||[Jan. 9th, 2013|09:49 am]
My parents have been happily married for twenty-four wonderful years. They have always been openly, DEEPLY in love and have modelled what it means to have a healthy, happy relationship. Through my dad's medical issues, my mom's problems with depression, and extreme financial issues, they have made the best of life with their sense of humor and trust in one another. |
Mom is 48. Dad is 65. Dad was diagnosed with dementia a few years back, which has now turned into Alzheimer's. I now live 1800 miles away from them, so I can't physically be there for either of them, though I call almost every day. My mom has been having a hard time -- She now feels like she isn't a wife anymore, just a caregiver. And they are no longer intimate. My dad gets very emotional and has crying outbursts, being terrified that my mom is going to put him in a nursing home/will leave him, etc. My mom lost her job last year, so she is always home with him, which now works out because she, my sister, and I really don't think he should be left alone at home. I have been helping them financially and listening to my mom when she needs to talk, even though it is very, very overwhelming for me.
What would you do if you were in this situation and discovered that your mom is now cheating on your dad? (As a side note, I really don't want to hear shit about how no one should be snooping around in anyone else's phone/computer/etc or invading privacy like that. I honestly am too heartbroken to give a shit how awful of a thing this might have been for my sister or me to do.) My mom wasn't very good AT ALL with hiding it from us when we came home to visit. It was very, very obvious, which is the only reason we even thought about looking through her phone or on their computer history. I'm sure it's easy for her to hide it from Dad since he can't remember a whole lot and can be pretty oblivious at times.
I really try to understand what she is going through and everything she must be feeling. I really, really do. I'm sure she still loves my dad. She must be very, very lonely. But it is so easy for me to feel insanely angry about all this -- After all they have been through together and what my Dad has helped her overcome, it has all come down to this? Due to her depression and fragile mentality, I have always been understanding of her lethargy, her need to talk about everything even though it kills me, and all the financial help I give them. But it's so hard not to freak the fuck out sometimes.
What would you do? Would you confront your mom? That's the big dilemma I am having right now, aside from being mindfucked about what I thought was the ideal model of a marriage. Any advice? She has no idea that we are aware.
Sorry to be so goddamn depressing. Usually, I can keep my cool, but I'm at work totally filled with anxiety and was hoping maybe to find someone who has been in a similar situation or has some words of advice as to what they would do. Thanks!
If this were me, I would not confront my mom. I understand you're heartbroken about this, but... I feel like the most compassionate thing you could do is to allow your mom to have some happiness back into her life. I don't know from firsthand experience, but I have heard that taking care of a loved one who has Alzheimer's is draining. For as much as your mom loves your dad, she can't entirely compromise her own happiness either. I'm sure this is already hard on her and having her children become involved wouldn't make it any easier for anyone.
So long as your mom isn't planning on running and leaving your dad high and dry, your dad isn't being harmed by this at all.
I'm sorry you're going through this. I imagine having this type of information on a parent is really bothersome, but I think it's best if you just move forward and don't make an issue out of it.
Edited at 2013-01-09 04:55 pm (UTC)
I came here to say exactly this, only maybe less eloquently. I would not confront her, either, though this is a shitty situation to be in for everyone involved.
Honestly, the man she married doesn't exist anymore. He isn't the person she's loved for all those years. She's still taking care of him, but he's not capable anymore of giving her the love that he once was. Maybe they even decided, together, long ago that it was fine to get that from someone else if one of them became incapable.
I would say not to confront her and to try to be understanding. If this is what your mom needs to do in order to deal with the life that is facing her from here on out, that's what she needs to do.
I would do nothing, because I would totally understand. I can't even begin to imagine the pressure your mom is under right now - I was a caregiver for only a few weeks and with many fewer responsibilities, and it was virtually unbearable to me. I don't think she's betraying your dad so much as she's taking care of herself.
I'm really sorry you're going through this. It sounds awful, all of it.
