My Dad left my mom today.

They’ve been married 50 years. Today is her 70th birthday. And no presents - no “Happy Birthday, Dear” - he packs a bag, gets in his truck, and leaves.

She says she feels as if a weight has been taken off her shoulders. And she’s calling the bank to put a hold on the account. And these are not the healthiest people here. She has heart trouble and he’s got artificial knees and diabetes.

They haven’t talked in several days, since she complained about the heat in the house. Did she tell him she was having a hotflash? Nope. Did he tell her he was cold because of the blood thinners? Uh-Uh. Just made a snarky comment and slept in another room. Then didn’t speak to each other at all yesterday. Today, they get up, go to the post office, come home and he leaves.

You have to understand. My parents are masters of passive-aggresive emotional blackmail. (As is reflected in us, their four children - We love them, but don’t like them very much. And we definately do not want them moving in with any of us.) Just after they got married, he stormed out with her sobbing and screaming after him. He was gone for 3 months but he eventually comes back. He’s been threatening this ever since. He tried to leave on my 13th birthday, but couldn’t go through with it. (I was more concerned about not being allowed to have a slumber party than him not being there.)

I really feel that they would benefit from being apart for a while. But I am just bewildered. How can you live with someone so long and not talk to them? How can you be attached at the hip and go with each other everywhere and just up and leave?

Wow. That’s too bad, DeVena. I think the answer to your question lies in their failure to communicate. It’s probably been just below the surface, and possibly could have been remedied if they communicated better (this is becoming painfully apparent in my own marriage :frowning: ). I hope they work things out. I’ve heard it’s difficult for children of any age to see their parents split up. I hope you do OK with this.

I’m sorry…don’t have any advice whatsoever…but I’m sorry your family is having to deal with this.

I just don’t know what to do. I want to go up there. They live about 50 miles away. But I’m afraid that if I do, and Dad comes back, then they won’t talk. Or he’ll be all huffy because I’m there. My brother and I are taking turns calling Mom. With the heart trouble, and now all this stress, we don’t want her to be out of contact for long. She has been talking to one of her friends about this and she lives nearby. I told Mom, if she really wanted to piss Dad off, she needed to call the sheriff in the morning and report Dad missing.

He’s got money and clothes. But he doesn’t have his meds. He’s been really emotional for the last year, since he got his knees replaced. Saying he was going to stop taking his pills or get rid of the cat and dog. But how do you get a stubborn 74 year old man into therapy?

Just wish I knew what to do.

Ok … hamsters ate my first post. :mad:

First, I’m sorry to hear about this. It’s never easy, no matter the ages of the players.

Next, you’ve hit the nail on the head … there isn’t any way you can “make” Dad go to therapy. You can encourage him, give him information about his options, etc. But you can’t “make” him. And you know what? It’s not your responsibility to..

I know, Dutiful Daughter and all that. Sounds like the phone support you are giving to Mom is just what she needs. I’d hesitate running up there … as long as you can make sure she’s OK from where you are.

P.S. you know you can e-mail me anytime, DeVena. :wink:

Thank you all so much. You just don’t know how much your posts have helped me today. And NinetyWt, I did almost go up there. Went as far as to get the car from my husband - so I’d have it, just in case. But you’re right, I do not need to go up there. I wouldn’t be able to help the situation and she needs to know she can be alone and be OK.

All that being said… He’s back. She just called me, bawling her eyes out. He brought roses - the only other time he brought her roses, she was in the hospital with a broken vertebre. He asked if she still loved him. She said “Yes.” “But you don’t like me.” “Not when you do things like this.” He said he didn’t know it was her birthday. (I guess that big party on Saturday and all the kids calling today just didn’t sink in.) And he was mad that she didn’t tell him. He asked if he could come back. Then went and got his suitcase.

Wtf? He probably went and sat in Wal-mart for 6 hours. I’m trying not to be weird about this. But does anyone want to trade parents? Just until we’re emotionally stable? Crap, I’m going to eat something so I can take some aspirin. Sorry to take you down the manic-depressive path with me, but thanks for listening.

You probably know this already, but your dad should see his doctor. And someone go with him and tell this story. Maybe the meds he’s taking are screwing him up, or the problem with his knee replacement has triggered a bad bout of depression. It sounds like he’s always been a piece of work (threatened to leave on your 13th birthday???), but something else physically may be going on. And the doc may have more luck than y’all would at referring him to a shrink.

This has been going on for 50 years?!
Here is a news flash for you: It will never change. When one of them dies, the other will be bereft and possibly inconsolable for a long time. They don’t know any other way. They think it is normal to spew vemon at each other and to manipulate each other with threats.

All you can do is stay away and let them have their own little melodrama all to themselves. No need for you to be sucked downward into their pool of misery that for 50 years is jokingly referred to as a marriage.

