My parents divorced four years ago when I was ten. My mom doesn’t like my dad. She doesn’t actually call him names or anything, but she is negative about him. I think she would be happier if I hated him like she does. It really bothers me because I love both my parents. I don’t know what to do. Do you have any ideas?
First, I am very sorry that you find yourself in such a situation. I know personally how difficult it is to feel your loyalty must be divided.
Second, I predictably suggest that you talk with both of your parents about the prospect of seeing a counselor to help you sort all this stuff out. You don’t need to get into the grist of why, you can simply say, “I’m having a hard time and I think it would help to see someone.” If they push for more, you can say you are having trouble talking about it which is part of the reason you feel you need the support of a professional.
One thing a therapist can do is work with you to help you find your own voice. It is important that you self-advocate in such matters, and that you are able to set healthy boundaries. These skills often are not innate and they often do not come easily, but they are immensely important as you progress toward becoming a healthy, well-adjusted adult.
It is okay to tell a parent that something makes you uncomfortable. It is okay to tell your mother that her negativity about your dad bugs you. It is best to have such conversations intentionally and not in the heat of frustration, and to use those “I statements.” If you are afraid that your mother will withdraw her affection if you do confront her, then you need the support of a helping professional even more.
Often therapists help all the family members involved to cultivate healthier relationships, and often they advocate on behalf of clients to help parents better understand how their choices affect the child who is unhappily stranded in the middle.
Hoping your mom has a change of heart and wishing you the best,
Dear Annie is usually a regular Tuesday feature of The Bitter Divorcée unless a certain someone’s ADD brain deems it otherwise. Annie’s sole gumball-machine-gotten qualification for advice-giving is that she survived one extraordinarily nasty divorce. The Annie answers are in no way meant to substitute for professional advice and readers should always use their own best judgement. These questions and reflections are posted in hopes of inspiring other readers to chime in on the discussion, to offer support, and to help one another to work out solutions to the complex situations that can arise as we collectively reconstruct our lives post-divorce. Please leave comments or if you have personal feedback for the questioning reader, drop an email to be forwarded to her. If you have a question of your own, send it to Annie.