Relationship minefield
July 16, 2008 8:12 AM   Subscribe

Yep, it's another sticky relationship question on AskMe. A recent divorce, a friend of a mother...

Now that I have your attention (because let's face it, there's chum in the water)...

I was with the same woman for nearly seven years, married for one. During that time, she cheated on me three times -- once while we were engaged the first time, once later with one of my best friends, and once whilst married (which, naturally, resulted in the end of the marriage).

It was a long and rocky road, and I don't need reminding that I should never have stayed with her long enough to get married in the first place. Suffice to say, it's dead dead dead. She moved out and instantly went public with her relationship with her boy-toy, I filed divorce so fast it caused whiplash.

We tried counseling (at my behest... I'm pretty traditional, and feel like even a shitty sham of a marriage deserves an honest attempt at reconciliation) for a month, but she couldn't much be real about it (my ex is twice diagnosed as having Narcissistic Personality Disorder). It was apparent at the start that we were pretty well doomed.

That was at the end of April. At the end of May, we moved apart and filed.

This is where this question comes in. At the end of June, I met a friend of my mother's. She's naturally much younger than my mother (she is 27, I am barely 33). We hit it off spectacularly, staying up late into the night talking, and ended up cuddling on the couch.

Fast forward a couple of weeks, a few dates, some makeout, and some rather amazing sex...

This woman and I seem to (too early to know for certain, naturally) click on a level that I never did with my ex-wife. My mother had been pulling for us to hook up for ages, but first she was married, and then I was. I am rather smitten with her, and she is with me. We're not claiming coupledom, or even official "dating" status... We're just sort of leaving things undefined and rolling with the punches. We seem pretty nuts for each other, but I feel awkward about my situation, and she feels a tad awkward about "vulturing" as she puts it.

Here are the problems. Now that we seem to be actually hooking up, my mother seems jealous. Like I'm taking her friend away.

My mother's being around makes things rather awkward for the both of us.

She lives about 3 hours away, in a different city (as does mom). This is good, I think, as it puts some necessary space, time, and distance there...but I feel guilty if I visit the city and don't talk to mom.

It's still so soon after the divorce... Is this a good idea? On the one hand, it's only about two months out since I filed. On the other hand, both through significant introspection and through attending counseling, I can see that the marriage ending was a very good thing, and I feel pretty okay about that.

I need some suggestions for navigating this minefield! (anon, because ex sometimes peruses MeFi)
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Sorry about your ex sucking so bad.

Honestly with this coming so soon after your divorce, and your mom's jealousy issues it seems to me like this is bound to get messy in some way.

But it seems good for you so if it were me I would just keep on taking it slow and see whether or not it blows up in my face.
posted by BobbyDigital at 8:16 AM on July 16, 2008

Setting entirely aside the managing-jealousy thing, which I am entirely unqualified to address: It may be very soon post-divorce, but marriages usually end long before the paperwork's filed. And it was a good thing that it ended, for you. And while there may be some rebounding going on here, sometimes you rebound into something you'd want anyway.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:21 AM on July 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

You also might want to consider that going straight from one relationship to another (you aren't calling it that, but that is what it seems like to me) might be a bad idea. So to add to my earlier advice, keep doing what you are doing with her, but also find some closer women, and play the field a bit before you settle down with anybody.
posted by BobbyDigital at 8:23 AM on July 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Congrats on finding someone who makes you feel good after that long bad-feeling relationship you were in, that's a big deal. My only caveat in your "it's so soon, is this a good idea" part of your question is that you need to make sure, after coming off a long relationship with someone with NPD, is just to be careful, not that you're not rebounding, but that you don't get too "I had a bad time and now this is all about LOOKING OUT FOR NUMBER ONE..." sorts of indulgent actions which can happen when you've been involved with a narcissist for too long. That said, it sounds like you're doing okay.

I live three hours away from my newish bf which is also right near where my Mom lives. She gets a little weird sometimes when I'm like "hey I'm coming down to see bf, do you want to hang out...?" Part of this is because, I think, she's got a little of the NPD thing herself (I am not saying you always date people like your parents, but it might be worth peeking into from your vantage point) and so sees my relationship as either sort of not relevant to her interests or in some way threatening to the relationship she and I have. So, I sympathize.

My take is to plan to see my mom maybe every other time I'm down visiting [once or twice a month] and make sure I spend quality time with her just the two of us. Then, we're done. I'm not on a family visit, I'm on a DATE and that's just something that has to be okay with her. I explain to her that everyone sees me less now that I've got another person in my life [stated or unstated: who makes me happy, who I really want to be around] and that as I ease into my relationship I'm sure there will be time for her to see US and whatnot, but that time is NOT NOW. I restate that I'm happy and enjoying myself but that there's necessarily going to be some compression of our time together.

