I have two almost identical letters today so am putting them together with one answer.
Dear Therapist Within:
My mother got divorced about two years ago and immediately started dating a childhood friend that she and my dad grew up with. He differs from my dad in that he is very short tempered and is extremely loud, even when he is having a normal, calm conversation. I have witnessed on multiple occasions him flipping out and screaming at my mom. He would call her names and even threw a cell phone and dented the wall once. He usually leaves before they resolve their argument (which is petty most of the time). My mom says “I’m done with him. This is the last straw.” But within a week he is back. Can you please explain what might be going on in her mind and why she keeps taking him back? Concerned
My mother, who is close to 44 years old, has been in a constant on and off relationship with her husband. They fight constantly, and once she tells us that she is going to leave him, a few days or weeks later she just lets him back into her life. Once she actually moved out, changed her name, sold her car, and settled down without him. Only to have him move back in with her a few months later. I have a hard time believing it is because of financial reasons, so why would she do this, even though she knows her children dislike it?
ANSWER: The short answer is that she keeps taking him back because she doesn’t want to be alone. Since I don’t know her, I don’t know why this is true – is she generally insecure? Does she usually think that problems are her fault? Does she like a man in control? Does she feel that she is too old or too burdened (with children, etc.) to attract another man? What was your father like? Was he irresponsible or laid back and so she is looking for someone more forceful? Does she have a career that she loves and other friends that she keeps time with?
Whatever the reason, you can’t control your mother’s choices. You can tell her (if she asks) that she is much too good for this guy and encourage her to date other men – or get involved with activities she enjoys where she will feel fulfilled and perhaps meet other men, but I wouldn’t wade too deep into that river. They will probably get back together and then she will be uncomfortable with you, knowing that you don’t like him! What you can hope for is that it is a phase of healing from her divorce and that she will grow out of this.
Above all, listen and learn – not to do what she is doing – put up with abuse and assume that the abuse is because there is something wrong with you instead of something wrong with the other person’s character. MORE