Relationship Advice: Help! My Grandmother is Dating

Posted on Mon, May 04, 2015 @ 06:36 AM

Dating GrandmaToday's guest post is contributed by Dr. Ruth Nemzoff, author of Don't Bite Your Tongue: How to Foster Rewarding Relationships with Your Adult Children (Palgrave/Macmillan, 2008), and Don't Roll Your Eyes: Making In-Laws Into Family (Palgrave/Macmillan, 2012). A resident scholar at the Brandeis Women's Studies Research Center, Dr. Nemzoff also speaks and blogs about intergenerational relationships.


Q: My 72-year-old grandmother is dating and the family is up in arms. Some of my aunts find this unseemly, though my grandfather died three years ago. My uncle is worried that this man will take all her money, which isn’t a lot. My cousins worry she will be too busy for us. I think my grandmother has a right to live her life. Any suggestions on how we might integrate this man into the family?


A: While it’s always wise to plan ahead, a few dates won’t necessarily lead to a long-term commitment. Some of your family members’ worries may be premature. However, it’s never too early to reflect on the complexity of extended family relationships.

Three years is long enough to mourn. Your grandmother has fulfilled her obligations to her husband. She is entitled to choose life. She is to be commended for not sitting around moping in her loneliness. Instead, she is being proactive in attempting to enrich her life. At the same time, she is relieving the extended family of the sole responsibility for her happiness. After all, with life expectancies high, she might have 20 or 30 more years. Why should she not have daily companionship?

Rest assured, it is not uncommon for adult children of any age to be miffed when their parents are not available on-demand. Many adult children fear abandonment when their parents have a new love interest. There is a two-year-old in each of us that expects our parents’ full attention, even when we are adults. Your grandmother has put a lot of time into the family. It is unlikely that your grandmother will forsake her children and all of you.

Family members express their love in many ways. The concerns of your aunts and uncles indicate that they care about their mother. Like parents, adult children can be overprotective and out of date. On the other hand, like parents, some of the children’s concerns have validity. 

Whether your grandmother marries this man or a different one, it’s time to make sure your grandmother’s financial affairs are in the order she wants them. Estate lawyers can help her protect whatever money she has, if she so desires. This will not only make your uncle feel better, it also gives your grandmother a chance to talk about other end of life issues. Paradoxically, though she is choosing life, it’s an opportunity to talk about death.

Fortunately, we live in times when women are more than the matriarchs of their families. They are also individuals. Your grandmother is both a loving presence and a person in her own right. Value and respect her for both her contributions to your family and to herself.



A version of this article originally appeared in the Jewish Journal MA and is reprinted with permission.


Do You Take This In-Law . . . ? An Interview with Ruth Nemzoff

Gina Stepp interviews Brandeis University resident scholar Ruth Nemzoff about her latest book, Don't Roll Your Eyes: Making In-Laws into Family.

Parent Talk - An Interview With Ruth Nemzoff

Ruth Nemzoff is a resident scholar at Brandeis University. Vision interviewed her about her recent book covering parent and adult-child communication.

Tags: grandparents, extended family, dating and relationships

Programs that Bridge the Gap

Posted on Mon, Mar 31, 2008 @ 03:16 PM
Institutions exploring ideas for encouraging intergenerational relationships
Google News
Details: Programs  that Bridge the Gap
Intergenerational programs

The University of Maryland, mentioned in the last post, isn't the only academic institution working to study and improve intergenerational relationships.

Another impressive resource for bridging the generation gap is the University of Pennsylvania's Cooperative Extension System.  In addition to their online library of articles, published research, and program ideas, this comprehensive site is also the place to learn about intergenerational programs all over the world. In fact, I highly recommend their Global Perspective page as the beginning point of a thorough exploration of this extremely interesting site.

Tags: grandchildren, grandparents, intergenerational relationships, generation gap

Grand Cultures

Posted on Mon, Dec 17, 2007 @ 04:36 PM
The importance of grandparent-grandchild relationships

Happy  Grandma by ThirauA couple of posts here have already touched on the importance of extended family, but there is so much more to say on the subject. Peter McCartney, who was trained as a nurse at St. Vincent's hospital in Sydney (but now works for the NSW government) rightly pointed out that we don’t always care for our intergenerational relationships as we should. “What is lacking,” Peter wrote, “is the continued support of the elderly well after their family and friends have passed on themselves.”

