‘My mum hates being single but I don’t trust her new man – he won’t leave her alone’

InLalalaletmeexplain's hit column, readers ask for her expert advice on their own love, sex and relationship problems.

With over 200k Instagram followers, Lala is the anonymous voice helping womankind through every bump in the road. An established sex, dating and relationship educator, she’s had her fair share of relationship drama and shares her wisdom on social media to a loyal army of followers. Every week thousands turn to her to answer their questions (no matter how embarrassing), and her funny, frank approach to love and relationships has made her the ultimate feel-good guru.

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Dear Lala,

My mum broke up with my stepdad of 15 years in January. She doesn't like being alone. The problem I have is that I don't trust her new boyfriend who she’s been with for around five months.

She came to stay with me recently and I noticed that if she didn’t have her phone with her for a little while there would be several calls and messages from him about his "need" for her to contact him. We went for lunch, and she didn’t have her phone for two hours. Later that night I saw his Facebook, and I noticed that in the time she hadn’t looked at her phone at lunch he had changed his profile picture and cover photos to pictures of them on their fourth date! I found that weird.

He slags off his ex-wife intensely and shares graphic stories of cheating, kids not being his etc. I know it's normal to dislike exes but he's in his 60s and it just seems odd. He also told mum about a famous woman he's slept with as his "claim to fame". Weird.

He met my brother and his one year old and asked if he could take a photo of the baby and send it to his sister (who none of us have met). He stayed at my brother’s house and was seen on the CCTV with a professional camera taking photos of the side entrances to the house! Mum said he just loves photography.

When I met him, begrudgingly, he knew I wasn't particularly ready, but still couldn't keep his hands off my mum in front of me, sniffing her hair loudly, stroking, knee sitting etc. I've done a Sarah's Law request [you can request information under the Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme – or Sarah's Law – online] and the police said there were no concerns about children. I've asked her to do a Clare’s Law request [known as the domestic violence disclosure scheme (DVDS), which allows you to request information about a partner], but she says she feels she would be betraying him as he's a genuine guy with his heart on his sleeve.

She won't come and stay with me because she doesn't want to leave him on his own. Do I just suck it up and invite them both despite my concerns?

Lala says…

This is a really tough one. It's common for people to be wary of a parent's new partner. If we have a good loving relationship with our parents, then their emotional wellbeing and safety will obviously be important to us.

Our parents spend our adolescence worrying about the relationships we might choose, and then it all flips and we get worried about their vulnerabilities if they’re dating in their later years. It can feel weird to see your parents with someone new, especially if you’d only ever known them with your other parent/stepparent. It can be a hard adjustment to make. So, it is important to critically reflect on whether your ill feelings toward their new partner are actually valid or whether they stem from you simply needing time to get used to it.

From what you've said I think you're right to feel worried. There are lots of little flags here – the fact that their relationship has moved so quickly, the fact that he reacts badly when he can’t be in constant contact with her, the fact that he made the big Facebook display after not hearing from her for two hours, the ways he talks about his ex, the inappropriate public displays of affection (marking his territory), the photos, the fact that he can’t be left on his own whilst she visits her family. Some of these things might be pink flags if they were in isolation, but together they make one big red. I think you should trust your instincts about this man.

But herein lies the problem: aside from keeping him on your radar, there's very little else you can do. You could request a Clare’s Law on her behalf to establish whether he has a worrying criminal history, but the results won't be shared with you, they will only share them with your mother if there is something she needs to know. But I’d say it’s worth making a request. Google Clare’s Law and the Police force where your mum resides. However it doesn’t sound like it would be that easy to convince her to leave even if there was something dodgy on his records.

You've spoken to her about your concerns and she doesn’t share those concerns at all. It can be tempting to want to have frequent conversations to try to convince her that you're right and that she needs to run, but it's unlikely that constantly trying to persuade her will be effective. It may well have the opposite effect. It might make her hide things from you or isolate away from you with him.

There will be opportunities to discuss it with her. Take them when you can – for example, if you spot something else that concerns you, you could say ‘I noticed this and it made me a bit worried, can we talk about it?’. Or you could have a proper conversation with her the next time you're face to face; you could tell her that you're worried and that although you’re not going to keep going on about it, you’d like her to know about organisations likeWomen’s Aid, in case she ever feels the need to talk to someone. You could also contact them for advice with this matter. If she uses social media, get her to follow pages like mine.

The best thing that you and your family can do is be there for her. If you can bear it, then I would invite them both down together. That way you can keep a closer eye on things and avoid pushing her into isolation. It's important to remember that as a woman in her 60s the dating scene is even more dire than it is for those of us in other age groups. She doesn’t like being alone (perhaps she has some co-dependency issues) and she has found someone who makes her feel valued and wanted. She's not going to let go of that easily, so don't try to push her. Gently let her know that you care and that you're there without judgement if she ever needs to talk but don’t make this the focal point of your relationship with her. If things really are bad then she'll soon realise for herself. The most important thing is that she knows she has a safe space to come to when she reaches that point.


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