What to do about my abusive father?
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Trounce

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Alright, I really have nowhere else to turn to, and I've been reading to forum for a long time and admire so many of its patrons. As well, because this is the internet and anonymity is unhindered, I figure I can shoot this question out in the air without fear of judgement or persecution.

Now, my father has always been mean. When I was a child, he was loving and caring, but had a brutal temper, and would break out in fits of rage that carried to verbal abuse. Let it be known now, onset, he has never hit me, my brother or my mother. Now that that is known, let me move onto recent events.

He and my mother have been on the brink of divorce forever, because they would fight and then make up, and because I was young, there was a maturity gap wherein I never understood the full extent of their nature; I figured that every couple fought and healed and things were just that way.

Now, in 2002 he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, and has inflicted it on us ever since. Now understand something: he is kind with money, but very little else. He has no sense of compassion or remorse, and believes intently that he can buy his way out of any problem. Case in point, there was always a new watch or pair of earrings for my mother after a fight, and for my brother and I a nice lunch and perhaps a video game and CD. I used to just enjoy the perks because the fighting, while it was intense with me, never really bothered me. Again, I just thought it was normal. It is extremely hard, nay, impossible, to love a man, in spite of his illness, when he is so cold and unloving. I have tried very hard, throughout my entire adolescence and early adult life, to love him, but have realized, to my dismay and relief, that I can't, and do not need to. He may be my biological father, but he has completely obliterated the role a father chooses to take upon having children. He just isn't a nice person. I have come to the realization that I hate him and probably always will. Please understand where I'm coming from; this is not a flaming, violent hatred, the type that he possesses, but rather a calculated, logical hatred that I have built up, perhaps as a defence mechanism, and consider it a necessity if I want to move on with my life.

This, however, is the pressing issue. I am messed up beyond belief, and am going to seek professional help, but my mother and my brother have bore the brunt of his anger for the past ten months. I have been in residence, downtown Toronto, and only hear of this abuse from my mother. He does things like call her trash, nothing, unlikeable, stupid, fat, ugly, anything you can imagine. He belittles her like nothing else, and expects a slave because of his illness (He is still completely mobile and has lost no use of his limbs... in other words, his needs have no drastically increased since the inception of the illness) just like his mother was to his father. He is constantly needy and demands her attention at all times. At night, he stands over her bed and spews doctrine about being a good wife to a sick husband, and tells her that she is a bad person. (Right now he is shouting at her, telling her to come to him in a menacing tone that makes me want to rip his guts out.)

She wants to divorce him, but feels bad about leaving a sick man by himself. I think that she is scared. ("What are you trying to prove, that you are the biggest troublemaker in the world?" That is what he just said to her.) She is not financially stable by herself, although her family won't let her down in that respect. Her entire family, including my brother and I, have told her repeatedly that she does not have to stay in an abusive relationship. He berates my brother, and at 15 is going bald from all the stress.

I could go on, but it's unnecessary. I need to know what to do. Should I call the police and get him arrested for domestic abuse, or hit him over the head with a baseball bat like I've been wanting to for months? This has gone on too far, and my mother is a wreck and she knows it. I sometimes wish he would just die and let us be, because I know that even if they get a divorce he will stalk her like he does now. I mean, does it make sense to anyone that he can hate someone so incessantly, yet need to know where she is every hour of the day? I know what it is, because he's sick in the head, but that doesn't excuse his behaviour. He thinks he can change my mother into this perfect housewife, who makes him coffee every morning and cleans his toenails at night. Now that wouldn't be out of the question in any marriage, but this is a loveless marriage, completely devoid of sensitivity and compassion on both their parts. How can she love someone who does this all the time? WHY DOESN'T HE REALIZE THIS!!?? It's so frustrating, and if you've come this far, I apologize for having vented, but I needed to. This prose doesn't come close to disclosing my true feelings and insecurities surrounding this precarious situation, but being eighteen and on the verge of a mental catastrophe, dealing with exams as well, I just find that many days I can't make sense of out of anything.

So without further ado, any suggestions would be grand.

