My parents have been divorced for 19 years. I grew up with my mother and grandma in her house. During my childhood, my grandma would tell me horrible things about my father such as that he abandoned me, that he doesn’t care about me, etc. which resulted in me not having any kind of relationship with my father up until my late teen years when we started rebuilding it. He and my mother don’t talk and she is convinced that my father wants to turn me against her and this is the reason for many terrible arguments I am having with her which sometimes end in her issuing an ultimatum- either I’ll act the way she wants me to or I can pack my bags and move to my dad’s place. She also claims that I don’t love her or care about her and that I will always prefer my father over her which is not true because for my whole life I wanted them to get along and respect each other. On the other hand, my dad won’t visit me at my place because he could run into my mom since I am living with her. He does hate my mom for all the thing she did to him in the past and is avoiding her completely while she blames him for everything bad that happened to her. Recently my mom started seeing a neuropsychiatrist who diagnosed her with depression and anxiety. Because of that I sometimes avoid certain topics for discussion because I’m afraid she would judge me or get angry with me. For these reasons, I don’t feel close to either one of them nor I have the freedom to talk about my problems with them. Often I feel like they pressure me into picking a side and I am tired of being in that position.I care about them both equally and my love for them could not be measured. Picking a side would only mean hurting one of them. I feel trapped and I don’t know how to act or what to do anymore. (From Sarajevo)
You state your age as 21, and this means it is time to transcend the dynamics of your family. Since you were two your parents have had this tug-of-war and you’ve gotten caught in the middle. This is the time for you to cultivate your independence and make plans to not live with either of them. Their own turmoil has eclipsed your needs, and it seems like this is an issue that is not likely to be resolved anytime soon. You don’t feel close to either of them, are afraid of being judged, have to monitor what and how you say things, and your dad won’t visit you because you live with your mom. There isn’t much of an opportunity for your emotional needs to get met at home, and your parents don’t seem to have the skills necessary to help.
My encouragement is for you to turn your attention to facilitating and cultivating your own well-being by making a plan to move out. Even if it takes you a year of planning, your independence is the essence of your emotional health right now. It is time to leave the nest as there isn’t much there for you now — or in the future.
Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: http://www.dare2behappy.com/. He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.
APA Reference Tomasulo, D. (2019). Issues in Dysfunctional Family. Psych Central.
Retrieved on May 23, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2019/04/12/issues-in-dysfunctional-family/
Last updated: 10 Apr 2019 Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 10 Apr 2019 Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.