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Is there any way I can help my parents?

(74 Posts)
ObeseDenise Sun 12-Jul-15 17:43:52

My parents are extremely unhappy together.

My dad is a very active and on the ball 70, my mum is 57.

Ever since I was a teenager I've wondered how and why they got together. They don't communicate. Sometimes weeks go by without them talking. My mum hates talking openly and will do anything to avoid it. My Dad is as stubborn as anyone I've ever met so he just stops talking and resorts to monosyllabic grunts.

They want different things from life. My Dad is semi retired and wants to travel more and visit his kids and grandkids (we all live in different parts of the world). My mum works full time and enjoys it but uses her holiday allowance in the way that she wants and won't consider going anywhere new or taking unpaid days to have more holidays. They are very comfortably off and she could easily take extra days/stop working altogether. She is also, imo, financially abusive to my Dad in that she has always controlled the money and is extremely tight. My Dad sometimes gets paid in cash for his work and he has taken to hiding it from her shock . I know he has allowed this to happen through his passivity but it is still abuse.

They are living in the same big house but completely separately. They don't eat together (my Dad has disordered eating and has lost stones and looks awful) and spend evenings in separate rooms and then sleep in separate beds (something I realised when I visited home and my mum had obviously using a different bedroom).

They both ring me and bitch about each other. My Dad is (I think) depressed. He is worried he'll die soon or become unable to travel and feels that his life is slipping out of his hands. He is acutely aware of the limited years of activity he has left. My mum doesn't care about this and talks about when she retires not acknowledging that my dad is so much older than her.

My mum is also depressed and is drinking too much. This was confirmed when I picked them up from the airport at 8am one morning and she was hungover/still drunk and made a show of herself.

They would be better apart but for numerous reasons I know this will never happen (financial reasons, keeping up appearances reasons, inability to communicate at all reasons). I have told them bluntly that I think they should split but when I have they backtrack or change the subject.

In he meantime I (and my siblings but mostly me) am stuck in the middle seeing them both miserable but unable to do anything. I love them both and hate seeing them so entrenched in a miserable existence sad .

Do I just keep providing the sympathetic ear? It's so hard to do so sad .

thisisnow Sun 12-Jul-15 17:55:57

Wow that sounds really hard, I don't have much advice I'm afraid other than have you tried talking to them, which it sounds like you have. Have you spoken to your Dad seriously about it? He sounds like he'd be more co-operative than your mother.

Hopefully someone will have some better advice than me - sorry!

Snoozebox Sun 12-Jul-15 17:59:24

Hm, I was in this situation when I was still living with my parents, but my mum was in your dad's situation.

In the end my mum moved out after being supported and encouraged by a relative of hers. Does your dad have anyone he can confide in? A sibling or friend who he can stay with?

ObeseDenise Sun 12-Jul-15 18:10:30

Thanks both.

Unfortunately my Dad is just not likely to reach out to anyone. Neither of them have friends or do anything socially. Both my parents are fiercely private and repressed in lots of ways (typically Irish). They don't talk about emotions. It's so fucking debilitating sad .

thisisnow Sun 12-Jul-15 18:15:53

Wow, even harder then. And sounds like they use you as an outlet to moan about each other - which is not on. I'd be tempted to record the voice conversations and then send them to both in a brown paper bag so they can realise how truly unhappy they both are! Unless they thrive on being miserable, which I'm sure they don't.

BrowersBlues Sun 12-Jul-15 18:29:04

I was in a very similar situation for years and years. Now that they are both early 80's they have given up the fight and seem to bundle along together. My mother used to ring us all up and regale us with how horrible our dad is and when she was 80 she said she was divorcing him. He isn't horrible.

I think it ended because one of my siblings told them both to get lost and stop the crap. The fallout was enormous. The rest of us didn't comment but supported the sibling who did it. If they ever mentioned what he said we said I agree with him and left it at that. My mother froze us out for a while but it just blew over then and now they don't criticise one another to us anymore. The fear of what was going to happen didn't materialise.

Could you encourage your dad to travel to see his kids and grandkids? Your mum doesn't have to go. Assure him that he is more than capable of going and that you will book the flights etc.

