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October 23rd, 2009 by Dr. Phil

Should Kids Have a Say?

mother daughter2I have a question that the shows airing Thursday and Friday made me really think about.

First, here’s a quick overview of the family I had the privilege to meet and work with.  I wonder what you would have told them: Not long ago, 26-year-old Kristin wrote that she and her five — count ‘em five — sisters were convinced something really disturbing was going on with their mother, Carole, who until recently, had been very close with them.  Carole, according to her daughters, seemed to be adopting some new and troubling behaviors: being secretive, getting spray tans (significant because it was something they say she would never do), shopping for sexy clothes at stores targeted to much younger women and uncharacteristically, taking a mysterious weekend trip to Las Vegas, supposedly with her girlfriends.

I really try to not pre-judge before I have all the facts, so I’m thinking:  Is this just a mother deciding it’s time to put herself “on the list” and do some fun things? Or is this a case of a woman making a 90-degree turn down “Trouble Highway”?  Carole’s daughters wanted help with confronting their mother about what they suspect is an extramarital affair. Now, I’m pretty hard to surprise, but I will tell you, there were some revelations in this story that I did not see coming, not even almost!

I had some hard questions to deal with, such as: Should children get a vote regarding their parents’ adult lives, or should they mind their own business? When children, of any age, try to tell their parents what to do, or not do, should they expect compliance? And is “Butt out, I’m your parent, not your spouse. We have a relationship between us, but this is out of your area and none of your business” an acceptable response?

blog2If you’re a teen, or a grown child (20+), do you try to intervene in your parents’ lives, especially if you see them doing things you consider to be out of character?  Do you step up and say, “Hey, settle down,” because you’re thinking that they aren’t being the mom or dad you remember? Or maybe, you’re the parent who has a kid trying to tell you how to behave.  If so, I am wondering how you feel about it.  Sometimes life is about setting boundaries, even with the ones we love, but it can be hard. The shows sure have made me think, from both the father and son perspective.  I have always said that no matter how flat you make a pancake, it has two sides!

I’m betting you will see aspects of yourself and the relationships you have with your own family throughout this story — especially on the subject of boundaries. How would you feel if your children began taking inventory of your life, even about the things you do that may not directly affect them? How would you feel if they did some sort of intervention when it came to your marriage? I have to say, I hold my relationship with Robin to be just that — with Robin — and my kids don’t get much of a vote.  I think she would agree wholeheartedly. But, and this is a big but, I don’t think either one of us has ever been on “Trouble Highway!”

Let’s face it, children, even once their grown, simply can’t know everything that happens in their parents’ lives. They don’t see what takes place behind closed doors. To put it another way: They don’t know what they don’t know. So they sometimes may offer very strong opinions with incomplete data. Are they entitled to do that? After all, they are part of the family, and are often impacted by what their parents do.

So, what boundaries should you have when it comes to your children getting involved in your own private life?  And what if they are right?  I guarantee you will change your mind more than once while watching these shows!

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107 Responses to “Should Kids Have a Say?”

  1. Martha G says:

    If I’m an adult/teen child, you better believe I’m going to have a say in what my parents do or not do if they are damaging my happy family. If parents don’t want their kids to know or get involved, then they should think before making serious mistakes such as cheating. Period!

  2. Jennifer Harrell says:

    There are so many parent child relationships that cross the line. If there was a problem with my husband and myself it would be between the two of us. If there was a problem between my mother and father that is between them. I do not want to know any details of anything personal between them.

    In regards to the question of the trouble highway, I would only step in if I felt their life was in jeopardy. They are old enough to make their decisions and deal with the consequences. Is this not how they raised us. At certain point a parent has to let go of their child and hope they make the right choices, a parent is no different.

  3. angela says:

    I am also an adult child. I wish I was spared all of my parents dirty laundry through their divorce. My mother HAS to tell everyone her problems, friends, family and me and my brother. My mom slammed my dad for years then finally he stood up and told us truths to defend himself. Yes he made huge mistakes but was man enough to “man” up to them and ask for our forgiveness. She never let it go and the lived together until his death in Sept from a long illness. I seen and heard to much from both of them while they both experienced sickness. Dad with kidney failure, mom has had cancer three time and today I found out it is back again. I have a lot of anger toward her for the mean things she said about him,and to the very end I seen two people that loved each other but could not get their marriage back for lack of trust and forgivness. My mom and I have never been close but reading this Dr. Phil page and am setting my boundaries without guilt. All of this has kept me torn up for almost 9 years since their divorce. I need to mourn my dad still but cant because now moms cancer is back. I need so much help Doctor Phil it isnt funny. I am sure you wont read this but it feels a lot better to get it all out. Thanks

