My aging mother is very mad at my dad for something that happened 42 years ago. I don't know what to do.


She is bitter and mean, screams and yells at my dad, she won't listen to either of her daughters and we are trying to get her some help. She refuses to go to counseling and insists that dad go...he is going. She won't tell her primary care doctor anything, although she has been this mad for 9 months now and is getting dangerously thin. She went to a cardiologist for "panic attacks" but it is just her being so angry her heart races, she told the cardiologist "my husband is having an affair"... but she did not mention that it was 42 years ago and has not happened since then! He has been a great husband and amazing father for 42 of the 50 years of marriage. Now in her mid 70's she wants to be this angry?? I don't know what to do to help her or my dad, they are talking divorce.



This could be my MIL. She got pregnant out of wedlock in 1948 at age 17 and had to get married. (Dirty little family secret that is actually no secret at all). Blamed FIL for EVERYTHING that went wrong in her life. They stayed together, because she didn't have any outside support and no education-- and had 2 more kids together. My DH is the 2nd child of this hellish union. DH says he never saw his parents show any affection between them, ever. Just screaming matches.

MIL hated FIL with such a passion, it was scary. She finally did divorce him over 20 years ago, and he passed 14 years ago, but if you talk to her, it is as if it happened yesterday. She has held that hatred and grudge with a mighty passion.

She's not sick, per se. No UTI's, just an unforgiving personality. She accused FIL of cheating on her, and all us kids thought was "Poor guy, he needed someone to be nice to him"...but there was no proof of him cheating....and even if he had---you can work through these things.

I agree--early 70's is NOT old.

Mom needs some counseling and help. Maybe medication to help with the anger.

And honestly, does dad really WANT to stay with someone who screams at him day and night? My FIL was MUCH happier w/o MIL in his life. They should have split up many, many years ago.

Mom's anger could be due to a medical condition, so if you can get her checked out to rule that in or out--maybe they can salvage something.

If not---divorce isn't fun, but it can be survived.

One word of caution...don't take sides. Ever. Refuse to engage in the back and forth blame. My MIL was livid when my FIL died b/c nobody showed her any sympathy, as she was now a, she was a divorcee. And a bitter, angry one at that. Anyone who "sided" with FIL was cut off. Now she is 88 yo and alone with her anger and grudges to keep her warm at night. Just very sad.
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Reply to Midkid58

I can relate to this but gladly I dont care anymore. Not drinking anymore helped greatly. I would think she really needs medication. I think also close family members have to be very frank with her and say what behavior will be put up with. I came close to losing my family if I couldnt change. If there is any dementia it will be harder but I feel she needs evaluation, medication and frank discussions. Does she want to be abandoned because that will be the result if she continues to drive everyone away. I am on medication and feel I will have to be for life because I am prone to crushing anxiety at times. Sometimes I feel it helps and other times I dont but I know life for me would be more difficult without it. I joined this forum for issues with my aging mother but I also have been helped greatly with other issues.
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Reply to Riverdale

SRalpaca, I do understand what you’re saying. It does seem odd to me that Mom has rather suddenly started revisiting all this anger. I put it aside for many years to raise my children and get on with life, but I’ve never for one minute believed that he only strayed once and that brings its own anger. I never said much to anyone. My family knew and when they became adults, I told my kids. I suppose that if my anger raised its ugly head again the way your mom’s has, I would go to my doctor and ask for a referral to a therapist. This would be for my own good as stress and anger can cause serious health problems. I would not seek help because I felt it was my fault for feeling this way. I guess what I’m trying so poor,y to say is that I understand how your mom feels. Sure, your dad has been on the straight and narrow and far as I want to know, so has my husband. But it doesn’t change what happened.

As I said, I agree that Mom needs medical intervention. Anger can eat you up, and if there are other medical and/or emotional issues, that makes it worse. I’d worry that Mom may become physical with Dad if she harbors so much anger towards him. I’m in enough control to not “lose it” with hubby, but if that started happening, I would absolutely head to my doc ASAP.

I wish the best to your mom, dad and your family. I hope you can find her some peace and solution to her anger. You’ll be in my thoughts.
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Reply to Ahmijoy

Thank you Ahmijoy... i agree there is hurt and pain forever! but for 42years dad has been pretty awesome (she agrees on that too). I'm not sure what set this all off. I actually DO very much understand her feelings, but my thought is "if the poor behavior and decisions changed and has been acceptable for 42 years, maybe you don't forgive the actions of years ago,but you move forward with life. Either she chooses to accept him for who he is now and try to enjoy each other for the rest of your years,or you don't and separate. Yelling and being so angry for 9 months is just making all of us in the family upset. She is starting to annoy her friends with the tales of "affairs" and not mentioning that it was 42 years ago.

