The Cyrus Syndrome: When Your Grown Up Kids Dis Your Boyfriend

My husband and I saw Cyrus this week and it made me think of my The Cyrus Syndrome: When Your Grown Up Kids Dis Your Boyfriendhairdresser. Cyrus is about a lonely, depressed, divorced man named John who miraculously meets the woman of his dreams only to discover there is another man in her life. That man is her 21 year old dependent son, Cyrus, impeccably portrayed by Jonah Hill. Cyrus and his gorgeous, offbeat mother played to quirky perfection by Marisa Tomei, share an unconventional relationship that truthfully made me a little nauseous. Desperate to keep his mother for himself, Cyrus goes to great lengths to sabotage her new romance.

My hairdresser, Robin, is nothing like the sad sack John, but she has been divorced for almost a decade and has recently become involved with a man who can’t get a break from her two twenty-something daughters. Unlike Cyrus and his mother, Robin and each of her girls share a healthy mother-daughter relationship, which means there is love, respect, and issues, the latest one being their refusal to accept her new love.

When the girls were young Robin followed all the rules in The Ladies Home Journal’s Single Moms’ Guide to Dating. She never introduced a man into their lives who would prove to be no more than a casual relationship. She put her children’s needs before her own. She kept her hormones in check when making decisions about whether to go to a school activity or out on a date. She never had sleepovers. So is it her turn yet? Is she allowed to have a life now?

It’s not Robin’s fault that adolescence lasts forever these days…that children in their mid-twenties still live at home and so are subjected to the comings and goings of Mom and her dates. JoAnn Magdoff, a psychotherapist in private practice in New York, claims that grown children feel just as threatened by their parents’ new relationships as their younger counterparts. “Many times women are dating perfectly nice guys and their kids are horrible to them anyway.” Magdoff has often heard adult children confess that they are predisposed to not liking Mom’s boyfriend because he takes her away from her total involvement with them. She warns single Moms to avoid martyrdom. Sometimes the weekend away with a boyfriend is more important than staying around for your adult children. I like the way she thinks.

Apparently so do the hordes of women whose comments I sought on internet message boards. Sites such as,,, and may receive a single desperate plea for advice from a mother whose children can’t or won’t accept her boyfriend, and bazillions of comments arrive almost instantaneously from the multitude of women in similar straits. The opinion is unanimous. Damn the children…full speed ahead!

Of course I’m talking about normal dating relationships. If you have an open and honest relationship with your children and they feel you are being abused or lied to, or if they tell you the man you are dating is acting inappropriately with them, all bets are off. And the relationship should be turned off as well.

Often the same children who pass judgment on their parents’ choice of companions, stick like glue to boyfriends or girlfriends their parents reject as unsuitable. In fact, a parent’s critical assessment of a teenage or young adult love can be the cause of a painful rift in the parent/child relationship. Just another irony of parenthood.

Susan Newman, a social psychologist at Rutgers University, claims that in her experience divorced mothers who date are happier, calmer, and less frustrated than other unmarried women.

My mother is not divorced. She has been a widow for two and a half years. In recent months she has been dating a man who is treating her well. I won’t say it doesn’t feel a little awkward to listen to your mother talk about a man who is not your father. But I am delighted for her. I haven’t met the gentleman who is being so attentive to my mother, but I like him already.

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Karin Kasdin’s most recent book is a novel, Life, Death, and Doughnuts. Karin is a playwright, author and essayist whose books include Oh Boy Oh Boy Oh Boy: Confronting Motherhood, Womanhood and more


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