  4. Sarah says:

    I believe if it’s strictly a marital problem, then no children do not get a vote, adult or otherwise; when my parents split up, they didn’t consult my brother and I, nor did we think they should have. Neither did they upon meeting our future step-parents, and remarrying. However, if for example those relationships so sidetracked them that I felt I was missing out on a parent or for example as happened one night, my brother with mono was up WELL past his bedtime, wouldn’t listen to me to go down, and my mother hadn’t taken herself away from fiance to come upstairs and put her sick son to bed, yes I would say something. Politely, as I would expect them to bring such things up with me, as my problem was never simply ‘not having the mom/dad I used to’ – in fact such incidents were isolated, and therefore easy to bring up on a per-incident basis without having to bring up all-encompassing ‘trouble highway’-type fights.

    So I guess what it comes to is – if it affects YOU (your parents are fighting in front of you all the time; an affair is making them negligent of their children), then it’s fair to bring up. JUST an affair where otherwise ‘mom is mom’ or ‘dad is dad’? Toughie because on the one hand it IS the kid’s family being broken up; on the other hand it is such a ‘between us’ situation if all other things are equal … yet there’s loyalty to the cheated-upon parent … I don’t know. Grey area for sure, and lots of thought to go in. Probably, I would say some version of “You’re still my mom/dad and you’re doing well by me, but I can’t keep this from mom/dad forever so please, to CONTINUE doing well by me, talk to them or end the affair.”

  5. valerie seidl says:

    Dr. Phil; I was divorced in 2003 and decided to move on with my life. I wanted to do the things I never did during 31 yrs. of a very chaotic marriage. I went from an 19 year old inexperienced woman into my marriage that was a huge mistake. Anyway, we had 2 kids who are now grown with they’re own lives, but they like interferring in mine. I have a website I like to go on (not x rated), but alot of flirting went on. I met a few men I liked but it never went anywhere. I found out it was my kid(s) going on there, pretending to be these men. They also released lots of family business. So, when it was time to meet these men, they always backed out. I know they liked me, but I could tell something wasnt right. They all seemed to use the same words, and even text messages were similiar. My kids deny this, but my daughter was jealous because I like younger men(her age) and they liked me. It was competition. My son wanted to punish me for the divorce. It seems, to this day nothing ever comes of a friendship, and I believe its the kids keeping me from that. They find out who I see and sabotage it with gory details of my marriage, blaming me for everything. I approached them with this, but now my daughter wont talk to me AT ALL. I feel because she’s guilty. She never denied this. They are ruining my life as well as my life with THEM. What do I do?

  6. valerie seidl says:

    So, NO I dont feel kids should interfere with their parents lives unless the parent is harming them or themselves.

  7. Kate says:

    I believe it depends on how the children were brought up in the family. If you brought your children up being involved in your marriage then you cant just slam that door shut. If you have never involved your child in your marriage then it is none of their buisness, until broughten into. I am eighteen years old and my mother discusses with me her family and marital problems. I am happy she trusts me to vent to, but I normally try to avoid her. I don’t like being involved in those things. I would never tell her that though– I would feel bad. When I get married in the future I will not include my kids in my marriage. It’s not their buisness or worry. I believe your marriage is between you and your spouse and that is it.

  8. Martha G says:

    I agree with the “gray area” comment by Sarah…….. but as a child (adult or teen), if my dad/mom had an affair, “I” will also feel BETRAYED by my dad/mom. Many cheaters don’t ‘neglect’ their kids or become ‘less’ of a parent… it’s just a matter of ‘principle’ (for a lack of a better word)… My mom/dad can be the best ‘parent’ in the world, but if they betray their spouse? Sorry, no respect from THIS kid!!! Guess I take ‘marital vows’ too seriously huh? Bottom line…. you cheat on your spouse, you cheat on your kids. Same crap!!!!

  9. Martha G says:

    No Dr. Phil here, Valerie… but maybe your kids are concerned about you. You are not cheating on their father (you have been divorced a long time), but dating younger men and going online to “flirt” is not something children who are grown and have their own lives like to see their mom do. The proper thing to do is find a nice man who you can grow old with. YOU made the ‘wrong’ choice to get involved at a young age, so now that you are ‘older’, it isn’t proper for you to act like you were a 22 yr old, childless divorcee!!! When a person DECIDES to become a parent, they MUST also know they have to become SELFLESS and do what’s best for their children. If my mom dated younger men and was online “flirting”, I would be totally pissed! Yes, it’s “her” life, but SHE made the DECISION to bring ME into it! Sorry Dr. Phil… but I cannot sleep with this topic. LOL

  10. F.D says:

    I was raised in a very disfunctional family. So frankly what ever makes my parents happy is up to them, as long as they butt out of my business, unless of course its constructive.

