Eternally unhappy parents with a stagnant and unhealthy marriage--I am in the middle. How to deal?
October 31, 2012 6:16 AM   Subscribe

Please help me deal with my parents ever-strained and unhappy marriage, my fathers refusal to seek marriage counseling, my mother's emotional affair, and my grandparents horrible influence. This has been happening forever--now that I'm 20, my parents are divulging more and more. It's too hard to deal with. Any suggestions welcome.

Family is Indian and very culturally so--my grandparents from my father's side both live with us and have done so all my parents marriage. Both my parents are highly educated people who married through an arranged marriage. My father is an incredibly traditional, conservative, and religious man. My mother is much more liberal.

They have never had a great marriage. Although my father is generally jolly, laid-back, and extremely intelligent, he is a total spoiled slob who never grew up in many ways. His mother has always spoiled him rotten and has continued to do so in his old age. He's a great son and does everything for his parents, who do not care for me one bit. They do not appreciate my mother for the AMAZING daughter-in-law she has always been. Without her, there is no way they would survive here--my father is extremely disorganized, messy, a slob, emotionally immature, forgetful, etc. My mother takes care of a million things pertaining to my grandparents, but they do not see this. They quite literally think my mother has a job because she wants 'freedom', and do not fully understand her giant contributions.

Obviously, this bothers my mom, who is ultra organized, highly intelligent, practical and well...attractive. I say this because my father has expressed, in anger, many times that he did not marry her for her looks, and that she is not attractive...yeah. It's horrifying to me, too. And many men DO find my mom attractive, its totally obvious! She is hard-working, hilarious, social butterfly, fun to be around, has an interesting perspective, is a daredevil... She is a good-hearted person who deserves happiness. Period.

My grandpa has told me before that he does not love me or care for me. My grandma is cruel and manipulative to me and my mother and always has been. She treats my little brother like gold, and me like shit, basically. And because I'm so used to this treatment, I've internalized it and struggled with big issues of insecurity.

My dad seems to understand that I'm affected by my grandparents' cruelty--but he has excuses to the hilt. He says that he dealt with much worse when he was younger, that I need to start by being more affectionate, and his personal favorite excuse is that they are OLD. OLD PEOPLE THIS, OLD PEOPLE THAT--I'm stupidly tired of it. And so is my mom! My dad will NEVER defend my mom against ANY attacks from my grandparents. My mom is just told to deal with it. Or given false promises.

My mother, obviously, is not a very happy wife. She has suggested marriage counselling and tried to work things out, but my father scoffs at the suggestion and has not changed very much. My mother HAS changed to try and improve the marriage. My father has not.

Recently, my father told me that my mother had been having an emotional affair with someone. He also called my uncle, my mothers brother, to divulge the information. My dad seems to want to shame my mother into stopping, and is terrified that she'd leave him--not because he loves her so much, but because he benefits in almost every way. I'm not trying to trivialize the emotional affair, but my mother has been so completely open with me about WHY, HOW, WHEN this affair happened, and its so obvious that she's dying for affection, that I've understood and forgiven her. My dad is still suspicious of her and will frequently accuse her of still being in an affair with this man (whom she used to be in love with). My mother has told me she never has felt appreciated by my father--she has helped my father move continents multiple times, supported his career, emotionally and physically helped him through tough times, took care of his crazy ass parents, done 100% of the housework even though she works full time... She has been his EVERYTHING.

But I don't think she is. And I know they need marriage counselling but my father is dead set against it. "What will they do? Ask her to stop cheating? Will she admit to cheating?" blah blah.

My parents tell me too much about their issues. I'm going through my own and I don't know how to deal with it.

I should say I love my dad very much. He is a loyal guy, a great dad, hard-working, loving, funny, extremely intelligent, understanding... but my parents are not compatible. And I fear they never will be.

