected, a new relationship can be established. For the best: “What helps me a lot is that Bob is extremely different from my father. One was smart, one is thinking, very creative; the other is more conservative, working in a bank. I would have had a lot more trouble. support a “double father”, says Erica. Me, I call him “beautiful stepfather”. It’s a little kitschy, but that’s really how I feel. Between us there is a very free relationship. No training contract. Just a great respect for who we are. He is a very cultural person, we talk about the exhibitions we have seen, the books. » Mentor? guide? Pedagogue? Friend? “Hard to say. It really is a unique relationship.”

Isabelle, who returned from a relationship after her husband’s death, also welcomes her 24-year-old son’s relationship with her current companion: “I want to say that they admire and respect each other. It seems to me that the fact that Pierre has not raised him makes their relationship more unrestrained. There is nothing “passive”. It’s like a “super big brother”. » And this distance is very much in the new agreement. “If I have a marriage or job problem, I would be more willing to talk to Françoise, my ‘new mother-in-law’, than to my mother. She is more distant, less anxious. She would definitely advise me better.”recognizes without complex Lucie, 28 years. “At best, these spouses are smart, like a new card to revive family dynamics”suggests Catherine Bergeret-Amselek. “It was extremely tense between us before Francis arrived, says Alexis. My mom and I kept getting annoyed, maybe because I did not feel she was particularly happy. It was like a gift, it revitalized and rearranged our relationship. Everyone won. »

* Member of the Society of Freudian Psychoanalysis (SPF) and edited the book Living together, young and oldEres.

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