"My Parents Aren't Divorced, But I Feel They Should Be..."
Personally, dealing with this is more difficult than living with a divorced family because there's no moving on from this situation. Advice giving is also a bit more controversial, because while the definition of a divorced family is clear-cut, the definition of parents that should be divorced is rather foggy. That said, I think that it’s safe to say that if you feel this way you’re living in an unhappy family. If you’re living in this situation, the advice is much the same as for divorced parents. No, I won’t give you advice on how to break them up, nor would I recommend it. What I will give you is advice on how to make the best of a bad situation. In writing this page in particular, I used a book called Divorce: Young People Caught in the Middle, by Beth Levine, for research. Despite the title, it actually covers what happens before your parents divorce, too, and I highly recommend it!
You’re going through a tough time, but there are ways to survive it. Here are some two basic guidelines to help you get through it.
Guidelines for Surviving an Unhappy Family
#1: Avoid arguments.
That doesn’t mean that you’re not allowed to argue with anyone; what it does mean is that when your parents fight, try to move away. It’s incredibly stressful to hear your parents fight like that, and you deserve better. So go to another room, listen to music, turn on the TV – whatever it takes to get away. Don’t eavesdrop; it really isn’t healthy. I remember I used to put on my headphones when my parents fought so they’d think I wasn’t listening. I'd keep the music off until it just got too stressful to listen to, at which point I'd turn the music on, and then turn it back off to listen again once I’d calmed down a little. I accomplished nothing by that except putting myself in a stressful situation. I've been there, and take it from me – it’s not a good idea. Don’t do it.
#2: Don't get in the middle.
This kind of goes along with #1, but it bears emphasizing. From experience, I know that getting in the middle of your parents' arguments is a very painful place to be. So why try and break it up? You may succeed in getting them not to fight with each other that time, but the feelings that led to that fight will remain. All you accomplish by putting yourself in the middle is postponing that one fight, but you haven't fixed their marriage and they'll fight again later. Not only are you not helping them, but you're actually hurting yourself by putting yourself in such a stressful situation. They're adults and, even though it may not always seem like it, they are more than capable of taking care of their own problems. The important thing is to admit that you aren't responsible for their marriage or their fights. Take care of yourself - they can deal with their own problems.
#3: Find an outlet.
This is all about finding a way to express what you’re feeling. Talking to others about what’s going on, writing, exercising, drawing, they’re all great examples of ways to let off all of that stress you have bottled up. Remember the website I mentioned on one of the other pages, the one with the support group for children of divorce? Well, there’s another support group on the same website for family issues, plus the same opportunity to journal anonymously or publicly. That’s a great outlet to talk to others about what you’re going through and get or give advice. Check it out!
Check out the Coping page for more detailed ideas. Because you're going through something just as tough, if not tougher, than a divorced family and you need ways to help you deal with it. I wish you the best.
Dealing with a family situation like this is tough. There's a lot of stress that comes with it, so I'm going to give you the number for the hotline again. It really is for any crisis. I know hotlines are generally associated with suicide, but in reality they're just any phone number out there to help you with something (like the Butterball Turkey Hotline...definitely not there for suicide support). The Boys Town Suicide and Crisis Line is there to help boys and girls with any crisis that they may be going through, not just suicide. So if you need help and you live in the US, Canada, or Guam, call 800-448-3000 right now and get the help that you need. There are people that care about you - you just have to reach out to them.