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My parents aren’t talking to each other

by Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

From Singapore: so I’m 13 and my parents quarreled on December 2013, and now, (May 2014) they haven’t really been talking to each other except to tell each other to pay my tuition fees or something like that. It first started when my dad gave $1000 to his brother to congratulate him on his second house. My mother wasn’t very happy, (or rather she was very disappointed and angry) because my dad didn’t dare to tell her he had given his brother money. Both of them had made an agreement that they would tell each other if they spent $200 or above, so my mom was very upset because my dad chose not to tell her and she couldn’t trust him, plus $1000 was a lot, and they have always been squabbling about money issues. Now my dad doesn’t want to pay my mom for her expenses (like buying groceries) and he tells my brother that my mom keeps taking money from him, while she tells me that if he has enough money to pay $1000 for something that he doesn’t gain benefit from, why can’t he pay for our family since his salary is way higher than my mom’s? she’s very upset and I have a feeling they might get divorced because my mom says our family might still be together, but she doesn’t know how long that will be, and she cries a lot more now. This makes me cry because I really love my family and I don’t want to see anyone upset, and I don’t want to be separated from anyone. Help!

It’s very hard to be the kid in this kind of situation. You have very little say in what happens to your family and I can tell that it’s breaking your heart.

As you pointed out, issues around money have been a long-standing problem for your parents. However, it sounds to me like the fight is about more than money. It’s also about trust and control and relationships with extended family members. It appears that your Dad’s gift to your uncle brought those issues to the surface. If your parents are to have a happy or at least reasonable marriage, they need to work out all those issues.

You can’t help them with that. All you can do is let them know that you love them both and that you want the family to stay together. Ask them to keep you and your brother out of the middle. You can’t be helpful and it’s unfair to ask you to take sides. Encourage them to see a marriage counselor to find out if they can resolve their problems.

Whatever happens, please remember that their unhappiness is about each other, not with you. You can still love and be connected to both of them. A divorce doesn’t have to change that.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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