Another comment came from the United Kingdom. Robert noted that when he moved abroad his family felt the loss of their extended family support network. “Raising a family is tough without all of that,” he said, “grandparents should be around to pass on their life experiences. It’s great seeing the world, but I do wonder sometimes if the cost is too great.”

These comments bring to mind a recent study on the subject of “Grand Cultures.” This term refers to what researcher Candace Kemp calls “patterns of relating between grandparents and grandchildren within families across and within generations.”

It’s interesting that relationships are sometimes referred to as the fabric of society. If we think of the way fabric is woven we really begin to see how important it is that the threads run in more than one direction. If each generation mainly has relationships with peers (the threads only run one direction) the resulting fabric is weak in every area. We don’t have older, wiser people to model ourselves after. We expect everyone to think like us (because after all—our peers do). But one of the worst effects is that as we age, our support network ages with us. Our peers obviously won’t be in a position to care for us when we’re elderly because, in all likelihood, they’ll be needing care themselves. Nor will the younger generations be prepared to care for us. If they’re not accustomed to spending time with their older relatives, why would they value the contributions of the elderly to the extent that they would consider putImage by Derrick Tysonting themselves to the inconvenience of seeing to our daily needs? As a result, it’s unlikely they will care for us as we age either. Who will then?

The result of such a pattern of disconnected relationships, as Peter McCartney noted, is that support for the elderly is sadly neglected. But neglect isn’t the worst case scenario, as this article on elder abuse points out. It seems to come down to the fact that those of us in the current “middle generation” are in the best position to facilitate good intergenerational relationships. Whether that involves encouraging interaction between our children and our parents, or mixing the generations up when we socialize (especially in the event we find ourselves far from extended family)—in either case we’re the ones with the greatest opportunity to ensure the fabric of society is tightly woven.

Tags: family relationships, grandchildren, grandparents, intergenerational relationships, elder abuse

Bridging the Generation Gap

Posted on Fri, Dec 07, 2007 @ 04:49 PM
Brad Folkens, GrandpaAn ongoing discussion among social researchers revolves around the question, "What are the benefits and drawbacks of grandparents raising grandchildren?"

For some, it would be more relevant to ask, "Why is this such a burning question?"

The consensus is that there are increasingly more grandparents taking responsibility for their grandchildrenfor a variety of reasons, and according to sociologists, this is an international trend. Part of this increase can be attributed to the fact that social workers have begun to notice children do better when placed with extended family when possible rather than in stranger foster care, which has often the norm in post-modern times. But part of the increase can be traced to the fact that a number of post-modern parents have simply abdicated their roles, and have left their own parents to pick up the pieces.

To be fair, this is not always the case. Single parents sometimes find themselves in situations beyond their control, and must depend on extended family for help. Two-parent families are not immune to unfortunate circumstance either.

Lou and Magoo, FLickrRegardless of the reason, however, sociologists note the trend and have begun to debate the affect on grandparents themselves. While in general, it is agreed that there are certainly positive benefits to both grandparents and grandchildren in such situations, there are some caveats. The circumstances that result in such placements can be cause for grieving for the entire household. Children may grieve separation from their parents, while grandparents grieve the perceived failure of their own parenting, or may simply grieve the life difficulties of their children. Research suggests that in such cases grandchildren may not receive the comfort and love from their grandparents that they need if grandparents are also experiencing the stress of the middle generation's problems.

Thus, while placement with extended family may be preferable to placement with strangers, the result may still be less than ideal in some situations. Health problems for over-stressed, worried grandparents may result in interrupted attachment for dependent grandchildren, and the needs of both may end up just short of being met.

What role does the "generation gap" play in all of this?  It's an interesting question. If we weren't so complacent with the existence of such gaps, would such problems be as prevalent? And if the "middle generation" abdicates, could it have something to do with their having been raised on the outdated, ultra-permissive child-rearing philosophies of a generation ago that experts such as Dr. Spock ended up retracting? Or could it even be related to insecure attachment with their own parents? Of course there are no simple answers however tempting it may be to look for them.

In any case, such discussions encourage us to consider how important it is to think long and hard about our parenting strategies. Our children will eventually be parents themselves, and members of the "middle generation." As parents and grandparents, we ourselves have each been as well. It's primarily when this middle generation is missingeither physically or emotionallythat there's concern about the resulting strains on either side of the "generation gap."  The goal of mending the "fabric of society" requires that we also minimize holes in the ongoing weaving process.

Tags: grandchildren, grandparents, generation gap