Reader Hate My House writes,
This problem has been around since I was a child. My parents fight constantly, sometimes it becomes frightening and there have been occasions where someone has gotten hurt. They always fight about my mother's weight. When I was 5 they divorced because she weighed over 130 pounds (she is 5'9"). After the divorce my mother lost the weight again and for the life of me, they re-married!
Anyway 10+ years down the road and the fighting is worse than ever before. My mother picked up weight again and my father ridicules her and yells at her and makes her feel bad about herself everyday, even though she is trying to lose the weight. I have talked to him, tried to show him she is losing weight yet he denies it and says she is just getting fatter.
Every night there is fighting and crying and yelling and he never listens to what I say. Not only that but about 7 years ago he has moved on to start making me feel bad about my body, saying I am gaining weight, even though I know I am not and I know I look healthy and good! I play sports and exercise and eat right, but he never stops and I do not know what to do anymore. I always feel self-conscious and bad. Only when I am alone do I feel comfortable about myself but out in public I always feel like maybe he is right, and I know he is not! I can only imagine how my mother feels.
I have asked them why they do not divorce I have told my dad that me and my sister will not be angry if they do, if anything I think it would be better! Please just give me advice or tell me I am being silly or just anything! I hate dealing with their crap everyday. Luckily I am starting university in September so I do not have to put up with it any longer, I am 18 and moving out when university starts. However, it is also my sister I worry about!
I am really sorry you are in this awful situation. Your father is being emotionally abusive to your mother and to you. I am so glad that most of the time you can rationalize his behavior and words as nonsensical, but of course I understand why you feel self-conscious other times. Your father is a deeply troubled man and likely has extremely low self-esteem. He attempts to feel better about himself by being controlling and mean to others. Additionally, it is likely he sees your mother, and you, as an extension of himself, and therefore if you don't meet his ridiculously low and unhealthy weight specifications, he feels anxious and angry that others will think badly of him. Your mother, who was likely raised by controlling and/or abusive parents herself, enables this behavior by fully buying into it and trying to lose weight instead of asserting herself and leaving him and this toxic dynamic. She thinks poorly of herself, it seems, so it seems rational to her that your father would criticize her.
You need to get out of this situation and help your sister get through it. Try to work with your mother or a helpful teacher or family friend to get your sister (and yourself) into counseling, where at least your sister can talk to a voice of reason that can counteract some of the insanity that she hears at home. You need to talk to a counselor yourself to process all of this dysfunction and get a wider lens on this situation. You have witnessed a horribly dysfunctional marriage and an abuser-enabler dynamic that risks poisoning how you view romantic relationships.
Your father is not normative. Normal guys do not hold their wives' weight over their heads like this and obsess about it. It is like he is anorexic by proxy. I want you to realize how nuts this is and understand that if a guy ever says that he will leave you if you do not weigh X pounds, that is a relationship that unhealthy and that you should leave. Your mother's behavior is that of a codependent enabler, and she apparently is too troubled herself to realize what she is exposing her daughters to by remaining in this marriage.
You are smart and have your whole life ahead of you. If your father talks about your weight, tell him, "Don't speak to me about my weight again. You are mean, wrong, and emotionally abusive." Say that every time he brings it up and let your mother and sister hear you. If he makes comments when you eat, eat in your room. You have only a few months left at home, so model the assertive behavior you want your sister to see. Show her this article and tell her that what you guys are observing is far, far outside the realm of healthy or normal.
Good work recognizing that this is toxic and wrong. Please try and find a therapist (or school counselor) for both you and your sister. Do not let your father's low self-esteem and emotional abuse impact your body image or your food intake. He is just wrong, wrong, wrong, and when he speaks, try and visualize how messed up his own childhood must have been, and how he (or his mother in front of him) must have been berated in order for him to think this is okay now.
Good luck, and till we meet again, I remain, The Blogapist Who Says, By The Way, Check Out These Charts For How Off Base Your Dad Is.
This post was originally published here on Dr. Psych Mom. Follow Dr. Rodman on Dr. Psych Mom, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. Order her book, How to Talk to Your Kids about Your Divorce: Healthy, Effective Communication Techniques for Your Changing Family. Learn about Dr. Rodman's private practice here. This blog is not intended as diagnosis, assessment, or treatment, and should not replace consultation with your medical provider.