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Relationship with parents


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When I was 12 years old, my mom had an affair and left my dad. For the next few years, my parents had split custody of my sister and I, and although I was crushed about the divorce, I maintained a somewhat good relationship with both parents.


However, as the years progressed (I'm now in my early thirties), I started to realize the selfishness of both my parents and am now reconsidering my relationship with them. I'm questioning if I should have any relationship at all.


On my mom's side, she had an affair and has never apologized for her actions. She is also psychologically unstable with frequent psychotic and depression episodes which make it difficult to maintain a relationship with her. She is also very self-centered and has a self-pity attitude about her life. With that being said, she is still my mother and has never physically abused me and always made sure I had food and a bed to sleep in while growing up.


On my dad's side, I struggle with a couple things. When my mom started expressing signs of a psychological illness in her mid-twenties, my dad was very passive about helping her. He just wrote her off as being crazy and was "ready to suffer the rest of his life" with her (those are his words). I find his passive actions disturbing, and although I was not present during this period, I would hope if I was in the same situation I would actively and aggressively seek treatment for my wife, rather than give up and "suffer." In addition to this, he's been married twice since the divorce from my parents and has started a new family. Both my sister and I feel left out. For example, and although I know this is somewhat trivial, he and his new wife have cats, and I have a severe allergy to cats and therefore can never go to the house I grew up in. Little things like this bother me.


To be clear, I'm not sure if maintaining a relationship with my parents is healthy for me. My mom is unstable, self-centered, and self-loathing. And my dad doesn't seem to care that much. They both contact me frequently and want a relationship, but deep down I feel betrayed by them. What do you think? Thank you in advance.

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Your parents are human, meaning flawed, messed up, etc. Regardless, they've done their best for you in terms of raising you and providing you with basic necessities of life. I'm guessing from your idealistic view that you are still very young and inexperienced. So here is what might be important for you to strive to understand sooner rather than later - you can't fix a grown adult person. You can accept them as they are, but you cannot fix them. So your father was correct in that he will put up with and support her as needed, but he can't do anything about making her seek psychiatric help. It doesn't work like that. It's actually rather admirable of your father that he was willing to stand by her instead of dropping her....at least until she cheated and left him. You can't force people and you can't fix them. IF they ever decide that their issues are such that they actually need help and seek it, then you can support that decision, BUT you can't make them.


Anyway, if your resentments toward your parents are getting in your way, then maybe you should speak to a professional about it so you can get your head screwed on straight and maybe get a better perspective on what happened.

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I am all for cutting abusive and destructive people out of your life... but it sounds like you want to cut your parents out because you don't want to do the work of realizing they are flawed people who have made mistakes. It sounds like you don't want to do the work to forgive them. You are in your 30s. The feelings you now carry about them are yours to deal with.


Not seeing them is always a choice. But it sounds like what you need and want is some healing. That takes more work then simply cutting them out. I would recommended seeing a therapist to help you put healthy boundaries in place. As well as help you sort through some of the anger and hurt from childhood.

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You're in your 30's, so you're right on target for these kinds of resentments. They're typical. You're reconciling a shift in power from your folks to yourself along with the responsibilities that come with shedding the child role to fallible, aging parents.


I wouldn't dump them despite strong impulses to do so at this time. You'll thank yourself later when you get to the other side: adoption of a lens that can view them and their weaknesses through more objective and less charged vision.


Consider working with a therapist, clergy, an older mentor or otherwise taking up an interest that can put you in regular contact with older, preferably elderly people. You'll gain some insights about this transition phase of your life from those who've navigated it before, and you can consider perspectives more beneficial to yourself and your own best interests without suffering the private consequences that come along with villainizing family members.


Head high, and write more if it helps.

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