The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:
I’m a female part-time worker in my 30s. I’m living with my parents, and my mother has lately been increasingly verbally abusive toward my father. Every day my neurotic mother says mean things to my unkempt father, like he’s “in the way” or “smells” or is “unpleasant.” Even little questions my father asks are met with responses like she’s gearing up for a fight, and my father sometimes raises his voice.
Thinking about it, if my mother were to experience the same kind of things said to her, none of us would have to suffer this unpleasant atmosphere. However, my mother continually blames my father for everything and doesn’t seem like she’s reflecting on her own words and behavior.
When I tried talking to my mother about this, saying it’s no use trying to change my dad now, she just replied, “You aren’t directly involved so you can be calm and stay out of it.” I’m sure she has her reasons, but because I’ve seen how emotional my mother can get over the years, I’m used to observing calmly and objectively whatever she does.
Since my words aren’t reaching my mother, should I give up, throw away the respect I have for her and take what she’s doing as a bad example from which I can learn something?
M, Kanagawa Prefecture
Dear Ms. M:
Your mother is constantly speaking ill of your father, and the two of them are fighting every day. I think seeing your parents behave like this must be really hard on you. I completely understand why you would want to do something about how your mother is acting.
However, no matter how many times you express your opinion about this, your mother isn’t regretting what she’s doing, so I think it’s impossible for you to change her. I think your only option is to just separate yourself from her by considering that she’s a different person from you and trying to just accept this as reality.
I think, generally speaking, there are many things at play in a spousal relationship that not even the couple’s children are aware of. Even though husband and wife quarrel, they actually understand each other, which may allow them to live together, like your parents. On the other hand, there are couples who look like they are getting along well, but in fact hate each other.
There is a saying that one should not interfere in a quarrel between husband and wife. I think it would be wise for you to say nothing about what your mother is doing and just watch over her.
I think instead of focusing on your mother, you should focus on your life from here on out. If you find your mother’s behavior wrong, as you said, you should take it as “a bad example from which you can learn something” and apply it to your life.
Sachiyo Dohi, lawyer