Hope this is the right place to ask this question because it's upside down: I'm the child and don't know how to help my parents, so I need an advice.

My parents have always had a lots of arguments since I have memory. They have really different kinds of personality and hobbys so they don't do a lot of activities together. I can remeber a lots of arguments where my mom ended telling me "I don't leave your father because I want you and your brother to grow up with a family". I have always believed this to be true. The situation between them has never really improved but I'm not sure how things have been lately. At 19 I started university and since then I've not been frequently at home, and after I moved with my girlfriend. Since more than a year I came back to my parent's house (love is gone...) but in a different flat with my brother, where I still live even if it's temporary. I don't spend a lot of time with them because I don't have much time: work, friends, my actual girlfriend who works abroad and our project to move together... A lots of stuffs absorb all my time.

This morning my mother came to me crying and saying she can't really stay with my father anymore. I know (because she told me) there was a lots of family related reasons to "not break the family" even in recent past. Her mom was sick, my brother had personal problems... But now all these are gone and she has already started a new life. She stopped staying always at home and she is now involved in community related activities with new friends. She seems happy. She says yesterday she was arguing again with my father and she is scared because he doesn't accept the fact she wants to break up and he seems to be somehow violet. Not physically(until now) but she is scared. I remember in my childhood my father being excessively aggressive with my mother during some arguments. I think he has never really beaten her but sometime he has been verbally rude, screaming and advancing at her so that she had to step back. And a couple of time she came to my bedroom crying because she said she was "scared as hell" by my father during an argue.

What can I do? I really think my father is way too aggressive, but probably he has never really beaten my mother (can't be sure, she wouldn't tell me) and would never really do it. I believe my father is just a bit desperate in this situation because he has not a lots of friends, he's not (at all) an open-minded person and he doesn't want to be left alone and/or somehow forced to change his life. I really hope to provide them help so that things can resolve without external intervention, also because my brother (despite older than me) is really attached to my parents and a "hostile/legally" separation will strongly impact him. But what can I do to really help them? Should I prioritize my mother fears even if I think they are a bit exaggerate? Should I talk to my father even if I don't think he will listen to me because he's too stubborn?

  • 1
    Welcome to the site. This sounds like a rough situation, my sympathies.
    – Erik
    Commented Jun 8, 2017 at 8:20
  • take them both for a beer separately, in a good moment maybe they will open to you and you will find out something that will help you to solve the problem... just an idea...
    – Divisadero
    Commented Jun 8, 2017 at 10:52

3 Answers 3


I think you need to consider what role you want to take here. In no way do I want to suggest that your desire to help your parents with this is misguided--it is, in fact, a salute to you that you are trying to do the right thing and help them get through this.

What does jump out at me is that your mother, at the very least, has been inappropriate with you for a long time. It is not a child's role to take care of the emotional needs of the parent, regardless of the age of either person.

Your mother may well have chosen to stay with your father because she felt it was important for you and your brother to have a family--but by telling you that you were the reason for the decision, she was asking you (probably unconsciously) either to validate her decision and make her feel better about making it, or to let her know that you would be fine if she chose otherwise. In either case, she was making you responsible for her emotional wellbeing.

Things have become even more overt at this point--now you are wrestling with a decision about which parent to side with in a situation that is between them. You can provide emotional support to your Mom without siding with her against your dad.

My mother was not as direct as your mother has been, but after they split up, she would point out how all of my negative traits were like him--"Oh you are going to get a big belly like your father, because you bottle up your emotions, just like he did." or "Yeah, I am not surprised you are having trouble handling your finances--your dad was always careless with money. I had to pay off $5000 in credit card debt after he left." These things were true, but they didn't negate the ways he was a good parent. Unfortunately it has taken me a lot of time (and therapy) to appreciate the good things about my dad, because the negative stuff was so loud and up front.

You can dislike how your dad treats your mother, and still value your relationship with him. But that becomes very difficult if you are "taking sides" with one of them.

My best advice to you is to help your parents find emotional support elsewhere. Offer to help your Mom find a good therapist, minister, counselor--someone who can listen to her stories and offer her advice without emotional attachment. If you can help them to get involved in some sort of couples counseling, I think that might be of benefit to both of them regardless if they stay together or not. But if one or the other is not interested, I think it will be really beneficial for your long-term emotional health for you to try to remove yourself from taking a role as mitigator, caretaker, ambassador, judge, whatever, in a relationship between two adults who should not be expecting you to solve their emotional issues for them.


