What to do when you realize you can’t save your parents’ marriage

Wooff asks: So, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will be moving out next year. I can avoid looking at the problem straight in the face, but the problem will still continue to exist – especially when it’s not my problem to solve.
I started writing to you when it became clear that my parents did not want to be with each other and I didn’t know what to do. Sadly, well I see it to be sad, they are still together and that was back in 2012. Two individuals who lack harmony within themselves and with each other. For a long time, I thought that suicide was the way out of my situation, then I thought it was love from other people, but as I’m growing older I’ve come to understand that the way out is me. Only I can remove myself from this toxic situation. Well, when my parents were considering getting a divorce, my mom didn’t have much support from her family and my older sister. I was the only one then who wanted them to get a divorce or at least that’s what I know. But like I said, they didn’t. My dad is short-tempered, biased, and not easy to talk to. Whereas my mom is immature at times, seeks validation and has a victim mentality. This is not to say that they don’t have good qualities but I’m not writing this letter to let you know that they are good people – which they are, but in different ways. What I’m trying to say is, they are not a good match. Now for the longest time I thought that I could fix this. But coming back to the beginning of this letter, I’ve realized that it’s not my problem to fix. I see the problem, yet I avoid it, but it continues existing. I thought my suicide would finally shake them enough to be mature and make changes (whatever they may be). Morbidly enough, I do get in that mindset sometimes although it’s very rare now, as I do want to live a good fulfilling life. I don’t want my life to be a sad one. Second came love from other people. As time old tales keep telling you, love cannot fix you or your problems. The problem still exists even if someone loves you or if you love someone else. Finally, I’ve come to terms with the fact that it’s me. It’s me that needs to get myself out of this situation. The thing that stops me the most is my mom. She’s always been trying to ensure I don’t leave her. I think it’s because she doesn’t want to be left alone with my dad, who she shares no connection with and feels like a slave to as he is the breadwinner. Although I do feel guilty about wanting to leave this situation and move away (to another country which I love, not because of wanting distance), I don’t see any other option. By staying back, I end up giving up on my dreams, staying stuck in this continuous time loop, and may resort back to my old ways. I do think the way out is by actually physically leaving. But I don’t want my mom’s heart and soul to break as I do. I’ve come to the understanding that her life and situation is not and was never my responsibility; it was hers. I try to make her understand that she is the only one who can improve her life and situation, but my mom cannot see out of her ways. So, I can’t but help feeling guilty. I know you’ve been able to find a flaw in my way of thinking before, and I want to know what you think it is. Where my thought pattern is wrong and where it is right. If I’m right or where I am wrong.

Hi Wooff!

Oh I see you as so flawless, you would never believe!  

Though I do have a very small disagreement with something you say – or maybe an addition to it.

Marriage is a very funny, very profound, thing.  Couples who seem perfect find they can’t stand living together, and other couples who seem just awful for each other actually depend on each other in many ways.  Someday I recommend you read or see the play (or the movie) Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.  You can’t imagine a more horrible, destructive couple – yet they’ve stayed together.  

My point is this – to you, divorce might be the best answer for your parents.  But this is their choice.  Either one could leave the other if they chose, and neither has.  For whatever reason, every day, they choose to stay together.

Is that because one of them is weak?  Maybe, but you’re saying both are unhappy.  So maybe it’s because, for all the problems you see, there’s something each of them values and depends on in the other.  

I’m not here to say they’re right or wrong, but it is their choice.

And that mindset of mine is exactly why I don’t just agree with you, I urge you to follow through on your dreams.  Your mother has made her choices in her life; they’re not yours.  You don’t just have the right to move on; you need to.  Whether that’s moving to another country or just to another home, or even staying there but working on your personal growth, you owe this to yourself.  And, ironically, to them.

Haven’t they spent your entire lifetime providing for you, educating you, supporting you?  For all the lousy things you see in their marriage, IT CREATED YOU, and for that alone it is WONDERFUL.  

If you do move away, they might bicker more, or they might start treating each other better because they can’t focus on you.  They might fall in love again, or they might divorce.  I don’t know, and neither do you.

But you have YOUR life to lead, my friend.  Your adventures to take, your loves (right and wrong) to fall into, your mistakes to make.  

Love your parents.  They’re clearly good people and deserve that.  But don’t live for them.  Ironically, living for them would be the one way you could make all their work in raising you meaningless.  Instead, honor them by living a life greater than they can.

(And ironically, that would “kill” your old self much more than a suicide would have, and not destroy their lives as your death most certainly would).

All my very best,


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