Slate had an interesting article in the advice section.  The situation: a couple breaks up after the girl had a close relationship with the boy’s family.  The boy’s mother tries to contact this girl, not to interfere in the relationship, but to exchange parting pleasantries and maybe see if the girl has anything to say about it.

Prudence responds that the woman crossed a line, and should simply move on.  I actually think it depends.  Obviously, it’s an unorthodox thing to do, assertive and bold.  The mother should realize that it could bother or embarrass the girl.

It sounds like it’s a close family, possibly a small family or only the one child.  The boy was 24 at the end of the relationship, and they dated for three years.  It sounds like the girlfriend was included at all the holidays, and was basically a part of the family for a significant time.  There’s no question that the primary relationship was between the boy and his girlfriend, but it’s not that uncommon for people to grow extremely close with a significant other’s friends and family.  At age 24, couples go at very different speeds.  Some don’t plan to settle down for another decade.  Others are looking to get married soon.  Sometimes, parents start to treat a child’s boyfriend/girlfriend as another child in the family.  Again, this might be an example of a small, close family, where the parents only have one son and identify with the girlfriend as the daughter they never had.

So, I can imagine situations where an unspoken break-up seems very unnatural to the ex-boyfriend’s mother.  So, she leaves a voicemail or email with the son’s ex explaining the closeness they had, good feelings, well wishes or things of that nature.  Maybe even an invitation to keep the lines of communication open, or discuss anything on the other’s mind.  Many sons wouldn’t want their mother contacting the ex, let alone having an independent dialogue or connection that doesn’t flow through him.  But, some relationships are more okay with that than others.  If it doesn’t transgress on the son’s expectations, then it seems like a somewhat kind and appropriate thing to do, albeit uncommon.  It doesn’t necessarily sound like the mother’s pushing an agenda, trading secrets, betraying the son or putting the girlfriend in a difficult position.  Although, I believe Prudence is correct that a mother who invites an explanation should be prepared for a bad one, if such is the case.

Unless the communication is inappropriate, or would betray some understanding between the couple, I can’t see what reason the ex-girlfriend has not to respond.  One rewards politeness with politeness, and I just don’t see an excuse to that here.

I go back to the fact that they included the girl for every holiday and major family event.  That’s a big deal.  I think you’re doing major holidays wrong if you’re not spending them with the most important people in life.  Otherwise, it’s just a waste.  Either mom shouldn’t have been inviting the son’s transitory girlfriend to every little thing, or else maybe mom considered her more than that, to her son and to the family.

So, if it doesn’t betray the son, and if the overture isn’t too intrusive, agenda-driven or familiar, it may not be that bad.

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