Thank you,

Daniel
 
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MechanicalMan

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Quote:

Originally posted by Trounce
She wants to divorce him


Sorry if it isn't what you really want to hear, but--obviously knowing little about the situation--I have to say that sounds like a pretty good idea. Hard to try to imagine someone else's situation and give advice, but I doubt I would dissuade her if I was in your shoes.
 
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Wodgy

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My heart goes out to you. This is a terrible situation. Please, please promise us that you'll go talk to someone in the student counseling centre at your university. You need (and deserve) more support than just what we can provide here, though I do applaud your courage for sharing this.

You should also get in touch with a resource center for abused women in your area. There are organizations in every city that provide advice and support (and usually housing if necessary) for deciding to leave and making the move safely. Realize that you are not responsible for your mother's decisions, and you are not responsible for convincing her to leave, but you can point her towards resources and put her in contact with people who can help.

Because your brother is in the middle of this, you need to make it clear to your mother that if she doesn't leave within some period of time (perhaps two months), you will call Child Protective Services on his behalf. Depending on local laws, you may already be legally obligated to call CPS, but it would probably be better if your mother can leave and take him with her.

Don't keep all this weight on your shoulders. Talk to as many friends as you can, and please look for professional help. You deserve it.
 
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plainsong

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We all have parental problems, but this is a big one for your family. Good for you that your getting help for yourself.

The short version of what I want to say is that it may be great for his mental health to get a swift kick in the a** from you. Of course in the long run this may not do much for your well-being, so be careful going down that road.


But your mom doesn't need to feel bad for wanting to leave him. As far as I'm concerned, you reap what you sew. If he didn't plan on being alone during the worst of his illness, he should have applied his brain power and thought about his actions.

But your mom is going to have to get strong. She's probably going to need therapy for herself. Like mentally lifting weights and working out, to get strong and learn to survive without him.

It doesn't end there though. It never really ends because you are all still a family and still connected to one another. Your dad is going to need to go through his grieving stages and it won't be pretty. It will be time for your family, mom included, to come together and give him some tough love. He will most likely need his own professional help on top of this. But the basic lesson that it sounds like he never learned is that the way he acts affects the way people treat him. Be consistent, be tough, and be fair.

Time to get strong and come together for a tough time ahead. Good luck.
 
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Wodgy

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A few more things... even though it may be unbearably tempting, don't assault your father with a baseball bat. This will only cause problems, and the Canadian courts are not sympathetic to that kind of thing -- you'd be letting your father take you down with him, ruining your life as well as his. Don't give him that power.

You have to understand that both your father and your mother are mentally sick (though in very different ways) and it is hard for people who are sick to make good decisions. The way they act may not seem rational to you, but it is hard for people to escape from a mindset that traps them. People who are abused simultaneously want to leave but can't ("but I love him"); this is called co-dependancy, and a local resource center for abused women will know how to help your mother escape from this kind of mental trap. This is why it's important to get external help in dealing with this -- despite your best intentions, breaking the interplay between a narcissitic personality and a codependant is not a simple matter. You are not responsible for the decisions they make (take that weight off your shoulders), but you can point your mother to resources that can help.
 
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fewtch

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I grew up in a situation something like this (emotionally abusive father, dysfunctional family)... unfortunately, in my case I did have a severe emotional breakdown around age 24.

Can't recommend anything except try and get away from the situation so you can clear your head (I joined the Navy Reserves myself, but wasn't away long enough... it was too late at that point anyway).

Good luck... just hang on, and don't hit anyone over the head with a baseball bat. It will make the situation a lot worse.
 
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Demolition

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Daniel,

As recommended by the Ontario Women's Directorate (part of the Ministry of immigration), you and your mother should consult the Assaulted Women's Hot Line. Since your mother may need to take your brother out of the household, she should consult a lawyer. The AWHL can refer one to you and her by calling (416) 863-0511 (in the GTA) or 1-866-863-0511 (elsewhere in Ontario).

The AWHL can also give advice on how your mother and brother can get ready to leave your father, such as by getting important documents ready for a quick departure. If necessary, you can call the OPP and have them escort your mother and brother out of the house with their belongings and documents. The OPP will take this issue seriously because emotional abuse is a form of spousal assault, a criminal offense.

