My Parents on the Brink of Divorce

Reply Mon 15 Dec, 2003 10:55 am
Seeing all the great advice on this forum, I decided to post here. This is not a topic I feel comfortable discussing with my family or friends. If nothing else, this is just so I can vent my frustration.

Recently my parents have not been getting along. The fights are becoming more frequent and today the fighting got physical for the first time. I don't know where it will go from here. My mother's been floating around the idea of divorce after almost 24 years of marriage.
I don't know what it was over but I suspect it had something to do with my brother moving out which has been causing a lot of tension in the family lately.

My mother is an independent woman, very "proper", and has a quick temper. My father is the passive type which makes it all the more frightening when on that rare occassion he does take a stand and fights back. He also very naive about stuff like fashion, etiquette, or other "proper" things and this infuriates my mother. A typical small arguement was the Christmas lights. My father put them up. Honestly, the way he put them up and the location, it doesn't look very good. I really couldn't care less but it bugged the hell out of my mother. These types of small disagreements, while trivial, have been occuring more and more everyday. No one person deserves the blame either. My father is totally ignorant of the fact that some of his behavior can be seen as annoying by others. But my mother doesn't let those trivial things slide.

In terms of family values, my father is very traditional. All family members must be at the table before we can eat dinner. He even dropped out of graduate school to spend more time with the family which was completely unnecessary and I have a feeling he slightly regrets that decision today. My mother wants us to be independent like herself and be less dependent on the family. Those are the values that turn into the big arguements. My mother accusses my father of being too restrictive and my father accusses my mother of letting the family drift apart. They have two very different ideals of the family.

The subject of the current tenion in my family has been my little brother. He just started college and my father spent a lot of money to buy him his dream car so he could stay at home and spend more time with the family. Unfortunately, at the time of the purchase, my mother and brother were under the impression that he would also eventually move out and live closer to school. There is absolutely no way that my father would allow my brother to move out at this point. My brother is set on moving out and my mother is behind him 100%. I'm undecided on the issue but I had to be restrained from hitting my brother once for a public display of disrepect for my father during an arguement on this subject.

With both of their children grown up my parents have been spending more time alone together. So that's not the problem. In fact it may even exacerbate the problem. They went on a trip to Italy a couple of months ago. My family-oriented traditional devoutly Catholic father thoroughly enjoyed it and made us sit through a slideshow of the trip. My mother just found more things about my father that annoy her.

They've been through the conseling.

What is a son to do?
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Reply Mon 15 Dec, 2003 11:02 am
ye110man, this is a good place to vent. I really feel for you, this is a tough situation. The thing is though, as a son, there isn't much you can do. Your parents are adults, and will have to make their own decisions. You can talk to them however. Make them understand how you feel about what's going on. That may give them pause, and time to reflect on how their behaviour is affecting you. If it still turns out that they divorce, you will have to handle that, but saying nothing is probably not the best course of action. Good luck, friend. Wink
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Reply Mon 15 Dec, 2003 11:04 am
Be there for them both, I suppose, and not take sides.

That ain't easy. But it will be better if you try to stay on an even keel and not favor one over the other. Also - and this is tempting - if they ask you for advice or counsel, the best thing to do is to tell them to handle it through their counseling sessions. After all, that's what they're paying for. And, it lets you off the hook. You don't want it thrown into your face years from now "You're a bad son! You favored your father over me!" or "You're a bad son! You told us to stay together but your mother drives me crazy!" or whatever.

You're not an impartial observer, of course, so anything you do will be biased in favor of whatever's in your best interests. That's not selfishness; it's human nature. And if your desire is to see them stay together, you'll be advising them to do so, even if that's not the best thing for them. So leave that to counselors. By all means, though, listen and be kind. And, no matter how much one infuriates you, or how much one of them tries to put down the other one, don't buy into that. "Isn't it horrible when your dad does ___?" or "Doesn't Mom make you nuts?" or whatever - don't agree, don't be a part of that. Change the subject or leave the room if you have to. Don't become a part of that; that's never good and it doesn't get anyone anywhere.

