On the couch

sorabji.com: Where are you?: On the couch

By Jellybean on Friday, October 8, 1999 - 07:09 pm:

    On the couch

By Agatha on Saturday, October 9, 1999 - 04:26 pm:

    so, you're on the couch?

By Semillama on Saturday, October 9, 1999 - 07:05 pm:

    web tv? or psychiatry?

By Spider on Thursday, May 15, 2003 - 04:09 pm:

    I need to vent.

    I can't remember if I told you guys this or not, but my parents finally divorced in December.

    Both of my parents have serious emotional/social/sexual problems. My mother was physically/sexually/emotionally abused by her mother, and my father was essentially isolated from all meaningful human contact from age 10 -23. Neither of them has ever gotten any help with any of their problems, so they're both pretty messed up.

    My mother instigated the separation and divorce without any warning, and my father was hit pretty hard. Interestingly, though, my father is doing much better now than my mother is. About a year ago, he began corresponding with an old family friend of ours (I'll call her Anna), who lives in Italy and is the ex-wife of my dad's best friend from his early childhood. He and Anna have developed a romantic attachment to each other, and right now they're visiting a mutual friend of theirs in Toronto. The other day, my dad called me to say that he and Anna would be visiting me this weekend, and he asked me to recommend a hotel for the two of them.

    Now, I know it is none of my business what the two of them do together, but I'm really uncomfortable about them staying together, and let me explain why:

    1. Though, oh, how I wish this weren't the case, I know all about my father's sexual problems, and I know that it's highly unlikely he can have a healthy relationship with a woman as things stand. (He has never been in therapy, and these aren't the kinds of things that can disappear on their own.)

    2. Though this *really* is none of my business, I am uncomfortable with the thought of them staying together when they're not married and both are practicing Catholics.

    3. As stupid and childish as this is, I guess at bottom I would rather see my dad unhappy and with my mother, than happy and with another woman. The divorce was just so stupid -- my mother literally did not say one word to him about being unhappy in their marriage for 30 years, and then one day she tells him about her displeasure and in the next breath asks for a divorce. For ~6 months, he tried everything (*everything*, even some really extreme, embarrassing things) to keep her from leaving, but she wouldn't recant her decision. And it's funny how now my father is the happier, more well-adjusted one, and my mother is the one who gets panic attacks and is on medication.

    Anyway, I'm really uncomfortable about seeing my dad and Anna this weekend. I called my mom and talked to her about it, and she said that I was being silly and just had to get over it. But how do you get over it? I'm sure I will be able to act appropriately when I see them (I do have excellent self-control, after all), but how do I change the way I feel and become happy for them?

By Spider on Thursday, May 15, 2003 - 04:18 pm:

    I forgot a sentence up there, though you might just read between the lines... Anyway, I think my mom was really cowardly to tell my dad she was unhappy and ask for a divorce, all in one go, without trying to work things out with him. If she weren't such a complete weakling when it comes to confrontation, they probably could have worked things out. And yes, yes, I know his problems contributed significantly to the unhealth of their relationship and he is astoundingly resistant to self-examination and change. But I think if she had very calmly and clearly told him that she would leave *if he didn't change X, Y, and Z* about himself, he would have listened. I wish she had been more of an adult about the whole matter.

By Antigone on Thursday, May 15, 2003 - 04:42 pm:

    I feel your pain, Spider, I really do. My parents divorced four years ago. Even though it's turned out to be a good thing for both of them, (and for me too, oddly enough) for a few years it was tough negotiating all of the emotional minefields.

    At least, though, both of my parents sought out therapy. My mom was resistant at first, and it took her a while longer to recover. Keep urging them to get help, both for their sake and for your own. Also, if you're not doing the therapy thang, you might. Your parents may follow your example. And, being Catholic, they may respond better if a therapist is suggested by a priest, or better yet is a priest himself.

    "As stupid and childish as this is, I guess at bottom I would rather see my dad unhappy and with my mother, than happy and with another woman."

    The way they got a divorce may have been stupid, but two people do not split up after 30 years without a good reason. My parents were married for 33 years when they split and I saw it coming years before. It was still hard as hell to watch it happen, though, so I can see how this has you in emotional shock. I completely understand the need to see them together again. Every holiday I remember the last christmas my family was together, and how I didn't realize at the time that it was the LAST TIME. But wishing for something broken to be mended again will only break you. You've got to let it go.

    If you're uncomfortable about seeing your dad with this woman, make sure and tell him. I had to tell my parents that I was uncomfortable about certain things, and for the most part they were sensitive. Tell them how you feel.

    "how do I change the way I feel and become happy for them?"

