The Rational Basis® of Happiness Podcast

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Dating Reluctance

My son was romantically hurt and won't date anymore.

(this is raw unedited text transcribed directly from the audio)


Dr. Kenner:      Bonnie, your adult son isn’t interested in dating?


Bonnie:            Well, let me just explain. I have an adult son who just went through a painful divorce a year ago. He’s 43, very financially sound, very handsome, has two small children and has 50 percent custody. But I guess because he was so dreadfully hurt by the divorce that he is so injured that he finds dating very distasteful and although I kind of tell him, “It’s not like you need to get married right away, but it would be nice to have a companion,” and so forth, I’m just wondering how I can encourage him as a mother to go out and just have fun and enjoy his social life.


Dr. Kenner:      So you would love to see him mend and change whatever idea he has in his mind that said, “I can’t go there again. I’ll never let myself be hurt again that way.” And that’s very common and it may take him a year to heal, it may take him two years to heal. How can you be of help? How does he respond to you when you do give him the encouragement?


Bonnie:            Well, he’s very responsive and he even sends me copies of emails that sometimes he and his ex-wife correspond with. Part of me, the ambivalent, part of me is so glad he’s sharing that with me and the other part of me finds it so difficult for me to absorb because it is my son getting hurt. But I certainly don’t want to discourage the closeness because he’s my only child. I was a single parent most of my life, so as a result of it, we had a very unique and special relationship. I just wanted to ask you, I don’t get to listen to you often, but when I do, I’m so glad to find it on my radio, because I wanted to ask you how best I could help him without being co-dependent and really harm him.


Dr. Kenner:      Or being intrusive.


Bonnie:            Yes.


Dr. Kenner:      There are ways you can help him. There is support. Number one would be just being a good listener and not that you’re a passive listener, but if he says, “Geez, you know, I wish I felt like dating,” that’s a moment to say, “Hey, what’s on your mind?” That’s the time when we’re most tempted to say, “I’ve been telling you that. Why don’t you go on a dating website or I know Molly down the street, she’s got a daughter.” We’re ready to, we’ve got all the advice ready to give them. It’s much better to hold back and be - and you may already be doing this Bonnie - but to be a loving listener. Let them take the lead.


Bonnie:            Because I’m always ready to give advice, even if it’s not very sound. His comment to me sometimes, he goes out, because he is on a website and he’ll say, “Mom, I just don’t have the chemistry and I don’t want to lead these girls on.” That’s very commendable. He says, “Why keep stringing it out if I know that I have no chemistry.”


Dr. Kenner:      He’s right isn’t he? So the ability to actively listen and to hear the little gems, the little sparkles of his desire, and not you expanding on them but letting him expand on them. Tell me more, hon. He might close off. He might say, “Oh, nothing.” That’s okay. If he had that thought at one point, maybe next week he’ll come back with a similar thought and he’ll be ready to talk about it. You can’t force a mind. When you try to force a mind, most of us rebel. It’s just being, you’re being what you would want, a good friend. I’m curious, you said you were a single parent. Did you date?


Bonnie:            Well, yes. I was a single parent, I would say for 14 years. And yes, I dated. But of course it was difficult because I had a very responsible position and I raised him and he was asthmatic and so that’s not easy. None of it is easy for people, whether you’re male or female, but yes I dated. I waited until he got into college before I decided to get engaged and it was the best advice my father ever gave me to wait. Because confusing to me enough for a child.         


Dr. Kenner:      Do you think you learned that from you? He’s got two small kids.


Bonnie:            Maybe. I know. He keeps telling me, “Mom, I know. You only had one. I have two.” But yes, I didn’t have two, I had one. Yes, he might have learned that from me. But I know it’s lonely.


Dr. Kenner:      If it’s lonely, I recently wrote a book with Dr. Ed Locke and the title is a bit provocative. It means self-valuing. Most people get lost in a relationship. Women will live in the shadows of their husbands or sometimes vice versa. The goal of my book is nobody lives in the shadows. You both love yourselves because you’ve made yourselves into lovable people, individuals, and you learn how to cherish each other’s values and cherish each other. Now, it sounds like pie in the sky, but we go through, we spent eight and a half years writing this book. And we go through what is romantic love? What is the essence of it? How do you make yourself lovable? How do you find a soul mate? That chapter would be wonderful for him.


Bonnie:            What was the name of it?


Dr. Kenner:      The name of the book, I paused on that, because it’s not the self-sacrificing guide to romance and it’s not the run roughshod over your partner, my way or the highway. It’s the self-valuing path to romance, but it’s not self-valuing. It’s The Selfish Path to Romance. That’s the provocative part. Really valuing, I really want your son to value himself.


Bonnie:            That’s the name of it?


Dr. Kenner:      The Selfish Path to Romance. You can go on the website, It’s an easy one to remember. Or you can go to Amazon and pick it up. But that’s really good. And then it talks about how to keep a romantic relationship. How to part ways at the end if it’s not working out. And how to give yourself the hope again, which is what you’re wanting him to have. So it’s got everything. And it will really help him recalibrate a premise that he’s holding that I need to do what mom did, I have to wait until the kids are grown up - if he’s holding that. I’m guessing. Or if he’s saying, “I can’t go through that hurt again,” which is very common. Sometimes you just need a little more time to heal. But Bonnie, sometimes you just don’t know how to move forward. And we talk about that.


Bonnie:            I want to tell you that you’re not only wonderful to listen to, but your assistant, God bless him, he tried to reach me so many times.


Dr. Kenner:      That’s wonderful to hear.


Bonnie:            Thank you so much.


Dr. Kenner:      You’re very welcome. Thank you for the call and best to you and your son.


Bonnie:            Thank you, you take care.


Movie clip       

Female 1:         Hey. Sorry I’m late.

Female 2:         You lied to us.

Female 3:         And you made us into your alibis. That’s playing us against each other and that’s not fair.

Female 1:         You’re both scheduling me 24 hours a day. Between the two of you, that’s 48 hours. I just want to be able to make a few decisions on my own. I don’t need this much active parenting. You can’t babysit me all the time. I need you to back off a little.


Dr. Kenner:      You may have felt you wanted to tell your parents that growing up, and maybe your kids want to tell you that now. I’m Dr. Ellen Kenner and that’s from Buffy. If you feel that you’re overprinting your kids, and you sense it, but you so fear losing control, you’re afraid if you let them make their own choices - they may make the same choices you made in your teenage years or your young adult years and it’s like, “Oh my God, I know what I was capable of doing and I’ve got to protect them. I can’t let them make their own choices.” And man, they’re going to be climbing out of windows in the middle of the night and going to their friends’ houses and rebelling against you. So how do you parent a teenage kid, or a young adult, and give them some, that ability to grow and flourish and make some mistakes that hopefully aren’t too critical and also work with yourself? The urge to do what you did when they were a lot younger, help them learn how to tie their shoes. You don’t need to do that anymore. How do you let go? That’s one of the many issues that you can call me on.