Expensive Thelma: Infidelity and fixed quarrels drive daughter to the sting

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Dear Thelma,

My siblings and I have suffered from quarrels between my parents since childhood and now I have seen the worst quarrel between them. So I asked my mother to get a divorce from my father, as we can no longer bear to see them argue. Although she agreed, it will be very difficult for her as we are struggling financially as my siblings and I have not yet had full-time jobs.

The main reason for their argument was his infidelity to my mother, which resulted in him having a number of affairs behind her back the whole time. And the same thing happened to his brother, who also cheated on his wife with a divorcee and wants to marry her. I would like to request that my father divorce my mother, but I have been told that we may not get financial support from him as we have no one-stop shop if they divorce now and my mother leaves him forever.

I started to hate my father a lot more because he treated my mother very badly all these years and hit her every now and then. He didn’t even try to mend his relationship with her, but continued to betray and abuse her.

I also hated that he couldn’t control his anger and that he kept yelling and scolding people like he wanted to. Could it be that he is mentally unstable and may need psychological treatment?

I felt constantly overwhelmed, depressed, anxious, and helpless because there wasn’t much I could do as a child. And what I can do now is put up with his childish behavior.

In all honesty, I am tired and full, and this ailment has made it difficult for me to sleep well at times.

This conflict led me to hold on to my decision never to marry for my entire life.

Feel blue

Dear Feeling Blue,

I am sorry to hear you are in such big trouble. Let me give practical advice to your parents first and then we will talk about your mental health and what you might consider as a family.

Your mother is a victim of domestic violence, so she should speak to a psychologist who is knowledgeable about abuse. You can reach the women’s welfare organization (03-3000 8858) or the telephone numbers given in the information box above.

They help your mother share her feelings and options, and they can provide her with information on where to get legal help in case she decides on a separation, divorce, or other option.

You ask if your father is mentally ill. While pathological lying is a symptom of various personality disorders and sex addiction is also a recognized problem, there are also people who simply feel good about being violent, cheating, and lying. My advice is if you think he is really sick, take him to a psychiatrist.

If you need financial help, you can contact the free service Agensi Kaunseling dan Pengurusan Kredit (AKPK) of Bank Negara. Write down a list of questions you have ahead of time. Then take that and your bills, loan and mortgage documents and bank statements for all of you (mom, you and any siblings who live in your house) for the past six months.

The AKPK staff will advise you on how to manage your bills and credit and what rights and resources you have.

Now about your mental health. Your letter is full of anger, frustration, and fear. It is understandable that you react against violence, fraud and insecurity. However, I think it would be useful if you had someone to help you process these feelings.

You also mention depression and anxiety, but I’m not sure if you are talking about the mental illness or if you are using these as synonyms for emotions like sadness, grief and insecurity. On the other hand, you lose sleep and that can have a devastating effect on your health.

To be on the safe side, book a few sessions with a psychologist as well. It doesn’t have to be someone who knows about abuse; All you need is someone who is sensible and unbiased to screen you for depression and anxiety and give you advice on sleep hygiene.

Also, build your support network. Talk to friends or family members who are not too close to your parents so that you can let off steam and have a safe space to ventilate.

Now some general advice for moving forward as a family. Basically, the parents’ marriage does not concern their children. This is because the bonds between parents and children are very different from other relationships.

However, there are exceptions to this guideline. One is when adults lack mental capacity, for example when they suffer from dementia. Another is when violence is involved.

There is violence with your family. Hence, you should protect your mother by getting expert help. However, I fear you cannot be more involved than helping her find these resources.

I know it’s hard so I suggest that you as a family go to a meeting with a psychologist and talk about boundaries. Then let your mother go to her meetings alone and build her own support group out of her peers – her siblings, her friends, and members of her family who are not her children.

I hope this helps you all move forward and make effective changes.

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