Do I do anything?
February 29, 2012 3:32 PM Subscribe
My dad's wife, a clinical psychologist, says he is paranoid and mistreating her. Um. Now what do I do?
posted by anonymous to human relations (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
They have been married for 20 years or more, after my parents' divorce. My dad is in his late 50s, I am in my mid 30s. I get along with his wife just fine, and she has never been anything but kind and direct and honest with me, though I wouldn't have chosen her as a friend myself (too extroverted, opinionated).
All in all, I trust her judgement over his, because he has always seemed a bit...I dunno, not reacting like you'd expect him to react. For instance, when I was a kid, the same comment of mine might make him really angry or make him laugh or make him take me Very Seriously, depending not on what I actually said or the situation, but something going on inside his head. Does that make sense?
I also notice that while he has always lost his temper easily, the way he blows up at his wife and his other daughter (now 20 years old) is sometimes completely disproportional to what actually went before. Or he'll misinterpret an ordinary comment of my sister's as defiance.
My impression is that he has this very emotional movie of things going on in his head that is only tangentially related to what is actually going on infront of his eyes. Sometimes the emotions are positive (like saying something disproportionately sentimental.)
So yeah, I'm inclined to believe her. She says he's reacting to all the cruel stuff that happened to him in his childhood.
Anyway, more worryingly, she says he's been acting out more and more towards her. So he got angry at her for correcting something he said and spent three hours trampling up and down the stairs, banging doors like a maniac. She says that was the first time she got a bit scared.
My father does act out in a way that I would find unacceptable in a marriage, so again, I believe her and also that it was scary. He never acts out towards me (in fact, I could probably say anything I wanted and he'd be nice to me - he wouldn't listen, but he'd be nice) because he knows I'd just not turn up any more. I'm not so heavily invested in having him in my life - he was too unstable a presence in it.
She also said that he called her names and then later seemed really baffled, as if he couldn't remember having done it.
So yeah. I'm wondering if I should be doing something?
I told her that every person has the right to feel safe and happy in marriage and that as unhappy as they both seemed it might be the time to walk away. ...Apparently, he can be really sweet, though?
I asked if they'd been to couples counselling and she said yes, but he later accused her of lying to the counsellor.
I just feel really uncomfortable getting involved in my dad's marriage! She has tons of friends who she says are all telling her to DTMFA. She has all the resources at hand to decide what to do about her marriage or his mental state. And as someone who visits maybe every few weeks or so I don't feel qualified to judge whether my dad is reacting abnormally or how much of it is just scenes from a nasty marriage. So I think it's basically up to her!
But I'm also quite rattled about hearing all of that.