Dear Annie: Mom Hates Dad and I’m in the Middle

Dear Annie,
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?
Jen

Dear Jen,

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,
Annie

_________________

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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.

1 comment to Dear Annie: Mom Hates Dad and I’m in the Middle

  • Dear Annie,

    Here is a child caught in the middle. I can add to a child being caught in the middle relatives, friends, neighbors, colleagues and probably the girl behind the counter at Starbucks. Correct me if I’m wrong, but shouldn’t anybody, and here I’m talking about an adult, do better to talk to a professional therapist? Personal issues should be dealt with in the company of a pro, not a member of the family, not the neighbors, etc. By talking about “it” (the divorce, the ex) this woman, Mom, is putting the other person “in the middle”. They have to choose. They have to take sides. And is it fair to ask somebody else to see the situation from her perspective? After all (to use the more extreme example), the girl behind the counter at the coffee shop, to the extent that she knows Mom’s ex and interacts with him, may find him to be, well, normal. Not quite the bad man Mom sees him to be. But here, we’re talking about the daughter of the couple. Mom is bad-mouthing Dad and daughter does not seem to see Dad as the bad man Mom makes him out to be. Unless Dad is a murderer, it could very well be the only “crime” he has committed is the one committed against Mom. To everybody else in the world, he may be a nice guy.

    I can see the daughter going to a counselor but I can see Mom doing the same. I’m wondering if each person involved in the divorce needs to work things out with a professional before they inadvertently or deliberately put everyone around them “in the middle”.

    Good luck to all.

    wb :-)

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