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The end of my tether

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It's difficult to describe all of what is wrong as it goes back many years. My mum has had 2 definite affairs, the first I was too young to notice, and the second was very obvious, I had a family of my own by then. She won't admit it, but we (my siblings, and my dad) wonder if she is on her third. My dad has challenged her about it and she won't say either way. My mum and dad do not get on at all, and can have pretty significant disagreements right in front of us. As a result of her first affair, the guy she was seeing committed suicide. The wife of her second also committed suicide. Although I have heard that she did not at that point know about mums affair with her husband.

Mum seems to want to get her new friend to become friends with us, and my children. Last year she became aware that I thought she might be sleeping with him, so she didn't talk to me for the next 3 months. I hate conflict, it makes me ill.

My dad is very unwell. He will end up in a wheelchair very soon. Mum expects to care for him when this happens. He is in great pain that the doctors are unable to help and so he drinks heavily. Not all day, but maybe 3-4 times per week at the moment he will make his way well through a bottle of whiskey. This is on top of painkillers. I am worried that he is going to drink hisself to death. I know that his main reason for drinking is to numb the physical pain, and also it is driving him crazy not knowing whether mum is having an affair or not. She even invites this guy over for a sleepover (not in her bed!) and they go out for the day etc.

At the moment things are very bad. Dad is hardly talking at all, drinking heavily. Mum is unaware that she is the main problem. She got his friend over to talk to him and he confirmed that the problem is mum. Dad says he will tell mum to go if he finds she is having an affair, but he does really love her and doesn't want to get rid of her. If me or my sisters challenge her she will not talk to us. If we do nothing the situation will go on and on with dad making himself more and more ill. I really upset dad by talking to his friend about him too (as I was concerned). So it seems whatever I do I get myself into trouble. So do I let them get on with it? Or is it mine and my siblings job to intervene in this whether or not it upsets them. I can't believe it's gone on so long, they have had no physical relationship for 16 years.

The end of my tether

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Your mother seems highly selfish and irresponsible. If she's never really got on with her husband, and vice versa, then they would have been better off divorcing, rather than stubbornly hanging on for seemingly no reason. They can't even say it was for the sake of you children when they've your whole lives dragged you into what ideally should moreover be their private problems, without ever having actually tried to sort the whole mess out.

What I see here is a whole gaggle of Likes attracting Like, specifically, people who don't get on with or enjoy life and thereby whom place far too much importance (the wrong kind) and expectations onto their romantic partners, seeing them as some sort of panacea or Ecstasy pill on legs...and when it obviously doesn't work out or remain like that, use the 'failed' relationship as their brilliant excuse to finally opt out. And your father climbs into a bottle as your mother climbs into a fantasy romance world. She discards the 'bottles' once they're empty much in the same way as your father discards his.

I know you're worried for and feel protective over your dad. But he IS a grown man, almost twice your age and experience, and there ARE sources of help out there - *if* one truly wants help. I mean, you say it's driving him crazy not knowing whether she's having a third affair, but - surely all the past associative behaviour matches the current? You'd think he'd be an expert by now at working it out, irrespective of the absence of any concrete evidence, wouldn't you? COURSE IT DOES. And why aren't you putting him out of his misery? Don't want to betray your mother? Well, hasn't she 'said' enough times via her constant behaviour that betraying family members or the entire pack is perfectly okay by her? Goose and gander, GL, goose and gander! And anyway, if she wants to be a child and go play sulkiepoos, that's HER problem and HER deprivation. (She'd come round soon enough, though; she obviously needs you all too much.)

Furthermore, how come it's not driving your father crazy knowing that *you and his other kids* are so anxious and worried about him, despite you've got your own lives and families to be concentrating on, enough for him to divorce her or at least ultimatum her on that score? Because he physically can't risk it, now? Well, I'm afraid that's what happens when you keep turning a blind eye or forgiving the unforgivable because you'd rather sit in sh*t than expend the mental effort necessary to climb out of it; you end up a 'needs prostitute'.

But why should everything always fall to YOU? Are you the parent(s) and they the children? It sounds like it, doesn't it?