You have the right to feel heart broken and sad, but youre mother is going through a really hard time and its not likely that she will get your father back to the husband that he was. I would not confront her.
because you haven't actually confronted your mom, you don't even know if she is "cheating" - maybe your parents made an agreement that you don't know about. i mean you said they have always been open and a model for a healthy relationship. if you think you can talk to your mom about her relationships with your dad and the other man without judging her, i don't see anything wrong with letting her know you're aware. but it's not really any of your business, so don't be surprised if she gets defensive.
as for actually dealing with it, i'm sorry you have to go through this, and i hope you can find a way to regain your sense of sanity. :(
Don't tell her you know. Leave it be. This may well be something that is helping her to cope with what her life is like now, which sounds really fucking hard to deal with, and if having a relationship with someone else is making her feel more able to cope, that is a good thing. No, it's not ideal, but this may be the only thing keeping her sane enough to keep looking after your dad. She's sacrificing a hell of a lot right now looking after him and that's really noble of her. I think it's okay for her to have this if it's never going to hurt your dad.
I agree. I know an older gentleman who still lives with his wife-but she's been in a coma for 7 years and he gets LONELY. How is it reasonable to expect someone to be a lifelong caretaker to someone and expect so much more as well? I mean the caretaker needs someone to comfort him/her as well.
I think the key is that your Dad has Alzheimers. It's tragic. Really, really, tragic. I wouldn't judge anyone who has to deal with that - whether they cheat, or put that person in a home, or simply walk away. I think you need to grieve and just accept it. Forgive everyone involved. I'm so sorry that your family is having to deal with this.
Nothing to be done. They're both in a terrible world right now, and she seems to need the affair to cope. Let the situation alone. Plus, good icon.
I would be okay with it. At this point, your dad is no longer to be a part of the marriage that he once was, and that's difficult for both of them. I think (and hope) that if your father were able to understand what was going on, he would give your mother his blessing to find happiness outside the marriage so long as it didn't affect their partnership in terms of his care.
I think your feelings are perfectly understandable, and I think everyone who is saying they'd ~understand~ is probably giving themselves a little bit too much advance credit. I don't think this is a situation you can really be sure how you'd respond to until you actually found yourself in it. It does have the potential to be devastating, I have no doubts, especially considering your family history.
That being said, I do agree that there's probably a good chance your mother is doing this out of some great need of her own, not to be nasty or inconsiderate or anything like that, and you should strive to consider that in the midst of your anger and feelings of betrayal.
I think this is the kind of thing you should wait to bring up, if you want to bring it up at all. I feel like bringing it up right now will only introduce a bunch of turmoil to the family that none of you needs or maybe even has the fortitude to handle presently. If you want to bring it up later, at another time, maybe even years down the road when there isn't so much stuff on the plate so to speak, I don't think you'd be wrong in doing so. Your mom may have needs, but you do too and if eventually coming to understand the reasons behind her cheating on your father is one of them, I think you have every right to pursue that.
Edited at 2013-01-09 05:37 pm (UTC)
My heart goes out to you and her, both. I was a caregiver for two years, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week and my loved one wasn't physically able to get out of bed. It was the brutal and still haunts me today.
I imagine your mom is dealing with a much tougher situation. I didn't have to worry too much about mom wandering off or hurting herself.
There's quite an age difference between them and I agree with some others that they may have talked about this eventuality. It sounds like they were happy and communicated well.
All of that aside, this has got to be a shock to you. I'm sorry you're having to go through it. I suspect you already know what you're going to do and are just looking for some reassurance that everything is going to be okay. I can't give that, but I can send you good thoughts.
I would never confront her and try to be understanding. She is going through enough without her kids making her feel guilty.
My father cheated on my mother for years and I never told her (well, we told her once but he talked his way out of it). I have guilt and some of it was purely selfish (and mostly I was entirely too young to deal with that type of situation) but I have no idea what my mom would have done with the knowledge in her fragile mental state. Add on a difficult situation like being a caregiver for alzheimers and confrontation wouldn't even try to enter my mind.
My mother also cheated on my father and left him for the man she was with.. She made it out like OMG SUDDENLY after all these years of misery she finally wanted out.. but it made a lot more sense when she told me a new guy would be moving in with us in our new home.
It's hard to deal with and I understand but I think your mom probably has enough on her plate. Don't demonize her for how she finds a bit of happiness/peace. That bit of intimacy probably goes a long way in holding her together during this hard situation.
