“Ask a Priest: How Can I Deal With My Mom’s Illicit Relationship?”

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Q: I want to ask about how to deal with my mother who is twice divorced (once to my father and once to another man) and who for the past six years has been openly seeing a married man in a very small town. The man has been married nearly 30 years and has four children. He has been charged with five counts of felony theft by deception charges but was acquitted of all. He has repeatedly been very rude to my husband and myself. I do love my mother very much but find it hard to be involved with her in day-to-day life because of her choice of a boyfriend. It’s hard to determine how to keep her in my life especially during the holidays because I simply feel uncomfortable being around her boyfriend, and I don’t want to invite the pair of them to any functions because I feel that this would appear that I support their relationship when I do not. This has obviously put a strain on our mother/daughter relationship and although I have prayed about this extensively, this is my first time reaching out for advice on the matter. Thanks so much for listening. – B.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: I’m sorry to hear about the situation. It’s not uncommon nowadays for adult children to find their parents caught up in problematic relationships.

You obviously love your mom. And love means helping other people face the truth.

The truth is, as you know, that her relationship isn’t blessed by God. So, it is admirable that you don’t want to do anything that implies support for it.

That can be your criterion: Continue to show your love for Mom, but draw the line at anything that implies consent to this relationship of hers.

To put it in positive terms: You want her to get to heaven, and you want your husband and you to get to heaven. It won’t help anyone if your mom is encouraged to maintain the status quo.

Your own priorities need to be God, then your husband, then the rest of the family. The best thing you can do for all your loved ones is for you to live your faith fully. You can’t let your relationship with your mom jeopardize your relation with Our Lord.

A good first step is to intensify your prayers and sacrifices for her. Then, sit down with her for a heart-to-heart talk. If you sense that she is struggling with deep-seated issues, you might encourage her to seek out counseling with a solid Catholic therapist.

You might want to let her know that she is welcome in your home, but that you can’t approve of her relationship in any way. Banning her boyfriend from your home might be the obvious way to underline your opposition.

In this way, you put the ball in her court. Be prepared for pushback. She might not react well. She might even refuse to see you at the holidays.

In that case, remain calm and charitable. And recall the words of Jesus: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword. For I have come to set a man ‘against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s enemies will be those of his household’” (Matthew 10:34-36).

No matter what happens in the short term, you can still reach out to her via e-mail or phone calls. This might help her if that day arrives when her current romance collapses.

I hope some of this helps. Count on my prayers.

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