Ask Amy: Parents play ‘marriage in the middle’

February 4, 2013

DEAR AMY: I am in seventh grade. I think that my parents’ marriage is happy, but they have problems. I think these problems are mostly my mother’s fault, because she is constantly accusing my dad of doing little things wrong. She never actually confronts him about it but complains to me, which makes me feel like she is putting me in an unfair position.

She also claims that he shuts her out of conversations and shoots her down when she tries to talk, but I frankly feel that he is just defending his argument and that she is being extra-sensitive on purpose. Most of the time they get along okay, but they never kiss (at least not in front of me) and they don’t really act like they are in love anymore.

I think they need marriage counseling, but I don’t know how to talk to them about it. This has become very painful for me. How can I persuade them to go to marriage counseling? I am very scared that they will become very unhappy with each other, and eventually get a divorce. -- Parents With Problems

DEAR PROBLEMS: Your parents may have marital problems, but one big mistake they’re making is to involve you in their personal, adult relationship. You are in seventh grade. You should not be expected to take sides in their disputes or mediate their marriage.

Your mother should not confide in you to this extent. It is human nature to try to determine who is right or wrong in an argument, and every time your parents have serious and unresolved arguments in front of you, they force you to take sides.

You are obviously bright and perceptive. I can understand why they trust your point of view, but they may not realize the extent to which they violate your right to be a kid. Tell them both: “I worry so much when you don’t get along. I wish you would not involve me in your arguments. And I really wish you would see a professional because I don’t know how to help you, and I’m worried you’ll get divorced.”

I hope they will follow your excellent instinct and seek marriage counseling.

DEAR AMY: I have been a widow for seven years. After grieving for a while, I joined a singles club and met a man who was fun to be around. I started dating him, and we had a lot in common. My problem is that this man has a Napoleon complex: He needs other women around him.

He is always out helping other single women with auto and home projects. When we are out together in local clubs, he leaves me sitting by myself while he asks women sitting alone to dance.

I am totally fed up and doubt if he will ever change. Should I accept him as he is, or break up and find a better companion? -- Down and Out

DEAR DOWN: Unless your guy has a sudden hankering to invade Switzerland, I don’t think he really has a Napoleon complex. He sounds instead like a fun flirt. And I assume he was like this when you met him.

He will not change because he has no incentive to change. If you want a different outcome, you should choose a partner who won’t engage you in a game of musical chairs.

DEAR AMY: “Worried Husband” asked if it was okay to have a “secret friendship” with another woman.

Friendships help us get through life. One problem with our understanding of marriage is that it should be the be-all-and-end-all relationship. That is simply impossible. It’s this wrong-headed belief that drives us to feel as if we must have “secret” relationships.

If we can learn to develop honest and mature relationships with our spouses (and our friends), we avoid the destructive baggage that comes with keeping secrets. Your spouse doesn’t need to know every single thing that you do or say or feel, but she/he does have the right to not be lied to.

Secrets, in the sense of this situation, are lies. -- Sally

DEAR SALLY: I agree. Thank you.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services

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