I'll be going on exchange soon, and my mother will have to deal with my crazy grandparents without my help (we talk, discuss, dish, counsel each other all the time). I fear she'll be a lot less happy. I'm scared.

It sucks that my dad doesnt think my mom's hot stuff when she clearly is, inside and out. I mean, that fact alone should explain why my mom had the emotional affair with this guy, who took my mom as a muse, told her she was lovely, and appreciated her. Although it DOES crush me realizing how much my mom, who has high integrity, needed affection...I DO feel horribly for my dad, who would never/has never ever physically or emotionally cheated on my mom.

Both my parents never dated. My dad is so culturally conservative and has such particular values that he never even kissed a woman other than my mom (yuck that I know this). So, to him, my mother's betrayal is insane and horrible. The first time he found out about it (several years ago), he said she was very tormented and sad and begged for forgiveness. But the second time (he found out that my mother was still keeping contact with this guy recently), he says she was cold inside, that she wasn't upset at all about it.

I think it's because she's fed up and her marriage is empty. I do believe she's stopped talking to him though.

Sometimes I wish my parents would just split already, or atleast take a break. This is not happening. It depresses me. How can I deal with this? And should my parents BE telling me the particulars of their marriage? How can I tell my parents to stop telling me about this? And how can I convince my dad that actually, counseling is a great idea? And that her emotional affair was caused by his neglect/unappreciation of her?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
1. None of this is your responsibility to fix.

2. You can't make any of these people choose to behave differently.

3. Establish boundaries. As soon as any member begins discussing something with you that you don't want to hear about, say simply and firmly: "I'm not comfortable discussing with you. Can we please talk about something else?" If they persist, end the conversation gently ("I'm hanging up now, because I'm not comfortable talking about this".

It won't be comfortable, and they will punish you with recriminations. But it sounds like it would be better than the alternative.

Good luck.
posted by DWRoelands at 6:23 AM on October 31, 2012 [17 favorites]

"Mom and've both told me things about your marriage which are none of my business, and I need you to stop. I love both of you equally, but I will not take sides, and divulging these things to me does nothing to solve the problem, and only makes me upset."

There's nothing else for you to do. They're adults, and it's their marriage.
posted by xingcat at 6:23 AM on October 31, 2012 [8 favorites]

Okay, you have internalized WAY too much about your parents relationship, and frankly, although it affects you, it has nothing to do with you.

Before you leave, please sit down with your parents individually and say, "I love you, and I only want what's best for you. I will support you no matter what decisions you choose to make. I see that you have a dysfunctional relationship, and it not only impacts you, but me as well. Please do not involve me in the drama of your relationship, it's not fair to me. What you decide to do for your own happiness is fine by me."

It's inappropriate in the extreme for you to be this much in the know about your parents relationship.

Please leave home and stay gone. It will do a world of good for your self-esteem and for your view of life in general.

Do say in touch with your family, but draw a firm boundary about what is appropriate for you to know and what isn't.

"Mom, I know that you're unhappy, but it's not right for you to be talking about Dad like that. I love you both. Please, let's change the subject."

"Dad, I know this bothers you, but I think you need to be talking directly to Mom about this, not me. I love you both. Please, let's change the subject."

"Grandma and Grandpa. I respect you, but given how terribly you've treated me, I don't want a relationship with you."

It's not hard once you get the hang of it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:25 AM on October 31, 2012 [8 favorites]

the best advice I can offer you, is to make sure that if and when you choose a life partner, you choose someone who will not ultimately make you repeat this relationship as your own.

for desi children I think it's difficult not to ultimately end up in a relationship where the woman isn't taken seriously. I know there's a lot more in your question to address, and boiling it down to this statement might be unfair, and certainly all desi relationships aren't as such...but MAKE THE RIGHT DECISION WHEN IT COMES TO YOUR FUTURE FOR THE SAKE OF YOURSELF AND FOR YOUR CHILDREN

maybe you can also push your father into the counseling. remind him that that's probably a lot better suited to his vision of how he'd like to see his life progress than divorce. And your mother needs and deserves a better relationship- she can get it through him if they work on it together.