  11. Amber says:

    It’s hard for the child to figure that line out. I was raised by my mother and step father. My biological father was abusive to my mother. My whole life my mother has been chronically ill, so I had to grow up pretty fast. My mother and I are incredibly close, and in her zeal to keep me from making a similar mistake with a man, was to share too much information about that time period. Also because she is and has been so ill, she didn’t have friends really. So she has needed someone to talk to. I am someone who always wants to be there for my mother or for anyone when they need to talk. So when she began having trouble with my step father after 19 years of marriage…she came to talk to me. I have a very difficult time saying, “Mom, I know you are mostly stuck in the house and have no one else to talk to…but you can’t talk to me!” My parents are fine luckily not having issues like the family you profiled rson but it is a line that has been very blurry my entire life. So I think it is something a parent has to very deliberately set.

  12. cassie crichton says:

    Hey Dr Phil, had the privilege of meeting you in Brisbane Australia not so long ago I was the one who painted you the fish box.
    You know what – your question is really relevant to me at the moment and I have been living that issue and have been for a long time.
    I am 35 and do not have a personal life, I haved lived with Mum and Dad all my life and have never ,moved out. As you may remember Dad passed away just before your visit to Australia. It is now just Mum and I. While at home I helped Dad with a lot around the house including work in the garden and also financial stuff. Now that Dad is gone I have become responsible for all of that. I am not an only child I have 2 brothers who are 45 and 46.
    I have seen Mum go thru hell in the last 12 months and she is not handling Dads death all that great especially at night, she lives on tablets and that does not go welll with wine and I am not going to step in if that is what helps her sleep – dont get me wrong I make she she is okay at all times, but she says she knows what she is doing and I do not know how she feels. She is tiny and 1 drink with the prescribed medication interacts badly and she starts to appear drunk so I guess I monitor her drinks especially when we are out with her friends, and they say that she can do want she wants, but I cannot watch her have 3 or 4 glasses of wine having had several panadiene forte and whatever other tablets getting to the point where she cannot walk straight and slurs her words.

    Dad sat down with her before he died to try to explain why we were worried about her having more than a couple of glasses of wine. Her friends may say I am trying to rule over her but thay do not have all the facts and are also drinking at the time.
    I do not drink because of my oldest brother and the many times his drinking has bronken my heart and the rest of the family She is having to take many phone calls from my oldest brother who to put it honestly is a gambling alcoholic and I have taken phone calls from him as far back as I can remember when he is ringing to say he is going to kill himself, he is always drinking and he has broken Mum and Dads heart for many years, and so I intervened because Dad could not take anymore of the calls . We tried to get him help but he apparently dosent have a problem.
    With Dads death there is more drinking and telling me that I do not know how he feels because Dad was his father for 11 years longer than he was my father.
    But Mum doesnt need to deal with that right now. she is grieving and the closer we get to Christmas the worse it gets for both Mum and my brother. Dad died in June and I have not cried yet not even at the funeral, there are enough tears in our family at the moment.
    I do not try to take over Mums life I say to her it is whatever she wants to do, but then my brother comes in telling Mum that this is what dad did and how dad did it. So she is doing whatever he wants just to keep the peace with him because upsetting him or disagreeing with him gives him another reason to open a drink.
    So is being responsible for Mum at night is that wrong, it is what Dad wanted he asked me to look after her before he died, and it doesn’t matter if I dont have a life because honestly my folks were always my life outside of work, they had their space and I had mine to paintstuff etc, it is just that we had always done stuff together, I asked them several times about whether they wanted me to stick around or not and they would infact choose not to do things like overseas trips etc if I was not able to do it with them….

    CASSIE IS CONFUSED , because no one is admitting to having an issue so I just try to make sure that everyone gets thru to live again tomorrow, it is what I have always done, Dad knew it and he knew that at most times the intervention is needed.
    Is it wrong
    Is what I am doing wrong??????????????

  13. Anita says:

    We have never been on Trouble Highway either, but I feel that my husband’s and my relationship is between us. Our kids are grown, and we don’t interfere with thier relationships. I respect them as being adults even though we don’t agree with all the decisions they make. They are our children and we love them and are here for them, not matter what. On our part, if we ever cruise down Trouble Highway, I would expect the same from them. I would think that the biggest problem with involving adult children is that , they would probably feel pulled between the 2 parents, even though one may be obviously wrong and one maybe obviously “wronged”. I think the parents should work thier problems out between themselves, and the adult children should live thier own lives and be supportive of both parents as much as possible.

