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My father is having a mid-life crisis.

by Anika
(San Francisco)

My father seems to be going through a mid life crisis. He had always had a dream of starting a company and had uprooted the family numerous times to Asia. Now his company seems to be failing and over the last year or so he has taking in one of his female employees under his wing as a daughter figure.

He was married to my mother for 28 years and has been distancing himself from her to the point of separation. He had always had a good relationship with her and shared many of the same dreams which he ended up cutting her out of. He has also been treating my mother terribly over the last year and things have been worsening in recent weeks. She has been in a lot of pain because of it and does not really know how to cope with it. (She comes from a traditional Muslim background and really does not know how to deal with something like this.) She has been calling me up and crying for hours everyday.

My parent's finances have been in terrible condition and my younger sibling is ready to go to college next semester. My father has taken to squandering money on clothes and dinners with this young woman and has accumulated a large amount of credit card debt. Even though he is in debt and has no money he wants to start a new company with this female employee of his. The only person he listens to is her and has been alienating himself from many of his close friends.

He takes no responsibility in regards to my sibling and the burden of his college has fallen on my shoulders much of the time. (I am graduating myself really soon and look forward to a dismal job market. My sibling is moving in with me.) I used to have a very good relationship with my father but things are really strained with him. My brother no longer wishes to have anything to do with him at all. He used to be a really good father, loving and generous, but lately it feels like he does not consider anyone but himself (or this random woman) When he does notice my brother it is usually to put him down for everything.

I live abroad and will have to go back and pick up my brother up from Asia in a few days. And deal with all of this.

My main question is that is there anything I can do to be able to talk to him about what is going on with his life? He usually gets mad before listening to anyone. And if so how should I approach this situation? I want to be able to be supportive but I can't do that unless he is willing to listen.

Noel's response

It sounds like a very difficult situation for you. About the only thing I can suggest is that you talk with your father (using "I statements" so he doesn't become as defensive) and let him know what the effect his actions are having on you and your brother. If you are not familiar with the term 'I statements', google it and you will find lots of information.

It does sound as though your father could be in a midlife transition. His actions suggest to me that he might be in his 50s (you did not mention his age), as many men at that age want to leave what they have been doing and start something new.

All the best to you and your brother.

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