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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I Walk The Line

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt from 03/27/15: “I Walk the Line.” Have you got a code you live by? What are the principles or set of values you actively apply in your life?

I am not perfect, and I would never claim to be. I attempt to be a decent human being by exhibiting  honesty, trust-worthiness and the authenticity of  being myself. I am generally liked or disliked because I don’t kiss ass, I don’t do phony very well and I will not embellish or misrepresent myself or my feelings, like many people I know are willing to do. There is no in between. Whatever I don’t say my face will usually say for me. As my dad would tell me when I was younger, “You might as well wear a sign.”  I don’t like to be lied to and, in my work, lying to people gets you in trouble as it does in real life –  people remember what you said or promised and will call you on it, leaving you discredited and untrusted. Over the years as I have matured, I have learned that honesty can be delivered with care, rather than with a sledgehammer, and can help someone hear you with less conflict. Sometimes honesty elicits anger from the other person, but also respect for your candidness.

I try to be considerate of others’ time, space and their peace. It would be easy to let my door slam as I come and go from my apartment, but I tend to be cautious because I noticed how aggravated I become when I listen to my neighbors let their doors slam all day long. One thing I don’t tolerate quite as well, though, is constant dog-barking. This will usually cause me to yell out my window, mostly likely on a nice day when not only do I have my window open, but the annoying dog owner also has his window open. I  try to be considerate of my co-workers, as I work in a room with two, soon to be three, people along a hallway with other offices. I take my personal calls outside and try not to shout when I am on work calls because that is all you can hear, and it is easy to get distracted. I try to park my car in the lines. I try hard to be like Boyfriend, who is thoughtful, considerate, organized and caring, though he has been on the receiving end of complete opposite behavior for a good portion of his life from many people, especially his family. He picks his battles and saves his energy for other things, which I have yet to master. You can’t win against an under-handed narcissist…

If you are a friend in whom I can trust and depend upon, I am loyal until you break that bond. Although I am argumentative at times, I actually don’t like conflict and try to get along with people. This is the result of being a kid in a conflict-ridden household with parents who tried to get you on their side. Even as an adult, this continues today, and I get the what-for if one parent thinks I am on the other parent’s side. However, I have experience doing conflict resolution in my work and with co-workers rather successfully. I am better at solving others’ problems than my own. I believe that you should say what you mean and you should mean what you say, and that you can do it without being mean. I don’t always succeed but I try, and try, and try again, even when giving up would be easier. And I don’t expect others to be perfect either, I just expect them to try to be cautious, or considerate or even conscious that their actions affect other… is that too much to ask?

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