Advice columnist

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: My college-age daughter dated a very nice college-age guy for a year. He and I became close. His mother had died about a year before, and I think I was a nurturing mom figure for him.

They recently broke up and are trying to do the friend thing. He continues to text me about things he is doing, sharing successes, etc. It is never about the two of them.

My daughter thinks I should be her mom and not his, and I need to cut him off.

I don't think there is some absolute. Do I need to cut ties with this young man? Or do I need to explain to my daughter that I can pick my own "friends"?

— Mom


(Nick Galifianakis/for The Washington Post)

Mom: Tough one.

On its face, it looks easy to compartmentalize: Your relationship with your daughter stays as-is, and you provide a little momming on the side on issues having nothing to do with her. Cozily ever after.

But what if, say, he uses your affection for him as leverage against her? What if these “things he is doing, sharing successes, etc.,” are in fact related to their ex-relationship, in ways you can’t possibly know? Imagine one of his successes was at something your daughter expressed doubts about when they were together. It could then become a subtle, adult version of, “See? Your mom knows I can do this — you were wrong.”

And it could be much simpler — his connection to you keeps alive a connection to her, and maybe he’s not ready to let her go. Among other unhealthy possibilities

This is why boundaries matter — the subtle stuff. The hazards we tend to miss when we start looking for ways to serve our self-interests even though a little voice is trying to tell us not to. You like this guy! You like being supportive, and you like being needed.

But your daughter is telling you, quite possibly, that hanging on to that role is undercutting your primary mom role, in ways you can’t fully see. Or undercutting his ability to get over her. Or both.

Ask her. Think through what health and emotional consequences come with your right to “pick my own ‘friends.’ ”

Re: Ex: When my daughter got divorced from a man who had a very unsupportive family, I continued to have a social media relationship with him. At one point my daughter mentioned that a comment I made seemed a bit too much like he was still family and I backed way off. Because he is the past and my daughter is forever.

And you know what? He has moved on and created a new support system. Good all around.

— Ease Off, Mom

Re: Ex: OMG. Please stop communicating with him. Please. My mom became besties with my first boyfriend. I would come home to find him and my mom hanging out. That was a little weird when we were dating, but grossly improper after we had broken up. She told me I was being selfish for asking her to give up a friendship. It only stopped when he moved overseas.

You have to choose between your daughter and her ex. My mom chose my ex over me. Please, don't do that to your daughter.

— Anonymous

Write to Carolyn Hax at tellme@washpost.com. Get her column delivered to your inbox each morning at wapo.st/haxpost.