Several years ago, my daughter, now 21, revealed that my son, now 24, had sexually abused her from her ages seven to 12.
He was a drug addict and also physically violent to me and my wife. He now lives with his mother, she and I separated two years ago.
She has yet to fully admit to my daughter whether she believes her.
She’s even expressed feelings that our son may’ve been abused by someone.
My daughter adores me, despises her brother, and has said that any contact or support I’d give him would be a crushing betrayal.
She’s struggling with borderline personality disorder but getting better. I support her financially.
Yet my son is so sick and struggling, that, despite his countless abuses to all of us, I still feel some obligation to try and help him.
I don't know what to do.
Any parent would be torn apart, and your ex-wife must also be suffering.
Your daughter needs unconditional support regarding sexual abuse, your son needs addiction treatment, but also must confront his violent behaviour and the abuse.
No single action or decision will heal everyone in this family.
But both young adults need someone on their side and that’s the one positive factor here.
Stay closely connected to your daughter. Accept your ex-wife’s commitment to your son.
You all need professional guidance – medical treatment where needed, and counselling as to what steps to follow in each child’s case.
Since you seem to be the most pro-active family member, you may also want individual therapy to stay focused on your role here.
Your daughter’s ongoing therapies for personality disorder and recovery from abuse require your unconditional belief in her.
If it means staying distant from your son while privately encouraging your ex-wife to find effective treatment for him, that’s okay.
You’re not shirking responsibility for him. Rather, you’re doing what’s needed most from you at this time.
Your son needs commitment from someone who believes he can change, and has that from his mother.
Hopefully, she’ll one day realize that acknowledging his assault on his sister can be a step towards recovery for all of you.
Your children are in crisis, but both have years ahead where their lives can improve.
What you and their mother do now, each for one child who’s suffering, is crucial.
Some of the relations may improve in the future, or not.
My husband, two children and I used to live 20-minutes drive from my parents’ home.
We visited each other often.
Two years ago, we followed our dream and moved an hour's drive away (more rural). My parents expressed deep hurt and disappointment.
My husband felt we were being emotionally manipulated. Though ours was a joint decision, they blamed him.
Their relationship became very strained. Despite our visiting them often - including extended stay-overs during summer and spring break - there’s still guilt (me), resentment (husband), and disappointment (parents).
I miss the former closeness and am willing to move back closer to them. But I fear my husband feeling I’m choosing my parents over him.
How can I repair my relationship with my parents without disappointing my husband?
You’ve already tried to repair it but they won’t let you.
They’re still manipulating you through their attitude.
Don’t let them come between you and your husband.
Your joint decision to move was a bond… one you need to nourish for many years ahead.
Stay in the house your immediate family enjoys together.
Reader’s Commentary ‘Previously, a woman wrote about her unstable mother.
“I’ve been through this kind of drama. If the person doesn’t want to seek help, it's damaging to the children, young and old.
“I tried for years to suggest my mother seek professional help. She always refused and criticized me instead.
“I suspected she was bipolar or had a personality disorder.
“I finally walked away for a while. I was better when I no longer saw her.
“Now she has Alzheimer’s so I'm helping her. We were able to put a little medicine in her food to calm her so she's easier to deal with now.
“I often think of the years of rages. I resent that I now have to spend years helping her with this awful disease.
“The adult daughter should ask her mom to seek help. But if that’s refused, she should do what's right for her own children and family.”
Tip of the day:
When one sibling is assaulted by another, each needs separate support and response.