Is it possible for you to see a therapist? As a parent, I would be very very upset with myself if my children were to ever feel my relationship with their father is their issue. I of course would understand they would have feelings about it if they parted ways, but that is all. I do not think it's appropriate that you have grown up to feel that so much of this is your responsibility. In the question you speak about how your mother is feeling, how your father is feeling and how your brother is feeling. The only time you slightly speak about how you feel is merely to talk about how busy you are. The only feelings you are actually responsible for is your own. Everyone else, they should be also taking responsibility for their own. Instead it reads like you feel responsible for all of them & that is too much for someone your age. My parents are aging & currently healthy & active. This could change at any time due to their age. If age/illness changes things, then yes, I do feel responsible for them & will do what is needed as I will for my mother in law as well. That said, at your age, my parents were not leaning on me, despite having their own problems.

The reason I asked if you could see a counselor is the issues I stated already. You have been put in a position long term here to be leaned on by people that are supposed to be leading you in life. As such, you will likely benefit greatly from having someone help you sort what your actual responsibilities are & what is potentially harmful for you to be involved in, not only for you, but for others. When someone seeks support in inappropriate places and that support is given, then it reinforces unhealthy boundaries & behaviors. A counselor could help you assess what role you should be involved in here & how best to establish healthy boundaries & how to help straighten out your thoughts & feelings so that you can see that these other adults are not your job to fix. They have to fix themselves. I have a number of siblings & I too have one that is overly attached to my parents. When I was young I actually tried to help her separate more, help them to get her to stand on her own, it never happened. We are 25yrs later & it's no different than it ever was, because it was never about me. Now it just irritates me but I try t let it go. She leans on them & will until they collapse, literally. That is what she does & they must somehow want or need that, so it's their own situation & it doesn't involve me.

A lot of people don't turn to therapy enough. I have been 3 different times in my life (for a period of time, each time) and I have never ha major problems really. I haven't had relationship issues that were significant. I've been with the same person (now married) for over 20 years. I was able to get my education, a little slower than many, but I got there. I've always been able to maintain full time employment, pay my bills, have friendships, etc. I am not a train wreck. I have had people ask me why I would be in counseling & it's simple. I do it because I want stability. I want to be able to maintain a 20yr relationship, to not lean on drugs or alcohol to cope, I want good friendships & healthy relationships, etc, etc, etc. It helps me stay on track to living my best life. It's an excellent way to sort through your troubles & figure out where you want to go from here. Too many people think of therapy being for after you are a total mess. That is wrong. That is like thinking you can wait until you are dying of cancer to see a doctor. The best time to go is when life turns up the stress & you aren't sure the path to take - BEFORE you do anything that might bring you excessive drama, problems, or you crack under the weight of the stress. So if it is something you can possibly afford to do, it's a great investment.

You sound like a very loving child and sibling. Just make sure you are just as kind & loving to yourself as you seem to be toward all of them.


As you mentioned there are several issues in your parents relationship. Ill state some:

  • Different kinds of personality and hobbies.
  • he has not a lots of friends. (maybe your mother does have friend or sociable and your father no)
  • he's not (at all) an open-minded person (maybe your mother likes to do things he doenst like. for example she likes go partying but him doesnt like high sounds or crowded people)
  • he doesn't want to be left alone and/or somehow forced to change his life.(it seems he love your mother , he doesnt want her to leave, but maybe he cannot live the way she wants ?)

I advise for a consulting therapy , but if they doens't want external help, it will not be easy for you to solve there problems but you can support them by:

start by listening to them both , listing to them will relief the negative thoughts, don't take a side , try to understand there point of view. Your mother is crying because she is tired from arguing and miss understanding, maybe she wants your father to treat here in a better way, to be more caring , gentle , understanding, listining .

when she is annoyed or crying , ask her why she is crying and how would like your father to treat her, maybe he doesn't know how to treat her and or understand her so listen that from your mom and when you talk to your dad, start give him example(of what your mother told you) why don't you do that with my mother maybe that will relieve her, give him ideas, don't tell them they are wrong or they dont know how to act, advise them, be positive.As I said its not easy and it needs lot of time and effort.

what I can suggest , if your mom less interact with your father but stay at home, she starts a small job , or spend more time with her family(sister mom) , sometime she visits you. your father will not like that but its better then your mom leaving.

Note: its not easy to fix this , but its really good from you want to help your parents.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .