Femke (38) was very happy with her boyfriend, who was 28 years older. But to her great astonishment, her mother started a relationship with him – and it turned out to be more than a passing fancy.
“ My mother, Koosje, has always been my best friend. Or rather, my biggest support. When I ended my relationship with my childhood sweetheart at age 27, she was there for me day and night. My parents divorced when I was eleven, and my mother never had a serious relationship after that.
My mother and I were very close: we talked on the phone daily, saw each other at least three times a week, and discussed everything. When I felt miserable because of my broken relationship, she comforted me. Just like Steven, a man I had met at a cooking club earlier. Steven had a great deal of life experience, an infectious British sense of humour, and he was incredibly charming. After a few months, our friendship slowly turned into attraction. Maybe it had always been there, but I was so preoccupied with myself that I wasn’t open to falling in love again.
One evening, I had invited Steven to cook together, and suddenly, over the pans, his comforting hug turned into a tender kiss. I was madly in love and only focused on him. It felt wonderful; I felt so strong, as if I could conquer the whole world. Of course, I thought about the significant age difference of almost thirty years. I was 27; he was 55. But it felt incredibly familiar and safe, as if we were soulmates. Love knows no age.
My mother (then 56) was quite shocked when I told her about our budding relationship and kept saying: when you’re fifty, he’ll be eighty, and you’ll have to take care of him. Or she pointed out that I would end up alone early. But a relationship with someone my age also doesn’t guarantee a healthy and happy old age together. I prefer to enjoy love in the present rather than plan my life thirty years ahead.
At some point, my mother also realised how well Steven and I got along and how few men treat a woman as wonderfully as Steven treated me. My brother Floris was immediately supportive; he thought a relationship between me and Steven was a good idea.
When we had been together for about a year and a half, we were supposed to go on a long weekend trip to Steven’s hometown in England with my mother. He had planned everything down to the last detail, but the day before we left, I got a stupid flu. I was lying on the couch feeling terrible.
Part of the trip involved hiking and visiting gardens. Frankly, I didn’t enjoy those activities. I prefer the hustle and bustle, drinks, and the city, but my mother couldn’t be happier than when she could roam in nature. And because she was so looking forward to it, I insisted that they go together. At first, both of them resisted, but in the end, they went.
They came to me immediately after the trip on Sunday evening. Steven talked a lot, but for some reason, there was a formal atmosphere. I also found it strange that my mother left quickly instead of staying for tea. At that moment, I was just relieved to have Steven back with me. I had missed him. That evening, he cooked for me, and the intimacy was as it used to be.
When I saw him two days later – we didn’t live together – distance replaced the familiar atmosphere again. I couldn’t put my finger on it. What was it? Was he not feeling well? Did he miss England? Did he have doubts about our relationship? ‘Is there someone else?’ I asked. I still don’t know if I meant it; it was more to start a conversation. While he muttered something unintelligible, he burst into tears. And what I hadn’t even considered for a second, he told me at that moment.
It felt as if everything was happening in slow motion; I froze completely: Steven had feelings for my mother! I remember hysterically screaming that it wasn’t true, that my mother would never do such a thing. Not my mother! I couldn’t believe it. In shock, I called her and screamed: Steven has gone mad, he says you’re in love. When my mother didn’t answer immediately, I knew this was true. I don’t remember what I said, but I do remember that I lunged at Steven and wanted to hit him.
Years of anger
I immediately kicked him out. Even when my mother came over and called from outside that she wanted to talk to me, I didn’t open the door. The whole situation disgusted me. How could it be that two people I loved so much, whom I trusted completely, had deceived me like this? I called my brother, and Floris was shocked too. Assuming it wasn’t true, he immediately got in touch with my mother. When I saw his name on my screen long after midnight, I still clung to a glimmer of hope that it wasn’t true. He had had a long emotional conversation with our mother; she was quite confused and felt terribly guilty. But it was true. My mother was having an affair with my friend.
I cut off all contact with my mother and Steven completely and spent a long period in anger, astonishment, and shock. I was living my worst nightmare. Years went by, and all the emails my mother sent all boiled down to the same thing: ‘I never meant to hurt you. We were shocked too. Let’s please talk about it.’ How could she? My mother. My friend. Together. It made me sick to my stomach.
Eight years later, I was pregnant with my new partner and my brother Floris announced he was getting married. So far, I had avoided all joint gatherings or came at a different time. But for his wedding, I absolutely wanted to be there. He had been there for me all those years. Although Floris fully supported me, and continued to support me, he had been in contact with our mother all these years. I dreaded meeting Steven and my mother at my brother’s wedding, especially with all those raging hormones in my body. But I had to go.
As we drove up, I saw my mother walking with Steven in a flash. I got a punch in my stomach; not just from the confrontation, but also from how she looked. She seemed very old. My once stable, charming mother nervously fiddled with her bag and looked around anxiously. Steven stood there, seemingly calm beside her. When we greeted each other a little later, it felt double familiar, but an immense anger surged through my body, alongside a kind of softening.
A band-aid on the wound
Feeling that my mother was marked by the past years was like a small Band-Aid on the wound. It had really affected her. And when she cautiously asked how I was and how the pregnancy was going, she couldn’t hold back her tears. This made me cry too. Where had we ended up? It seemed like a very wrong B-movie.
My mother said she wanted to stay in touch, but she left it up to me when I was ready. Once home and in the following weeks, I suddenly noticed again that I missed the intense bond I had always had with her. Moreover, I wanted my future child to meet my mother. We have met three times now. It helps that we have distractions from my daughter, Fientje, so we don’t have to talk about difficult things. But every time I look at the little blonde head, I think, ‘How can you do this to your child? Your own flesh and blood!’
She crossed a line she should never have crossed. The very idea that I would be in bed with Fientje’s friend is incomprehensible. I realise that Koosje and Steven are suited for each other. On the day of the wedding, I noticed the naturalness between my mother and Steven.
Next year, they will have been together for ten years. The fact that it wasn’t just a passing fancy makes it a little less painful. Whether I ever want to see Steven again, I don’t know. That is not important right now. It’s about me and my mother, and at the moment, we are taking cautious steps towards each other. We’ll see how it goes in the future.”
This article was originally published in Marie Claire.
Text: Els Meyer
This article was syndicated from Marie Claire Netherlands