You've seen celebrity clinical psychologist Dr. Sherry Blake, author of The Single Married Woman: True Stories of Why Women Feel Alone in Their Marriages keep the Braxton sisters calm on the hit show, Braxton Family Values. Now it's your turn to sit in her chair...
Hi Dr. Sherry,
I love my parents who've been married for over 40yrs. But their marriage is toxic, to the point they live in the same house but, it is like two separate households and it is hard for me to visit them. They do not talk and so often it feels like there is a thickness of resentment, hate, unforgiveness that chokes you as soon as they enter the house.
They don't even share a income, my mom has health issues and doesn't work, only receiving minimal government assistance. My dad is controlling and has the higher income so my mom calls me to complain about how broke she is and how he won't give her money. I am disgusted as to how she allows this and even more so why she tolerates a husband who doesn't care about her well being? The tone in which they approach each other, is like they are boyfriend and girlfriend who have a "love/hate situation". My mom lately stated she believes my Dad is cheating because he stays gone all day into late night claiming he working a "side job."
I know this is not my relationship and they have a right to determine what works for them. But, these are my parents and they refuse to go to counseling. I believe if they do not fix or address their issues, they will divorce soon.
Seeing their relationship over the years has affected me too. I have been in "toxic relationships" in the past and I am horrified to enter a relationship now. If I even have a hint of control or negativity from a man, I will cut it off and quite frankly I never want to be married. What can I do to help them? If anything? and how can I heal?
You are absolutely right! Your parents’ toxic relationship is not your relationship. Neither is it your responsibility. As bad as things may appear with them, they are both adults and are making a choice to remain together. You may love them but you have become codependent and emotionally taken on their issues. You can not solve their problems. If it is too uncomfortable to visit them in their home, don’t go. This does not mean that you stop loving them. It just means you will not participate in their dysfunction. Insist on seeing them individually in a public place or on neutral turf. You owe it to yourself and to them, to be honest about how you feel about being around them. Their relationship can serve as a model for what you do not want in a marriage. You have a choice in your relationships and you do not have to run at the first hint of negativity. It is more beneficial if you learn to resolve issues rather than running from them. I recommend that you seek individual therapy to process issues and to learn to walk away from your parents’ problems. Your parents’ dysfunctional relationship has tainted how you view any potential relationship. Remember, you are not your parents and you deserve happiness. --Dr. Sherry
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