You don’t have to tell them you are avoiding them during their little episodes, you just listen on the phone and when there is silence, change the subject tactfully. If you are over and an argument starts up, it would be a good time to start reading the paper or just quietly leave the room. Maybe they will get the hint. It will be hard at first, seen as cold and heartless, but you have to do what you have to do to perserve your own sanity and marriage.

When you give into their hysterics, frankly, you become a spectator in their audience, sorta like the Hotel California. The show never ends and you can’t leave. They feed off it. Both of them do. Yes, your mother has a heart condition, but if she has put up with this for 50 years, she’s stronger than you can imagine.

By any chance were either sets of your grandparents like this?
As for getting him into therapy, it took my 70 year old mother having a massive panic attack in front of the neighbors to realize that * that behavior was not normal* and it was time she sought help. She’s on and off her meds,and she goes to therapy ( huzzah!) and she now has options when she starts festering over something stupid.

The way I’ve dealt with my MIL, who suffered a massive head injury in '91 and was emotionally weepy nearly all the time after that, was I called her regular doctor and explained what she was like and how none of those symptons ever showed up during her regular appts. Since she was scheduled for a doctor’s appointment later on in the week, the Doc took the lead and asked the questions that needed to be asked and she got on some SSRI’s.

But, it was 3 years of that behavior before I took the initiative.

My role in life, it seems is to be the bad cop.

Parents, aren’t they fun?

Shirley, I love you and you are absolutely right. I don’t let my mom talk about my sister anymore. And I did that just by what you suggested. But it’s so hard when Mom says I’m the only one she can talk to about Dad. Sister has stopped letting Mom “feed” off her about Dad. (And that is a wonderful way of putting it. I never saw it as that before.) Looks like it’s time for me to start.

I think it would be easier if they would just yell at each other. But no, they close up with each other and won’t even talk for days. Mom’s parents would just work through arguements. The yelling worked, they were married 67 years and had 10 kids. Mom has always said that she “won’t live in a fight”, but that’s exactly what she’s done all this time. Dad is exactly like his father. When my grandmother died, my grandfather “died” that day. He never did anything else for himself. Literally - my aunt had to move in and care for him as an invalid. It took his body 5 years to actually die. Dad has been getting closer to that ever since the surgery.

Don’t mind me, I told Mom what you said, and she’s going to write a letter to Dad’s doctor. She says she can’t say anything to the doctor in front of Dad without making him angrier.

Thank you all so much. I’m taking them out to dinner tomorrow night and basically right now, I just hope they behave. :slight_smile:

My parents separated about 2 years ago after 27 years of marriage. They are better off apart, but it’s still tough. I am glad your Dad came back, and I thoroughly sympathise with finding yourself taking on responsibility for their well-being and their marriage. I’m still having to put my foot down to avoid being the go-between for my parents. I’ll probably be doing that the rest of my life. But it’s worth drawing firm lines in the sand to protect your own well-being, in my opinion. I hope that your mom’s approach to the doctor can get some things smoothed out. What a strange little episode for you all to cope with.

Devena I know by your writings here that you are a smart cookie. I’ve admired your stuff from the beginning. You got moxie, kid. ( and you are probably older than me. But age means zip in the eyes of our parents. We are all still wet behind the ears and don’t know what we are talking about.)

We all have our blindspots and family has a way of just grabbing us by the nostrils or shorthairs for most of our lives and we feel obligated to play their games until we realize or someone else points it out for us that that is not healthy way to go about things or we just grow tired of the same old-same old.

Your parents will never change. They’ve been in a negative cyclical death spiral for 50 years. It’s all they know. Only you can change and control how much you want to spend time around such a negative enviroment. And, you have to admit, it probably affects your relationship with Mr. Devena.

They are miserable together. They are miserable apart. That is no way to go through life.

I feel for you, girl. I really do.




This thread wasn’t created for me, but it might as well have been.

I just wanted to say thanks to everyone here who has shared what they’ve been going through with their parents. It has really helped me to know I’m not alone.

My mom and stepdad have been married for 26 years (since I was four). In the last two years, everything’s been going to hell. Mom’s been going through menopause for at least five years and has been on every antidepressant I can think of. My stepdad’s been depressed for the last couple of years, and he is normally, THE most upbeat and chipper guy I know, bar none. But in my opinion, he’s simply had enough, and he’s sick of her sh-t. I find it miraculous that he’s lasted so long, really.

Typical behavior for my mom:
Getting into a snit if someone quickly interrupts a story she’s telling to insert a brief joke. She’ll cross her arms and refuse to continue the story even if cajoled: “No, I don’t want to tell the story anymore”. “C’mon mom, we really want to hear it!” “No.” :rolleyes:

NOT telling you what her needs are: saying, “whatever you want to do is fine”, but then complaining if she doesn’t enjoy whatever it is you’ve chosen.

