I’m 18 and college bound, but still don’t know if I’m commuting or living closer to school. My mom just got married to a nice guy who she’s madly in love with. I’m happy for he but I feel weird knowing he’s going to be living with us. He’s younger than my mom by about eight years and he hasn’t attempted to connect with me for the past two years they’ve been dating. I’m indifferent about him and I just get the hibbie-jibbies around him. Any advice or tips? PS.. our ideologies conflict with each other too. -JC
Congratulations to the new couple. I salute your mom for waiting until you were 18 before she remarried. Many parents remarry when their kids are young and it usually goes badly. Most single moms remarry within three years of divorce. More than two-thirds of those marriages fail. By waiting she avoided adding turmoil to your life when you were at an important time in your education and growth. She also improved her odds of a successful marriage. My hat’s off to her.
Adjusting to Change
Change can be nice but it generally has an uncomfortable adjustment period too. You have mixed emotions; You’re happy for your mom but you also have concerns. That’s normal. Sons of single moms often grow to feel like their mother’s protector. You may not think you feel this way because you’ve evolved into the role over the years. But now you’re older and it creates an interesting situation; You care about her and want her to be happy but you’re still looking out for dangers and want to protect her. That’s okay. It will take some time to learn to trust another guy to look out for her.
Part of the challenge is that you haven’t developed a comfort level with this guy. He didn’t try to connect with you, but that doesn’t surprise me. It will probably help you to consider the situation from his perspective. When he started seeing your mom you were 16, so you were essentially a man. That’s a tough age for any potential Stepdad to warm up to. At 16 you’re too old to take out for ice cream or take to the zoo, like when you were eight. He did however, know that he’d need to earn your approval if he were to have a chance with your mother. So he treated you with respect and showed you through his actions that he would treat your mom well. This made it easier to accept him in your mom’s life but it didn’t result in you becoming buddies. If he’d tried to become your buddy it would probably have been awkward for both of you. So his actions showed you he wasn’t a threat but it didn’t make you friends.
Indifference and Different Ideologies
I’m impressed with how in tune you are with with your emotions about this. Don’t feel bad that you’re a bit indifferent about the situation, or that you don’t share the same ideologies as her new husband. You’re not the same person and you’ve got a lot going on. You’re in a major transitional period in your life -going off to college. It’s hard to focus on the changes in your mom’s life as you’re planning your future.
Don’t waste too much though on the fact that you’re not that much alike. You don’t have to have a lot in common to be family. Consider some of your cousins, aunts and uncles. We all have family members who seem like they’re from outer space. If you think he’s a good guy and he treats your mom well then you’ve got a good starting point. Be glad for your mom and do whatever you can to help. Remember, she’s in a major transition too -her boy is all grown up and she’s starting a new chapter in her life.
The best course of action now is to spend as much time as you can as a family. Holidays, birthdays and vacations are a great place to start. This is advice I usually give to Stepdads, but you’re old enough and have a vested interest in this. Spending time as a group helps you start to build a family bond. Bonding is easier as a group than it is one-on-one. As a group there’s less pressure. Bonding isn’t hard, it just takes time. All you need to do to start bonding is to make memories together. Bonding as a family takes years, but as you spend time together you’ll start to find things you can appreciate about each other.
When you’re together focus your conversations and activities on the things you have in common. Your mom is a great place to start, but you probably share other interests too. Maybe you both like flying drones or watching sports. Use whatever you can to open up conversation or as a way of enjoying each other’s company. It may start as small talk but it will grow as you become more comfortable over time.
Congratulations on starting the next chapter of your life. College can be a world-changing experience.