My parents have never had the greatest of marriages: at best they had reached a sort of détente that allowed them to coexist in the same unit. What kept them together was a strange mix of Catholic guilt, shared political ideology and fear of not having enough money if they were to operate two separate households.

Neither of my parents is without fault- my Father is stubborn and spiteful, my mother is pushy and a know it all who will harp on you until you submit to her thoughts because you just can’t take it anymore. She is also not so great at adapting. Add in to this the inevitable aging process, where sometimes your worst traits get amplified, and you have a situation set to explode.

My parents are not getting along. They fight constantly. Neither one of them is rational or willing to listen. And I am getting to the point where I just want to close my eyes and pretend that none of this is happening.

I do not know what to do about my parents, their aging and their fighting.

I have tried babying them. I have tried tough love. I have tried coddling. I’ve tried ignoring (which is my favorite method but probably least effective). I’m running out of ideas. I have talked to their Doctor. I have suggested therapy and anti depressants and anti anxiety meds.

I realize that my Father is ill, and his body has been through a lot. I realize that my Mother is annoying. I know that pandemic was not good for their mental health. I know all the big facts.

Yet, I have no clear path on how to help them.

It’s really starting to fray at my nerves. While I am coping, and making sure I take time our for myself, I still feel helpless. Part of me doesn’t want to even try to help anymore, because everything I try is futile. And for a can-do woman of action, who is the persona I am most likely to take on, this is not a look I want to wear. I am meant to solve problems, not to ignore them. I see a problem, I figure out what to do, and I act. The way I normally am is just not working right now. Part of me, a really big part, just wants to give up…to pass the buck to my sister and let her figure it out…But there’s that little piece inside of me that still thinks she has to protect her sister…and her parents… I’m really starting to hate that little responsible gremlin living inside me. Who knew being responsible would be such a travail?

After I end this post, I will look at my to do list and get on with my day. But there’s that nagging feeling that I should be doing something, doing more than I am to help out my parents, a nagging little bit of guilt and a nagging little bit of adulting…the unwritten to do that I just can’t shake…

82 thoughts on “The Fighting

  1. I feel for you. Thankfully my parents didn’t fight and became even more loving toward each other as they aged. But, my grandparents fought, ferociously, and at times I thought they would kill each other. The crazy thing is, when one of them is gone, the other will miss them. Hang in there.

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  2. Sorry you are enduring this duress. There may be nothing you can do, or not do, or say, or not say, that will influence your parents’ behavior or change the dynamic of their relationship. All you can do is let them know how their bickering makes you feel, which I imagine you have already done. But what if you said something like, “Mom and Dad. You’re not going to be here forever. It saddens me that when you are gone, the memory I will have of your marriage is your ceaseless carping at each other.”

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    1. My mom was complaining the other day. She said her irregular heartbeats have gotten worse due to stress (her diagnosis) I said she should talk to a therapist for coping techniques. She said she’s coping fine. Then I said if she’s coping fine then the stress isn’t the reason for the heart thing. It’s a giant circle of pushing the blame

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  3. How sad to think of two people spending so many years of unhappiness in being together, and spreading their bad cheer to their daughters. It doesn’t sound like they’ve done any mellowing as they’ve aged. Sad all around. You have my sympathies. Good for you for not following their paths!

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  4. I wish I had a constructive solution but do not. My folks got tamer as time went on but then they died at 63 and 57 so I don’t know how they would have aged.

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  5. Your plight must be very frustrating. My father outlived my mother by about 15 years so they didn’t get to the stage your parents are currently going through. So I don’t have personal experience to draw from on this topic.
    However, I can make a suggestion that may or may not help. Your blog seems to suggest that you don’t know how to help THEM. Perhaps you should adjust your thinking to helping YOURSELF instead. A way to help yourself cope. My gut tells me that at this stage your parents are unlikely to change. So the only one who can change or adjust is you. And you cannot possibly be the only person going through this. I think there must be geriatric professionals who can give you strategies and coping ideas/skills to help you deal with your parents. Sure, your Parents need your help because they are aging and your father is sick. But, may I suggest getting help to figure out a way to help assist them without it affecting you so deeply. (I know, easier said than done). But rather than trying to help them change their behavior you might learn new ways to cope with them. Everything you’re doing sounds excellent but it’s affecting you negatively. That’s not healthy for you.
    As someone who is now aging and dealing with s chronic disease, both my sons help me regarding my health stuff. What I’ve noticed is that while my oldest is there for me whenever I need him, he often seems surprised at my responses when I say things that to me seem perfectly logical. He sees the world as a man in his 40’s. While I look at life as a woman who fought for peace and equality in the 60’s. I think because he’s a list guy, a boss at work etc. he sees life as a world filled with problems he has to solve. The reality is he needs to be there for me but he can’t fix my cancer nor can he adjust my thinking to suit his. I just need his help sometimes. That doesn’t mean he has to change me, parent me, or take care of me. You can’t mother your mom but you can assist her. She isn’t going to change.
    Adult children seem to think that while we need the assistance of our children sometimes, it does not mean we are incompetent. If your parents get that way then professionals must know some helpful strategies. You cannot blame yourself for them being cranky or fighting. Those are their shortcomings not yours.
    You are being too hard on yourself. Deep breaths. There is no easy way to deal with all this. Your folks are lucky to have you. Even if they don’t show it sending hugs! ❤️