Getting angry and withdrawn over inconsequential things, like if we show up at a restaurant and find there’s a 45-minute wait.
Some recent phone calls I’ve gotten from mom:

“I’ve been having dark thoughts lately…” (meaning suicide)
“Your stepdad has been talking about how he thinks I’d be better off without him and he doesn’t want to hurt me anymore”
“On Friday night, he was going to leave me, but changed his mind”
“He drives 5 hours each way to Ohio every weekend to see his dad. Why can’t I get him to stay home with me?!?” (Gee, I wonder)
“(Tearful voice) I just called to hear your voice, baby…oh, I’m…ok…I just (pause) love you so much.”
I dread their visits. My husband has summed it all up perfectly: “She’s had you two walking on eggshells around her for years. She needs tough love, and you’re going to have to administer it, 'cause your stepdad’s just an enabler. He’s too damned nice.”

I know I have to do this, but it’s so hard. She has two children, and the other one has disowned her. I feel like I can’t do anything to hurt her because I’m the only one she has left.

And yes, they’re both going to therapy. Or at least, I think my stepdad still is. It’s really tough to get him to go–he’s being very John Wayne about the whole thing.

I really need to get some boundaries.

If your husband had the courage to tell you this, you need to take into consideration how he feels about the situation and watching you get dragged back into something that will not get better with your help,* because, people like this can’t see the solution as they can only focus on the problem. * They want to be miserable. It gives them comfort. Fun, huh?

He doesn’t want to see you miserable and you wouldn’t treat your own kids like this.

The first step is the hardest part, deciding how and what to do and then doing it. There is no need to be confrontational or brutal in setting up your divisonary lines.
Learning to gracefully ignore or tactfully changing the subject has helped me. Sometimes I just fade off into my mental happy place. But I will not allow anyone to use me as a sounding board when they will not listen to reason or other opinions or make any effort to work towards a solution. They just stay in the same vortex of negativity. It is insulting no matter how you look at it.
After the first time you decline to join in a self induced pity party from hell, you will feel like shit for being a cold heartless bitch. This is normal. After a few times, you will notice that once the enabler is not getting the standard response from you, they will either clam up or go ‘feed’ off of someone else. This is usually an excellent time to feed their family dog and give it extra things so as to make up for the sheer hell they must live through and possibly divert the conversation towards a more topical, " Don’t feed Barney, he’s as fat as can be…"

What I’ve done when this gloomy woe-is-me conversation is about to start, I change the subject. I keep it light. Airy. Topical. I make fun of myself, or talk about my kids or whatever else is something that is not a hot-button topic area. And, this is key to my survival, I keep my visits short. I can do a hit and run with either sets of parents ( mom or in laws) in an hour. Anything longer than that is just begging for me to self implode from swallowing my tongue. * Give yourself an out at all times.* Mine is always, " Well, I need to go, the traffic is going to just suck going home if I linger any longer."

If I am running into my inlaws house to pick up the kids, I never take off my coat and I never sit down. Dear Og, never sit down. That is essentially asking to hear their problems ad nauseum. Wouldn’t you really rather drive hot burning coals into your rectum instead? I call from the road stating I’m on my way and ask that they have their shoes and coats on so I can make a quick getaway as I have other errands to do ( wink) and the traffic just sucks.

Traffic is a really nice generic non-fight enducing excuse, because, everyone just hates it.
Look for my future best seller How to be a cold hearted bitch and not get shit on anymore. :slight_smile:

Thanks, Shirley. You’ve made some very good points.

I think you’re absolutely right about her perverse enjoyment of misery. Honestly, when I think back, I can’t ever remember seeing her truly happy, or giggly, or anything. It’s just so sad.

I’ve started to make a bit of progress, though. I’ve told her that I have (admittedly irrational) feelings of responsibility for their relationship (gotta keep cracking jokes, keep the mood light, lest he get fed up and leave us for good!), and that it’s difficult for me to hear about this stuff because I know I can’t do anything to help matters. I think it pissed her off a bit, but what can I do? If it’s a choice of my happiness or hers, I choose mine.

I don’t have a therapist per se, but I do talk to my (wonderful) naturopath about all of this. She’s made what seems to be a good suggestion: that prior to their next visit, I do some serious thinking about “ground rules” I want to establish as a condition of their visit. Stuff like, “No getting into snits (of course I’d couch it in nicer terms) and refusing to speak to us”, and “Make your needs understood clearly”.

Alas, your suggestions about “hit and run” visits won’t work in this case. We live 12 hours’ drive apart–so visits are always two (very long) days or more in duration, to make it worth the drive. Happily, this means that only 2-3 visits have to be endured per year. As I like to say, “my folks live 12 hours away–and it’s almost far enough!” :slight_smile:

Every time they come up, they wonder aloud why we don’t come down to visit them except the required every-other-christmas. It amazes me that they can’t figure it out.