When my sibling and I were 6 and 10, our parents sat us down and told us they were getting a divorce because Dad had an affair. Mom was, to say the least, incredibly hurt. Her hurt and resentment haven’t subsided to this day. Dad has never apologized to her, but he has supported her financially ever since.
Mom has tried therapy, but the minute a therapist upsets her, she stops going. My parents both now live near my sister to help care for her twins. Mom is constantly upset with things Dad does or that he’s not friendly enough with her. She says he is nicer to strangers than he is with her.
I don’t want to seem insensitive, but they have now been divorced longer than they were married. It’s exhausting, and it is starting to feel like we are enabling her. I hate that what happened has defined the last two decades of her life. Is there something I can say to communicate that it’s way past time to be over this, but in a nicer way that may be helpful, and maybe won’t leave her too much room to tell me I’m victim blaming?
— What’s Past Has Passed
I, too, am sorry about what happened to your parents’ marriage. That your mother has been unable to move beyond the divorce and quits therapy the minute a therapist says something she doesn’t want to hear is very sad — for her. What you need to understand is that some people cling to their “victimhood” for comfort. It buffers them from having to recognize their own contribution to their failure.
Because you have tried in the past without success to help your mother let go of her bitterness, I’m advising you to stop trying. For your own sake, when she starts complaining about your father, change the subject, end the conversation or tune out. Enabling her isn’t helping either of you.
My husband and I have a business and work together. He takes care of sales, and I keep the books. I have raised his children, scheduled all appointments and taken care of everyone’s needs, including the pets. I also do all the cooking, cleaning, laundry, shopping, etc.
I tend to suffer from depression and need at least eight hours of sleep each night. Because of this, I work at the office only four to five hours a day. My husband cannot understand why I don’t work eight to 10 hours a day. I get done what NEEDS to be done. Of the many other businesses we’ve known, the wives are expected to do this. How do I make him understand?
— Working Enough in California
From your description of your weekly activities, you are not only living up to normal expectations, but exceeding them. Explain to your husband that people are individuals. Human bodies don’t all function alike. If he can’t get that through his head, have your doctor explain it to him.
Has he considered what it would cost him to hire someone else to do all the jobs you are doing? Perhaps he should consider that before criticizing and flogging you to do more. Tell him you’ll spend an extra hour or so at the office if he agrees to take up some of the slack at home.
P.S. I can understand why you “tend to suffer from depression.” You are married to a slave driver.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Dear Abby: Grown child wants mom to move past divorce