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    I grew up in a home with divorced parents. Us children grew up with my mother. It turned out that out of my other 5 siblings I was the only one who kept up a relationship with my father. It just is a problematic relationship. Somehow I turned into my father’s mentor, therapist, parent, idk what to call it. My dad will use me to complain about his financial situation, about his relationship with his wife, about his issues with my mother, about his relationship with my siblings, and about all his fears and worries about everything. When my brothers bar mitzva happened there was a lot of craziness and drama going on, and he would tell me how he had nothing to live for and would be better off dead since nobody cares for him. When I went to seminary for the year my father ended up in the hospital for some heart problem something. He was there before.  But when I went to seminary it happened again.   They told him he seams ok, it’s just panic attack from me leaving. We dont live in the same state, but I guess just the thought of me being so far away. So throughout my whole year in sem I had to hear how I made him end up in the hospital.  I hate the way this relationship has turned out and need some advice how to navigate it. Its really challenging for me to set boundaries with him, especially when I’m told that I’m the only one who has always been there for him.

    The other part of my question: I hate family Simchas. About 1.5 years ago was my brother’s bar mitzva and there was so much drama about whether my father can come,  or not come,  and all the craziness. This coming up Monday is my sister’s wedding. First one in my family to get married. My father is coming but I am terrified what will end up. My sister does not want him to walk her down the isle, he is already telling me how angry he is about that, and how this will probably be the last time he sees my sister and he doesnt need to know when she has children. I don’t know how things will turn out at the wedding, I just know that my father doesn’t plan to stay past chuppa because he is upset. I don’t know how to deal with all the drama, and annoyingness that I’m expecting to take place. And its really taking away from my excitement I feel that I should be feeling. Instead im just nervous.

    Any help somebody can offer?

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    Hi okidoki,

    I’m not a professional or anything but I have unfortunately been in a similar situation, and I hope I can contribute something that can possibly help.

    First of all, kudos to you on recognizing that the relationship may be problematic. The first step in solving a problem is recognizing that there is something that needs to be fixed.

    It’s great that you care so much about your father, especially since you were the only one to keep up with him. However,  it is NOT ok for you to be his mentor/therapist/parent as you say. This is detrimental to both of you. In the natural way of the world, children should rely on their parents for support, guidance, unconditional love etc. Unfortunately, some parents are incapable of giving their children what they need, but this should never mean that a child is responsible to make up for it.

    I’m sure it is extremely challenging to set boundaries, especially since it sounds like this dynamic has been going on for a while.

    You mention quite a few things that you are unhappy with him discussing/complaining about.

    Here are a few tips that worked for me, I hope you can benefit from some of them:

    1) be the one to initiate phone calls. Don’t pick up the phone and risk being put on the spot. Instead let him leave a voicemail/send a message so that you can be prepared.

    2) Plan how you can nicely tell him when something crosses your boundaries. For example, if he starts telling you how much he needs you, why can’t you just say something like “I love you Dad but I need to go now. Have a good night” and just hang up without waiting for a response. Or if he complains about your mother/siblings, try something like “I’m not ok talking about these kind of things” or “it bothers me/makes me uncomfortable when we discuss Mommy” or just completely change the topic!!

    3) make your conversations more productive. It sounds like he really wants a close relationship with you. Asking for advice is a great way to connect in a way that makes him feel needed. Are you in college? Can he help you with your homework? Can you learn something together? Like an inspirational book or sefer? Find a way to let him “help” you.

    4) Don’t have a relationship out of guilt or resentment (“he has no one else” – he is a grown man and can get himself other support if he wanted to)…

    I hope this helped in some way. You are an amazing person for wanting to be there for him. Know that you are not alone!! It is HARD but possible and worth it. Most importantly, know that YOU deserve to live your life and you are not responsible to let his life take precedence over yours.




    I can definitely understand why you’d feel overwhelmed at the thought of the potential drama at your sister’s wedding because of the complicated dynamics surrounding your father.

    I do think a professional therapist would be incredibly beneficial to you.  I don’t think anyone aside from G-d has the power to make another human being sick whether physically or emotionally and the fact that both your father puts this impossible responsibility on you and you assume this role can be crushing.

    A therapist can teach you how to have healthy boundaries in a way that works for the kind of relationship you would like to have with your father.

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