Best to you; this can't be any easy time for your family.
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cicerone imposter
Reply Mon 15 Dec, 2003 11:20 am
Wow, yeman, that's a bummer. As somebody already opined, there isn't much you can do, but the idea to share your feelings with both your parents is a good one. Other than that, it's out of your hands. Good luck. Don't let the problems of your parents overtake your life. That doesn't solve anything.
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Reply Mon 15 Dec, 2003 12:51 pm

Your parent's marriage is not your business. They are adults and in charge of their own lives. What you have to figure out is how to escape as much of the toxic effluent that they are creating as you possibly can.

Vote with your feet. If an argument comes up, excuse yourself and leave the room. Don't preach or comment--just exit.

Are you still living under their roof? If so, perhaps you might start making plans to move out. You would not be moving out to punish your parents, but to start your own life.

Spend time with your mother and your father separately. Individually they are good people but right now the chemistry between them is hostile and uncomfortable. Remember, one reason that each of them may have for perpetuating an unsatisfactory relationship is "staying together for the children". Make it clear (by your actions--no sermons are necessary) that you have and will always have two parents.

Refuse to listen to any parental venting. Announce that you do not think this is your business. If necessary leave the room.

Good luck. Hold your dominion.
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Reply Mon 15 Dec, 2003 01:13 pm
Divorce sucks. Hard on the kids, harder on those going through it. Been on both sides of that.

But, yeah. Leave the room, or leave the house.
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Reply Mon 15 Dec, 2003 01:17 pm
my heart goes out, Y-Man. Having never lived in a 2 parent home, I really don't know (excpet for what you say) what you are feeling, but it seems these guys/gals give awesome advice. Follow said advice, is mine.
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Reply Mon 15 Dec, 2003 01:31 pm
Gotta agree whole heartedly with the advice above and to add one more thing, if one parent or the other does get you alone and starts asking, prodding, etc for your opinion, please just tell them that you love them both equally and cant be made a wedge for either of them, etc etc. It can do a great deal in the...you're an adult handle your own affairs thing...as well as making them realize something they might not even realize they are doing.
So very sorry to hear it became physical. That is really really hard on everyone and I'm crossing my fingers that doesnt happen ever again.
My parents divorced after I was out of college..it was a long time coming and really, my mother tried to keep it together for too long but, wanted to see I got out onmy own two feet. I think what struck me was the trip they took that went horribly bad. Sounds like this could be something like your parents just did.
We grow apart or differently sometimes, and thats just how it is...as long as you all can agree to the fact that you are all family no matter what, its rough and tumble but, you do survive.
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Reply Mon 15 Dec, 2003 01:42 pm
Oof it's like reading my own words. They are a mirror image of my parents, or I should say who my parents WERE.

My mother was the domineering parent, quick temper, belittled my dad in front of us and we always felt fear of her during our formative years. My father was quiet and easygoing, not a huge force in my younger life. They battled and argued and he answered her back only when he had a few drinks in him. I often felt sorry for him. We kids became her punching bag when she really wanted to punish him and we couldn't bear to hurt him further by telling him. It was a case of him not being assertive and she being angry at life and I'm sure other things she never revealed to us. It made for a miserable household at times.

As we grew up each of us moved out one by one and several of us moved away to different continents. Was it a punishment to them? Perhaps, perhaps not.

Gradually, over the years, our family relationships improved and we all grew (us children especially). It was a slow process and a pity all these things couldn't have been resolved long ago. I've learned from that to thrash out my issues with someone right away. Say what I mean, don't let resentment lie. Making others unhappy leads only to misery for yourself. Hug and kiss the ones you love. I myself never married and never will and perhaps that is a fear of finding myself in a miserable situation like theirs or perhaps not.

