Ask E. Jean - Tormented? Driven Witless? Whipsawed by confusion?

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Iím 34 and stuck between my elderly parents who are fighting.
My dad is very uncaring towards my mom, always was. He just ignores her. Or, heíll say mean things. My mom in turn, is difficult to live with. She can be mean too. My dad is totally inconsiderate and acts like she doesnít exist. When we try to speak to my dad about it, he shuts down and wonít talk. Period. OR heíll starting yelling like a maniac. Just those two methods of communication. He never owns up to anything. Itís been like this my whole life. Iím at my whits end with the two of them. My mom is not in good shape and sheís so depressed. Heís making our life hell. He was never a father to me anyway. Aside from all that, theyíre retired and canít get a divorce and move separately. We just canít afford it. Iím so sad, there is always trouble, whenever I visit them, itís always negative.
The other day my mom hurt herself by mistake and he heard her and purposely didnít check on her. I canít take this anymore.

What do you do with a man that will not listen, shuts down, or yells like a madman and will not try to change and will own up to anything.

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    You have as few dealings with him as you possibly can.

    Seriously. I understand that you'd like to be close to your family, but sometimes it doesn't work out that way. If visiting them always makes you depressed and/or angry? You need to give yourself permission to limit your visits.

    If you have not already done so, talk to your siblings and see how they manage the situation. You might pick up some tips -- or at least be able to commiserate with family members who completely understand your frustration!

    As well, perhaps you could find a visiting time when your father is out on a regular basis. So if he meets up with his old work friends for dinner once a month -- then that's suddenly the only time you happen to be available to drop by (which means you end up visiting your mom).

    Sorry that you have to put up with this, and I'm sorrier there isn't a way to make him change. You've done what you can, including confronting him about his behaviour, but it's quite clear he's not about to suddenly become a whole different person...

    Actually, the person to try to help out is your mother. I understand that getting separated may be financially challenging, but -- depending on in which country/jurisdiction you live -- your mother may be entitled to enough of their shared community property and pension rights to be able to afford a modest living space.

    Note, however, that if she is depressed, she will not have the energy to work her way through all the complexities of the legal system with regard to separation or divorce. But if that's what she wants (and it certainly sounds as if it has been discussed), you and your siblings may need to have a conversation about what you collectively may be able to do to help her. This could involve helping her deal with the legal system, as well as finding her new accommodation.

    Again, I'm sorry that there is no easy answer here. No matter what, there will be some difficult emotional situations ahead of you. As you navigate them, be aware that sometimes people blame themselves for the behaviour of others -- so try to remember that you are the not the cause of the problems! Alongside that, do what you can to limit your exposure to this toxic environment; look at helping others (siblings, your mother) cope with -- or remove themselves -- from the situation; and enlist the help of friends, family and others (like us!) to help you keep it all in perspective.

    Good luck, and keep us posted on how you're doing!

    reply to Kal
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    So sorry you are going through this, Anon.

    In addition to Kal's excellent advice I just wanted to add something that might not feel right: your parents have been stuck in this bad dynamic for years now. It is who they are and what they can do right now. It might even be that they are not willing to change the dynamic, as bad as it is, because they are so used to it.

    Getting your mother out of it will require a lot of efforts from you and your siblings. And then she will need someone to rely on to navigate through hew new life which means she will go through bad mood, anxiety and negative emotions, so you and your siblings will have to help her with that too.

    Does she want to leave your father? Has she expressed it directly or asked for help?
    Kal is right: as difficult as it might be you need to limit your visits and potentially only see your mother.

    It might help for you to see a therapist as well to discuss the impact of their relationship on you and your childhood.

    A big hug!

    reply to Gerbera
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