Good luck with everything, be strong.
posted by saraindc at 6:31 AM on October 31, 2012 [7 favorites]

Ugh, unhappy, oversharing parents. First off, you should know that, although frustrating and horrible and TOTALLY INAPPROPRIATE your situation is not that unusual. (I've been there, and my parents are white-bread All-American types, so it's not even just an Indian thing.)

As the other posters have said your best bet is just to distance yourself from it. You can end the phone conversation, you can leave the room/house/city, you can check out mentally and play a game on your phone (passive-aggressive? eh, I guess).

You can say to your parents, "None of what you're telling me is new. You are both miserable. I think if you're not going to go to counseling you should just break up. I don't want to discuss this anymore." And you can keep saying that as many times as you need to (which may be INFINITY TIMES). As for the grandparents, if you can't stop spending time around them, you're going to need to learn to ignore basically everything they say and do. Which might not be easy.
posted by mskyle at 6:54 AM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Establish boundaries. As soon as any member begins discussing something with you that you don't want to hear about, say simply and firmly: "I'm not comfortable discussing with you. Can we please talk about something else?" If they persist, end the conversation gently ("I'm hanging up now, because I'm not comfortable talking about this".

Memorize this. Word for word.
posted by Egg Shen at 6:57 AM on October 31, 2012 [8 favorites]

Boundaries boundaries boundaries.

My parents went through a messy divorce when I was eighteen. Because I was technically an "adult" at the time, and establishing my adult relationship with my parents during their divorce, remarriages, and various ensuing dramas, I had a lot of trouble getting my parents to conform to boundaries.

For example, your dad shouldn't be telling you about your mom's affair or whatever it is. My tactic in those situations is to literally shut the conversation down. I live far from my parents and am usually having these conversations via phone, so usually it's "BOUNDARIES BOUNDARIES BOUNDARIES BOUNDARIES! I Do Not Want To Hear About This! It Is Inappropriate For You To Be Telling Me This!" until they stop and self-censor. If you live with them and this is happening in person, my tactic has been to say, "I'm not going to have a conversation about X with you. I will leave if you keep talking about this." and then follow through on that.

Move away, if you haven't already. At least out of the house. Do not feel bad about distancing yourself from your family. I mean, you don't need to disown them or anything, but take care of yourself in this situation and don't feel guilt over it. Move out of the house. Don't go over there all the time if you get sucked into family drama every time you visit. Don't call or answer their calls if you know it's going to be a horrible boundary-breaking conversation.

For a long time, I didn't go home for the holidays, because it was always my dad trying to coerce me into testifying against my mom in court, or my mom trying to convince me to shun my dad and come stay at her house, and the like. No. I shut that shit down for my own sanity, and now they understand that if drama gets out of hand, I will simply not visit.

I understand that you feel a lot of sympathy for your mom in this situation, and that you feel like you're a major source of support for her. But remember that she's an adult, and that she has to make her own choices here. Being there for her is good. Forcing yourself to stay in a bad situation, or get involved on a level that isn't appropriate to a parent/child relationship, is not a good thing for anyone.
posted by Sara C. at 7:03 AM on October 31, 2012 [5 favorites]

I'm Indian too, so all of this "leave your mom alone and don't bother" stuff doesn't make practical sense.

I'm scared for your mom, to be honest. Can you go On exchange another semester? Can you take your mom with you?

I'm just super afraid that without you there, the abuse will get worse. Do you think your dad could get violent?

Where is your mom's side of the family?
posted by discopolo at 7:44 AM on October 31, 2012 [3 favorites]

Also, tell them that if they don't stop this, you'll leave. You'll transfer colleges and just go.
posted by discopolo at 7:46 AM on October 31, 2012

Other cultures have families where parents take emotional advantage of their children and use them as their free therapists, too. It isn't right in any culture, and the answers above to establish boundaries and straight up refuse to engage are the ONLY way to not be destroyed by it. Believe me, that depression and confused worldview will absolutely embed itself across generations if you let it.