She did have a UTI about a month ago, all resolved now... but the battles continue.

I've asked my dad to come stay with me for a couple weeks and maybe she will seek some help, she has flat out refused because it is "dad's problem" .

so how do i get my mom to go to the Dr and get some help,get some meds and take them to accept responsibility for her feelings? maybe i can't and maybe the best thing is to pull away until she is ready to accept the help... "the first step is admitting you have a problem" right? she needs to take that first step on her own,i think. I went to visit her about a month ago and i do believe that she is congitive enough to accept this. Maybe having my dad away for a couple of weeks will make her realize that her life is with him and she needs to go seek some help.
I'm NOT in anyway condoning my dad's behavior,but I am accepting him for making the changes 42 years ago and being committed to his marriage and family. I'm my opinion THAT is the best my mom could have asked for given the situation.

Thank you all for your comments. I do appreciate you all 'listening and reading'. This getting old stuff really, REALLY SUCKS!!!
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Reply to SRalpaca

I’m playing Devil’s Advocate here again. I am on the other end of this spectrum. 36 years ago, when my 2 children were very small, my husband found someone he liked better than me. I found love letters from her to him in the trunk of his car. Even before I found them, he told me he decided we were “having problems” and began merrily discussing divorce. He’d sit and read the apartment ads in front of me at the breakfast table. Then, I found the letters and the tables were turned. I went straight to his parents and told them what their son was doing. Since they owned their own business and this woman was a client, they cared more about the business than me and their grandchildren, but they ripped Hubby a new one.

I was a stay-at-home mom, no money, no college diploma and no job skills with 2 little kids. I had to stay.

I can quite sincerely tell all of you that the pain never goes away. You never forget and you never forgive. Now Hubby is bedridden and I am his 24/7 caregiver/slave. I do everything from wash his hair, help him defecate to give him pedicures. On a bad day, it wouldn’t take much to set me off screaming at him. But, I internalize. I don’t have a UTI. I probably do have PTSD. Mom probably feels like everyone is telling her to “get over it” in addition to siding with poor dad. She probably feels like it’s not her fault he couldn’t keep his trousers zipped back then.

Sit down, if you can, with Mom and have a calm, understanding discussion. Use what I’ve written here to gain some understanding of what she must feel like. Ask if she might want to speak with her religious leader, doctor, or a therapist.

There’s no expiration date on a broken heart.
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Reply to Ahmijoy

I agree, there is something going on. Sorry, but I don't consider 70s old. So this starting now sends up red flags. Maybe Dad should get a motel room so she can settle down.
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Reply to JoAnn29

She didn't come across anything, did she? - like photos or letters... :/
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Reply to Countrymouse

Have her checked thoroughly for dementia at a Geri Psych unit in a hospital. Her behavior sounds like my mom’s early dementia behavior.

Make sure a psychiatrist checks her out too. I think all dementia patients can remember clearly are things from the past.

My mother got in a physical fight with my dad 9 months ago and she does have dementia. Now, she’s sad if dad doesn’t come see her every day at the AL. They are affectionate now.
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Reply to HolidayEnd

Mick, I agree with the poster above, have your Mom checked for an Urinary Tract Infection. Such infections in older people will cause very strange symptoms.
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Reply to freqflyer

42 years is a long time to hold a grudge but time doesn’t resolve the issue if mom just had it buried. Something made the pain fresh again. Perhaps someone with this type experience will respond. It is hard work to forgive someone who has destroyed your trust. Mid 70s seems an odd time to start. Mom will have to work on it if she wants to save her marriage or her sanity. Nine months is long enough to see that she is out of control.
What does your dad’s therapist say about the situation? Is he being advised to leave?
Is mom a narcissist?
Did she just have a significant event? Death of a parent, friend or sibling?
A major bd? Just retire?
Any major life event? Ask her to be checked for a UTI. They can cause dementia type symptoms. Is her behavior, this acting out happening in the evenings? Read about sundowners.
Did the cardio put her on any medication for her anxiety?
I’m really sorry this is happening to your family.
EDIT: I see that I responded to another of your posts about your mom’s neurological testing. I think I would call the dr who did the testing. Was it her primary? Tell him what is going on. Perhaps a med adjustment would help. 
Start reading about dementia. Watch the Teepa Snow videos on YouTube. Tell your dad to watch them. He may need a support group. 
I think it is understandable for your mom to be afraid and angry. I want to say that the affair had little to do with mom’s condition today but the truth is we really don’t know how far reaching a pain like that can be. Probably not the same for everyone. 
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Reply to 97yroldmom