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TherapistMaryAnn, Counselor
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 5928
Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues
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Hi, not sure where to start. I am 33 years old, married

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Hi, not sure where to start.
I am 33 years old, married and have 1.5 yr old son. I have had many issues with my parents over the years, most of which have stemmed from my wife. It seems to have been, them being controlling an not letting me go, an accepting that i have a wife and child and have to but them first. We had some talks as the relationship with my dad especially broke down.
The result of these clear the air talks, about a year ago now seemed to have helped and our communication has been a lot better and we seem to get on better. We see them more and even went on holiday.
The reason for my writing is that my Dad has just been diagnosed with cancer. It was only discovered last week and as you can imagine everything is a bit of a shock. We have a few answers but are not yet clear on the stage etc. until we receive more results. I am again being torn between my parents and my wife and son. We are moving abroad in the next few weeks and i really don't know what to do. We have given notice on our rented flat and need to move out, our flights and accommodation are all booked and paid for. I have made arrangement business wise etc.
The reason i am stressing out is that i wanted to leave everything and remain in the uk for my father. At least until we find out what we are dealing with. Also if i needs treatment or an operation then i want to be there. My wife says we are too far down the process of emigrating and that i need to put her and our son first and we can't put our life on hold for something that is not know. What complicates things is she is also pregnant with our second, we have just found out.
I believe we have talked before so I wanted to check and see if it is ok if I help you with your question or if you wish to talk to another expert.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Hi Kate

We did talk before but all of the communication between us was deleted so i didn't know how to contact. My preference is to speak to you!

I havent dealt with anybody else since we last spoke and did think about therapy but because we sat down with my parents it did help.

I'm glad talking to your parents helped in the past and that you were able to find ways to work with them.
You are not in an easy situation now and I can understand why you feel as you do. I'm so sorry to hear about your father and his diagnosis. It is often a shock when you first hear the news. It is life altering.
Right now, this news is very new to you and everyone in your family. And it takes time to adjust. Trying to make a decision about your move may take a little time and a lot of talking to decide how to handle it.
You mentioned that your wife feels it is important to continue with your move. But you feel the need to stay. That is understandable. You want to offer your support and be there for any news that happens. Both sides have validity and neither of you are wrong in what you feel. It is just a matter of finding a good middle ground that takes into account what you both need right now.
You may want to consider that you don't have to pick one side or the other with your situation. In other words, you don't have to say yes we will move and not see my father or no, we don't move and give up our plans and the investment we have made already. There is a middle ground. Finding that is key to solving this dilemma so you both are settled with what you decide.
Look at this from both sides with your wife. Sit down and on one paper write out what it would look like if you decided to stay. What are the negatives to staying and what are the positives? Then do the same with leaving. Once you have both, try to look at what you can do with each choice to make it work. For example, if you decide to move, is it possible to Skype with your family to stay in touch and be there for big decisions? Is it possible for you to stay behind when your family moves so you can be there a bit longer? Or are you able to visit once you all get settled? Make regular trips to stay involved until plans are in place on how to handle your father's illness?
Or if you decide to stay, talk about how that would play out for your future. What are the reasons you are leaving/moving? Does staying create more difficulty or does it not effect either of you that much? And what about the future? If your father recovers, are you still able to move or is this your last opportunity? These are important questions to answer and to talk over with your wife.
Finally, consider the reasons you are thinking about staying. Your father's health is very important. That is a given. But do you feel leaving might bring on too much guilt for you or that your family might not be willing to include you in the future decisions if you move? In other words, take a look at why you are staying and what is influencing your decision. Again, staying is definitely an option given the situation, but knowing your reasons helps you decide if you want to be there because it is important to you, or if there are other factors involved.
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Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Hi Kate

Thank you, ***** ***** help and makes a lot of sense. We have already done that in some respect. The problem is, we are leaving in 3 weeks, so time is pressing,

We don't have any information on him at the moment so its difficult to plan and time is running out. Michelle has said obviously if the worst happens and he is going to die soon, then we will not go, and we will postpone. If he has to have surgery then it is a good thing because if they can operate then he can be cured. I wouldn't be here for the operation.