Your mom is an adult. Her problems are hers to fix. It sounds like her children are almost grown - how old is your brother? - so she's swiftly coming up on the time when she can free herself from this situation if she wants to. YOUR LIFE, INCLUDING YOUR EMOTIONAL HEALTH, is yours, not theirs, and you only get one. Don't sacrifice it to these people's shenanigans. Transfer schools and disengage from the drama. When they start talking to you about inappropriate stuff, tell them it makes you sad to hear it and that they need to stop; if they persist, you tell them you love them and that you'll try to have a better conversation later and hang up.

Good luck to you. I've been there (Jews not Indians!) and I can tell you, it is crucial that you break this family pattern. And it can be done, they will still love you, you will still love them, and you'll be much, much happier and be able to be a happy mom to your own kids someday rather than internalizing this sense of despair and passing it on.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:10 AM on October 31, 2012 [5 favorites]

If your mom is ready to go, maybe you can both move out together.

Otherwise, what's happening is, as Sara C. pointed out, that your dad/grandparents are choosing to dump their problems on YOU (and each other) rather than go to therapy. This is unfair, and wrong, and it won't stop until you make it stop. There are therapists out there for them to talk to. They need to use them and leave you out of it.

You paint a picture of a marriage where your mother's only real choice is how to leave. But only she can decide that. Let her know you'll help her whatever she decides but that you need to not be everyone's emotional dumping ground.

You have a hard road ahead, but you are headed the right direction in recognizing what's unhealthy.

They will try to pull you back in, and drama can be really really addictive even when you know better. Physical distance would help if you can make it happen.
posted by emjaybee at 8:29 AM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Coming from an Indian perspective, I disagree with the people who are saying that this is your parents' problem and that you need to stay as far away as possible. You can certainly tell your dad that you are not interested in listening to him complaining about his wife's emotional cheating but you need to support your mother if she has any hope of satisfactorily resolving this situation. Unfortunately in an Indian context, there are a range of societal factors arrayed against the woman leaving in this situation and she is unlikely to be able to do it without your help and support. I really feel for you -- this sounds like a horrible situation to be placed in, but I really don't think geographically or mentally separating yourself, as others have suggested, is a good idea.
posted by peacheater at 8:43 AM on October 31, 2012 [9 favorites]

In family system parlance this is defined as "triangling." Don't get trapped up in it. Your post indicates that you are very trapped and taking sides with your mother, who you feel is wronged in this situation. That may very well be the case, but it is none of your business. Your dad's an asshole to your mom, your mom is having an emotional affair--so what? It has nothing to do with you. Wouldn't it be nice to have relationships with your parents that have nothing to do with their relationship with each other? You clearly love both of your parents, so it's up to you to build you own relationships with each of them.

The scripts you've been given will all work. Once you've done it once, it's easy to keep doing it. "Mom|Dad, I'm sorry you are so upset, and I love you, but I'm not in a position to help you, and I can't be included in this conflict. I think therapy will help you, and I hope it you give it serious consideration." "Grandparents, I feel attacked and upset when I spend time with you, and I choose not to do so anymore."

Families are hard. Like Sara C., I gained a massive amount of perspective when I lived 2500 miles away from them for several years. I learned two important things.

1. I had to accept the parents I have and let go of the dream of the parents I want. They are who they are. I recognize that the harm they've done me and each other was never malicious. They're just broken people. I appreciate their good qualities and try to minimize the trauma their bad qualities can inflict.

2. I've gotten very good at shutting down triangling behavior in myself and them. It's not that I never get caught up in it, but I recognize it much sooner. My mother will bitch at me because my dad does annoying things like leaving messes or never cleaning up after dinner. I just look at her and ask, point blank, "Why are you telling me?"

