My father suffers from depression, my mother and I constantly try to help him.
Five years ago my grandmother, that is his mother, unexpectedly died, and my grandfather's Alzheimer's became evident. His disease got considerably worse this year, to the point he talks no more, seemingly remembers nothing, doesn't follow a conversation and stays most of the time at bed. Heartbreaking for anyone, let alone my father.

He hadn't been able to accept his situation and her death for a while, but now he kind of has. However, he does try to ignore death, for example he let my mother go to a funeral instead of him, even if the not too close relative was actually his, and asked her nothing when she came back.

After what happened, he is experiencing a strong fear of loss. Of losing me, now that I moved to a big city to study. Terrorism added to the mix (we live in Europe), and when I went (regardless of coming back very often and texting and calling every day), he fell into depression, losing weight too.

A year passed and perhaps he's better physically, but he is still very anxious, still doesn't have a reasonable picture of reality. He still hardly laughs to jokes. He still doesn't live well. And obviously it's hard for my mother too. Some months ago we managed to convince him to see a psychiatrist (how hard it was!), though unfortunately it seems the dosage might not be adequate. Well, I hope it's a matter of dosage.

Apart from the juvenile infatuation, I remember that when I was a grown up kid they never were a lovely couple, often argued, but sometimes they had fun together. With his depression, things got worse. They certainly haven't exchanged the words "I love you" for years, no kisses either. He pretty much has lost the will to do stuff, to enjoy life. He lives in his own world where he has a terrible job (false), makes terrible sacrifices (false) and has to anxiously check if I'm right. My mother is being left out. He almost never makes compliments to her and almost always nitpicks about things.

He even forgot her last birthday! In the evening he noticed she were grumpy, and she told him why. He apologized, sure, but obviously he should have remedied his mistake the day after with some special thing, and obviously he did nothing! Unfortunately I learnt about this with their latest argument.

It started because of a related TV promotion, when she stimulated him about necessity of enjoying life, and he rapidly got mad, saying once again the world is too dangerous for not being anxious. After a while my mother made her suffering clear, mentioning her birthday, and he dismissed what she said and replied that was an unimportant mistake, and that she is awful for not forgiving him. He proceeded saying he had never forgotten before (which is true, but didn't get a decent enough present for her 50th two years ago) and that she shouldn't tease him, but be nice to him and help him not to be afraid.

Seeing he didn't recognize her patience and her help, she reminded him the very last time she encouraged him to keep calm; my father got mad as if she were accusing him of having been too worried that time, while he allegedly was just making sure of things. Moral of the story: he didn't recognize her care.

In 3 months it's been at least 3 times my mother told him the situation has become critical, with them being unable to understand each other, and said they should not remain together if nothing is left but suffering. He always replied giving her "freedom of action". But they have been together for more than 25 years and they have me, it is a very hard decision.

Deep inside I think she still loves him, and she definitely cares for him, she feels compassion for his situation. But she's starting to cede. On the other hand, he probably doesn't love her anymore, and his depression minimized his affection. They might have divorced, had I not been here. I'm quite confused.

Should I talk more insistently to my father even if he doesn't listen to me, or should I push my mother to divorce? Or should I wait for the dosage to be increased?

  • 3
    My heart goes out to you. May I ask how old you are? Do you have reason to think that your push is what they want? Would this cause them financial problems? Sometimes what seems obvious to us, is not obvious to them. Perhaps the most you can do is to love and support them no matter what they choose to do.They may feel that staying together is part of the commitment they made and with your grandfather ill, they might not want to shake things up.
    – WRX
    Dec 23, 2016 at 2:34
  • @Willow Thank you, I'm 20. I'm sure my father doesn't want my push, while I don't know about my mum; she can see I'm trying to help too, so I don't know whether she would like me to be more assertive with him, or give her the courage to break. Financially my mum would be sustained by her parents (who are quite wealthy), my father earns enough for him and to contribute to my studies. About my grandfather's illness and their commitment, you might be right. In fact, I now see the importance of them being cousins, as divorce would lead to very awkward family reunions...
    – Richard
    Dec 23, 2016 at 3:02
  • I am not sure if we can advise you, this is not a right answer type of question, and that is pretty much what this site is about. Again my best advice is to try to be loving and respectful of your parents. This is their decision to make and none of us can possibly know and understand all the layers. Try to help with your grandfather, and to find ways to take the pressure from your parents. If you get downvoted or this question is put on hold, it isn't against you, but that it is a question that is more opinion based.
    – WRX
    Dec 23, 2016 at 3:19
  • @Willow I see, thank you very much for your kindness!
    – Richard
    Dec 23, 2016 at 3:24
  • 3
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because the forum is for advice to parents, not to children. In particular, a question about how to keep parents from divorcing has been closed; this is the flip side of that question and should be closed also.
    – Warren Dew
    Apr 9, 2020 at 2:04

3 Answers 3


Should I push my parents to divorce?

To make it plain: No.

The answer is "no" for at least two reasons:

  1. The decision whether or not to divorce is quite complex, with multiple consequences either way. This is a decision only your parents can make, and it is unlikely that you can judge better than them what will most benefit them in the long run (though you can of course offer your opinion).
  2. Just as importantly (and this applies to most personal decisions): Even if you had proof a divorce is best for them, they still must decide. Pushing them to do it is both unlikely to work (most people do not like being pushed), and unlikely to benefit them in the long run, because it is simply unhealthy to take such a decision if you do not personally feel it is right. If your mother is not comfortable getting a divorce, you must not push her. If she only divorces because of your pressure, she will most likely regret it later (rightly or not).

