Abusing Dad

14 Aug

Dear LetterBalm: I’m in a relationship I’m finding difficult to handle. I’m in my 40s and have been seeing a man who’s 55. We’re getting divorced from our respective spouses. We met after the divorces were underway, so we didn’t break up each other’s marriage. My boyfriend has two grown children in their 20s who live with him and don’t lift a finger to help around the house. They have part-time jobs – neither is looking for better work or to move out on their own. They spend their money hanging out with friends. They order their father around, yell at him and generally walk all over him. Sometimes their animosity extends to me. I think it’s verbal and emotional abuse, and I don’t know what to do about it. Their father is beaten down, anxious and sad. I don’t think I can reach him, but I want to try.

–Living with Abuse

This is a bad situation difficult to remedy and one which probably won’t be resolved successfully. Of course, you can walk away with impunity because you aren’t living with your boyfriend, and you don’t have shared financial interests. But Ms. L.B. understands that you feel you can’t leave your man in the lurch with his (very) abusive grown children. Regarding those prize specimens, they have a cushy life and are in no hurry to move out and support themselves. You have to ask yourself why your boyfriend allows his kids to abuse him so. Why is he so fearful and diffident? And, what effect has his divorce had on him and his children? After you figure out what you will do, you can take him out to dinner and talk with him. Sadly, don’t expect him to make any move to extricate himself from his dysfunctional family life:

Hector darling, please listen to me. I’m so sad, and I’m very worried about you. I’ll come right out and say it: Your kids are abusing you. They are cold and cruel, and they have beaten you down to such a point that you can’t see how dysfunctional and horrible your life is with them. I know I’m speaking plainly – and, I’m sorry if my words hurt you – but I care about you and I have to make you see the truth. Sweetheart, you’re going through a divorce on top of all this. Will you consider talking with a professional who can help you see where things have gone wrong in your life and what you can do about it? You have more power than you think you do. I’ll stand by you, but you have to take some ownership. What do you say? Can we talk?

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