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I Just Got Asked Out By My Mom's Ex-Boyfriend — I Want To Say Yes, But Should I?

"He texted me to ask me out to coffee. ... I want to say yes."

Hello, world. My name's Stephen LaConte, and this is Hey Stephen — a cozy little corner of the internet where BuzzFeed readers like you can DM me for advice.

Today, we've got this woman, who was recently asked out by a man she finds "sweet, funny, and handsome." The problem? It's her mom's ex-boyfriend. Here's what she wrote to me, via Instagram:

Screenshot of Stephen's DM

My reply...

Eek. I'd have reservations about this even if the guy wasn't your mom's ex. This is not to say that a 40-something-year-old and a 22-year-old can never have a healthy relationship, but I think the younger person should always approach such an arrangement with eyes wide open and an abundance of caution. A person in their 40s is usually in a very different place in life than someone who just finished college. And if they're not in a different place, well, that's a red flag, too. You say that you share so much in common with this guy — do you really want to date a middle-aged man who has a ton of stuff in common with a person fresh out of her teens?

But yes, add onto all this the fact that this man is your mother's ex, and this possible romance moves from a "probably not" to a categorical "nope." The risks of proceeding here are extremely high, the rewards minimal to nonexistent. To break this down, let's look at each of the three key players involved in this: your mother, her ex, and you.

A girl looking at her phone with her hand on her cheek

First, your mother. Your DM doesn't mention how she feels about this possible date, or if she even knows about it. But I'll go out on a limb here and assume that your mom would take the typical parental position of not wanting her children to date her exes. I think this courtship would really disturb her! Even if their relationship was brief and casual, they probably shared some degree of emotional and physical intimacy in their time together. I'm guessing your mother would not want you to have any proximity to that.

You cite the fact that your mom was the one to dump this man as evidence that she shouldn't care if you go out with him. That logic might track if you were, say, a casual acquaintance of hers. But you're her daughter! The rules are different, and the stakes of breaking them are so much higher. Do not jeopardize your relationship with your mother over this guy. I promise you he is not worth it. (And for the record, if your mother actually is aware of the coffee invitation and supports it, well, I'll stand corrected about her feelings, but remain firm in my advice that you should not do it. Even if your mother doesn't care about boundaries, you should. Boundaries protect you just as much as they protect her.)

A mother and daughter sitting on the couch and not looking at them

Next up: Let's talk about the ex-boyfriend. Oh Lordy. I cannot imagine what kind of person would ask out their ex-girlfriend's daughter...but I know that it is not a good one. There is something profoundly creepy about wanting to date a mother and then her daughter. Whatever fantasy this guy is indulging himself in right now is absolutely not one you should participate in. Hard to imagine a redder flag.

To be fair, you do mention that you're not 100% sure whether this invitation was intended to be a date, so I guess we should allow for the possibility that all of this is just an extremely unfortunate misunderstanding. I sure hope so! But your gut tells you it's a romantic overture, and the fact that that interpretation even exists means there's likely been some degree of flirtation between the two of you. Your own description of him — "sweet, funny, handsome, and we have a lot in common" — sounds like it might be further evidence of that. Suffice it to say: If you are flirting with this guy, I think you should stop immediately.

A woman on her phone in bed

And that brings me to the person most likely to get hurt in this scenario: you. I don't fault you for being attracted to someone who is kind to you, who makes you laugh, who shares common interests with you. But for all the good you see in this man, you also need to see the bad. You need to see the guy who has a complete disregard for your best interests, who very likely is violating your mother's trust, and who has put you in a terribly uncomfortable position. Those parts of him are just as real as the parts you like — heck, they're probably more real — and they should be your focus.

Remember that when all of this blows up (and I really think it will, if you proceed), this man will be able to walk away from it scot-free, while you're left to pick up the pieces. It's your wellbeing and your family on the line here, not his. He's not looking out for you. You need to look out for yourself.

As for how to do that, well, it starts by declining his coffee invitation. Assert the boundaries that he won't. And you might want to give your mom a head's up about the text, if she doesn't know already. Perhaps she'd like to create a little distance from this man, too. Worst case scenario, you'll have misinterpreted this invitation, and missed out on a purely platonic coffee with a middle-aged man. Best case scenario, you'll save yourself and your mother from a whole lot of unnecessary discomfort and hurt. Good luck. I'm rooting for you.

