Being the adult child of parents who don’t get along….

I am forty years old, and I cannot remember a time when my parents got along for more than a short time. I imagine my parents must have been happy together at some point, but not in years. I can handle that I have my own life and that my parents have their lives, and that we all make our own choices. They are both good people in their own ways and they often mean well and yet they bring out the worst in each other. It is hard to hard to watch and to hear on almost every phone call.

They did the best they could as parents, each with their own style. I could count on my father to drive me to far away tennis tournaments and to help me with complex homework assignments, while I could count on my mother for encouragement, a laugh, dinner, or to take me to local tennis tournaments or other activities. My father was the strict one; my mother was more lenient but ruled with a look or a quick comment rather than loud, harsh language. I learned a lot from both of them over the years, good and bad, just as I will always have memories of them good and bad. I’m sure that it is the same for them with me and my brother, like all families. Brother and I are both happy, and we wish they would choose to be happy together or apart.

In the three years before I moved to Texas, I started visiting my parents separately because a visit with both of them was either extremely uncomfortable or ended with an argument. My father is loud and verbally aggressive and my mother is passive aggressive, which doesn’t end quietly. I would visit my father while my mother was at church or shopping and I would plan lunch with my mother on a weekday. Did I mention that I have been suggesting divorce to them since I was 12? I don’t know that either of them could live without the daily chaos after all of these years, or that they could afford to separate the house, assets, SSI, etc. There are a lot of things my mother would not be able to manage, and my father has a few health issues, which further complicates this situation. It’s sad to know that both of my parents will live unhappily until their last days.

Even my brother’s wedding weekend, which should have been a joyous and fun occasion, was not without drama. First, my brother and I had to practically beg our parents to hang out with them for a little while before he and I went to the Yankees game and, once we did meet up with the parents at their hotel, my father flopped around on his twin bed when he got upset with my mother or got annoyed with the conversation no less than three times. Other drama included miscommunication with my brother and mother on wedding day, which resulted in me getting cussed and yelled at. I mostly enjoyed the weekend because I spent limited time with my parents, I did what I wanted to do, and I spent most of the rehearsal dinner and reception with my brother’s friends or my extended family. Oh, and I indulged in a few drinks. I had not seen my parents in two years prior to this… go, family!

I wonder if I am the only one who limits contact with their parents because they don’t want to deal with them trash-talking each other worse than NBA players or because they don’t want to play referee. Am I the only one who cringes a the idea of a big family holiday , anticipating a shouting match at the extended family’s home every single time.  My aunt has almost had to drive my mother home because my father got mad and began to drive away because they couldn’t agree on a time to leave. The last Christmas I was home for ended with me and Boyfriend (now Husband) leaving because we couldn’t take the arguing. We even asked them to behave so we could enjoy the dinner we had prepared for them… too much to ask. 

I have accepted that they are who they are, but I try to avoid absorbing any more of their negativity, so we probably talk 2-3x a month. For every great, enjoyable conversation with either of them, there are probably five when my father criticized the conversation in the background or texted complaints while I was on the phone with my mother. With my father, we connect well sometimes and sometimes we don’t due to the limited topics he will talk about and our different hobbies. I love to hear the good in their lives and wish I could share more with them, but it’s hard and often out of my control.

Feel free to share, if you can relate or have a method that works with families such as mine.

 

 

 

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