I am agreeing with the other posters who said don't confront her.
It sucks, but everyone needs a break from stress and a comforting touch. She can't get that from your father, so she is seeking it elsewhere. It's better than the alternative (throwing him in a home and leaving him). Parents are still human with desires and needs, as troubling as it may seem.
This does NOT diminish what your parents had. Don't think less of your mom for this, and understand that she still loves your father. The man that was your dad will never be back, the best she can do is love him for who he was, help him transition, and still allow herself to live.
I'm sorry this is hard for you and your family.
This does NOT diminish what your parents had
I think this is a really good point, and especially great to hear in these terms.
the situation they're in now is so different and stressful from the partnership they had before, and whatever they need to do to maintain some strength and better cope with it doesn't inherently or necessarily affect the great love and many years that went before.
I honestly wouldnt be surprised. a lot of people put in that position essentially no longer have a romantic and supportive life partner, they have a beloved family member that needs aid and support. Her emotional needs have likely been slowly going unnoticed to completely unaccounted for, especially with her children not living close (?) for a while, and she has been working her butt off to do the best that she can for herself and her family. If that was my mom, in my mind, my dad is kind of no longer my dad. I mean, hes my dad, but hes not with her, hes not her husband, hes not the person she fell in love with, but she is doing the right thing and being an extraordinary person, supporter, caretaker. Id feel desperately sad and confused, then probably come to realize that she must feel a million times worse. If I were in that position, Id like to have a strong partner as well.
Would i confront my mom? Confront is a harsh word. I would probably engage her in a discussion about how she is handling the relationship with my dad and how her needs are going. Then I would bring up during the conversation that I noticed she is quite involved with (fellow) and ask if he is providing her with the support and comfort she needs to keep up her position as a strong, supportive mother and wife. I would make sure she understood that I knew what was going on, and I would try to be empathetic, and hopefully get her to open up about the questions as to why.
I know its all easy to say, though.
I'd probably talk to her about it, and let her know that it makes me kind of sad, but I understand it. I wouldn't "confront" her, as such... But I would need to express my unhappiness that my parents' marriage isn't the same any more, and also let my mom know that I understand she's suffering and needs companionship. I imagine this kind of thing is super common in these situations. Caring for someone in this capacity can be fucking soul destroying.
I wouldn't even do that much. Frankly, it's not really anyone's business to even bring it up. It's her life, and she's doing what she can to find a bit of happiness in it. Finding out your kids know and are "sad" because of your choices attaches a whole level of guilt to the whole thing. Don't do that, please.
I am SO sorry for you, that you are having to deal with your father and his Alzheimer's diagnosis, financially helping your parents, and the revelation that your parent's relationship hasn't continued to be as perfect as you thought.
But I would ask you & your sister what you hope to accomplish. If you confront your Mom, what would you hope to accomplish? Get it off of your chest, while shaming her into no longer seeing this other man?
I would suggest keeping this to yourself.
The reason I say that is, if it was a different circumstance I'd be all for confrontation and an expectation that the parent reveal the truth to the other parent and that they get help, if for no other reason than to hope they won't continue to drag the entire family through the drama of infidelity (because in any other situation there is no reason to be unfaithful, getting a divorce is easy- you don't have to drag your family through the muck for pleasure/excitement of an affair). BUT, if your Mom and Dad went to therapy... your Dad wouldn't remember it. Revealing the infidelity to him might only hurt him, but he'll forget it (but the rest of you won't). And if your Mother is so shamed, or feels pressure in doing something, what she might do is leave your Father (though make no mistake it would not be YOUR fault if she did).
You KNOW your father doesn't want that.
But your Mother is also dealing with having lost her partner of 24 years, even though he is standing right there next to her. Its got to be heart breaking, and obviously she needs some comfort that her husband can't give, and you and your sister can't offer either. My heart breaks for your Mother. My heart breaks for all of you. But I encourage you to try to have some understanding beyond that of a child, feeling betrayed. Your Mother's situation, including the infidelity, isn't uncommon. The stress of living with this, being a caregiver rather than a partner, is devastating. It may not be the best way to deal with her situation, but you aren't in her shoes and you can't know if its truly helping her or not. I imagine that its a drama/complication that she might not need (but that is not your decision to make), but it may be a break from a lot of emotional pain that she has to deal with every single day for God knows how long (and I personally couldn't fault my Mother for that). You can't know her motives, but obviously she isn't leaving her husband. I think you might be right that she stills loves your Father, but I think the emotional pain of what is going on with him might be too much.
