Amy: Without divorce, mom clings to marriage

  • Article by: AMY DICKINSON
  • September 7, 2013 - 2:00 PM

Dear Amy: My mother and father separated 25 years ago but are not divorced. They see each other at family functions and are cordial. She still holds on to the fantasy that they will get back together. She sends cards to my dad, which she signs, “Love Always.” She also reminisces a lot to her family about him and their married life.

I have tried to be patient with her, but we are all at the point that we do not want to hear it anymore. (There are a few other relationships she seems to be clinging to, too). I have told her that I don’t want to hear about certain things, this being one of them. She is easily upset by this.

She moved to another city several years ago but has made almost no attempt to make friends, and spends a lot of her time alone and a few hours communicating on Facebook and e-mails every day. Does she perhaps need counseling?

Amy says: Yes, I’d say your mother needs counseling. Her life sounds diminished and lonely. If she has a pattern of not being able to make challenging interpersonal transitions (for instance, accepting that a relationship has ended), this tendency could go back further than her marriage, all the way into childhood.

One (screamingly obvious) answer is for your parents to get divorced. Until they do so, your mother can (correctly) think of herself as married, giving her a justification to stay right where she is.

Don’t talk with dad without OK

Dear Amy: My husband and I got married five months ago. We have been together seven years, and his father has hated me all that time. He was very emotionally abusive to my husband growing up. My husband goes to therapy, and I support him as best I can.

I have also been very hurt by his whole family. I decided to talk with his father. I will be having his grandchildren someday, and I believe it is best to leave my anger behind. After a long discussion with my husband, it came out he does not want any relationship with his family. I have a coffee date set with his father. Is it wrong for me to go through with it and then let his father know that for the time being we need space and time to heal?

Amy says: If your husband’s relationship with his father is so bad that he is in therapy and has now cut off all contact, then a coffee date with your father-in-law could undermine your husband’s efforts. Don’t do anything without your husband being aware of it. He may think this is a good idea, and if so you can try to broker a silent truce. Your husband’s therapist may be willing to meet with both of you; I think this would be a good idea.

Send questions via e-mail to Amy Dickinson at

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