Beyond that, I don't know what else to say other than that I hope that everything turns out well for you, your mother, and your brother. Good luck.

D.
 
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plainsong

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Yes, here here, exactly what I was trying to say.


Quote:

Originally posted by Wodgy
A few more things... even though it may be unbearably tempting, don't assault your father with a baseball bat. This will only cause problems, and the Canadian courts are not sympathetic to that kind of thing -- you'd be letting your father take you down with him, ruining your life as well as his. Don't give him that power.

You have to understand that both your father and your mother are mentally sick (though in very different ways) and it is hard for people who are sick to make good decisions. The way they act may not seem rational to you, but it is hard for people to escape from a mindset that traps them. People who are abused simultaneously want to leave but can't ("but I love him"); this is called co-dependancy, and a local resource center for abused women will know how to help your mother escape from this kind of mental trap. This is why it's important to get external help in dealing with this -- despite your best intentions, breaking the interplay between a narcissitic personality and a codependant is not a simple matter. You are not responsible for the decisions they make (take that weight off your shoulders), but you can point your mother to resources that can help.


 
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Stoner

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Buy heavy heavy life insurance for your father, then run him over w/ bus, push into the tracks while train's approaching, or hire some thugs to stab his ass and slit his throat. Collect compensation afterward. Make sure you buy double indemnity bonus on that life insurance.

Problem solved and your mom gets financial security.

Edit: My apologies if I offended anyone. This book I just finished reading got to me.
 
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I would recommend the divorce. I wouldn't hate your father though. First off, it's more damaging to you than it is to him. Second, you don't know why he is that way, he has led a much longer life than you have seen and understood. People are not born that way, they are made that way. In time hopefully you can learn and understand the why so you can see the man for what he is, flawed certainly, handling things badly certainly, but still a person who had possibilities and chances for thngs to work out right even if he ultimately failed at making the correct choices. I fear you will never be at peace yourself until you can see and understand this in your heart.
 
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Norbert

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I read your post with much sympathy. It sounds like my family. You are not alone. I asked my brother why doesn't mom just divorce him. And he said, quite frankly, that they have developed a way of needing each other. What seems intolerable for us, mom has adjusted for. In short: they meet each others needs.

Can I make an assumption? You could never get angry. Only Dad could express anger. You learned to supress your anger. Your Dad was emotionally distant. Beware. There are emotional/spiritual repercussions in this situation. Maybe there is a forum out there for mean, emotionally distant Dad's. If there are let me know and I'll sign up too.

How I get by? I remind myself that I am on MY OWN JOURNEY. Their stuff is not necessarily my stuff. I can support them but must resist from getting caught in psychological triangles of unhealthy involvement. They are on their own journey also and that does not have to involve me.

My thoughts and prayers are with you.
 
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Sean H

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Some incredibly good advice from every single poster in this thread (except for Stoner who's extremely inappropriate). I just wanted to say hang in there, please take up some of the good advice and be strong.
 
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You, your mom, and all relatives leave him for a week without any contact at all. Give him no notice at all. Let him deal with that for a week of dealing with all his own needs and demands upon himself. After the week come back as a family and sit down and talk with him. Let him know about how his attitude is affecting all of you and how it's destroying your family. Lay down an ultimatum of some kind that the same will happen for an even longer period of time if he continues. If he doesn't change your mom needs to do what is best to protect herself and her family from this kind of treatment. It sounds to me like he is simply used to kicking everyone around with no thought of you guys uprooting and leaving him on his own. If your mom is too concerned about keeping her kids in this situation by caring for this abusive man she also needs a lot help, love and support. If this man thinks he can keep getting away with this with impunity, he will never stop doing so.

It sucks, but the short-term pain of splitting for a while could fix the situation. By subjecting yourselves to this situation without any penalties for these horrendous actions you are creating a situation that will never go away. If you could choose to live with a small amount of pain for the rest of your life or a large amount for a very small period of time, I'm sure you'd opt for the shorter, more intense pain and get it over with once and for all.

Your father is dealing with a lot, and not dealing with any of it well. He needs to get some help, and the family will need some counseling from someone competent enough to handle all the dynamics and long-term effects is has had on all of you.
 