Sorry, but I don't believe he 'really loves her'. If he ever had/ever could, she'd have FELT it, seen it that she had steak at home and therefore wouldn't have had to go out in search of supposed sausages. Unless she's a Honeymoon junkie? And since you haven't, I presume, spent a whole year listening secretly to the inner workings of their relationship from under their bed, all you really have is two sources of biased, blame-shifting spin (verbal *and* behavioural). So instead, I suggest you from now on ignore all the blah-blahs and surface trivia, and instead look at the pattern of actions.

Were it me, I would say, 'Dad,..Mum,... either p*ss or get off the pot and stop shoving your problems and miseries onto me and, by unavoidable knock-on effect, my husband and kids'. And same for your sisters. Do you see what I'm saying here? You do NOT want to drip by drip choose to place your kids in anything remotely like the same position YOU were helplessly put into (mums constantly distracted and lacking energy, etc.).

If your mother is so immature as to blame the product of your knowing (telling your father) after having flaunted her latest adulterous relationship in front of you all then she needs her head tested, frankly - for major 'cake and eat it'-itis. Or finally grow the hell up. The actions say, share this burden of mine (guilt included) whilst I at the same time tie your hands against doing a thing to UNBURDEN yourself of it. That is not healthy motherly instinct. It's motherly exploitative, not to mention unkind. So put your foot down (you can all write a joint letter - sisterly solidarity...united we stand, divided we fall and all that) and tell her she's got 1 month maximum to put your father out of his misery or YOU lot will. If it means him ending up living alone, again there are sources of help out there for the ill and infirm. Plus he's got his daughters and grandkids, hasn't he? Sure, you'd still have a burden of sorts. But one that EASED AND REVERSED, courtesy of time, drawing a line underneath it all and blessed closure. His and her way, there IS no light at the end of the tunnel. FOR ANYONE they touch...meaning the putrid pass-the-parcel or significant portions of it keeps getting passed, via the underside of the table, down the family lines.

Someone has to be the 'full stop' in this typical 'cruelty to children must stop, full-stop' situation. And if ones parents don't have the strength of character, maturity or energy to do it then it (sadly...yet not in this case) falls to the 'upgrades' (offspring).

Angry at you for summoning the troops. Pff! What a cheek. If he and his wife were dealing with this adult problem LIKE two grown adults then where would have been the need? Again, it is highly unfair for two parents, each in their own separate and slightly different ways, to make you have to suffer their chronic, all-pervasive problems and psychological balls and chains alongside them to that degree yet NOT allow you any recourse to put yourselves, let alone them, out of your misery.

Try that one last intervention, all of you sisters (and it DOES have to be all of you, for outnumbering/force-matching purposes) - in the form either of ultimatum-ing your mother to come clean or just biting the bullet and giving your mother a taste of her own 'motherly' medicine in making your father face the now too obvious fact that his marriage has for too long needed professional intervention (marital counsellor). Or there's the third option (or addition?) of you and your sisters finally confronting them all in the same room and basically banging their heads together HARD (remember you're all adult, independent women now). And if either of them doesn't like that, you can tell them it's tough titty for their having surreptitiously forced you all into the parent-to-their-child position! Bed and lie in it. They should have thought about that, shouldn't they. Ah, but, they didn't reckon on you confrontational-disliking gals ever putting your parental feet down, did they. Whoops-a-sarcastic-daisy.

'Get into trouble' my a*se. They're the ones in trouble with YOU THREE! (I presume it's three?) They wanted this to be a family problem? THEY'VE GOT IT. And would they like fries and a milkshake with that?

Frankly, I'd like to put them both over my knee and give them the giant spanking they've obviously for too long been gagging for, so god only knows what you and your sisters feel like doing! Go gently, though, won't you - remember they're only little. ;-)

Only joking - give 'em hell! They'll back down, I guarantee it. How do I know? Because they're both very cowardly, that's how. Plus this is not a unique situation by any means.

The truth, the whole truth and nothing BUT the truth should very hopefully come out during this meeting so that EVERYONE, FINALLY, knows exactly where they stand and where things are headed. What a relief!

Kudos to you for stepping up as family leader, by the way. And say goodbye after all of this to your hatred of confrontation - you'll be a pro and that can only enhance your life and the lives of your kids! :-) When you look at it that way, this is a bit of a gift of an opportunity, really, isn't it?

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