You just can't make anyone do anything. You can't rely on anyone to defend you, or your mother, or anything. You must be your own advocate.
posted by xyzzy at 8:56 AM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

The cultural component isn't being given the weight it deserves here. Establishing boundaries in the way of "speaking to your parents as an adult" doesn't really work for all cultures because "speaking as equals" is literally a foreign concept. It hasn't much to do with whether it's right or wrong. It's a lot of grey-area cultural context that's difficult to treat as black or white.

I don't know if there are many culturally competent resources in your area but I recommend seeking them out to refer your mother. Your mother sounds very isolated and you are her only emotional and social support system. This is very very common in cultures where people do not discuss personal (individual, familial) matters openly without some social cost. Even more so when there is a lack of external support structures.

Where I live, there are social service organizations that serve Asian immigrant populations whether it be housing assistance, mental health services, work training, etc. If your mother is wanting couple's therapy which your father refuses, perhaps individual counseling might help her to have a more appropriate outlet. Does she have close friends or is she involved in social activities? Getting out and doing things she enjoys is important.

On a more personal note, it's a difficult thing to see one's mother 'hostage' to her circumstances and having to take on the role of friend, protector, advocate. I had a friend describe her similar situation as "emotional incest" which to me is indicative of the incredible toll these relationships have on children. Memail me if you'd like to talk. I have a list somewhere of books and blogs by people who share similar experiences. They're worth reading, if only to feel that you are not alone, but also are culturally relevant.
posted by loquat at 9:03 AM on October 31, 2012 [7 favorites]

In part because your mom is outnumbered, I would try to be encouraging and supportive of her. Helping her set better boundaries in a very practical way while you work on setting better boundaries would undermine this entrenched dynamic. I would encourage her to gradually do less for the unappreciative, abusive family members. Help her find ways to do less without just dropping the ball so no one can accuse her of anything, so things don't fall apart catastrophically in a way that negatively impacts everyone, etc.

For example, my ex husband routinely fell asleep on the couch. He was the breadwinner and I was a homemaker. It was not okay to just let him fail to get to work. That would have been disaster for the entire family. I spent years helping him get to bed before I turned it. It was not appreciated. He acted like he had no problem. As the marriage deteriorated, instead of helping him to bed, I began putting his alarm clock on the coffee table before I went to sleep.

It was much less of a burden both practically and emotionally. I stopped arguing with him about "watch tv in bed if you are that tired!", etc. It gave me peace of mind. He did not show up late to work and it began undermining an unhealthy dynamic in the relationship. It helped me begin setting healthier boundaries and focusing more on my goals and my life. I began separating out the issue of "I can't just let him oversleep and fail to get to work" from all the unhealthy parts of that long history. So I know it is possible to do something like that.

The goal would be to set healthier boundaries for you and to encourage a healthier dynamic for them. But, ultimately, it is between your parents whether they stay or not, whether they go to counseling or not, etc.
posted by Michele in California at 9:06 AM on October 31, 2012

From the OP:
Thank you all for your answers--what you're saying rings incredibly true. I'll be honest, I HAVE tried setting boundaries before, but both parents (my father especially) guilt-trip me when I do so. Apparently they don't have anyone else to talk to, I'm a grown up, blah blah. My mother recognizes this is unhealthy and has largely stopped but still gets pissed when I ask her to quit it. My dad is getting there, too. I guess repetition is very important, you're right.

discopolo : Thank you for your sentiment but ABSOLUTELY. NOT. My dad has never raised a hand at any of us and would never, ever do so. My grandparents are also not at all physically violent. All abuse has been emotional. My mother is tough enough to leave/deal with the fights themselves, individually, and she's highly intelligent, educated, confident, and mature, but it's the overall direction of her marriage I'm concerned about and also, the emotional abuse.

