How to get parents to fight less

nikolas asks: I am 14, and I have a perfect life. I am an excellent student and so on. But this is regarding my parents. Sometimes they start fighting, yelling at each other about our current financial problems. I love my mum and dad more than anything in the whole world!! It’s just that I hate it when they’re fighting. Then after an hour or so of that fighting, I become frightened that this either won’t stop, or it will get worse, or that it will go so far that they will divorce. I talked to my parents about the divorce thing and they said, “Don’t be silly, that will never happen, we love each other.” From time to time I can be a little pessimistic about those kinds of things. This sounds a little stupid, but from time to time, after the fights, I ask one parent, “We love (the other parent), don’t we?” And they say, “Yes, why shouldn’t we?” I know that these fights end in due time but it’s just that (ahhhhh here I go all pessimistic again) my mum is mostly frustrated because my dad spends a lot. Recently he spent 30.000 dinars on the maintenance of our car (that’s about 300 euros or 270 GBP). Since we got that car we are in huge debt. I just don’t want these fights to haunt me. Please give me some advice. Thank You

Hi Nikolas –

Okay, first thing – nothing you’re saying sounds stupid, or even pessimistic.  You’re living in a difficult situation that’s affecting you a lot, and that’s simply real.  It sounds pretty clear that neither of your parents is nearly as bothered by the intensity of their arguing as you are.  That may be just because they’re used to it – some couples even like arguing a lot, they feel it keeps their relationship fresh!  But I can tell you that I’m like you: I hate it when Handsome gets upset about anything.  It makes me feel insecure about our home, and very worried that he might get equally mad at me!

I’ve already written on here about how to deal with parents who fight (see Gingko’s question about it), but it certainly sounds like you’re in no physical danger.  You’re really dealing with two big issues, and I have thoughts on both of them.

First, yes, they’re fighting, and they don’t see anything wrong with it.  That’s actually a little unfair to you.  If I bark at the neighbor’s dog all day, and the other neighbors get bothered, they call Handsome up and complain.  You have the right to do the same thing!  Currently, you’re trying to save their marriage, and that’s too much work for a 14-year-old!  What you really need is to explain to them that it simply bothers you when they fight like that, and that it would make you feel a lot better if they’d find other ways to discuss their finances!  And if they aren’t willing to change their arguing style, you should find a way to get away.  Maybe to another room with the music turned up, or maybe even to a nearby friend’s home.  You have the right to not be around yelling and screaming all the time!

And second, about the financial issue.  Money is the absolute #1 most common reason for couples to fight.  After all, it’s not that hard to stay faithful to each other, keep the house clean enough for each other, etc.  But unless you’re incredibly wealthy, it’s hard for both members of a couple to feel equally good about financial decisions. Your dad really cares about that car, and your mom feels he’s overspending on it.  There’s no “bad guy” in that situation, it’s totally normal.  However, they really need to find ways to work out their differences.  Especially in the tough economy the world’s experiencing these days.

I don’t know how well they’d take to you offering suggestions, but I think it’d be great for them to write out a full annual budget, so they could look at their big expenses.  And maybe they could make some big decisions together.  One of those might be that if Dad gets to have that car, Mom gets an equal amount of money for something she cares about that Dad doesn’t!  The more they work on this issue together, the better they’ll feel about it, and probably the quieter your home will become.  They might even want to hire someone (an accountant and/or a therapist!) to help them work through this issue.

But it sounds to me like the one thing you don’t have to worry about now is divorce.  No one ever divorced over the maintenance costs for a car; if they’re happy together otherwise, you probably have nothing to worry about.  And, with a little care for your feelings, that “perfect life” you describe can get even more perfect!




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