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Dysfunctional parents; don't know what to do

Community Member
I'm in my 20s and still live with my parents, but I've been increasingly
unable to tolerate their somewhat turbulent relationship. This has been going on for years but now I've really had enough of it. My dad is a nice, intelligent and funny middle-aged person, but he can also be overbearing, stubborn, short-fused and rude, particularly towards mum. He gets unnecessarily angry over the most minor things, which can sometimes lead to incomprehensible shouting. He often takes any kind criticism or advice as hostility, and responds accordingly. He also has no patience with people and he often berates my mum for not doing something correctly or misunderstanding. This sometimes results in her dissolving into tears. She also has her own emotional issues and she does have a tendency to overreact, but that doesn't diminish how clearly hurtful this behaviour is.
One of the things that I particularly want to stop is how he sometimes refers to her with expletives if he's frustrated with something she, in his mind, hasn't done properly. He never says any of this to her face, and it seems like frustrated venting not intended for others to hear, but I often can hear it and it's unpleasant.

I really hope I haven't given the impression that he's a really horrible person or that this is non-stop. He's always stubborn and irritable, but the more over-the-top stuff is occasional. He's friendly, generous, caring and very against misogyny.
I really don't think he understands how unreasonable his behaviour can be. The problem is, I'm at a complete loss as to how any sort of progress can be made. He doesn't like to talk much about how he feels. I've mulled over having some sort of conversation with him about it one day, in a very non-confrontational, father-son chat type manner. However, I'm really worried that this would just make things worse. I just feel totally powerless when it comes to this, every possible option seems bad. I love them both so much, and I'm certain they do too, but I just feel like there's no way to stop this unhappy situation.

4 Replies 4

white knight
Community Champion
Community Champion

Hi, welcome

Essentially, these arguments are between your father and mother, adding your ear and talk, if you do as you have desired, to your dad could spark him up again.

Have you thought about moving out? There could be some more alone time needed between them. I know it is more common now a days to remain home but frankly I've never understood it having moved out at 17yo to join the ADF. Parents raise you and there is a time when they should be alone. Thats my view.

Finally, your mum is capable of leaving your father or attending a counselling session alone or with him if he will accompany him. You can suggest that to her but I wouldnt approach him at all as you will be targeted with the same reaction.


Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hello Doberman, to try and sort this out between your mum and dad is not as easy as it may sound to be, and even if you did, it may only be for a short time until what's said is forgotten.

They may both have their genuine and comical idiosyncrasies when there are no problems or when they are by themselves, but as soon as something happens with your father, the table turns around, and not able to appreciate how your mother is feeling, whether it's right or wrong.

I do agree with Tony that perhaps moving out may be an option, and it's not as frightening as you may think.

Mum can still do your washing, eat meals at home, plus if you rent you can claim rent assistance from the government if you are receiving some type of payment, plus your parents may help you with some payments.

As much as you want to help them, they may be too entrenched with their own ideas and it may only be possible to help them in one instance and not generally.

You need to develop your own life but can suggest that they do seek some counselling which your mum could consider with her doctor suggesting a 'mental health plan' for you, which entitles anyone to 10 Medicare paid sessions with a psych.

It's good you want to help your parents but sometimes they need to do this by themselves or with the aid of someone else.

Take care.


Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi Doberman38,

I really feel for you, you are in between a rock and a hard place. What I get from your post is that you have a strong sense of justice, you recognize your fathers behavior as not being ok and you feel a sense of duty to call him out on it, which I greatly admire. Particularly in this day and age where the emphasis is on calling out bullies and holding them accountable for their actions. Because historically the reaction has been to sit by and do nothing and “stay out it”. You have two options as I see it, sit down and have a chat with your father in a non-confrontational way or leave it be. Your mother theoretically is able to stand up for herself, although I doubt that he would take it on board from her by the sounds of things to be honest. Which leaves a chat with him, it’s not an easy thing to do and I’d recommend preparing what you are going to say ahead of time. You can start with something along the lines of “You know I love you, but you can’t react in this way. I understand that you’ve been married a long time and you get frustrated but..” I think if you frame it from a place of love and give his ego an “out” (ie allow him to make a few excuses for his behavior), you might bring about some change, at least for a time. Or even stepping in during an exchange and saying “I get that you’re angry but I’m not watching anyone be spoken to this way” may be slightly effective, you state that you wouldn’t allow anyone to be singled out that way so he knows you would do the same if he was spoken to that way, and it may open the door for a chat later on. I don’t envy your position, but as someone who has suffered domestic violence at the hands of a partner, I admire it greatly.

Learn to Fly
Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hi Doberman38,

Your post has moved me very much as I see it as coming from a very caring person. A person who loves his parents very much but can also cooly assess the family dynamics and how they affect each and one of you within the family circle.

I am going to start on a bit of a pessimistic note. People who bully/abuse others rarely listen. And they certainly rarely admit they are the source of the problem, that nobody "made them" say hurtful things or behave in an abusive way, and that they have to work on themselves.

People at the receiving end might try to move mountains to make everything perfect and up to the abusers liking. They might get caught up in chasing this perfect picture to help to avoid upsetting the abuser and raising new confrontations. This is unachievable. The abuser is always going to find something to cling up to and use as an excuse to leash out his/her anger or rage.

Tony, Geoff and Juliet_84 have all made some very valuable comments here. It's true: your father might not take a word you say on board, might develop jealousy that might lead to further aggression towards both: your mother and yourself.

But you also know him as good, funny, intelligent, generous and caring. You know and appreciate all the good stuff that he is capable of. You love him as much as you love your mother and it's only natural that you want to help. I understand what you are talking about as I was in a similar situation when I was living with my parents as a teenager. Yes, your father might not listen but the times of being passive are gone and you certainly sound like you want to do something about it. It takes courage to see that somebody is getting hurt, admit the truth, want to do something about it and stand up to the bully.