    Liked by 7 people

    1. My husband and his sister hired a geriatric lawyer to help with their Mom. Absolutely no cooing strategies or suggestions about anything other than what to do. My husband is now more stressed than I am because of the things the lawyer wants them to deal with. There’s no easy answer or solution.

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      1. Yeah, I was thinking about a geriatric shrink. Not sn attorney. LA when my father was in the hospital after a fall , he was just shy of 90. I won’t go into details but it was touch and go. A hospital shrink told us he was depressed and missing my mother. (She’d passed more than a decade before). So we brought in their wedding picture, a family pic of his grandchildren and pictures of he and my mom when they got engaged and one taken shortly before she died. Just having those pictures by his bed made a huge difference in his attitude. At home he had pictures by his bedside and he’d talk to my mom each morning and before he climbed into bed at night. Having loving memories by him in the hospital and then in hospice before he passed, seemed to make a huge difference in his attitude. So the shrink was right. My father was an independent man in life. An officer in the army, the patriarch of our family. Surrounded by photos of his beautiful life, he passed sweetly. It was heartbreaking for us. But he went peacefully. It’s so difficult to watch our parents age.

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  6. Having the fix-it tendency myself I do understand what you’re saying. But sometimes we have to admit that there are things we can’t fix or change. But what we can do is continue to love the ones we can’t fix without being drawn into their drama.

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  7. There are no answers- none of us can do much but sympathize and perhaps empathize with you. This will sound harsh LA, but there is nothing you can do for THEM. You have to make choices for yourself, and that is hard so I hope you can find a way to set aside the guilt. It is very much like you noted- parenting toddlers in adult bodies and those bodies know how to play games and play on emotions. Sadly this has become their life, and they have found a way to make it yours as well if you continue to allow it. Please involve your sister and as many others as you need. You are not meant to take this burden. Hugs.

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    1. Thank you! Yes…I wasn’t expecting answers…I was just getting my feelings and thoughts into the air…it feels better to say everything out loud to someone

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  8. I’m glad to hear that this blog is working as a journal for you to express your difficult emotions. That – at the very least – is something you can do for yourself. I think I’m much like you in that I get things done and am the resolver of family difficulties. But there does come a point when you can’t do it anymore, because the people involved don’t want resolution, only to do things their way and to be right or to win. My parents were also unhappily married for many years, remaining together for the reasons you’ve identified. The relationship with my mother has long caused me mental health issues. After my father’s death, I – finally – stepped back to allow my youngest sister and my brother & his wife to be more front line and my mother is now in the final stages of obtaining a visa to relocate to live with another younger sister in the US. Keeping my mother at arms length has been a considerable boon to my mental health. I’m afraid you’ve reached the stage where accepting that you can’t change anyone else, you can only change yourself and how you react may be needed. All the best LA ❤

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  9. I’m not sure you can change your parents–wouldn’t it be wonderful if you had a magic wand? My parents were both difficult in their own way. My mom was making little verbal jabs at my dad even at the point he didn’t have much time left.
    The only strategy I have with my mom is trying to distract her by changing the subject to another topic.

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  10. Take care of you first!!!! My parents are the same way. My dad can’t say a word without my mom being overly annoyed and rude. It’s so hard to be around and mentally draining. I feel like a crazy person when I leave their house.
    I often wonder if this is all for show and if she’s not that rude to him when they are alone.

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  11. There is no right answer. Do what you think you need to do, but don’t let it ruin your life and relationship with your husband and daughter. My heart goes out to you as you decide how to help your parents. Be smart and prepare for the time when you are your parents’ age.

