Just when many people think this is a society of “loose morals” and feel young people do not have the same values of old times (ours, for certain!), these very young people teach us a lesson about love and betrayal.

Several times I have heard both my boys talk in derogatory terms about people who “betray” each other, namely in romantic relationships. And they always seem shocked when they describe such a situation; I must confess at first I was surprised as, like most people my age, we had the idea this generation might have “lighter” morals than we had, meaning they would consider relationships in a less exclusive or serious way.

We could not be more wrong, I have come to conclude.

Just the other day my son Pedro was talking to some of his friends on the phone and I could hear they were worried about another friend who has been through some tough times, so they worry about him and are very supportive. I know him well as he often comes over, so I naturally asked my son what was wrong with him.

At first he was a bit reluctant – after all it’s his friend’s problem, not his – but he knows I can be trusted so he blurted out: ”Mom, you cannot believe, António’s girlfriend has betrayed him!”. And he went on: “Do you remember her, I introduced her to you at the café?” – I nodded and said she looked like a nice girl. But he was mad at her “Yes, she looked like a nice girl, but she is a compulsive liar. Not only did she go out with another boy at the same time she was dating my friend (and I understood the expression ”go out” in fact meant “something else”…) but she lied to him, in fact to us all as well…she also told a sad story about her father having died and now we have discovered her father is alive and in perfect health!” – he really sounded angry at this girl.

I tried to remonstrate with him: “Do you have proof of this? Has anyone heard her version of the facts?” – but it was no use. He went on to tell me they had confirmed all of this, that his friend was in a state of depression, that they were very worried about him – after all he was just coming out of a complicated phase and now this! He was in pain, he didn’t want to go out at all, and at this point they were desperately trying to convince him to join them that afternoon to go to the movies…

I was impressed at how strongly these 18 year-olds feel about betrayal. Be it from friends or lovers, they do not take it well. Of course I sympathise with them, and I remember how strongly I felt about this when I was 16 and I discovered one of my friends cheated on his girlfriend and in fact dated two girls at the same time. I remember being highly judgemental and saying I would never do that! Later life taught me that none of us are perfect and sometimes even when full of principles and with the best of intentions we are led by circumstances to have less correct attitudes. After all, who can throw the first stone?

Very softly I tried to tell my son that maybe she had her reasons for acting as she did, maybe someone should listen to her…but all the time I agreed they should support their friend and be by his side, no matter what. I respected Pedro’s position and thought better about telling him that, although I admire his values and hope he keeps them as much as possible, like me he will probably learn that 2 plus 2 are not always 4 and that there are many shades of grey between black and white; that often it is not easy to make a choice and, while we are living in that limbo, sometimes we betray the people who least deserve it – and yet we do. And we feel bad about it and ultimately come to a decision and go on with our life according to our beliefs. We are all human – sooner or later, we all betray someone.

In the end I didn’t tell Pedro any of this. Let him live the illusions and beliefs of his 18 years. Let him have strong principles – who knows, maybe he will never have to put them aside, even if only temporarily; let him be angry with that girl and strong in his friend’s defence; let him believe that love is always true and may last forever; let him believe in fairytales with happy endings; let him dream.

After lunch, he gave me a kiss and went out to meet his friends at the rugby club. As I saw him go down the street with long strides, so straight, so sure of himself, so strong in what he believes to be the right thing, I couldn’t help smiling as I remembered the girl that I was: like him, strong in my beliefs and full of dreams. Some came true, some never did. And, like so many people, I went through the pain of being betrayed by the one I loved. But, as a mother, seeing him in the distance, I said a little prayer and asked the universe to make all his dreams come true. As any mother would. Because our greatest dream is to see our children happy, in a life without the bitterness and unhappiness that come with betrayal.