I think it goes back to me worrying about what my parents will think or if it makes me a bad person to go when my dad is going through an operation or treatment.

I don't think putting the move off for a couple of months is going to help. I will be able to Skype everyday and call, and after 3 months i can come back to the uk, then potentially come back regularly. As i said i don't know if putting off the move is the best thing, Michelle is pregnant, we have no where to live and then in 2 months if we did have temp accommodation we could have the same problem.

Im so lost as to what to do

While your father's situation is very important, you also have a lot going on in your own family. You have a young child, a pregnant wife and no sure living situation. That is hard. If you are able to stay in touch with your family and keep up to date with your father's situation, moving is an option. As you mentioned, if you stayed, you would have to find somewhere to live and alter all your plans. That is going to be hard on all of you.
If you are concerned about how your family might react to you moving, that can be a big factor in what you decide. Ask yourself- If you had their support, would you still choose to move? If you knew they were ok with it and would keep you informed? If you feel the answer is yes, then you have your answer. Moving is the best choice for you. You do not love or care about your father any less from a distance. Only guilt from them and yourself would make you feel that way. And if you think that your family's reaction to you leaving is what is making you hesitate, that is not a good reason to stay. What you have to sacrifice in order to make them happy is not worth it. You have to do what is good for your wife and children first, then worry about the rest.
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Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you Kate, that it pretty much what Michelle said! You are right, if i had their support, which I'm not saying i don't, then i would feel fine with moving.

You're welcome! If your family's approval is a factor, it's going to influence, and even override, what you want or need to do. You have to put yourself and Michelle first then go from there. That does not mean you don't care about your father. It just means that you are doing your best to make this work for everyone.
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Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Should i need their approval? Am I a bad person by not putting my Dad first whilst he is ill?

What happens if i go and then he has an operation and dies?

Im just not sure that putting off the move by 1 month may not make any difference

It is hard to anyone to not want their parents approval. We all desire that our parents are proud of us, love us and approve (or at least support) our choices. But what comes into play with your parents is conditional love. They approve, but only if you do things their way. And that is very hard to live up to. If you feel that you don't have personal choice and that they will only approve of you if you follow what they want, that is not really love or choice. It is a way to control you.
You are not wrong to put your wife and child(ren) first. After all, when you marry, your spouse and children are supposed to come first. That is the meaning of marriage. You leave your family of origin and bond with your spouse. And your ultimate responsibility is to your spouse. So you are supposed to make sure that your wife and children are ok then you can focus on your family of origin. But this becomes muddled if your parents won't let go and will not approve of you moving on. When parents hold on and create guilt for a child that is growing up and independent, it is because they want control and/or they are fearful of facing the fact they no longer have control. Ultimately, parents usually do this based on self centered needs. They basically put their own fears, desires and issues before the needs of their adult child.
If you go and your father dies, that is in no way your fault. If you had stayed, this would not change. Yes you might experience some guilt over leaving, but there is also guilt associated with leaving your wife and children to fend for themselves. That is why what your parents do is about them and not you. No parent who is self less and wants the best for their child makes their child choose and feel guilty when they take care of their own spouse and children.
When you look at the situation, this is more about the guilt they are putting on you than what your family actually needs. Try to explain to your father and mother that you leaving is not about your love for your father or how much you care. But this is about your responsibilities. Your wife and child are vulnerable and need you now. Your father has your mother and your sister. So you have to take care of your wife and children first. Then you will do what you can to be there for your father. If your parents choose not to understand your situation, there is not much you can do. You are doing all you can already.
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Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you Kate, that is really helpful. I am doing my parents an injustice because they haven't said anything and have not been weird about me going. I suppose going on the past I'm just thinking they might do this and make me the bad guy for leaving. I suppose i still think their way a little and feel like i should drop everything and be there. I know i am not putting my wife or son first and i don't know how to deal with that. I guess what I'm trying to say is that they haven't said or acted in a way that would make me think they would be annoyed about me leaving, but I am worried about what they think. I'm more worried about what they think than what Michelle thinks. I can't believe i just said that.

