Should I ask my fa­ther if he’s cheat­ing again?

The Hamilton Spectator - - GO - el­liead­vice.com

Q. My fa­ther, when I was in fourth grade, cheated on my mother with her best friend.

My par­ents al­most ended their mar­riage over this. It left a huge emo­tional im­pact on me.

Now I’m a fresh­man in high school, and sus­pi­cion and fear are tak­ing over my life.

Each night I lis­ten to hear if my par­ents are ar­gu­ing. I al­most have a heart at­tack ev­ery time they do, even when it’s a sim­ple fight that ends quickly.

Lately, I’ve no­ticed ten­sion be­tween them and feel again my sweaty palms and nau­sea.

I’m in­creas­ingly sus­pi­cious of my fa­ther for cheat­ing again. I see him on Face­book and he stays up late ev­ery night.

I’m prob­a­bly just as­sum­ing the worst be­cause of the past trauma I’ve had. But is it okay to ask if he isn’t cheat­ing, just to clear my head and con­science?

I want to ask re­spect­fully with­out him get­ting up­set, and as­sure I’m not ac­cus­ing him but re­as­sur­ing my­self so I can sleep at night.

If he does get up­set, how do I say that I just want to put my mind at ease?

A. The driv­ing emo­tion here is your feel­ing of a re­turn­ing trauma and fam­ily chaos. It’s haunt­ing you, af­fect­ing your sleep, and sense of se­cu­rity.

Con­fid­ing your own fear is the only ap­proach that might en­cour­age a pri­vate con­ver­sa­tion be­tween you and your fa­ther.

Any di­rect ques­tion about him cheat­ing is bound to be a mis­take.

There’s no guar­an­tee that he’ll an­swer truth­fully, not feel ac­cused, and not get an­gry.

At worst, he may even feel that your mother put you up to ques­tion­ing him or said he’s cheat­ing, and that will cre­ate far more ten­sion even if you deny she was in­volved.

Most long-term cou­ples ex­pe­ri­ence some periods of strain.

His us­ing Face­book at night is not ev­i­dence.

Talk to him only about how the past is still af­fect­ing you.

Both your par­ents care about your well­be­ing. They may sug­gest that you get coun­selling to help you han­dle/over­come anx­i­ety feel­ings.

That’s a good idea, no mat­ter what else is go­ing on.

My boyfriend’s par­ents are strict and they’re over­do­ing it

Q. My boyfriend and I are high school se­niors. His life with his par­ents is get­ting in­creas­ingly pres­sured.

They’re re­ally strict, even though he’s a great kid (class vale­dic­to­rian, and doesn’t drink).

His par­ents talk about kick­ing him out of the house (if he were 18), telling him that he won’t get a job, will get kicked out of col­lege and be a fail­ure in life, and threaten to not pay his col­lege tuition.

Re­cently, they of­fered to get him an ex­pen­sive grad­u­a­tion present. Then yes­ter­day they fought and said they wouldn’t buy it.

It makes me an­gry and sad to see him put through this tur­moil.

I’m try­ing to sup­port him, but on his many bad days I don’t know how to help him.

A. Stay sup­port­ive. He’s lucky to have you on his side, but un­less he’s in a true cri­sis and pre­pared to leave home, you don’t want to make things worse by in­ter­fer­ing.

His par­ents may be­lieve that, with all the po­ten­tial neg­a­tive in­flu­ences on teens, they have to re­main strict with their son.

Yes, it ap­pears they’re over­do­ing it. But he may also be moved to ex­ag­ger­ate some­times be­cause it brings you two closer.

As a vale­dic­to­rian, he’ll likely get to col­lege and have some free­dom from the cur­rent pres­sure. En­cour­age him to stay with his goals, and to try to avoid con­flict.

DEAR EL­LIE

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