    Well, first, don't force it. Some things just need time to heal. It's only been six months. Second, you may have to distance yourself a bit. If that means backing off from situations where you feel uncomfortable, then so be it. And I don't like your mom calling your reaction silly. That troubles me.

By Spider on Thursday, May 15, 2003 - 05:12 pm:

    Thanks for your understanding. I'm really sorry you've had to go through a similar situation.

    Well, my mom called my discomfort silly because my mom does not allow anyone else to suffer, least of all me. Like an Immortal, in the end there can be only one Victim, and my mom has already claimed that crown for herself.

    No, that's not fair. She told me it's none of my business what my father does with his life, so it's pointless for me to be upset with his decisions.

    My dad is pretty hopeless, but I think my mom could be persuaded into going into therapy -- believe me, I'm working on it. I think she's very resistant because out of her 6 siblings, she and her older brother are the only ones who admit that their mother was abusive. She's extremely defensive, and I think she's afraid that the therapist is going to tell her that she has had nothing to complain about. (I think that's also what motivates her attitude toward other people suffering, especially me...she's just gone overboard in hoarding pain.) I think, too, that sometimes you get so attached to your pain that you don't want to let it go, no matter how much harm it does it you. I think she might be feeling that way.

    She also has said that #1) she feels like she has gotten over her past [uh, no, she hasn't....she wouldn't talk about it all the time, if she had], and #2) she doesn't want to "dredge up the past" [to which I have said, "It never sunk! You talk about it all the time!"]. No luck yet.

    I don't think I'll be able to tell my dad I'm uncomfortable with his visit, mostly because I don't think I can get a hold of him before he arrives at my door. Also, though he has gotten better about this kind of thing, my dad is not someone who understands "uncomfortable." (Think of someone with Asperger's Syndrome -- that's the kind of social understanding he has. Cognitively, he's a normal person, but because of his background, he has the social skills of a small child.) I can't imagine what it would be like to discuss feeling uncomfortable with him.

    The problems in my parents' marriage were always there, I don't deny that. I suspected things were heading toward a breaking point about two years before their separation. But like I said, my dad can't pick up on emotional cues (unless you've got tears streaming out of your eyes and you're yelling at him -- which my mother never did), so he didn't know my mother was unhappy, and my mother never told him. He's also someone who thinks his way is the right way and the only right way, so it wouldn't occur to him to question his skills as a husband.

    (Why am I so angry at my mother and defensive of my father, I don't know. I used to hate my father and defend my mother, but at some time or other I must have switched sides.)

By sarah on Thursday, May 15, 2003 - 05:36 pm:

    i'm sorry you're having to experience all this spider. but thanks for sharing it.

    your mother is calling your feelings silly because she probably feels the exact same way and is simultaneously trying to dismiss or deny her own feelings about the situation.

    never take anything personally. your mother is going through a really tough time and is doing the best she can as a fallible human being to get through it.

    and yeah, tell your dad it's going to take you time to adjust. and be gentle with yourself. don't judge yourself for needing time to figure it out, or if you flip out over something, or don't handle a certain situation as well as you would like. you're human too.

    my folks divorced when i was 5 or 6 or so, and both parents have gone through several marriages to date. it can be strange and awkward.

By Spider on Thursday, May 15, 2003 - 05:42 pm:

    "never take anything personally. your mother is going through a really tough time and is doing the best she can as a fallible human being to get through it."

    Yeah, I have to remind myself of that sometimes.

    Thanks, Sarah.

By TBone on Thursday, May 15, 2003 - 07:13 pm:

    Wow. I can't imagine how that would be. Gotta be rough.
    Hopefully you'll come to see that your dad being happier is probably a good thing. Hopefully it will be a good thing for you as well as for him. Hopefully it lasts.

    Sounds like this visit could be hard. Good luck, Spider.

    My parents divorced when I was 5, so I don't have much memory of them being together. I'm not sure what it would be like for one of my parents to get yet another divorce. But I don't think I'll have to find out.

    Speaking of difficult parental visits... More than the recommended number of my parental units will arrive in Missoula sometime tomorrow. They are bringing with them a complex mix of other relatives, half-relatives, and step-relatives. They will all simultaniously be crammed into my apartment on Saturday to eat food and ask me what I'm going to do with my life.

By patrick on Friday, May 16, 2003 - 02:47 am:

    i have one anecdotal incident of late that might, or might not have some meaning for you.

    at one point my mom was upset at the idea of nico going to brussels so soon after eva's birth. (well, of course nico is literally enroute there now, so not that has affected our decisions) and at one point in a larger scale conversation about similar matters my sister reminded my mom...to paraphrase "just because you arent comfortable with the idea, or wouldnt do it, doesnt mean you have any place judging them they shouldnt, muchless should your discomfort unsettle them in anyway. you can say you dont think its the best idea but what good is that going to do. nico has her doctor's and husbands approval, that is all she needs".

