Leave older lovers alone

Amanda Ngudle

Amanda Ngudle

Love is not everything. According to history and contemporary belief, it's the only thing.

If you have truly been in love, you will agree completely with the concept. If you have ever felt you had invisible wings, and asked someone if they loved you because you were beautiful or found you beautiful because they loved you, then you have been in love.

Now, why in the world would you deny your mother or father the right to indulge in love, one of the the few joys of life?

"Love makes you generous, it makes you jubilant, gives you hope and helps you forget the past," says relationship counsellor Mike Gumbi.

We complain that our single parents are bitter, that they put pressure on us, but we go out of our way to stop them from dating. Many parents are single. Statistics South Africa reports a decline in marriages and an increase in the divorce rate.

The number of officially recorded divorces in 2003 was 31566. This represented an increase of less than onepercent compared with 31370 in 2002. Since then, the number has increased and a total of 33424 children were affected in 2003. It is these children who become stumbling blocks when their parents try to move on.

"I used to give my mom a hard time about seeing other men after she and my dad divorced, until I realised that it was to my advantage that she was getting her steam off elsewhere," confides Zolile Madlala, an airport traffic controller.

"Before then, I had to reply to all her call backs and spend every Saturday afternoon watching The Bachelor with her."

Madlala was at first dead set against his mother dating.

"I thought that this old man was just out to have sex with her and the mere thought made my stomach turn," Zolile recalls.

"I even saw a therapist. And then one night it dawned on me that even when my dad was married to her, I couldn't stand the thought of them getting intimate."

Relationship experts call it self-absorption. Children of single or separated parents are naturally inclined to get gutted, because as actress Joan Crawford once wrote: "Love is a fire. But whether it is going to warm your heart or burn down your house, you can never tell."

An anonymous 50-something girlfriend says: "But the truth is, feelings don't die with age. I used to look at my children as my pillars of strength, my reason to hold on to life and I was a medical mess suffering from backache and insomnia.

"The more I told them about my health woes the further I seemed to push them away. But when I met Raymond, they all came back running to ask all sorts of questions."

Gumbi believes that children of dating seniors have no business telling parents what to do.

"Besides being therapeutic, being in a relationship confirms something in each of us. It tells us we are alive, that we are desirable and that we have a lot to live for. And who needs that more than someone who has been divorced, widowed or was never married?"

If anything, we should encourage our parents to have relationships, Gumbi says.

"But children worry about parents being infected with HIV since most seniors come from an Aids-free era. They fear that parents might go into relationships thinking a partner is 'decent' and HIV-negative, when he or she is in fact in great danger," he says.