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  12. I am so sorry you’re having to go through this. I don’t have any suggestions other than to say that you have every right to your feelings about all this. You’re caught in the middle and it’s not pleasant, none of it.

    Dealing with elderly parents is one of the biggest challenges that I and my friends are facing. Each of our situations is different but no less difficult. For me, I’m now having to find ways to care for my 89 year old dad who lives 1000 miles away. My alcoholic brother lives with him and no longer speaks to me (because I’ve uncovered his lid of secret drinking and all his hate boiled out in front of dad for the first time a few months ago).

    I have found it very helpful to speak to others about the challenges. It helps clear my mind of all that’s going on in my head. Useful suggestions sometimes come about. But at the very least, by speaking to others, we realize we are not alone with these dreadful circumstances. And that is a big deal.

    I hope you can find some peace!

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  13. I don’t think you can do anything to help them with their marriage or fighting. Who knows, maybe they thrive on the way things are. My parents divorced when I was in college and it turned my world upside down. I’d rather have them together fighting than never talking to each other again.

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  14. I am sorry you are dealing with this. Sadly, my magic wand doesn’t extend to impossibly hostile elders. I wish them peace with each other as that would give you peace. Blessings, LA.

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  15. LA, read this, and like several others< I too have no idea what to say. I appreciate your heart. Thank you for pulling back the curtain. Take care of yourself. DM

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Oh my! Been there done that!!! Wish I could give you any good advice, but in reality and with dealing with parents who are set in their ways not a heaven full of saints can fix that! I know that isn’t a hopeful or helpful response.
    I often thought that just running around the room and screaming at the top of my lungs to drown out their constant BS would at least help me. LOL
    But, finally the BS ends and it is sad as if it ends with them hating you there is just a long remaining lifetime of regret. In my parents situation I truly think that my mom is happy with the entire situation of alienation of everyone for ever and ever.

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      1. I had a friend and she had a father who wouldn’t take his Alzheimer’s medication. He was always curious as to how she knew he hadn’t taken his pills – the answer was that he was always much more pleasant when he took the pills. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  17. My issue these days isn’t quite the same but I can relate to your feelings about wanting to fix it. My dad is alone and unhappy but does nothing to help himself. I feel a constant weight on my shoulders that affects my happiness. I feel guilty because my sister visits him almost every day, but I just can’t do that. I’ve concluded that I have to change my own attitude and do what’s right for me which means taking responsibility but not coddling. He’s happy letting us do everything which makes me crazy, especially since my sister seems ok with that. I guess I feel a little better reading all the comments and realizing so many go through the same things. Aging is a drag.

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  18. You can’t control others and you can’t help those who won’t help themselves. You can point out to both of them how unhappy they both seem. You can come up with ground rules for their arguing and tell them that if they’re going to bicker that you’ll take a time out elsewhere. Other than that there really isn’t much you can do and it’s not your place ❤️ so take a deep breath and find something that brings you joy to carry your through it

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  19. Sounds like a VERY tough position to be in! You will likely feel some sense of guilty no matter what you do. So whatever you do decide, just remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can with what you’ve got. You have no way of changing people who are set in their ways.

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  20. I read your post and I appreciate you so much to be a woman of action. You said you see a problem and you work to solve it, this great attitude of yours is worth many applauds. For the fighting scenario your parent are facing, I would like to suggest something. I feel a year back, I was very annoying towards my husband who himself is very considerate. But at that time my annoyance stemed out of my in-capability to enjoy and do my own thing. Once I was back in my track, I became a happy person. So, if you know what your mother wants to do and what can make her happy, give her some purpose to live that she can devote her energies into. See if you can find something that takes away her time but also makes her happy. This should surely do the trick. Expectations in relationship are hard things to handle, once we let go of these we will be set free.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. All you can do is love them each in their own way. They are “grow-ass adults” and I’m sure they realize how their life together has changed. Don’t let the pettiness of their relationship pit you against one or the other. That might be a goal of theirs to use as leverage against the other? Maybe spend quality time with each of them separately and strengthen the bond you have with them individually. 💜

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  22. Gosh, that’s really rough. I wish I had good advice to help you out with this. I imagine your presence is a great help, more than you know, and more than they’re willing to admit, even to you. So, I would say, just keep doing what you’re doing–being there, but going in with the attitude of “this is going to be rough,” so that it doesn’t rattle you so much after. ??

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