That's all the advice I've got for today's DM'er, folks. You can follow me on Instagram and Twitter @stephenlc. And if you happened to miss my last column, read on!

Last week, we heard from this woman, who went through her fiancé's phone and discovered that he's been doing cocaine with his friends when she's not around, despite a promise they made to each other to never do hard drugs. Should she confront him, or stay quiet since she found out about this through snooping? Here's what she wrote to me, via Instagram:

Screenshot of a DM

My reply...

You solved your own problem at the end of your message — you do indeed need to talk! What's happening right now is a breakdown in communication between the two of you, and it sounds like you both own some of the responsibility for it. He's hiding his coke use from you instead of being honest, and you're snooping through his phone to get answers instead of asking him directly. Both of those things are harmful to your relationship, but the same remedy could fix them both: an honest and frank conversation.

So, let's talk about how to approach that conversation with your fiancé. I think you need to be forthright about everything you've discovered, which should involve admitting to (and apologizing for) snooping through his phone. It's not clear from your DM what prompted you to snoop in the first place — whether you had a specific concern that he was using drugs, or were just curious about what you might find in his texts. Either way, I probably don't have to tell you that snooping was not the right move. If there were legitimate concerns about his wellbeing, they should have been taken to him directly. I think you need to own up to violating his privacy, acknowledge that it was wrong, and commit to not doing it again.

A woman on her phone

But once your own mistake has been properly accounted for, it is more than fair to address his. And, for the record, I do think it was a violation for your fiancé to hide this information from you! He's a grown man capable of making his own decisions about what he puts in his body, but if you two had a mutual commitment not to do certain drugs, he should have honored that (or, at least, communicated to you that he wasn't going to honor it anymore). This is an advice column, not D.A.R.E., so I won't get into all the potential risks and damages of doing coke, but suffice it to say, it is reasonable for you not to want it in your relationship, and to take issue with your partner using it.

Ultimately, it should be up to every adult to understand the risks of a particular substance and make their own decision about whether or not to take it. But I think it's good for couples to be generally aligned on that stuff — not because you have to indulge in the same vices as your partner (you certainly don't!), but because you will usually end up having some proximity to whatever substances your partner is taking. Some couples might decide that softer stuff like booze, weed, and shrooms are fine, while harder drugs are a no-go. Some couples might have good reason to keep their relationship strictly sober, while others might be perfectly happy having no limits whatsoever. There are no right or wrong answers, so long as both parties are clear about their own needs, and able to accommodate the needs of their partner.

A couple fighting in the kitchen

And that brings us to the two central questions I think you and your boyfriend need to discuss in your conversation together. The first is: What exactly is his relationship with cocaine? How often does he do it, what does he get out of the experience, and why is he hiding it from you? Is it because he knows you wouldn't approve of even rare, limited usage, or has he been covering up a more serious addiction, one that might require professional help?

The second question is: Are either one of you willing to compromise on your current position? As it stands, you want a relationship free of cocaine, and he wants to do cocaine. One of those things has to give, or your relationship will. Is he willing (and able) to stop doing coke, in the interest of respecting your boundaries (and, y'know, being a whole lot healthier)? Or, conversely, are you willing to look past occasional coke usage on his part, maybe with some new boundaries and rules in place? (At the very least, it would be reasonable to ask that he never bring it into your home, that he significantly limit how often he does it, and that he follow some basic precautions to decrease his own risk while using.)

A hand holding a little baggie of cocaine

I'd like to think that after 11 years together, you'll be able to agree on a solution that leaves both of you feeling respected, happy, and reasonably safe. (And honestly, if he won't budge at all on his coke usage to save a decade-long relationship, that might point to a more serious issue on his part.) But if you can't come to an agreement, think carefully about whether this is the right person for you to spend the rest of your life with. Breaking up would be a painful outcome, but not nearly as painful as staying in a relationship where one of you sneaks, and the other snoops. In your DM, you describe your relationship as an "open book." Now's the time to put that to the test. Good luck. I'm rooting for you.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, you can call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) and find more resources here.

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PS: If you've got any advice for today's DM'er, sound off in the comments! I'll be reading...

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