AND, you DON'T know if your Father and Mother sat down and discussed this before he began to slip away. He may have even encouraged her to spend time with another person/man specifically because he knew this would be difficult on her. You don't know the circumstances surrounding all of this. And I think opening up this can of worms might be more damaging to you, to the entire family, than her quietly seeing another man.
Now if you found out that she was seeing this man before your father was diagnosed with dementia, then I would confront her. But I wouldn't go digging for that information, because you probably won't ever find it. And its more than you should EVER have to deal with.
You are NOT the keeper of your parent's marriage.
You are going to have to accept that your parent's marriage isn't as perfect as you thought it was, but that for many, many years it was very happy and filled with lots of love. Most people have to accept that reality sooner or later, because we aren't in the middle of our parent's marriages; we can't know the pain and extent of their struggles, and we never should. But we do tend to realize it when we get married ourselves and are faced with more struggles than we realized our parent's went through, only to realize that they must have gone through similar struggles and how hard it must have been for them to make it out the other end the way they did. And that in spite of everything your Mother is still there for your Dad, and that while they aren't going through a happy time in their lives, there still is probably the love you always knew between your parents. It may have changed, but I would try to still have faith that the love is still there.
So I wouldn't confront your Mother. I would try to forgive, even forget because its your Mother's business, not yours. And its too painful to you & your sister; you shouldn't have to live with that, so try to let it go. Its NOT your burden to live with. Your Mother knows what she is doing, she is living with that burden. I wouldn't be surprised at all that the burden of dealing with losing her partner is much more devastating to her than the burden of being unfaithful. I don't agree with infidelity, its a huge deal to me. But, in this situation I couldn't fault my own parents. Alzheimer is unlike any other medical condition a person can go through, it steals so much, and not just from your Father.
Edited at 2013-01-09 06:28 pm (UTC)
I would be very, very angry. In the moment (and probably foreseeable future), i would think very badly of my mom. How dare she when my dad needs her the most, right?
I think the other side to this, OP, is that it's very hard to be a caregiver. It's an emotional thing to watch a loved one slip away, especially to something awful like dementia where it's like he's there, but not really there, you know? What your mom is doing might not right, but I can't help but wonder if it's a product of her trying not to sink into despair. Everything probably feels like it's falling apart, and her little affair might be the only thing that's keeping her from losing her marbles completely.
im so sorry about your dads diagnosis. ive seen Alzheimer's in action and i know how painful it can be for everyone involved, both the patient and the caregiver(s)
please do not confront your mother about this. she is probably grieving the husband that she knew and loved for years is no longer. and instead of being a loving partner in a mutually respectful relationship shes now turned into the caregiver and lacks partnership, companionship and love. its already a LOT for her to take on being his caregiver in any circumstance - but to neglect her own needs/desires for a capable and present partner is asking even more.
what no one has brought up is the length of time - if there is a competent caregiver, a dementia/Alzheimer patient can stay in the home for years and years. depending on their physical health - it could be a decade or more of home caregiving before they require the services of an dementia care facility.
it takes a lot of love and patience to be a caregiver to an Alzheimer patient, its heartbreaking to know you care for them, feed them, help them dress and go to the bathroom, etc. and they dont even recognize you or know your name. it is beyond heartbreaking and it takes an unspeakable amount of love and bravery to effectively put your life on hold for a decade to care for someone like that.
to ask them to put their life on hold for 10 years, experience heartbreak on a daily basis and also not have someone to give them attention, affection, or even be able to carry on a decent conversation without forgotten names, confusion, or just trailing off in the middle... - thats too much for anyone to handle.
please dont hold this against your mother. so long as your father is happy and well cared for - i cant blame her for wanting to have a "normal" relationship where she is not responsible for the health and well being of the other participant.