If she is annoyed I'm fine but if they are then i get nervous and anxious. As well as being sad for my Dad and anxious about him, i am feeling anxious about the leaving situation. It is exactly as you said, if they phoned me tomorrow and said its fine that you are going, i would have their approval and i would be fine.

Why is that?

That is because they have based their love for you on their approval of you. And in the past, this has included you doing what they wanted. From what we have talked about in the past, your parents never really respected your boundaries. They were always trying to get you to do what they wanted. And when you didn't want to, they disapproved of you and withheld their love from you.
Our parents are the original source of love and care for us. But when parents are dysfunctional and make us believe that just being ourselves is not good enough for them, we will do whatever it takes to feel accepted and loved. That may be why you feel their feelings and thoughts about you are more important that what Michelle feels. Plus you know she loves you. Her love is not conditional. So you might feel more safe with her and not as worried. Don't worry about saying that because it is a normal feeling based on your experience. It does not mean you feel less love for Michelle or that she is less important. It simply means that your parents treatment of you has hurt you deeply and makes you feel unloved if they do not approve of you.
Even if they are not telling you directly not to move, the past guilt and experiences with them is enough to cause you to feel like they are disapproving even if they never say a word. Think of it this way. If you have a co worker that is always mean to you and one day you go to work and they don't say anything, what are you going to assume? Not that they suddenly approve of you, but that they will soon go back to being mean. When you have experienced one thing for a long time, it's natural to continue to expect the same experience again. So what you are feeling is normal.
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Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Hi Kate

Just to give you an update, my Dad has found out the cancer has not spread and he can have a operation to remove the tumor. This is a very long operation but it means afterwards he would be cancer free.

I am still struggling with the fact that i will not be here for the operation. It looks like it will be in the next couple of weeks. I have spoken to my parents about the fact that we will not be there and they are fine.

I spoke to a friend of mine today who has been through this before. He told me that i should be there and that this is probably the biggest thing my Dad has been through. He does understand my situation, and does understand. I know that i dont have to listen to him but it just has me thinking.

I suppose what im saying is that when talking with Michelle i was hoping that she would say, we will do whatever we need to be there for your Dad. If we need to stay then we will and we can cancel Australia. She didnt do that and by her suggesting that we cant cancel, have nowhere to live, she is pregnant etc, just put added pressure on me. Also to not upset her, when i feel like she doesnt matter at the moment? Is that wrong?

I am glad to hear that your father's cancer is localized and that the doctors feel they can get it all with surgery. That is certainly good news!
There is nothing wrong with what you feel about Michelle. In a way, you are right. She is not in an immediate medically needy situation like your father. While that does not mean she is not important (pregnancy is a vulnerable time), your father's situation is more pressing. And it is happening at a quick pace. Compare moving with cancer surgery and the surgery will come out on top.
What matters here is what you and your parents feel. If your parents are ok with you not being there but instead offering support from a distance, that is ok. You being there would help with support, but it will not change things for your father. He is going to have to go through this regardless. And events will play out just the same with you there or not.
However, if being there and offering support is very important to you, then expressing that to Michelle is important. You can tell her in a gentle way that you feel bothered about leaving your family and your father at such a difficult time. And let her know that her reaction to your needs has hurt your feelings. There is nothing wrong with letting her know how you feel. Whether that can change your situation and you decide to stay and give up moving is another issue. If Michelle realizes that she has hurt you, she may re think your situation and decide to change her mind.
What you don't want to do is to listen to your friend and be there for your father because you feel guilty if you don't. Making a decision based on guilt doesn't help you make the right one for you and your family. It only makes you chose based on what other people feel you should do, not what is logically the right choice for you.
While there is no perfect solution to your situation, your feelings about it are just as important. Be sure to let Michelle know what you are feeling and try to work it out with her. And if you decide after talking to her that you still need to move, then work with your family to be in contact as much as possible during and after your father's surgery. With technology, you can be there as much as you can without being physically present. Your father will appreciate the efforts because it shows you care.
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Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Hi Kate
We decided to go to aus and we are there at the moment.
I am speaking to my dad regularly and also to my mum. I get the feeling Michelle thinks too much. Anyway my problem is that they are calling a lot and I feel guilty if I don't speak. It's not so much that I don't want to speak to them but I don't want to face time them. The reason is Michelle is in the flat and I know she will have comments about our conversation.
Yesterday I phoned my mum and my sister answered. She wanted to face time and I didn't want to, I just wanted to call. My sister said what is the problem why can't you just face time, why does it matter, if mum wants to just do it. Then I said to my mum that Christian is here and when we face time he always takes the phone etc and I would rather call. She said can't michelle take Christian and you face time. I said can't we just call now because Michele is swimming, she said then we can face time later when Michelle is back and can take Christian.
Then my sister got on the phone and said mum only want to talk face to face and what is the problem. I said what is the problem with talking on the phone.
I gave in and we face timed.
Just making me feel crap and don't want to tell them because off what's going on at the moment and my dad is still in hospital.