So, I think it's about setting expectations and then trying to be okay with your decision. My mother baiscally never thinks I spend enough time with her, my new relationship just gives her some concrete reason for why she's not seeing me enough now. I'm friendly but firm explaining how the change in my life affects the two of us and it's been mostly okay going forward. Maybe you can find other ways to interact with your mom that aren't in-person visiting so that she can not feel that you perhaps "owe" her a visit whenever you're down there. Good luck and sorry if I'm making unwarranted assumptions, I see a lot of my situation in yours except the recent ex part
posted by jessamyn at 8:29 AM on July 16, 2008 [2 favorites]

Suggestion: Sit down and have a heart-to-heart talk with your mom. Clear the air with her as best you can, because that is a relationship worth preserving. Let her get how she feels off her chest, and let her know that both you and her friend will always make time for her, even as you and her friend will want some alone time as well. You haven't said that much about your mom, so I am assuming that she's both reasonable and caring (in the way a mom should be). It will relieve a lot of the emotional weirdness if you and your mom have an understanding.

As for how to proceed with the new love interest? I think that you're doing fine. Follow your nose, because there's no standard recipe for this sort of thing. One thing that I will stress, though, is that you should never project any of your ex's failings on other people. It's a natural instinct to worry whether someone else will have a similar negative attribute as an ex, but it's not fair to not give them the benefit of the doubt there. (I hope that this last bit was comprehensible.)

posted by Citrus at 8:36 AM on July 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

I was in a smilar situation 10 years ago--long, emotionally-dead marriage, met someone great right afterwards, clicked amazingly, all that. We went out for about a year, broke up, then I met another woman with whom I clicked amazingly. After that relationship ended, boom, more amazing clicking.

This is not to minimize the amazingness, not at all. But you may find, as I did, that you have an ability to click (amazingly) with many women (guys, too) that's been supressed by years of emotional deadness. If you're putting yourself out there, exposing your soul, maybe for the first time, you'll find that there are lots of people who are looking for the same thing. Lots aren't, of course--I got "too much, too soon" more often than I care to remember.

Or, you know, maybe she is The One. Are you going to let some arbitrary time limit make you miss your chance? I hope not.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:42 AM on July 16, 2008

Spend as much time with your mother as you've always done, and ask your new girlfriend to do the same. Then if your mother complains, you can point out that she's still getting the same level of attention from both of you as before.

Finding someone new immediately after divorce papers are filed is not ideal, but then lots of relationships are not ideal. ANY relationship has its complications. I'd say since you are already involved with this woman and you're both enjoying yourselves, to go ahead. With due caution, of course. Treat her well. Make sure she treats you well. You do live three hours apart so that'll keep you from being joined at the hip or jumping into living together or getting married too soon. Pay attention to how you feel when you're alone. You don't want to ignore anything bad that the good feelings generated by this relationship may be masking.

And enjoy yourself. Moving on from a bad situation doesn't always have to mean there's a required period of stiff upper lip misery.
posted by orange swan at 8:45 AM on July 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Behave like the adult you are - i.e., keep seeing/talking to your mother as often as before, gently remind her that you still love her but are also excited about seeing this new person, and Mom will get over it. If she doesn't get over it, that's on her and there's really nothing you can do. Give her time, though - like six months or so.

The whole section about the ex was a red herring. The recency of your divorce has nothing to do with this unless your mom and ex were BFF. The marriage sounds like it was over long ago.
posted by desjardins at 9:01 AM on July 16, 2008

I can see that the marriage ending was a very good thing, and I feel pretty okay about that.

Go with that. While the marriage officially ended a relatively short time ago, it's entirely possible (and seems likely) that you recognized its death a while ago and came to terms with that.

Relax, take it slow, have fun. But don't be surprised if some unresolved feelings or conflicts come up, it's natural.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:01 AM on July 16, 2008

Just communicate--tell her it would be natural to feel that way and that you understand and you know that she wants you to be happy.

does your mom have NPD? If she handles it wrong, that would not be good. Would explain why you stuck around.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:36 AM on July 16, 2008

Someone has a friend, encourages friend to get together with someone, then friend is less available. Especially if this is a very close friend of Mom´s, it´s perfectly natural for her to be jealous that her friend is less available for her to spend time with.

My mother's being around makes things rather awkward for the both of us.

Don´t hang out with Mom and Mom´s friend at the same time. Visit Mom, visit mom´s friend, let mom and friend visit on their own.

As for the rebound thing, who knows? It doesn´t make any sort of sense to not date a fabulous person you´ve met just because of that. You can´t just put her on hold until more time goes by, life doesn´t work that way. Roll with it and see what happens.
posted by yohko at 1:56 PM on July 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

You reinforce behavior that you acknowledge or get bent about. I would ignore your Mom's jealousy, leave your new girlfriend out of the conversation or refuse to discuss her with your mom for several months or so. By that time you'll probably know if the relationship is going to get deeper or not.

They will either work it out as friends or not. Better to simply stay out of it and enjoy your new toy.
posted by diode at 9:55 PM on July 16, 2008

Don't be a dick, of course it's a good thing. But say hi to your mum.
posted by The Monkey at 7:41 PM on July 17, 2008

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