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Norbert

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I am curious about ServinginEcuador's advice. You, of course would have to leave also. But you must be prepared for even this to fail. Given your father's age and his medical condition I would keep my expectations very low. I again must remind you that you are on a journey yourself. I am more concerned about you than your Dad. And I am, somewhat painfully, more concerned for you than for your mother. Our first response is to devote ourselves to help her, but it is you we are talking to (she is not at this time, seeking other help, even though she is perfectly capable of doing so--doesn't that make you curious?).

I have come to realize that my own mother's passionate complaints to me are a necessary part of maintaining her emotional equilibrium. I do not need to act on her excruciating complaints but to provide a listening ear and to ask her what she wants to do. She won't know. That's ok. Maybe she's looking to you for advice, or maybe she is just trying to express the pain. But when you tangle yourself up emotionally you are self-abusing. YOU DO NOT HAVE THE ABSOLUTE ANSWER. Nobody does.

Sometimes you need to just survive so that you might, in the future, be of some help to others (not necessarily those closest to you--a prophet is everywhere but in his own house).
 
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Wmcmanus

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Daniel, you have my sympathy as well. Your description of your father's personality and behavior is, unfortunately, not unique to him. There are many unstable men in society who have caused similar levels of hardship and pain to their wives and children, so you are not alone. The good news is that there are professionals who can and will be able to help before the matter gets worse. You should definitely seek guidance before making a decision.

I like Doug's suggestion (ServinginEquador) of packing up and leaving your father for a week without any contact, but without a further understanding of your situation, cannot say whether this is a practical solution. It could fuel his fire rather than smolder it. This is something that you should talk with your mother about if you feel strongly that it may helpyour situation. Your brother, at age 15, probably should not be as involved in this sort of adult decision making, depending of course on his level of maturity. Instead, this is somwthing for you to decide with the assistance of a professional's advice (such as suggested by Demolition), and then once you are convinced it is the right way to go, talk your mom into it, and then simply tell your brother what the plan is and ask for his cooperation. It saddens me, and I'm sure many others in the head-fi community, that you are suffering to this extent, and a physical seperation as Doug has outlined seems like a smart move at this point. This may well bring on financial hardships and have all sorts of other implications, but these can be overcome in time.

One futher question for you. You mentioned that your father has "fits of rage" and then went on to describe many forms of mental abuse, but you did not directly address whether he is prone to physical abuse. More often than not, even if this has not surfaced, it is right below the surface, and is an important factor to consider in your strategy about how to best deal with him. I'm sad to report that my former fiancee (from some 10 years ago) was violently murdered by the man she left me for after several years in an abusive relationship with this man. She was a most amazing, beautiful, and intelligent young lady, but could not manage to distance herself enough from this animal, who eventually hunted her down. I'm not telling you this to scare you more than you already are, but to illustrate what can happen when violence becomes involved in domestic matters. The lesson I learned is that it doesn't always just happen "to somebody else" and for the rest of my life I will be questioning myself as to whether I could have done something to prevent this tragedy.

With God's love and guidance, you and your mother and brother will find a way out, but please be careful, and do not resort to violence yourself. You will not be able to help either your mother or brother from a jail cell.

Please keep us posted, especially as regards to the advice you receive when you call the Assaulted Women's Hotline (please do this on behalf of your mother, even if you must do so privately and without her approval).

Finally, if you do decide to move away from your father, make sure that the plan is well orchestrated and go to some place where he will not be able to find you. Don't tell more people than you need to tell about it because this plan will only work if it has the desired effect of forcing him to carefully examine his behavior. I'm afraid that a week will not be long enough, and to properly execute this sort of plan, you may have to uproot entirely (new jobs, new schools, etc). If you decide to make this sort of move, the initial contact to your father after the period of absence from his life should be by phone rather than in person. Only arrange to meet with him again when you are convinced that what you have done has helped the situation rather than hurting it. Some men are so set in their ways and so convinced that their stilted view of the world is the correct one, that they will see this sort of action as one more thing to be angry about (towards your mother in this case). It all comes down to your understanding of your father and his likely reaction.
 
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