Dear Dr. Archer,
I don't normally talk about my personal business on the Internet, but I need some help. I live in Trinidad, a small island in the Caribbean. I live with mom, dad, two sisters and a little brother. I'm 18, the second oldest and male.
I love everyone in my family, but mom and dad argue all the time. I hate this so much, because it sets an uncomfortable mood in the home. Mom has a kind heart and came from a decent family. She's rather quiet, barely speaking to anyone she doesn't know, especially men.
Dad always thinks she's talking to other men, and it's like he's monitoring her 24/7. Even if my siblings or I witness her innocence, he believes what he wants. But he's smart -- when he sees he's losing an argument against us he changes his way of thinking and comes to our side, making everyone believe everything is okay. That is, until he brings it up later when everyone is in bed and just between he and mom.
Dad had a rough childhood. His father was terrible, always drunk and made his children drop out of school. He also tormented his wife until she ran away. Now my dad is becoming just like his father -- maybe not as bad, but still enough to drive mom mad.
He looks for any little reason to start an argument with her. She can literally just look at a man, and that causes an argument. He wants to control everything and everyone, and in his head he is never wrong. He pisses me off, but I love him because he's my dad.
I'm getting the feeling that my family won't be around long if this continues. I swore to protect my mom from him if he should ever raise his hand to her. I want our family to be okay, not like this! I don't want them to separate. Mom tells us she's hurting badly because she loves him, but is losing trust in him.
Please tell me what to do, because that's what she's asking us. I'm humbly asking for advice, please.
I can very well understand your dilemma. A home with constant arguing is no fun for anyone involved. You can be there to support your mom, BUT this is a problem between your parents. Read the advice I give in How Do I Break Up With Him? and Nancy's Husband Puts Her Down and have your mom read them, too. If it were your mom writing to me, I would tell her she needs to talk to her husband. The accusations must stop, and the family needs to heal from what he is doing. If he does not, then the marriage probably will not survive.
As for you, talk to your dad and tell him how you feel. He may not realize what he's putting the family through. Talk rationally and in a mature manner, and let him know the stress level is getting to be too much. Tell him you love him and your mother, and everyone wants a peaceful, loving home.
If that makes you uncomfortable, Jerome, write him a heartfelt letter and let him know how you feel. Do not accuse, but simply state that you love your family and don't want your family to break up. Hopefully this will open up a dialogue not only between you and your dad, but also between your dad and your mom.
You cannot make your father stop this behavior and you cannot save the marriage -- that is up to your mom and dad -- so no guilt is allowed on your part. You can do your best, but you will be a small part of the equation, remember that. The sole thing you can accomplish is to try to make your dad aware of what he's doing to the family. Ultimately, however, this is between your parents, and it is up to them to settle their differences and it will be decided by the two of them. Your best hope is to bring it to your dad's attention. If he values the well being of his family, he will stop this destructive behavior, even if it means going to counseling to make peace.
If he refuses to listen, then your mom has a major decision to make. At that point you must let her make the call and if she opts to split, then you must maintain a relationship with both your parents, even if they are no longer together. Do not take sides after a split. They are both a parent to you no matter what happens between the two of them. Good luck.
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