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My parents have separated for 15 years, should I forgo college?

The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:

I am a female high school student. I am at a loss, wondering whether I should give up on going to college.

My parents are not divorced, but have been living separately for 15 years. My mother doesn’t have a regular job and depends on my father for a living. But he sometimes reduces without notice the amount of money he usually gives her, and even sometimes does not give her anything at all.

When he does that, my brother, who’s five years older than me, talks to my father. But my brother complains it is painful to get caught between our parents. That’s why he often yells at my mother, making her cry at times. Every time I hear their quarrels, I seriously think of giving up on going to college and getting a job instead.

I’m full of hatred for my father, who is the main cause of the problems. It makes me wonder what kind of person a father should really be.

As I was writing this letter, I began to think I had better get a job. Should I give up on going to college?

—B, Miyagi Prefecture

Dear Ms. B:

It must be hard for you that your parents have been living separately for 15 years. First, let’s consider your future separately from your family problems.

I don’t want you to give up on going to college. Going to college isn’t always necessary for a happy life, but as long as you want to pursue your studies, why don’t you endeavor to do so to avoid having regrets later? Of course you should study for the university entrance examination and talk with your guidance counselor about your current situation, asking if there is a college to which you can go on a scholarship or by paying tuition with money earned at a part-time job.

Regarding your family problems, I think it’s impossible to solve them just through dialogue among family members, as things have been so complicated for a long time. Local governments have a public consultation office for victims of domestic violence. I recommend that once you have decided what you want to do after graduating from high school, you and your mother go there for help. I think your father’s behavior — not giving your mother living expenses — is equal to financial violence as long as they are a married couple. Your brother also will not be able to bear the situation much longer, will he?

It is up to your mother, but I think it would be better for her to get a divorce and receive her share in the couple’s assets. Even if your parents continue being married while living separately, you need to make your father promise in writing to provide her with living expenses.

At any rate, I think it is necessary for your family to sort things out in a timely fashion.

—Masahiro Yamada, professor

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