    While you may not approve of your dad's plans, there is little you can do about it other than express yourself the best way you see fit, that is, talk to your dad if you need to, when he comes, or after he leaves to avoid making this woman feel awkward. i think thats the best you can do for yourself. you can't stop it. its going to happen. so now what.

    do your parents really get into all these kinds of details with you? or have you infered a lot of this based on your own observations?

    while all of this is upsetting and that sucks a biggie....i worry about YOU, being so close to the 'mine field' as tiggy put it. its not your battle and certainly not your luggage.

By Spider on Friday, May 16, 2003 - 09:29 am:

    My dad called last night to tell me about his plans for the weekend, and I totally wussed out and couldn't bring myself to tell him I was uncomfortable. I'm driving home tonight, so I'll see them when I get there.

    I know -- I don't have any say in the matter, and if this will make my dad happy, I should be glad for him. It's not my place to say anything, especially since my mom seems to be cool with the situation. But I don't think he can be happy as long as he still has his problems.

    (Plus, Anna lives in Italy and is established there. She has a 20-year-old daughter and she doesn't speak English -- what's she going to do, move to the states? My dad still has 5 years to go before he can retire -- and it could be longer than that since the divorce wiped out his retirement savings -- what's he going to do, move to Italy?)

    Patrick, I discovered evidence of my dad's problems when I was younger, and then my mother (and her sister!) told me a lot more when my parents divorced. I had always thought I was the only one who knew (which of course doesn't make any sense, but I guess that's the way you think when you're a kid).

By Spider on Friday, May 16, 2003 - 09:30 am:

    Tbone, I wish you strength to withstand the onslaught of nagging relatives.

By Spider on Friday, May 16, 2003 - 10:09 am:

    Jeez, my writing skills have gone to hell.

    Let me clarify my first paragraph: my dad was supposed to stay in Toronto all week and then show up at my doorstep in DC on Sunday. I am going home tonight because my brother needs to borrow my car on Saturday. My dad changed his plans and came home from Toronto on Tuesday, so he and Anna will be there tonight when I get home. I am going back home to DC Saturday night, and my dad and Anna will arrive on Sunday morning.

By Ophelia on Friday, May 16, 2003 - 12:32 pm:

    spider, that's really rough. i hope things go okay this weekend. never dealt with anything this hard, but i can attest to the importance of honesty in dealing with your parents. i know that my mom is the hardest person in the world for me to be honest with because, knowing her insecurities, to upset her intentionally totally wrenches me apart. i shouldn't be talking i guess because i sure haven't managed to get past this obstacle. but what i'm trying to say is that it sounds like you currently are able to be open about stuff with your mom, at least, so just dont let the honesty slide because it is painful to be honest but a lot harder to open things up once they have been shut for a long time. as for your dad, i would agree that you should tell him that it is uncomfortable for you, but also be understanding of his new life, and if he is in a bad relationship, he will probably have to learn that for himself. i hope things go okay. i respect and admire you a lot, and i think you will be able to work through it all.

By Antigone on Friday, May 16, 2003 - 12:33 pm:

    Your writing skills are fine. :)

    If you can't express your anger, frustration, or discomfort, let them go. Let them float away. In this situation those emotions can only pool up in you and eat away at your guts.

    Good luck, hon. We're all rooting for you.

By Spider on Friday, May 16, 2003 - 12:43 pm:

    "it is painful to be honest but a lot harder to open things up once they have been shut for a long time."

    That is like the thesis statement of my family's problems, if that makes any sense. *sigh*

    Thanks for your support, guys. :) I'll be okay.

By patrick on Friday, May 16, 2003 - 02:52 pm:


    relax. you're way too deep into this matter. to the point of being overly anal about minute writing skills.

    when you say you found "evidence", what exactly do you mean? porn?

    im not sure you should say anything before his arrival. whats the point? it wont change him and will only stand to make things perhaps awkward while they are there. tell him after he's left so he'll think twice before doing it again.

    i still maintain, you have a really weird intimacy in your parents matters that would make me totally uncomfortable. do you think you kind ratted him out when you went and told your mom, only to have her say its not an issue?

By Spider on Friday, May 16, 2003 - 03:05 pm:

    It was porn and other things. (It wasn't "vanilla" porn, either, before you think I'm making a big deal out of nothing.) I'm sure I've talked about this on the boards before.