The best revelation was Christmas years ago where all the children wrote two letters each - one for Mom, one for Dad - and we told them ten things we were eternally grateful to them for (individually not combined) and five things we felt they could have improved upon during our lives together. It was very honest and I swear I cried til I couldn't breathe while writing it. I couldn't watch my parents faces as they read or I'd have become a blubbering idiot. While it made them sad to hear some of the stuff, the pluses outweighed the minuses two-fold and we told them, in our own words how much we loved them each.

My Dad, always the cool unemotional quiet man couldn't speak for the lump in his throat. My mother cried like a baby and required much hugging to get her throat under control to be able to talk again.

I would say that, in my case, my parents never discussed divorce in front of us. I have no idea if that ever came into their heads, but boy could they thrash a relationship to shreds and then turn around and enjoy their older years together. These days they are retired (I thought she'd kill him the first year) but they potter around together finding things to do and call us kids telling stories on each other. They have fun now and keep us amused with what they get up to. I look at them now and I look at them then and I never would have believed they were the same people. It took a long time but whatever issues they had with each other they threw up their hands and said "what the hell, let's stop this crap and enjoy what's left".

Can't say this will help you but it sometimes feels easier knowing that you are not alone in suffering through emotional stresses such as these. We all wish we could shake the responsible parties and say "hey, stop creating misery, there's enough in the world already!"

I say good luck. Sharing is a bit of a relief and you must get your own head around coping with this issue whether they do or do not get divorced. I have so many stories I have heard over the years from many people that I could go on and on, but I won't because this is your family and it's so difficult to ever know what the right or wrong thing is to do or say.
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Reply Mon 15 Dec, 2003 02:39 pm
Sounds like your folks are very different people, with different ideas and priorities. Dad is traditional, Mom is independent. Looks like he could not control her, so he controls the kids. Little brother is moving out, and your dad will not have anyone that he can order to the dinner table.

Problem is, that there are many couples whose lives are cemented by the children. When the children go on to have lives of their own, often comes the realization that they have little in common.

I agree with just about all that has been said here. Be careful about taking sides. It's a lose-lose situation. I agree that you should walk away when your parents start fighting, or try to put you in the middle of their fights. I also agree that at this point in time, they need to be alone to work out their own problems. This might be a good time for you to look for your own place. Good luck!
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Reply Mon 15 Dec, 2003 03:19 pm
Heeven, wow, reading your story. was like being there.

Good luck Y. Try as I might, everything I've tried to write seemed trite or heavily cliched. So I'll just say, keep writing, it helps.
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Reply Mon 15 Dec, 2003 07:33 pm
Yes, this is your parents problem and everyone needs to stay out of it. As others said "don't take sides". I really feel for you and am sorry to hear about your parents troubles :-( Hang in there.
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Reply Mon 15 Dec, 2003 11:52 pm
Thanks for all the advice. It wasn't at all what I expected. I was stressing myself over what to do and it seems like the best cource of action may be to do nothing. At least in terms of trying to patch things up.

I really wanted to live with my parents for a while but unless things improve dramatically, I don't think I would be happy here. I feel really bad for my brother though. It would be nice if I could work something out so we could get a place together. I don't think my father would be opposed to my brother moving out under those terms. For now, I think I'm going to try to spend more time with them individually to hopefully cheer them up a little though I don't know how much help I would be, we being a family not used to showing affection.

Heeven wrote:
My mother was the domineering parent, quick temper, belittled my dad in front of us and we always felt fear of her during our formative years. My father was quiet and easygoing, not a huge force in my younger life. They battled and argued and he answered her back only when he had a few drinks in him. I often felt sorry for him. We kids became her punching bag when she really wanted to punish him and we couldn't bear to hurt him further by telling him. It was a case of him not being assertive and she being angry at life and I'm sure other things she never revealed to us. It made for a miserable household at times.

You just described my situation exactly. Except for the part about drinking.
For many years I had to put up with my mother talking trash about my grandmother, her mother-in-law. I always ignored her. After my grandmother's passing, the trash talking seems to have been focused more on my father. I guess there was noone else left to blame. I've been doing what has been suggested here and I ignore her and sometimes walk out of the room. I've never had the guts to tell her to stop. Perhaps I'll tell her when I move out.