I wouldn't skirt around the issue of your mother drinking and if she is drunk on the phone say ring me back when you are sober. Make it an open discussion from your end. She might want to hide it but you don't have to play that game. Get hold of some advice sheets about drinking in the elderly and hand them to her and say you might like to read that.

I wouldn't sympathise with either of them. They are choosing to live this miserable way. Stop worrying about them. They both work which is great that they can get out of the house and get a break from one another. If your dad is short of money talk to him about setting up his own account and transferring his pension or benefits directly into it so that your mother can't control his money.

You can't let them get you down. They are your parents and I know your worry but get on with your own life and allow yourself to be happy. That's what we all do now. You wouldn't believe the crap we have heard for years. We still visit and ring but don't give them the airtime if they start complaining. Just play a different game.

ObeseDenise Sun 12-Jul-15 19:23:31

Browers thank you for your post. You're bang on.

I have already started calling my mother out on her behaviour. The day they arrived here was the day the referendum on same sex marriage was passed in Ireland and she said some awfully homophobic things. I told her she was wrong and that if she said anything so hideous again I would ask her to leave my house. I also told her that it was disgraceful that she was in the state she was.

I know it sounds terrible but I feel like my dad would have had a better and fuller life if he hasn't married my mum. He is intelligent and well read and would have loved to travel the world. She has held him back in so many ways. I think he is too decent and honourable a man to walk away now.

My mum (drunkenly) told me last year that if she could rewind 20 years she would divorce him but that now it's not worth it and she's staying for his money when he dies sad .

ImperialBlether Sun 12-Jul-15 19:28:23

Browsers, you say:

Get hold of some advice sheets about drinking in the elderly and hand them to her and say you might like to read that.

She's 57!!! Most self-respecting 57 year olds would give you hell for giving advice sheets meant for elderly people!

ObeseDenise Sun 12-Jul-15 19:29:27

Oh yeah and my mum is definitely not elderly.

I'd presumed that Bowers had misread my OP and assumed DM was the same age as DF.

ImperialBlether Sun 12-Jul-15 19:29:40

He could live to be 95, though - what good would that do her then?

ObeseDenise Sun 12-Jul-15 19:32:15

I know Imperial and I strongly suspect (and hope) he will. If my Dad does first I imagine that my Mum will make it as hard as she can for any of us kids to access any inheritance.

This sounds so dramatic but my Dad has shown me where he has hid a very large amount of money and made me promise to get to it asap if he dies, take it and never tell my mum shock .

BathtimeFunkster Sun 12-Jul-15 19:35:15

You say you are torn and love them both, but it's clear even from your OP that you prefer your Dad.

BathtimeFunkster Sun 12-Jul-15 19:36:16

This sounds so dramatic but my Dad has shown me where he has hid a very large amount of money and made me promise to get to it asap if he dies, take it and never tell my mum shock .

Right, and she's the financially abusive one.

ObeseDenise Sun 12-Jul-15 19:42:10

I do prefer my Dad.

Because he has been the better parent all my life and is the better person.

And it is his money to hide. He has worked from age 16 to 70. He has been self employed for 50 years and has worked ridiculous hours travelling all over the country to provide for his family. My mum has always worked low wage jobs and spends money like there's no tomorrow on herself. She keeps all my dad's bank cards in her bag so that be has to ask for them when be wants them and she only tells him the pin if she approves what he wants to buy. My Dad has siphoned this money away from her controlling hands so that his children can benefit from his hard work.

Don't try and dictate about something you know precisely shit all about Bathtime.

Thenapoleonofcrime Sun 12-Jul-15 19:48:39

obesedenise the plain fact is they choose to be together. Unlike lots of women and a few men on these boards, who are financially abused, your dad doesn't have dependent children so no need to stay to keep a roof over their head. He could walk out tomorrow, but he chooses not to, perhaps because of upbringing, culture, not wanting to admit defeat, it's hard to know.

What is clear though is that there's nothing you can do about it. It's frustrating to see someone so passive to what life has thrown at him but that really is his choice, if he has a lot of money. He could also travel independently and leave your mum to work, that's what me and my husband do is one is busy and the other not and we want to see people.