    I know I have a weird intimacy with parental matters! It makes me feel gross, too, believe me!!

    I didn't rat my dad out to my mom -- she knows about his relationship with Anna and is happy for him. (And trust me, my mom can't lie. I would know if she wasn't actually happy for him. She is happy for him.)

    This is what is going to happen: I'm going to go home to PA tonight, have dinner with my dad and Anna, and then spend the night at a friend's house. Tomorrow, I will be out all day and will go back to MD at night. On Sunday, my dad and Anna will show up and I'll take them around DC. I will sack up and keep my discomfort to myself. (Oh, man, it's going to be weird -- my dad doesn't talk very much, and my Italian is too poor to have a real conversation with Anna.)

    Hey, maybe I can persuade them to go off by themselves. Then my problem will be solved.

By patrick on Friday, May 16, 2003 - 03:35 pm:

    well i wont ask you to sidetrack the matter at hand but i have to admit to feeling that your definition of non-vanilla porn is a bit skewed for various reasons. maybe not. i guess if you say its reason to label it deviancy.....ok.

    what...did you come across a ladies sweater collection ala Ed Wood?

By Spider on Friday, May 16, 2003 - 03:46 pm:

    Let's just say that saliva, sweat, and semen were not the only bodily fluids involved, and the activities were staged to appear non-consensual, and leave it at that.

By Spider on Friday, May 16, 2003 - 03:48 pm:

    Oh, and one more thing. I don't think my dad is evil for having these interests, since as far as I know, he has never acted upon them.

    His taste in pornography is not his only problem, but I don't feel like saying anything more.

By spunky on Friday, May 16, 2003 - 03:54 pm:

    you don't have too, you are entitled to your feelings

By patrick on Friday, May 16, 2003 - 05:26 pm:


    ok. then.

By Spider on Monday, May 19, 2003 - 10:29 am:

    The visit was fine -- we all got along very well without any awkwardness, and I only ended up hanging around them for a couple of hours yesterday, since they had decided to wander around DC on their own. Anna and my dad seemed very pleasant with each other -- it was nice.

    But then! My mom called me last night and asked me what I thought.

    Me: About what?
    Mom: So, do you think they're romantically involved?
    Me: [10 seconds of silence]
    Me: Um, YES, they're involved! You know, I called you on Friday, upset because they're sleeping together....
    Mom: Oh, right.


    And then she says other weird things about my dad and his house, sounding as if she thought she still had a say in the way he lived. I reminded her that she and he are divorced, and, you know, she doesn't have a say. Mom: "I guess you're right."

    So, clearly, she fooled me and is not handling this new development as well as I had thought.

    Oh, well, it's out of my hands.

By semillama on Monday, May 19, 2003 - 11:31 am:

    Daniel Clowes should do your biography as a graphic novel.

By Spider on Monday, May 19, 2003 - 11:44 am:


    All right, I'll take that as a compliment. :)

By semillama on Monday, May 19, 2003 - 11:59 am:

    That's how it's intended!

By kazoo on Tuesday, May 20, 2003 - 08:38 am:

    Hey Spider, I haven't had much of a chance to do e-mail and so I am sorry that I missed this post earlier.

    My parents separated when I was in the fourth grade. I remember that I didn't tell anyone about it because I thought they were going to get back together. Anyway, the first time I heard my father refer to my mother as his ex-wife was the only time I ever cried over it. After that, I just accepted I was kind of like other kids with divorced parents. My parents stuck us right into therapy, so when I say I've been seeing therapists for 20+ years, I'm not kidding. I'll tell more of the story another time since their situation is pretty unique.

    I can't imagine what it must be like to be an adult and have that happen. Although when my mother and step-father were having some problems, I remember thinking that I wouldn't be able to handle it.

    I don't really have anything to say that hasn't been said except to emphasize that you should take care of yourself; let your feelings be known and so forth. I don't know what to tell you about the situation with your father and Anna. I guess that will just become easier over time. My brother felt as you did when my mother met Jim. In the end, we are all really lucky to have him. I feel like between him and my dad, I actually managed to have a "whole" father for all of my life so far. Remind me one of these days to tell you about the crackwhore* that my father almost married...not to try to give you perspective or anything; it's just a good story.

    *I called her this once and a friend of mine scolded me until I told him that she actually was addicted to crack and she was impregnated by my father's roommate.

By Spider on Tuesday, May 20, 2003 - 10:29 am:

    Thanks, Kazoo. I'm feeling much better about the situation now that I've seen Anna and saw that she and my dad seemed happy.

    Tell the crackwhore story!

By kazoo on Tuesday, May 20, 2003 - 11:35 am:

    So much drama.

