How can I cheer up my son, disappointed in love?

The Japan News

Dear Troubleshooter:

I am a homemaker in my 50s, and I need your advice about my son, a civil servant in his mid-20s.

My son and his ex-girlfriend work in the same office. They were planning to get married, but she ended up marrying another man, with whom she was cheating on my son. I told my son he should try and act as naturally as possible around her, but he doesn’t seem over her. He said he occasionally behaves brusquely at work as a result.

The other day at the office, one of his coworkers asked him if he had a girlfriend. He answered, “No, but I was planning to marry the person I used to date.” My son’s ex-girlfriend overheard the conversation and reported him to her boss. As a result, my son was warned about having that kind of conversation in the workplace. He said he felt so mortified that he cried at work.

It is probably because he feels frustrated after hearing that his friends from school are getting married that he tends to take things out on his family. Sometimes he has been short-tempered and selfish, but now it seems like he has gotten worse. One minute, he’s screaming at me, and the next, he’s offering to buy me dinner, maybe because he feels guilty.

I’m concerned about his attitude and wonder how I can support him and cheer him up.

—O, Miyagi Prefecture

Dear Ms. O:

To cut to the chase, please get your son to live on his own as soon as possible.

You may not realize it, but your son is emotionally dependent on you. He tells you about his relationship with his girlfriend. He tells you about what goes on at work, including embarrassing things like him breaking down in tears. He takes it out on you when he’s annoyed.

From a mother’s perspective, he may seem like a good son who tells you everything, but from an outsider’s perspective, he’s just a mama’s boy. No matter how dependable and kind he might seem on paper, a mama’s boy is not acceptable. It might be one of the reasons why his ex-girlfriend left him.

It doesn’t mean that living at home is a bad idea. There are situations in which people have to live with their parents for financial or health reasons. There are also cases in which people live at home but are psychologically independent.

If your son is a full-time employee, he should not have issues being financially independent. I think the best way for him to mature and become more emotionally independent is for him to live apart from you. If you want your son to be happy, you should urge him to become independent rather than try to cheer him up.

—Masahiro Yamada, university professor