Women, life, happiness
  • “My mother wants to leave my father after nearly 50 years.”

    October 14th, 2010Keryl PesceFamily and Relationships, Life in general

    "It makes me sad to think about it. They've spent a lifetime together. My father isn't perfect, but I know he will be completely lost without my mother. How can I talk her out of it? How can I help them save their marriage?"

    The end of a marriage. Rarely easy, no matter the circumstances.

    My first piece of advice is to adjust your thinking a little. Perhaps a better question to ask is "How can I help them both get through this as smoothly as possible?"

    A few decades ago, the most common response to a couple unhappy in their marriage was to save it at all costs. Stay together forever. You made the commitment. It's what you do. I am of a different opinion. Not that I believe a marriage should be tossed aside at the first sign of trouble, but there are times when two people either should not have taken vows to begin with, or over time, they simply grow apart.

    If your mother is considering leaving your father after 50 years, she didn't dream this up yesterday. My guess is she has been unhappy for quite some time. She has given up many years of her life for the sake of not rocking the boat, fear of change or not wanting to hurt your father or you. At 70+ years old (just guessing if she's been married 50 years), is she not entitled to do what makes her happy at this stage in her life? Hasn't she sacrificed enough already?

    Obviously, she is talking to you about this, so that in itself is an invitation for your input. I think the best contribution you can make as her daughter is to help her make this change a peacefully as possible. Her decisions and efforts can be kind and compassionate toward your father. Bringing up baggage from the past 50 years, pointing out all the reasons he drives her nuts, or any finger pointing on her part, justified or not, will not help either of them. The best approach she can take is one of "This is for me, not against you." Help her resist the urge to put him down in the hopes he'll recognize she is justified in what she is doing. I know it is the most common reaction, but trust me, it won't help either one of them.

    Regarding your father, if he opens up to you about this and wants to talk. Listen. Hear him. His natural reaction will be to lament over the years they spent together and what he could have done differently to make her want to stay with him. Help him see we all do the best we can with what we have and know at any given time. Regret over the past is useless. There isn't a damn thing any one of us can go back and do over. It is what it is. Let it go. What are the best decisions he can make going forward?

    Ask him how much he loves your mother. Chances are, he'll tell you she's everything to him or something close to it. Then tell him this "If you love her, then let her be happy. Give her this. She's devoted 50 years to you and this family. It may be scary at first. All major change is. But in the long run, you will feel better about having acted selflessly. That's a gift only you can give her. That's how you can show her how much you love her. Hasn't she earned that?"

    It is possible for two people to change the status of their relationship and still remain kind to eachother. They may remain a part of each other's life – just on different terms. Is that possible with your parents? I don't know. That is up to them and how they choose to handle this.

    Remember, when we are faced with a difficult situation that can't be changed, our best option is to search for a way to put a new frame around it. Keep this in mind for yourself as well as any words of wisdom or insight you offer both your parents.

    My best wishes to you and your family.

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