    My father met this woman, M. who is about 15 years younger than he is. When I first met her, I was immediately turned off because she seemed kind of trashy and dumb, but my father liked her so what was I going to do. Apparently she was a "recovering" junk addict, but I didn't hear about this until later when she got pregnant. My father took me out to dinner to tell me that she got into a program. Ummm...okay...fine. I went back to school and didn't hear anything dramatic until one day my stepfather calls to tell me, "M. had the baby, she's still on drugs, the baby is going to be fine and will be put into foster care, and your father and P. (M's friend and the guy that was living with her and my dad) have to take paternity tests."

    My father is the most vulnerable man on the planet. He is so trusting it's nauseating. Really, it's painful and not healthy as you can see what it led to. Anyway, it turned out that the baby was not my father's after all (which he was thrilled about). The baby was in foster care for a while and M. finally got off drugs. I'm not sure how long it actually took her, but I am pretty confident she's not taking them anymore. Now that my father has lived through hers and my brother's addiction, he is a little less naive and trusting, especially with a kid in the picture...so I trust his judgement.

    Anyway, he and M. are still friends which is insane. I think he felt bad about abandoning her and she made him Jai's (the baby) godfather which is actually quite good for my father and probably the best thing that will ever happen to the kid. He's adorable. My father brought him to a cookout once and he didn't want to leave. And he loved me. My father brought him home and watched him while M. did some errands. Later M. called me and said that Jai wanted me to be his mommy. Apparently, he wanted me to take care of him now and spent a good half hour talking into his play phone, "Liz, I love you Liz."

By Spider on Tuesday, May 20, 2003 - 12:56 pm:

    What an unhappy situation. I'm so sorry your father got burned like that, but it's good that he's more streetwise for the experience (and good that he's not tied to this woman by fatherhood).

    It's cute that the baby (er, toddler) took to you so well.

By eri on Tuesday, May 20, 2003 - 02:09 pm:

    It breaks my heart when I see kids reacting that way to other adults.

    My best friend S has been divorced 3 times and has had 3 kids (the first one she gave up for adoption, and the other two she still has).

    She has been involved with this loser guy (I have mentioned him before, a lot) for close to a year now.

    For Thanksgiving we went to her parents house to have dinner with them and to see her and meet her boyfriend (he needed to pass the best friend test and frankly I had worries about this situation). When we got there her daughter ran up to Trace and gave him a big hug and said she wanted him to be her daddy.

    We knew that this was because her own biological father was a shit who although he loved her in his own way, was perfectly happy to leave her behind him and not come around to see her or spend time with her, and that she was really unhappy with this boyfriend who didn't want any kids unless they were his own blood.

    The hard part about it is that we love those kids so much that if anything ever happened and S couldn't take care of them, we would take them both in a heartbeat. We love these kids just like they are our family, but what do you say when they want you to be their family?

    It's flattering, but it's tough.

By kazoo on Tuesday, May 20, 2003 - 02:18 pm:

    How old was this little girl? Jai was really little when it happened, forgot about it soon after, and barely recognized me the next time I saw him. I think he was just excited because I was a new friend that played with him, otherwise, if an older kid said that unprovoked I'd be a little wierded out.

By eri on Tuesday, May 20, 2003 - 03:38 pm:

    She is the same age as Hayley, so she was 8 years old at the time. It wasn't a situation of a new friend playing with her. She cried more than anyone else when we moved away. She came to visit last summer (right as the floods hit, so it wasn't as fun as it could have been) and then in November, she was a completely different kid who loved her mom but was emotionally messed up and wanting Trace for her father. It did weird him out, and I really feel sorry for this little girl who just wants a real daddy. About two months after this happened her biological father tried to kill himself. She just wants a daddy who loves her and is a true father figure to her, and not one when it is convenient. She is very close to us as is her brother, and sometimes it is hard because we wouldn't have a problem taking on that role, except that their mother loves them so much and does her best to be a good mother to them and would be completely lost without them, and they love her, but want Trace as a daddy. I think Hayden (her brother) mentioned that to Trace some time during the visit too, but I don't remember for sure. He is having behavior problems now, in large part due to the boyfriend, and egged on by his biological father who is just mad that S won't take him back again.

By kazoo on Tuesday, May 20, 2003 - 03:59 pm:

    That is really sad. As dramatic as Jai's beginnings were, I think that situation is much more complicated.

By eri on Tuesday, May 20, 2003 - 04:33 pm:

    It's sad, and I am afraid it is going to get worse before it gets better, but I have faith that it will end up fine, and those kids will have good lives.

    It's complicated, but they are good kids. It will all work itself out in the end, I hope.


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