What can a child of an unhappily-married couple do to help their parents?

Hachiko asks: My parents are married to each other but they don’t love each other. And maybe that’s why I cry sometimes. What should I do? They’re just married because in our country people have to get married (love ‘em or not).

Hi Hachiko –



The situation you’re describing is very sad.  And sad for everyone, not just you, and not just your parents.  It’s very common too.


When people get married, they almost always either feel in love with each other, or feel good enough about each other that they believe they’ll feel more love as time goes by.  And as we all know, that feeling almost always changes over time.  And when it does, they can either split up (through separation or divorce), or work on improving the relationship, or just stick with each other with no improvement.  As you can probably imagine, I like the second alternative best – we dogs believe in absolute loyalty, but we also want everyone to treat each other as well as possible, so we tend to really love people figuring out how to make their relationships the best they can be.


But it isn’t your parents who wrote me.  It’s you.  And you’re in the position we dogs find ourselves in all the time – you want the best for these people you love, and you have a pretty good idea of how they could make their lives better, but you don’t know how to make them do it.  In your case, you want your parents to love each other, but don’t know how.


And there’s a simple reason why.  Because you can’t.


I’m at least glad that you’re not blaming yourself for the problems in their marriage, which many kids do.  And, as I have said elsewhere on this website, the kid never ever ever ever EVER is responsible for their parents’ marital problems, or breakup.


But of course you kids, just like us pooches, want to find a way to fix it.  There are a couple of famous movies called “The Parent Trap,” where two twins work to get their divorced parents back together.  They’re fun movies, and everyone enjoys them, largely because so many kids want to do just that.  But I have never heard of any kid, or kids, actually accomplishing it.


It’s a lousy, rotten, helpless feeling.  I know!  And if your parents were divorced, and dating other people, some of whom were jerks you didn’t like, you’d have the same feeling about that!  It’s really tough, because, as a kid, you want to be able to rely on your parents, to be able to depend on them.  You’re supposed to be the one figuring the world out, and they’re supposed to be the ones with all the answers, able to help you out and be there for you when you fail.


But in cases like this, it just doesn’t work that way.  You truly don’t have the power in the situation.


But there is one other thing that you should know.  And that’s that your parents actually have a choice.  You say that they’re married just because that’s what people in your country do.  But people who really want to split up – they find ways!  Maybe they stay married, but live in different parts of the country, or they spend all their time with other people.  Your parents might seem to be helpless in this, but they are actually choosing the lives they lead, every day.


Maybe that’s because they actually like each other, and depend on each other, more than you see.  Maybe they’re the sort of people who really enjoy each other but like to argue and complain about each other a lot.  Or maybe, just maybe, you’re right that they don’t love each other, but they love YOU so much that neither wants to leave your home, because they’d do anything to stay around you!


Yes, that’s possible!  I did say that kids are never responsible for parents divorcing, but kids CAN be the reason they stay together!  And that’s nothing to feel bad about.  It means you are the greatest thing in their lives, and you make them happier than anything else.  (Of course, divorced parents can feel that way about their kids as well; again, it’s all about what the adults feel is their best choice)


So here’s your job, Hachiko:  Be happy.  Find things you love to do; live a passionate life.  Give your parents reason to feel good about having had you, and having made choices to make your life better.  If they see you happy, they’ll get happier too.  If they see you successful, they’ll feel successful as well.  And if they’re feeling really happy and successful, who knows, maybe they’ll even get along better, and like each other more than you’ve seen.


Just be yourself, and live your life to the fullest.  For them, that’ll be the greatest love they’ve ever known, working out brilliantly.


Thanks for the great question!






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