This has affected my family as well and I have empathy for what you're all going through.
I have to agree with 67words about the question of are you really absolutely positive they didn't have some sort of agreement or understanding about that? It is actually not all that rare or unusual at all for the individuals in the relationship to say if they are ever in a situation like that it is fine to not completely move on per se, but open things up. Another thing to keep in mind is when people move on seemingly quickly, it often has to do with how happy they were in their previous relationship, which sounds like the case. People are often shocked when a widower or someone moves on seemingly right away, but studies show the people who are most likely to do that are actually the ones who were *happiest* in marriage and in love, because it worked so well for them. They aren't forgetting the love of their live, but they are usually openly loving, know how to do it well, and into the concept. It doesn't minimize the past in their heart at all.
While I agree with the consensus of the community that this instance of "cheating" is nowhere near as egregious as most for a variety of reasons, you have a right to be upset. Maybe not just because it is simply happening, but because of how it is dealt with. Your mom is leaning on you HARD, like you said. And we'd need to know more, but likely this is okay. That's what family is for, being there for each other in tough times. But the fact she isn't choosing to hide it but isn't choosing to discuss THAT with you, is not fair, when you are feeling stressed and drained and worried and confused, as well. As mentioned, I and many people would be more sympathetic to her decisions given all the details in this case, but you should not be caught in the middle, with blinders on. My mom tends to do this sometimes, too. My brother is bipolar and having a hard time of it and she will lean on me in a similar way. Constantly! Then, something will be resolved and she'll be like, "Oh, it's okay now, but it wouldn't be fair to him to talk about it with you!". Which on one level I get, but in that case please refrain from bringing me into it SO intently in the first place. Can't have it both ways! Sounds similar with this. If you confront her, it is obviously normal if you're feeling anger, but try to keep that and any judgment packed away for now. Just more like, "Mom if we're going to share and share and be your rock, let's make it across the board. Because I know this is the hardest thing we've ever all gone through and that's saying a lot, but we're really confused right now, and here's why!" and not "HOW DARE YOU!", you know? Best wishes!
My friends of mine went through a similar situation with their dad, and they all became his caregiver because he had dementia at a pretty early on start think late 40's. He became really eratic sometimes things would set him off cause he had been in Vietnam, one time he dialed the wrong number after cutting himself in the kitchen with a knife on accident, the woman he called was so scared she called the police with the phone number and said please look in to this this man says he's bleeding and keeps calling me Sharon, ....he thought he was on the phone with his wife. They ended up putting him in an adult daycare. He passed away early on in his 50's. It was sad.
The cheating part, you have to remember he's not himself anymore. She's still taking care of him but his mental health makes him someone he wasn't literally. I understand you think your mom is out of place with her timing, but I wouldn't confront her about it. If you do understand you're adding to her problems not helping with them.
He is ill, and needs care, supervision and companionship.
She needs the same things.
The difference is, she is able to provide these things, and he is not.
Any successful caregiver knows they also have to take care of themselves in order to be capable of taking care of someone else.
If you look at your mother's need for a companion as a way she is trying to get care for herself, maybe it will help with the anger you are feeling.
I'm gonna say the totally unpopular opinion:
I would judge my mother to hell and back and would be very very cross with her and would probably confront her.
that does sound unpopular.
I'd be really upset and there's no way anyone would convince me to be okay with what my mother was doing. However, discussing it with her would depend on a lot of factors. I have a lot of religious beliefs that inform upon my life, and my mother shares them. In that case, I'd absolutely talk to her about it with the goal of also stepping in to help alleviate that loneliness in some fashion.
If she doesn't share my value system, then there's no point in having a conversation. Let it be.
Hopefully what this does is help you have a conversation with a future SO about what expectations you all would have around a similar situation based on common values.
i would have no problem doing anything to confront this situation.
it sounds so terrible, what you are going through.
but it would probably feel better to be helpful in whatever way you can.
don't be tempted to punish her for what you think she did.
YOU built it up to be the model for marriage...and it still sounds pretty awesome when you factor in that she takes care of him while not being able to enjoy the person she married. she is an angel.
anyway, you are a good kid to be so worried.