The Perils of Dating at the Same Time as Your Parent (And How to Deal)by Phylisa Joy on September 23, 2013
It’s a strange day when we realize that our parents are sexual beings. It is so much simpler to just think of them as asexual Barbie or Ken dolls whose sole mission is to care for you and follow you around just constantly applauding your life and mopping your brow. If, for a number of reasons, you find yourself with a parent who is dating after your parent-as-sexual-being enlightenment, you are in a unique position to know exactly what that entails. It is not uncommon for a situation to arise where an adult child is dating right alongside their parent. And guess what? They probably know all about what you’re doing on a Friday night, too. Parents and adult children parallel dating opens up a pandora’s box of a whole lot of awkward, but if everyone just remains calm and behaves like a civilized human, you can all come out unscathed.
1. Parents, DO NOT leave your sexy leopard print bra and panty combo out in the open.
Or silk boxers. Or handcuffs. Or sensual massage oil. Congratulations on re-entering the dating world and yes lifting those weights is paying off, but you need to keep it to yourself. It is inconsiderate to let your offspring see your sexy side. Your kid knows that you’re having sex and honestly, they are stoked for you. It’s uncomfortable enough for a kid to know that mom or dad may also be doing that thing they did last night, visual evidence is not necessary when they just want to come over for some meatloaf.
2. Parents, DO NOT talk to your children about the details of your relationships.
No matter what anyone says, parents and their children are not “friends.” You may have a very open and friendly parent-child relationship, but conflating that with friendship is inappropriate. Our friends don’t breast feed us or change our diapers or, you know, contribute half of our DNA. It’s a different, special relationship and should be treated as such. If you need to process some fight or disagreement or WORSE, gush about your dating life, you need to burden your friends with that. This is what they signed up for; your children did not. When you tell your kids about your dating life, keep it to the facts. “John is a doctor. He lives in Los Angeles.” vs “John is a doctor which means he doesn’t have much time for me. Los Angeles is close but I am usually too tired to drive back so I normally end up staying over.” We’re either going to infer the extra details or purposefully do everything in our power to block them out, and either is fine.
3. Parents, DO keep whoever you bring into your kid’s life in check.
When everyone in the room is an adult, it’s easy for your parent’s person to forget that you are their date’s child. We DO NOT want to hear them gush about you. “Doesn’t your dad look handsome?” is dry-heave inducing. Be cordial and respectful, you gross old person. Congratulations on being in lust with our parents, yes they have good genes- now please just settle down and keep it to yourself.
4. Newly single parents, if you must go through a stage of finding yourself DO NOT drag your kid through it.
Remember that they are going to form an impression of you based on who you bring around. It’s great to get out there and salsa dance or learn to surf, but do not bring your twenty year old belly-button pierced art teacher home. Spread your wings and fly, and then invite your kid to join you once you’ve landed safely.
5. Adult children, DO give your parent space.
Look, it’s uncomfortable to know what they are doing with that space, but we’re all adults here. You are still their sun and moon and stars, but you don’t fulfill all of their needs and that’s as it should be. Think of it as contracting out: you do a lot for them, but they need to bring in reinforcements to cover all the bases. If you don’t want to watch your dad pre-game his date over a romantic glass of wine, don’t go over there. Romance and sex are going to happen, and it’s totally normal to not want to see your parent being flirtatious. They don’t (or shouldn’t) want you to see it either. So keep ‘em separated. And some general thoughts for everyone to consider:
6. Parents and kids, DO NOT compare dates/ kisses/ sex/ relationships.
Please see #2. You’re not besties. Get some friends.
7. Parents and kids, DO discuss boundaries.
Make a cup of tea, spike it with bourbon if you need to, and hammer out some plans. If either party has a specific request, better to get it out in the open before you barge in to do your laundry to find mom making out with a handsome stranger on the couch. Maybe it’s time to start knocking. And if you’re introducing your parent or adult child spawn to someone that you’re dating, for godssake tell them beforehand. We’re all too old to call people we’re sleeping with our “friend.” Part of having good boundaries is calling a spade a spade.
8. Parents and kids, Whatever you do, in these unsure times, DO NOT get drunk together.
Loose lips sink ships and are prone to oversharing. The bottom line is this, you’re a family and you want nothing but the best for each other. You know that sex and dating are healthy for everyone, even parents, right? So it’s the responsibility of all involved parties to figure out how to respectfully share details of your lives and when to get the hell out of the way. Mazel Tov to all of you. Be safe, you crazy kids.