Hello Nick,

It sounds like the issue here is control. You are calling your father and family in order to be there as much as you can for your father. And you also want to know how he is doing and show you care. But for some reason, this has become about controlling how you communicate rather than just the fact that you call because you care.

The other issue is Michelle. The problem there seems to be her commenting on your conversations with your family. What you want to find out is why she feels the need to comment on your conversations. Is it because she feels left out? Or hurt by the treatment from your family? Or is she also seeking some sort of control over you? Once you know why she is commenting, it is easier to address.

One of the most important things being left out here is what you want. You are being put between Michelle, your family and their issues. Each side wants you to do something, neither of which makes you happy or addresses what you want or need. Yet both your family and Michelle care for you and love you. So why are your needs not being addressed here? It is important to focus on what you need to make this work because that is going to address the issues you are dealing with.

Start by talking to both sides. With Michelle, once you find out why she is commenting on your conversations, try to address it. For example, if it is because she feels left out, tell her that you will either include her in the conversations or let her know once you are done talking with your family what was said. That way, she does not feel the need to stay around and comment.

With your family, stand your ground. Decide what kind of communication you are able to do at the time, and stick to it. So if you decide to call one day and your family protests because it is not face time, you can say that it is all you can do now and if they are that upset about it, you will call back later. Or ask why it's so important that you called instead of face time, since your point in calling is to check on your father, not the method you used to contact them.

Also, if you feel you are talking to them too much, cut back. It does not mean you care any less if you don't call several times a day or however many times you call. You care just as much no matter what. And someone's medical condition does not change that much that it would require you calling each day. If something changes, your family will let you know.

The main point here is putting your needs first since no one on either side seems to be doing that. They are all pushing their own agendas. So you will have to push your own. You are not doing anything wrong by saying what works for you. And if they protest, make that their issue, not yours. Their protesting is more about not getting their way and losing control over you than anything else. But if it continues as it is, the only person who is going to be unhappy is you because your needs are being ignored.


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Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I think that Michelle still feels hurt by my family. And whilst it is sad what has happened to my Dad, we should be analysing and talking about every little detail. We should move on and deal with the situations as they happen, and then move on. My dad has been let down a lot by the hospital and my parents want to talk to me about it and get my opinion.

I will try that with my mum or sister next time. The problem is they will say "ok, then call us when you can face time" If i tell them i don't know when i can next face time, they will want a reason why i can't.

Or if i call and they say they want to face time, i will have to give a reason why i can't face time. I don't know how to handle that and just say no.

