Woman reeling over her father's affair

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Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

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DEAR AMY: After 43 years of marriage, my mother discovered my father's affair. Since then, they have been on a two-year roller-coaster ride of recommitting to their marriage and my father relapsing into the affair every few months. Several months ago, their relationship reached its breaking point and my father seemed to see the light. My parents finally started seeing a therapist and they told me that things were better than ever. However, it just came to light that my father is still in contact with his girlfriend. My mother won't leave him, even though his behavior has made her a shell of the person she once was. My father wants me to forgive him again, but I told him I cannot trust him. I have a family of my own and this has brought sadness and anxiety into our home. I've realized that I have no power to help them and I want to get off this roller coaster, but I don't know how. My gut is telling me to end communication, but my heart is telling me that it is not the answer. Motion Sick

DEAR MOTION SICK: You have rightly identified your powerlessness over your father's behavior and your mother's choice to stay in the marriage. However, I don't think that ceasing communication is necessary, and it could impact your mother negatively.

You should seek to arrive at that tender spot of equilibrium where you don't get sucked into their marital drama but provide emotional support and a decent relationship with both of them. You can forgive your father his ample failings as a person and a husband, but you are prudent to withhold your trust until he demonstrates that he is worthy of it.

In addition to marriage counseling, your mother should see a counselor on her own. She needs and deserves to pour out her heart and frustration to a dispassionate listener who can help her navigate this ongoing challenge and deal with her depression.

You should be in her corner, no matter what she decides.