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You Asked: I'm Stuck in the Middle

You Asked: I'm Stuck in the Middle

Dear Sugar,

My mother got divorced from her husband of 16 years, a year and a half ago. He claimed he didn't love her anymore, and my mother was left wounded and angry. Together they have a wonderful 12-year-old son, my half-brother, who now takes turns staying with each of them. Things are very bitter, and they mostly communicate through text messaging or through me and my brother — my mother feels too angry to have a more civilized relationship with him. I will admit that my step-dad was cold to her during the divorce, and I understand that she feels hurt, but at this point, I wish she would give in and work at making their relationship better.

I'm away from home in grad school, in a foreign country, extremely busy with my studies, so I mostly communicate with them via email. Yesterday my step-dad told me he has begun dating another woman. It sounds pretty serious. He told me my brother has met her and that they got along. I'm happy for him, but I don't think my mom knows about this. She has been dating herself, but I just know this will make her angry and she might start some kind of power war with her ex through me, or worse, my brother.

If I wait to tell her, my brother might end up blurting it out (what a heavy secret for a twelve year old to have to carry around). So I think it's best if I tell her. How do I go about this in a manner that is gentle? How can I persuade her not to involve me or my brother in the anger she will most likely feel?

— Family Drama Dannika

To see DearSugar's answer,


Dear Family Drama Dannika,

I'm very sorry to hear that you and your brother are trapped in the middle of your parents' issues. It's really not fair to either of you, and it makes an already difficult situation that much worse. You're right; your brother shouldn't have to carry the burden of this information, and I'm sorry that you do. Your mother is obviously struggling with her own issues, but she's still the parent. If I were you, I would be direct and simple, and certainly don't play into her drama.

If she needs someone to vent to, it should be a therapist or an outside friend, and don't be afraid to tell her so. You can support your mother and recognize her anger without allowing her to place her emotional burden on your shoulders. When it comes down to it, you can't control how your mother reacts to this news or behaves in the future, but you can be a person of strength for your brother. Talk openly with him, and above all else, make sure he knows he can talk to you. I hope things get easier soon.


Join The Conversation
Janine22 Janine22 8 years
It is not your responsibility to play 'mediater' in their former relationship. Don't tell your mom about this if you don't feel comfortable doing it. Tell your ex stepdad that it is not fair or appropriate for you or your brother to be placed in such an awkward situation, and you would appreciate if he could be mindful of the position he is putting both of in in the future. Talk to them individually regarding issues about yourself or your relationship with them only. Tell them both that you find this situation very stressful and you need something to change. I would also suggest that you establish some boundaries with each of them about what you are and are not comfortable discussing. Your mom also needs to respect your boundaries. Good luck to you.
ilanac13 ilanac13 8 years
being in the middle of a 'messy' divorce is never a good thing, and i really do have empathy for you. i think that you're the lucky one to have the distance from it all so you don't have to deal with it first hand. i do agree that your brother is in the awkward position to have to be around both of them and to know this information, but i do agree also that it's neither you nor your brother's place to have to pass along this info to your mom. i think that she needs to realize that her relationship with her ex is never going to be a good one and that you can't make it that way. if you do share the situation with your step father and his new girlfriend, then that's ok, but your mom has to know that she needs to talk to someone else about the bitter feelings and that you and your half-brother are not supposed to be the scratching post for that.
cubadog cubadog 8 years
It is not your responsibility to tell your mother anything about your step father and his new relationship. My parents put my sister and I in the middle a lot at the end of their divorce. Thankfully, when my Dad told people at my graduation party that he was getting remarried and my Mom flipped out her good friend was there and told her that it was in no way our responsibility to tell her anything going on with our father. My Mom thought we knew before my party but we had no idea we just thought they were dating. When my Mom would start complaining about my Dad I would just walk away from her I know your brother is only 12 but he needs to tell your mother that her comments and anger towards his father hurt him and it needs to stop.
macchiatolove macchiatolove 8 years
I kind of think the ex should tell her. I know he won't but I think he should. He is participating in a way in this drama by refusing to own up to the outcome of his actions. This is such a difficult situation. On the one hand, they are separated now, so it should be none of her business who he dates, but on the other hand, it shouldn't be your responsibility to tell her either. How stressful for you, especially on top of all your other commitments! I hope it gets better. I don't have much good advice :(
katty22 katty22 8 years
oh my god..don't worry there's no problem hasn't a solution , ur problem will be solved ...we just dunno wut life hides to us ...bear the pain. everythin is gunna be okay .
psterling psterling 8 years
I totally feel your mom is the exact same way about her divorce from my dad. My sister and I are caught in the middle and often have to play therapist to my mom whether we like it or not. I hope I never am put in that position, but if I am I will never do that to my kids.
bluesteyes bluesteyes 8 years
I think you ought to be there for your mum if she finds out from other people too. Life is complicated I know honey but we just have to deal with it in our best ability. I'm rooting for you and for her :)
bluesteyes bluesteyes 8 years
I would call your mum and try to suss out what's happening in her life, if she sounds great I would say well..there is something I think I ought to tell you and then you tell her in the nicest possible way, if she sounds really down I would call your step brother and tell him to shut up.
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