If Michelle feels hurt by your family, that is something you can address with her. And if it's addressed, she might not feel the need to analyze your conversations with them. I suspect, from what you have told me, that Michelle might feel that your family has control in your relationship and that she might lose you to them, or that you might prefer them over her. While that might not be true, it is not uncommon for couples to experience those kinds of feelings when the family of origin causes issues.
You can talk to Michelle and reassure her that you care for her and that she is first and foremost in your life. You may have to talk to her at length about it and reassure her often at first, but if your behavior towards her backs up your words she will learn to trust and to back off. Also, try to be ok sharing your interactions with your family. You may have to go into great detail at first, but eventually Michelle will see that you care about her and most likely back off.
When it comes to your sister or mother, you might want to explore two things. One, take a look at what you feel about saying no to them. What feelings come up for you? That can give you a clue to what is preventing you from saying no when you want to or need to. And two, try to explore what you feel they are holding over your head. There is something that either you fear they will do or something they are holding over you that makes you feel you have to make excuses or comply with what they are asking? What they are asking is unreasonable and seems very much like about control rather than what your father needs. And often in families, we learn patterns of behavior, often dysfunctional ones, that give away our power. For example, you may have learned during childhood that if you don't comply, your family will exclude you and imply they don't love you anymore. That can be powerful, even when you are an adult. And they will use that to control you. So exploring why you feel the need to comply helps you get to the root of the issue, and with practice, you can learn to say no.
For now, simply tell your sister and mother that this is what you can do. A phone call is it. And don't explain or don't give in to any attempts to control you. Be ready to hear a lot of protest and maybe some threats. When you take control away, people who are dysfunctional tend to start mini wars because you force them to change their behavior. But it may be what you have to do in order to deal with the situation and make it easier on you.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Hi Kate
Hope you are well.
I wanted to write as I have had something come up that I am struggling with. We are in Australia an up until now everything has been fine. I have been in regular contact with my mum and dad to find out what the situation has been like etc.
My dads cancer seems to be worse and he has to have chemo and he is still in some pain.
I told my mum that we will be back in the uk on 10th feb and will be leaving for Cape town on 22nd feb. We didn't want to stay with them the whole time as we didn't want to be a burden whilst he is sick. We have now confirmed that we will stay with them from 10th-12th feb then again from 18-22 feb.
I received a message from my sister that my dad is really upset that we are not seeing them more and that we should have discussed our plans with them and the only reason we are coming back is to go to London?
She then mentioned that I haven't spoken to them in a while. I haven't said anything yet but I always contact them and didn't think it was unreasonable to receive an update, which is why I haven't been in contact.
Hi Nick, I am well, thank you! It's good to hear from you.
What your sister(really your father) is telling you is unreasonable. You are an adult now and what you can do in terms of seeing them is up to you. You have your own family which is primary. And you also have work and other responsibilities.
It sounds like your family expects you to put them first all the time. That is unfair to you. It assumes that you will put your wife and child second and be there for them as if you were still underage and have no other responsibilities. You are under no obligation to discuss your plans with them before hand except to ask if that is a bad or good time for you to visit (in other words, are you imposing if you visit during that time). Other than that, the length of your stay, the contact you have with them and other details are up to you.
You can only contact them so much. They are second in importance to your wife and child and it is not unreasonable to contact them when you can, not when they expect you to. And in turn, they should let you know when there is an update on your father's situation and not expect you to call daily to find out.
For some reason, your parents developed expectations of you and your sister that mean you have to put them first no matter what. Your sister has taken these expectations to heart and follows them verbatim. Where these expectations came from is unclear, but it appears that your parents either had the same expectations put on them, or they developed these rules themselves. What is important to remember is that these expectations are your parents and are not typical of healthy family interaction. So just because they tell you that is what is expected of you does not mean it is normal to expect such things from your adult children. You are caught between what is normal, which is putting your wife and child first, and what your parents put on you, which is dysfunctional.
In order to deal with your sister (who appears to be your parents "spokesperson" most of the time for these expectations), let her know what you can do and stick to it. Repeat it as needed. Be firm. You may also want to talk to your father directly about his "message" through your sister. He is using her to express his feelings which is also dysfunctional. Talking to him directly can break that up and make his or your mother's messages through your sister useless if you won't listen to them.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Thanks Kate, I just feel guilty because he is unwell. My sister also mentioned it may be the last time I see him. Should I not be putting him first if he is unwell and could die? I don't know where this came from as he hasn't started chemo yet? I have sent a message to my parents by email explaining what we are doing and sending pictures. No reply yet which suggests they are angry. I told my sister she is entitled to her opinion and this is what we need. She essentially said I was wrong and that I should support my father.
If you are doing all you already can to talk with your father and spend time with him, then you are fine. You cannot change anything by being there with him constantly or on demand from your family. Keeping in touch through email, text or phone or other means when you cannot be there physically is fine as well.
How much time you spend with your father depends on what you feel is enough, not what your parents or sister feels is enough. Every child/parent relationship is different. Just the fact that they are imposing what they think is enough time on you says that this is their issue and not your issue.
If they chose not to respond to your efforts for communication, let it go. This is about their issues, not yours. You can only try. They have to decide how they will react. You cannot control that. And if they insist on a dysfunctional response, anything you do is not going to change that (look at how many things you have tried to do for them. Has it ever made them happy?). The only thing that they might be happy with is you there constantly doing what they want. And that is an impossible demand when you are an adult with your own family and responsibilities. So do what you can and try not to worry about the rest.
May I please request that if you find the service I provided helpful at all that you rate me with three or above? Your rating is the only way I am reimbursed for my answer. Thank you so much!
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Thanks Kate, there is not the normal function to review and pay for your answer. Not sure if that's something at your end.
That really helps, I just find it so hard to say no to my parents so it feels like I'm constantly thinking about them. They have been fine with me not being there up until now but when I told them the times we would be with them they were obviously not happy.
They must think that because I was away whilst they dealt with everything that I should now spend all the time we are in the uk, with them.
What I'm struggling with is trying to cope, everytime they are angry or I think they are angry I feel bad. I always then think about how things effect them or how they will think. I know they wouldn't understand that, and it is my problem to deal with. I'm finding it hard and struggling to deal. It effects my marriage because Michelle doesn't feel I put her first and it effects life because I can't stop thinking an analysing. Is there any I can do to stop or tools to deal with a situation when it arises.
You're welcome, Nick!
If there is no way to accept my answer on your end, that could be due to the number of answers on this thread. In that case, we may need to start a new thread/new question so you can rate my answers. Just transfer your new question over to the thread you start, put "Kate" at the beginning, and I can answer you from there.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hi Kate

