Can You Stay Friends With An Exes' Mom?

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Can You Stay Friends With An Exes' Mom?
Cathi and Dan give their takes on staying close to an ex's family.

For the best advice on sex, love, dating and relationships we ask two experts with personal experience. Cathi Hanauer is the author, most recently, of Sweet Ruin, a novel about love, marriage, and adultery. Daniel Jones is the editor of both the "Modern Love" column for The New York Times, and Modern Love, an anthology derived from the column. They've been married for 15 years, and together they provide a his and hers take on relationship questions. This round: staying close to an ex's family.

Question: I'm in the midst of breaking up with my longtime boyfriend, and I'm extremely close to his mother. Realistically, I know that she and I probably can't be in each other's lives anymore, but that breaks my heart. What's my obligation to her as I end this relationship with her son? What can I expect from her going forward, if anything?
–L.C., San Francisco, Calif.

Her take: A lot of my answer depends on the nature of the breakup. If it was a mutual parting, if nobody got their heart stomped on, then there's no reason to think your relationship with his mother can't continue to be friendly, if probably not as frequent—at least, for a while. (I do know someone who brings the three kids from her current marriage when she visits her long-ago ex-boyfriend's mother, but I have to say that I think it's sort of sick—and so does the mother, who hasn't quite had the balls to tell this woman to please just disappear.) On the other hand, if you skewered the guy, his mother likely will view you with less affection than she used to; as the mother of a son, if still a small one, I can definitely see that on the horizon. In that case, the friendship might hurt everyone, including your ex—especially if he holds hope of getting back with you.