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Puppy love: When it happens to older folks, what will the ‘kids’ think?

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When folks of a certain age find themselves single, seeking out a new relationship may feel a tad weird — I get it! However, there are numerous over-50 dating sites to help one find a mate who is compatible. Folks, falling in love in your 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond is a happening thing.

Is love lovelier the second (or third) time around? A big part of it depends on the adult children’s reaction to their parents’ dating.

Some adult children are pleased that their parent is dating. They see it as a sign that their parent has gotten over the trauma of divorce or the death of a spouse. Conversely, some adult children are less than pleased when their parent enters the dating game. In cases of divorce, adult children will hold fast to the fantasy of an intact family. When the parent is widowed, children feel their parents interest in another is a betrayal of the deceased parent.

When my mom began dating Mr. Irv after my dad’s death, I was good with it. She was giddy, happy, and quite frankly, acting like a teenager. When I compared “happy Mom” with “depressed Mom” it was a no-brainer. Mom was 16 years older than Mr. Irv (both parties are dead, so I can spill the beans). Mr. Irv predeceased Mom and never knew her really-real age. Mom kept her birth date close to the vest. She looked and acted years younger than her age.

My five siblings were divided about their relationship. Some were suspicious because of the age difference. They thought that Mr. Irv was a gigolo. Ha! Trust me, Mr. Irv was not gigolo material! Others felt it was a betrayal to our dad.

As the oldest, I pulled some weight and asked, “Which one of you will give up your weekends to be with Mom?”

That clinched it. Within a year, everyone was on board. Although they never married, their relationship was “till death do us part.” It lasted more than 10 years.

How selfish would we have been if we threw stumbling blocks or stonewalled their relationship? Yet it happens.

In golden-year relationships, sometimes one set of children will be very welcoming. However, on the other side, the children don’t even want to even meet their parent’s significant other. This kind of push-pull between two sets of children can cause a near-fatal accident on the highway of love. After all, blood is thicker than water.

I have the dubious distinction of being widowed twice. I’m currently in a loving relationship; however, I have no intention of marrying again. I mean, really, my boyfriend would be crazy, considering my track record.

Does my history make me an expert in the affairs of the older heart and its younger counterpart? Let’s just say I’m adept at looking at both sides of the same coin.

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions — I say unsolicited advice is the mortar. But, I’m going to give my two cents anyway.

Adult children — listen up:

* Most of us of a certain age don’t want to marry again.
* We don’t want to take your parent’s place.
* We are not after your inheritance nor your heirlooms.
* We do understand your grief. When a parent passes away, the grief a spouse feels is so intense and deep that it slows down the other aspects of life. Adult children may grieve intermittently, but they still have their routines. When the parent is ready to live a normal life, the children are lagging.
* We understand your protectiveness. We know you don’t want us to get hurt, taken advantage of, or financially ripped off.
* Remember when you were teenagers? We were on your back about whom you were dating — and most times, we thought they weren’t good enough. What goes around comes around! One day you may find yourself seeking your children’s approval.
* Realize that the need for love and companionship spans all ages.

My unsolicited two cents for the parents:

* Communication is critical. If there are issues with either set of children, they must be put on the table early on. Be sensitive to the adult children’s feelings. Give them time to get used to seeing you in the place of the absent parent. Don’t push a relationship with the adult children. Let it evolve, or not.
* Don’t put your partner in the position of choosing between you and their children. Again, blood is thicker than water.
* Realize that you are not the first love in your new partner’s life, but hope to be the last. That said: Refrain from eyeball rolling when the absent spouse’s name is mentioned.

Open your heart and peek at the other side of the coin. You may unearth a glimmer of understanding that may grow into a dazzling light. And in that light, adult children and parents alike can play a part in making love lovely the second or third time around.

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Celia Marszal-Iannelli
Celia Iannelli is a native New Yorker enjoying a second career — in 'retirement' — as a freelance writer. She lives in Jamesport.