Hope you are well, we haven't spoken in a while and we are now settled (sort of!) in South Africa. I still have to travel a lot up until Dec but after that i will be.

I am trying to distance myself from my parents and keep them at arms length and feel that it is working better and i am able to cope better and deal better with them.

I still get very anxious when they do things, and it makes it difficult but i am trying to live my life the way i want to and do whats best for Michelle and the kids. If they fit in great, if they don't then thats is there problem. I know that sounds harsh, but having the country barrier, to me, is helping.

The reason i connected you is that my sister has now had a baby and that has taken the pressure from me and my family and now my parents have a grandchild in the uk. I spoke with my Dad the other day and do do a lot but we were discussing him coming to visit me in Dubai whilst i travel. We spoke over the phone for a bit and i invited him and he liked the idea, he talked about my sister and her baby etc. I then got an email from my mum saying dads iPad isn't charging so he couldn't email me, but he would loved to come, and then she made a joke about him being forgetful. I replied saying that yes he is forgetful, not forgetful enough to talk to me about my sister and her baby but forgetful enough to not ask about Michelle or my children. I know it was a petty thing to say, but i just felt it had to be said!

Hi Nick! It's great to hear from you. Glad that you are doing well. I would be happy to help you with your new question. However, since we last talked, Just Answer has changed some of it's rules. Because experts can only be paid once per question, we need to start a new thread with each question. Sorry, but that means we need to start with a new thread for your current post. If you put "Kate" in front of it, I will be sure to answer. Thanks,Kate