Help! My 30 year old son hates my partner. What would Jane Austen suggest I do?

April 30, 2018
Help!  My 30 year old son hates my partner.  What would Jane Austen suggest I do?
Sebastian Pichler
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Dear Erica,

My 30 year old son despises the man that I love and want to build a life with. It’s tearing me apart. What should I do?

Distraught in Delaware

Dear Distraught in Delaware,

That is a tricky one. Does your son have any tangible reasons for disliking your partner? Could your son see something that you’re not seeing? Is he like Mr. Elliot in Persuasion or Wickham in Pride and Prejudice? A trickster who pretends he wants to build a life with you, but really just takes advantage of you. Jane Austen’s novels nearly always have at least one of these charming frauds, and there is no doubt they exist in the real world too.

If you are certain that your partner is genuine and truly loves you, then it’s important to remember that you have a right to be happy and find companionship as you get older. It is difficult for children to imagine their parents having the same wants and desires as themselves. And I’m sure your son is no exception. In Persuasion, the young Mrs. Clay has designs on the widowed Sir Elliot, the father of Anne and Elizabeth Elliot. However, his daughter, Elizabeth, can not believe that he would actually be interested in a low-born woman. She does not understand that he is a man, with a man’s wants and desires, as well as her father. When Anne warns her about Mrs. Clay, she replies, “Nothing, I am sure, would induce my father to make a degrading match…”

Children are apt to view parents as nothing more than extensions of themselves, and forget that they have needs and desires themselves. And although Mrs. Clay is not well-born, she can easily tempt Sir Elliot because as Anne explains, “There is hardly any personal defect which an agreeable manner might not gradually reconcile one to.” And, as we all know, men can easily be tempted by a flattering young woman who pumps up their ego. Why else would so many rich old men chase after much younger women?

If your son and partner really love you, they will eventually come to their senses and put their differences aside. In Persuasion, you might recall that Anne Elliot’s godmother, Lady Russell, and her beau, Captain Wentworth, can’t stand each other because Lady Russell persuaded Anne to break off her engagement with him ten years earlier. But when they realize that they only want the best for Anne and both love her, Captain Wentworth decides that, “Lady Russell, in spite of all her former transgressions, he could now value from his heart. While he was not obliged to say that he believed her to have been right in originally dividing them, he was ready to say almost everything else in her favour.”

Engaging in activities that all three of you can enjoy, like going to the cinema, or a nice meal out, is probably the best way for you to forge a bond between your partner and your son. As long as your son knows that the door to him is always open, I think he’ll eventually lose his resentment and fear of your new partner stealing you away. And if Captain Wentworth can come to like Lady Russell, anything is possible.

Good luck,

Erica