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My mom and step dad fight all of the time. They seem to fight about everything. We went on a vacation a few weeks ago. They started fighting about the way my step dad was driving. I thought he was driving badly, but I didn’t say anything. My mom asked me what I thought and I told her I did not want to get involved. She kept at me and finally I told her what I thought. My step dad got mad at me and told me I always take her side. Later when I was alone with my mom, I asked her not to get me involved with their fights. She said she would try, but she keeps doing it.

Yes, my husband and I fight a lot. I work a lot of hours and so does he. We are always very tired and have a low tolerance for each other. I love my son and enjoy having him around. I don’t mean to bring him into our arguments, but I don’t seem to remember this when I am arguing with my husband.

Dear Fighting Mom and Bobby,
Bobby, I think you are absolutely right to ask your mom not to put you in the middle. It interferes with your developing a good relationship with your stepdad and it puts too much pressure and responsibility for your Mom’s well being on you.

Mom, You are breaking the number one cardinal rule for parents. Never involve your child in your marital arguments. It is extremely unfair and upsetting for children to feel that they are forced to take sides against one parent, no matter how strongly you feel that your spouse is wrong. You are placing your child in a no-win situation and most likely causing a lot of anxiety and guilt. To make matters even more complex, your son has to deal with a step-parent relationship which is often difficult to negotiate. Your son needs to develop a relationship with a man who is not his biological father. By involving him in your arguments, you are making this even harder and increasing the risk of conflict between your son and his stepfather. If your child is unhappy about something your spouse is doing, it would be much healthier for your child to learn to express his feelings on his own (assuming he would not be personally attacked or berated for expressing honest feelings).

Secondly, if you have no time for fair fights with your spouse, to say nothing of communicating in good ways, what are you doing? You need to make time for each other when you are not overly tired. A marriage takes work and time. You are teaching your child very valuable lessons about how to behave and what to expect from close intimate relationships. When you model respect for your spouse, your child has a much greater chance of learning how to do it in his own life.

Thirdly, talk with your child about your concerns for him not to get in the middle of your arguments. Family therapists refer to this as a relationship triangle. You are better off resolving issues with your spouse as a duo.

Lastly, there is often a lasting, special relationship among members of an original nuclear family even after a marriage ends. Kids like to remember their ties to each parent as secure and supportive, whether that was the case or not in the parents’ eyes. It is a trap to have your child feel that you need his support to make it in the marriage and it makes it even harder for your child to develop a close relationship with your new mate.

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