I never felt sorrier for my father than I did today. He was really hurting after the fight. He had bloodshot eyes, he took off his glasses, and I just turned away out of fear that I might see something in his eyes that I've never seen before in my life; tears.

I'm thinking they'll stay together for the time being for my brother's sake. But I just hope that my story ends like your's, Heeven.
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Reply Tue 16 Dec, 2003 12:42 am
ye110man, it's a very tough situation to go through, and at the same time you also have much to be grateful for.

Your mom is available.
And your dad.
There is a Christmas tree.
The electric bill seems to be paid.
Looks like you're on speaking terms with your brother.
There actually is a house in which to live.
You know where to reach all these people if you want to.

Having the opportunity to fight,
the presence, will, and the ability to struggle
is itself a wonderful thing.

For your own health and sanity, maybe focus on whatever nice things you can build or share together with them. They won't always be there.
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Reply Tue 16 Dec, 2003 08:09 am
I hope so too ye110man. I am going home for Christmas for a family reunion and the calls from both parents telling me "he bought a frickin' Santa on a sled for the front garden!" or "she locked me in the bathroom because I kept eating the pies!" is making me laugh so hard I nearly wet my pants. They are happy together (wow!), although they still fight and have their differences but there is love there - I can see it.

Who knows when they finally realized to stop sweating the small stuff. I have no idea when it happened.
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Reply Tue 16 Dec, 2003 09:49 am
Curiously, my attitude was completely different when my parents split up. The newfound peace in the house was instant and it took no time at all to realize that the split was for the best. My mother was a totally different person. Free and in charge. My father got whatever was coming to him. I can still feel the new vibe that came into our home, the overwhelming relief. Goodbye to the fighting, the yelling, the constant nervous tension day after month after year.
They remained friends and cared for each other for the rest of their lives. They never divorced. Just lived in separate homes. It worked.
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Reply Tue 16 Dec, 2003 01:22 pm

Remember "Your Family" overlaps but is not identical with "Your Parents' Marriage". Your parents may divorce--but this will not destroy "Your Family"--change? Yes. Destroy? No.

Fighting and quarreling is always unpleasant to witness. When the two people making each other miserable are your parents, the unpleasantnes is multiplied.

You've just started to see your parents as people rather than just as parents. Now you are becoming aware that both of them are conspicuously imperfect people. This is hard--but you'll survive.

Hold your dominion.
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Reply Tue 16 Dec, 2003 03:40 pm
Well, I agree with everybody.

All I'll add is to re-emphasize what Quinn said, to let them know you love them both.
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Reply Tue 16 Dec, 2003 05:25 pm
I've come back to read this a couple of times. Good, and interesting advice. Certainly, your parents marriage is their own to sort out. The one thing I'd add is to try and stay tight with your brother. Don't let anyone try to divide and conquer the two of you.
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Reply Fri 19 Dec, 2003 09:24 pm
A short while ago my mother sat me down and gave a long talk. I didn't say a word. Divorce seems all but certain now. She made arrangements behind my father's back for my brother to move out and she asked me to move out too for essentially the same reasons that you people gave; to get away from the mess.

I haven't spoken to my father or brother about any of this. I'm afraid that when my brother moves out against the wishes of my father, they're never going to talk to each other again. What should I advise my brother to do? He's moving out. There's nothing I can do about that but I can probably get him to do pretty much anything else.

I don't want to leave either of them by themselves. I'm worried more about my father though. I know my mother can take care of herself. In fact that's sort of what she wants. She wants this divorce much more than my father does. But my father has never gone grocery shopping or mopped the floor.
Then there's the house. We have a very big house and it wouldn't make much sense for just 1 person to live in it.

At this point I need advice on how to deal with an imminent divorce and how to quell the fire between my father and my brother which isn't too bad right now but will inevitably erupt a month from now when he moves out.
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