Auntie SparkNotes: I Want My Parents To Get Back Together
I'm in a kind of sticky situation since my parents' divorce, and have had trouble dealing. My parents decided to get a divorce several years ago, but never told me until a couple months ago. I knew there was something wrong, but didn't realize they were actually going to split.
Now, I've ended up living with my Dad full time. My Dad and I don't get along, we're both stubborn people who can be slightly OCD most of the time, and all we do is fight. I really would like to live with my Mom, but she moved in with her boyfriend, and I'd feel uncomfortable living with them. I don't enjoy going over to her place, partly because of her new boyfriend, and also because she has all these pictures all over the walls of the two of them. She always wants me to stay the night, which I want to, but I usually get too upset. Every time I try to explain this to her she gets frustrated with me and says that she's "lost her patience" with me.
I understand I should be over it by now, and be able to adjust, but I can't get myself to stop wishing everything would go back to the way it was. I understand there are millions of kids who have it so much worse, and that I really shouldn't be upset, but I feel like she's a completely different person. She goes to parties every weekend and started riding motorcycles with her boyfriend, who is nearly the complete opposite of my Dad.
My parents used to be more like stereotypical parents when I was growing up, but since the divorce it seems like they've just started regressing to the people they used to be before my brother and I were born. My Mom has a tendency to act like a teenager most of the time, and my Dad is in a band and spends the majority of his time at gigs. I wish they'd just go back to normal, and that my Mom could move back in, and her boyfriend would disappear. It just makes me mad at myself though because since she's moved out she's really happy, and her boyfriend makes her happy, and if she's happy shouldn't I be happy too? I've tried talking to my Mom- but she either doesn't listen or just gets extremely mad at me, and then makes me feel bad that I mentioned it. I'm just not really sure what to do.
Well, for starters, you can stop beating yourself up for being totally confused. Because geez, who wouldn't be? Your parents have known their marriage was over for ages, but as far as you're concerned, it's only just happened—and when it comes to dealing with it and moving on, they've got a hell of a head start. So the next time you talk to your mom about your feelings, you can start by pointing out the unfairness of expecting you to adjust in a matter of months to a change that she's had years to process. You need time, and that's okay.
But you do have to adjust, Sparkler. Wishing that your parents would get back together, and holding a grudge against your mom for having moved on with her life, is a destructive waste of your time. And while it's true that you should be able to talk to your mom, it sounds like you might need to think twice about what you're saying—particularly if what you're saying is that she should give up everything that makes her happy, including her home, her boyfriend, and her identity beyond motherhood, and return to a difficult marriage with a man she doesn't love.
Because that's not going to happen, and wanting it to happen isn't okay. What you think of as "normal" was miserable for your parents; you can't ask them to go back to that, or to rewind their lives for you. I mean, imagine how you'd feel if the roles were reversed, and your mom refused to accept you as you are now? Would you really want to go back to wearing diapers, and sleeping in a crib, and spending your days being pushed around in a stroller, just because she liked you better in 2003?
And with that in mind, here's what I'd like you to do: accept the impossibility of going back in time, and instead, pick an available path on which to move forward. If you want the more easy-going, conflict-free environment of your mom's house, then you'll have to make peace with her boyfriend and her bike. If you can't deal with that, then you'll need to accept that your dad, stubborn and rigid as he is, is your best bet. And either way, you're going to have to face the truth that your parents are people, and they've always had their own lives, interests, and relationships. This isn't going to change.
None of which is fun to deal with, I know, and particularly not in comparison to the fantasy of your parents getting back together and becoming a stereotypical Mom-and-Dad unit again. But when you can't get what you want, you have to work with what you've got... and then work to make it better. And if you feel stuck, then ask for help—from your parents, or from a counselor who can help you negotiate with your parents for what you need. (For what it's worth, you already know that your mom wants to spend more time with you. If you stop making unreasonable demands, i.e. that she break up with her boyfriend and/or redecorate her house, you might find that she has some good ideas about how to help you adjust.)
Did you have a hard time when your parents split up? Share your stories in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want more info about how this column works? Click for the Auntie SparkNotes FAQ.