I DO support my mother vehemently, and my father does recognize this and tries his best not to resent me for it. Funny, when he vents about his wife, I have to listen, yet all those years I tried to vent about my grandparents and he effectively shut me up and ignored me.

He agrees he's not a perfect husband or dad, but anytime I mention this he gets into the "YOU'RE JUSTIFYING HER ACTIONS NOW?!" blah blah. I agree-my parents are BOTH adults, I need to get myself out of this situation emotionally. But physically exiting will be difficult-I'm a full-time student and rely on my parents financially COMPLETELY. They are amazing parents in many ways, super supportive both financially and emotionally (seriously, I mean it... this situation sucks, its gotten worse, but they've been there for me through a LOT!) and I don't want to be like yup--going's gotten tough, BYE!

I do agree with the boundaries thing, and understanding my parents are adults. I am taking everything into consideration. Thank you.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:18 AM on October 31, 2012

Funny, when he vents about his wife, I have to listen, yet all those years I tried to vent about my grandparents and he effectively shut me up and ignored me.

It worked on you didn't it? You don't try to discuss your grandparents with him anymore. If you shut the conversation down and ignored him whenever he tried to vent about his marriage, it would eventually work on him too.

You have my sympathy, I have an over-sharer parent who is desperate to use me as their sole support system. loquat's friend describing it as "emotional incest" hits it right on the head for me. It really does have this slimy over stepping of some pretty strong boundaries feel to it, something I have a lot of trouble fully articulating.

I think you can still support your mother without being her confidant, she doesn't have to spill all the sordid details of her private life to you for you to be there for her. Building on the incestual analogy, it's possible to have a loving physical relationship with someone that doesn't have sexual overtones. She's going too far with her needs, it's hurting you, and she needs to take a step back. I'd be strongly encouraging her to seek counselling, she does need someone to talk to about this and it needs to be someone else.

I found that when I refused to be my parent's support, they started to look elsewhere for someone to lean on. Best of luck.
posted by Dynex at 10:45 AM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Er, I am not talking about being emotionally supportive and listening to your mom gripe. I am talking about problem solving. I did a little of this for my parents after I became an adult.


I was staying with my parents during my divorce. Mom is an immigrant and dad is lots older than her. They have a very conservative marriage where she always did all the housework, cooking, etc. She doesn't really like arguing with anyone and historically did a lot of things his way even if she disagreed, just to avoid a fight. Dad was on medication and his memory was going. He sometimes forgot he had taken his pills and would take them again. This type behavior can be life threatening. Mom was understandably stressed and yelling at him a lot.

One day I very quietly said "Yelling won't help his memory. Just lock up his medication." She is so used to him being "the man of the house" and defering to his judgement, it had simply never occurred to her. After she locked up his medication, his health improved because he was on the right dose, she stopped yelling, they began getting along better. It was a small thing that helped both of them. And it subtly changed the power dynamic without making a big deal out of it.

I was a homemaker and was unfaithful, etc. I am not a big fan of "emotional support". People typically give that when they have nothing practical to give. And a lot of women will not try to fix the problem if they have a shoulder to cry on. I would make practical suggestions and I would meet Mom's attempts to cry on my shoulder with an attitude of "So what are you going to do to change it? If nothing, I don't have any sympathy." (Said as nicely as possible but be firm too.)

I have had women tell me everything was their husband's fault, she made the money and he made the problems etc. And my response is "If that is true, then leave. Problem solved." They then typically backpedal. At which point, no, it isn't all his fault. You may not understand why a woman needs a man in a situation like that but if they don't leave, then they don't truly believe it is 100% his fault.

I have known a woman who was as kickass as you think your mom is. She did leave once someone said the right thing to her. Life without hubby was lots better. She honestly didn't see that she didn't need him until it was pointed out. That does happen. So I would try to make that point to your Mom. But if she stays, she made a choice. After that, work primarily on your issues.
posted by Michele in California at 10:52 AM on October 31, 2012

I'll be honest, I HAVE tried setting boundaries before, but both parents (my father especially) guilt-trip me when I do so.