That said, while I would very strongly advise against meddling with the relationship of your parents (which is what you would be doing), I believe you are right to be concerned about their relationship, and it is good that you are trying to help.

However, directly interfering with unwanted advice or even actions is rarely a good idea. Things you could try:

  • Foster discussion between them. Maybe you can help them find a way to communicate.
  • Encourage them to seek external help / counseling. There are many great resources to work on relationship issues (if both parties are interested).
  • Try to find out if more can be done with respect to psychiatric/psychological help. Maybe your father needs a different doctor, or has trouble with the medication?
  • Listen to them when they want to talk (but limit this if it becomse too difficult for you, or if you feel they are pulling you into their conflict).

Finally, keep in mind the golden rule:

You cannot solve someone else's personal problem. Only the person themselves can do that.


Put simply, no, I don't think you should push your parents for divorce. In addition to the answer that sleske gave, I'd give you these points to consider:

  1. Depression is a horrible mental illness that can last a very, very long time. The medications tend to suck, take a long time to kick in, and make things worse for the patient for the first few weeks. The sufferer can seem like a total jerk, and their perceptions don't always match reality, such as when your dad is mean to your mother for no good reason. I don't know what he was like before the depression, but he's still in there, under the near suffocating blanket of this mental illness, and he's pretty much the ultimate victim in all of this. When he comes out the other side, he will probably not thank you for working to end his marriage, especially if you're successful, and I doubt your mother would either.
  2. Marriage is until death do you part, and they knew that when they got married. If your mother still takes that vow seriously, it won't help her if you work to weaken her resolve.
  3. Assuming they don't want to divorce, they're going to be fighting to keep their marriage working. Just by telling them you think they should divorce you will make things greatly harder.
  4. Your father is not himself, and you and your mother may well be one of the main things keeping him from taking his own life. It sounds dramatic, and I could well be wrong, but you'd definitely want to be sure before you make any moves. All of this, of course, is written assuming that neither of you is in any danger and that the situation is sustainable. Moving forward, perhaps you could be looking for ways to support your mother in all of this. She's almost like a live-in carer, and she would surely value any acts of kindness and words of appreciation/encouragement you could offer. It's a sad situation; I don't envy you.

While you might not always be able to solve somebody else's problem, you sure can empower and motivate them to do it themselves if you know how.

Here are three videos of people getting empowered to change the situation (done by the Robbins Madanes Institute):


First one is about Hanna, a thirteen year old daughter who's parents were fighting constantly, driving her suicidal.


Second one is about Sam, if the video expires, it's called "Relationship Storms". Sam has four children, sixteen years of marriage and both partners are ready to divorce already told their kids they'd separate. In the Sam-Video, the seven master steps of lasting change are used:

1.: Understand and appreciate their world: There are reasons why people do what they do. They want to do better but think they can't, feel too weak or too fearful. Understand how they feel and why they feel trapped. This is the phase where you build trust. Somebody who does not feel understood will not listen easily. Hint: In families, it is rarely just one person who's behavior is the problem. It usually is a dynamic.

2.: Get leverage: We seek pleasure and avoid pain. Change must promise pleasure and an end to pain. Find powerful emotional reasons from their point of view so that change becomes a must for them. Be careful with threats (your marriage will end if you don't... or sth like that). Weak people get weaker when the problems are magnified.

3.: Interrupt the pattern: People react habitually to recurring pain or problems. Break that routine. Make sure the old approach doesn't work, creates nothing. Then the brain wants a working solution. Imagine a marching band in your living room the moment you try to blame someone again.

4.: Define the problem in solvable terms: The person needs to believe a solution is possible for them. If they think they are too fearful or it's hopeless, they won't start.

5.: Create empowering alternatives: How much better will life be after the change? People decide emotionally and try to justify it with logic. They need a vision to look forward to.

6.: Condition it: They must use the new solution, see the change and repeat that so it becomes trustworthy. Some people need to do something often until they believe.

7.: Create an empowering environment: The people around them should encourage the new solution, not pull them back.I mean, try to quit smoking with all your smoker friends still around and see how it goes.

Doing these steps is not easy but rewarding. Just remember, if somebody is weak, fearful and uncertain, telling him where he's wrong probably won't do the trick. Don't tell him what to do until he asks. Get Stephen Covey's opinion on "seek first to understand, then to be understood". Ideally you guide them, so they come to the right conclusions themselves. They have a much harder time resisting their own opinion.


This one's about Lyndsey, 250k in selfmade debt, two sick daughters and a husband who withdrew.

It's a bit hard to summarize 4 hours of educational videos with text. What they have in common is that people who suffered and felt helpless to change their problems learned to see their problems in solvable terms. They no longer were victims of the situation, they saw a way to actively influence it. Even in situations where common opinion suggests: yeah, it's over, let it go, you're too young, too old, too whatever. They learned to stop reacting habitually and their new behavior had a profound impact. The bottom line is: you are a powerful influence in your family, whether you realize it or not. It's not about blame, it's about options. It's about better ways to show love in order to empower the people around you to choose better solutions.

It's important to notice that these interventions happened during a six day seminar where you get positively influenced a lot. That alone weakens self pity and despair. You leave feeling very good. That's a different starting point. But if a few people are committed, they can give someone easily a few good days.

Make sure you watch the videos til the end. Some people just judge the setting and are done with it. There's a lot in them. But one thing is sure. If somebody is miserable, he might get what he thinks he wants (or not) but he usually does not get what he needs. Try to understand your parents and what they really need. These videos might help with that.


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