I don't think you can help them, they prefer their miserable companionship and aren't taking any steps to end it, bar moaning about each other. I wouldn't want to listen to bad-mouthing by either parent by the other though and would call them on that, otherwise although it's extremely difficult to watch, I don't think you can help them at all.

ImperialBlether Sun 12-Jul-15 19:49:10

When you say he's hidden money, do you mean it's physically there in a box somewhere? I'd be terrified of it going missing.

Could you open a bank account that he has the password/PIN for?

It's such a shame that your dad isn't able to take a chance of happiness. Could he go to visit your siblings and stay for a few months, renting a flat or something?

BrowersBlues Sun 12-Jul-15 19:53:34

Imperial noted with shame! I didn't realise OP's mum was 57 I am only 9 years younger than her and very fond of a lotta wine. I honestly thought she was the same age as OPs dad. I read a lot about elderly people taking up drinking as they get older and unfortunately put her in this category.

Apologies OP.

Do make arrangements about the money situation because that will be the start of WWIII if God forbid your dad does die. Do you think you should put the money in a bank account in his name or your name or get advice from a solicitor about the best thing to do with it and to ensure that he has made a will etc? What if the house got robbed?

Your dad might think about contacting a local University to enquire about University of the Third Age. I know people who do this when they retired from where I work.

The website says - U3A is a nationwide network of learning groups aimed at encouraging older people no longer in full-time employment to share their knowledge, skills and interests in a friendly environment. It is not a university in the conventional sense.

There are no exams and no homework, just regular lessons or study groups of like-minded people with a shared interest in a particular subject. It's learning for its own sake, not with a view to acquiring qualifications.

Just try to let everything go over your head and not get upset. I know where you are coming from I have Irish parents, they are a law onto themselves. I imagine the day of the Referendum was great craic in your house.

BathtimeFunkster Sun 12-Jul-15 19:53:52

Wow you really hate your mother.

Do your siblings agree that it's right for your father to hide assets from her?

Interesting that you have so much to gain financially yourself from taking his side.

A woman who has worked all her life in low wage jobs obviously hasn't worked hard at all.

ObeseDenise Sun 12-Jul-15 19:55:00

napoleon you're right. Part of what I feel is anger towards my dad for putting up with the status quo for so long. I think I've painted him wrongly. He is in no way doddery or elderly to me. He is my best advisor, the person I ring first with good news and also for help and advice. He's such a capable man that I can't understand why he just accepts things and doesn't try to change them.
My sister lives in the med and he has spent time with her and her family alone which he has loved. The problem is that my mum, although she doesn't want to go, resents the money being spent and gets angry when my dad tried to bring up the subject of him travelling alone.

He tries to initiate convo

She doesn't want to hear it and shuts down

He clams up and they stop speaking

The cycle continues.

I can't keep being placed in the middle. My dad apologises for it but still does it by way of phoning me a few times a week. The conversation always comes back round to how bad things are at home.

Imperial he has one account my mum doesn't know about. I'll encourage him to use it.

BathtimeFunkster Sun 12-Jul-15 19:55:21

I know where you are coming from I have Irish parents, they are a law onto themselves.



BrowersBlues Sun 12-Jul-15 19:59:36

OP It would be great if you could encourage him to visit your sister.

ObeseDenise Sun 12-Jul-15 20:01:08

I will do Browers.

I also told him to book to come and see us as soon as he can.

Thank you thanks .

ImperialBlether Sun 12-Jul-15 20:03:05

Isn't it funny that she wants him to stay put even though she doesn't enjoy spending time with him? Why do people do that?

ObeseDenise Sun 12-Jul-15 20:04:23

I have no idea Imperial.

I think she begrudges him having a good time even though she doesn't want to go. It's baffling. If DP wanted to head away on a trip I would encourage him and enjoy the peace at home grin .

BathtimeFunkster Sun 12-Jul-15 20:10:22

Maybe she doesn't want him to go because he is leaving them short of money by hiding his stash, and she is unaware of their good financial position?

It's weird for someone so financial Lou abusive to patiently wait until their spouse has died.

Surely if that was the case she would have full control of the money now and have no need to wait?

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