So, basically you're not setting boundaries.

Setting boundaries is not asking permission to be exempted from something. It's TELLING them what will and will not happen. Telling them what the terms of your relationship with them will be.

If just telling them "I don't want to talk about X" or "this isn't appropriate" doesn't work, you have to step it up. You have to screen their calls, or skip the big family dinner, or make travel plans that mean you "unfortunately won't be able to make [holiday gathering] this year."

Absolutely under NO circumstances should you postpone your exchange program for this. You need to live your life, regardless of your parents' drama. I mean, if you think your mom is going to be murdered, sure, do what you have to do (and call the police, for chrissakes!). But if this is just ongoing family dynamic stuff, go. Live your life. Don't put your own dreams on hold because your parents have a shit marriage and your grandparents are turds.
posted by Sara C. at 11:14 AM on October 31, 2012 [4 favorites]

Also, your parents are going to get pissed at you. So the fuck what? It sounds like you're pretty pissed at them, and yet you don't see them bending over backwards to protect your feelings. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Let your parents be angry at you. That's on them. Take care of yourself first.
posted by Sara C. at 11:17 AM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

I want to recommend reading Harriet Lerner's "Dance Of..." series. She does a better job explaining family systems theory than I've ever seen, in a practical and very readable way. Setting boundaries in a way that promotes long term peace and closeness is a cornerstone of all her books.
posted by Salamandrous at 11:18 AM on October 31, 2012


I would tell your mother that she has only one life to live, and one life to be happy... And make it clear to her that part of your father's problems have a lot to do with how dependent he is upon her. Not only did he never traditionally fall in love with her, but he now finds himself in a position where he either resents her, or is desperate and jealous. The relationship was toxic before, but now it's broken.

In short, I would advise her to leave, and to love again... and let your dad take care of himself. Hopefully he can find himself... and perhaps love too, or at least an appreciation for what he lost.

It would be better for all involved in the long run.
posted by markkraft at 12:16 PM on October 31, 2012

It sounds like what they are asking of you would be better served by therapy (even not marriage counseling but one-on-one stuff with a shrink). Tell them this. Offer to send them a list of therapists. Then hang up.

You have to take care of yourself first.

Set conditions, stick with them. If your father starts to guilt-trip you, call him on and and hang up/walk out. Tell him that you will talk with him when he stops.

I know that talk is cheap and implementing something like this is incredibly hard. It's incredibly difficult to get people to respect boundaries, especially after they've gotten used to walking all over them. But constant reminders to them followed by ending conversations if you need to is, as far as I know, the only way to really get things to change.
posted by Hactar at 12:28 PM on October 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

You look like, born and brought up in the US but all I can say is, respect their lifestyle and tradition. If your father has only been intimate to your mom, whats wrong with it? Many of us, just keep trying to find a soul-mate and by our 50th birthday, we realize that the train has long left the platform (and you have been intimate with ~pick your number and your gain is ZERO).

Its very western thinking to let your parents handle their problems by you setting the boundary. From my point of view, I do not see any resolution so if I were you, I would make notes of every thing that they discussed with you. Sit with only both of them and ask them to live separately. They do not need to divorce if there are financial/insurance issues but living separately will allow them to live their life their way. We have a neighbor, again Indian, guy 76 and lady 70. They live 5 miles apart. The guy just had spinal surgery but he didn't even inform his wife. Here, the wife is a firebrand but as and when they socialize, its all well for the society.
And this way, you can help both of them exactly what they really need without wreaking your head. Yeah, its tough but life isn't supposed to be easy anyways. Take lesson from this and shape your life.
posted by zaxour at 7:05 AM on November 1, 2012

« Older Free instructional videos on sex?   |   mentally paralyzed, but I need to write and... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.