    Having said that, I will say that in growing up, I could see my father’s wrong doings very clearly and grew up siding with my mother. And I probably should have never sided with either one, but my parents had a bad situation and marriage from the very beginning and I lived it. And I have always rooted for the underdog and in my family, my mother was the underdog. It did affect how I felt about my father my whole life, and even now that they’ve both been gone for over 3 years, I still feel the same way. I think at any point it’s better for kids to not ever have to be in the position to choose sides, whether as children growing up in a disfunctional home or adult children.

  14. Anita says:

    There is a situation now with my uncle and his wife, where his kids have gotten involved because my uncle now has Alziemher’s and his wife is doing questionable things. They have gone to court, and I with them(because I have recently become involved with my uncle and his wife helping them to go out places because he is no longer allowed to drive and she has an eye problem that prevents her from driving) If I had no gotten so closely involved with my aunt and uncle, I would never have dreamed that things are like they are. She was becoming increasingly verbally abusive to my uncle. Granted, Alziemher’s is a terrible condition to live with and cope with, but she was not doing the best she could. The result of going to court is that my cousin and my aunt are now co-guardians and co-powers of attornies for my uncle When we went, no one had to say anything, the social services mandated that the adult children and the wife are to work together to help my uncle. My aunt is behaving better and not attempting to shut out her step-children. We are now all involved, myself included, to help them. I am just hoping a praying that things will continue to go smoothly.

  15. FosterBoys says:

    When our children are under 18, we NEED to know everything that’s going on in their lives because we’re legally RESPONSIBLE for everything they do.

    When they’re over 18, we have no more right into their lives than they have into ours. However, since I want an open and lasting close relationship with my boys, I’m an open book with them. Do unto others as you would have done unto you. How can I expect them to be honest with me if I’m not honest with them?

    I’m not raising boys…I’m raising men.

  16. Marleigh says:

    I’m not sure I totally agree with any of the comments above. My mom hasn’t been with my dad my whole life. She has had a few boyfriends and i’ve gotten to know them all. She doesn’t slut around and has never brought anyone into our house that could be a harm to me or my brother. I’m a strong believer in parents being friends to their kids as well as parents. My mom and I are close and she shares all her secrets with me. She has told me all about when she was in high school and how she doesn’t want me to make the same mistakes. She doesn’t allow me to do the things I shouldn’t be doing but I make my own decisions. My mom loves my brother and I very much and she always puts us first but she deserves to be happy too. Just because you become a parent doesn’t mean you lose your social life. My mom has had a boyfriend for a year and half now and she is very happy. I like seeing my mom happy and I love that she shares how she feels with me. The girl that said her kids were online pretending like men, I would never do that to my mom. If my mom wants to meet a man online that is her life and the only thing I would say is I want you happy, she feels comfortable sharing these things with me because I am now 17 years old and she pretty much grew up while I was. She had me at a young age and finished school and college with me as a baby. She has become an amazing woman and I couldn’t ask for a better mother.

  17. FosterBoys says:

    One qualifier to my last post — I agree with Kate in that there are some things that a child has no business knowing or being burdened with.

  18. Darin says:

    Simple rules to me: if my parents are being self-destructive, or are in any way disrupting the peace and harmony I want in my own family (since they ARE the grandparents!), then, yes, I have every right to interfere. Otherwise, none of my business.

    Luckily, my parents are great, and my in-laws are great (even though the two sets of grandparents are entirely different). Of course, that may have something to do with the peace we have as a family.

  19. Judyma says:

    It doesn’t take a brain surgeon (or psychiatrist) to see that this is a couple in “denial and living in a fantasy”. Their grown daughter’s seem to have more morals and brains than they do at this point. Their daughter’s concern is probably legitimate based on the fact that their parent’s still have three daughters at home. They probably remember the mother they had and see that their mother is evolving into someone else that they are not familiar with. Their mother’s changes can directly impact their sister’s if their mother is making decisions that are based on lies, and half truths. It seems like their father is just so afraid of losing his wife (a lifetime, understandably) that he doesn’t say anything because maybe then it all won’t be true? It’s very sad to watch. I know so many women and men that get caught up in these emotional relationships for support and out of loneliness and they never end well. We’re all human and have needs and desires, so why can’t we turn to our spouse/partner and get what we need? What happens to some of us? I say good for those daughters that they see that something is not right in this situation. Maybe they don’t have the right to dictate their parents lives but they certainly have the right to express their concern and pain that they feel. They may have to learn to respect their mother in a different way when this is all over. It sounds like she was a selfless woman who is now becoming a little selfish. Sometimes evolving into our own selves (not so and so’s mother) is not easy and involves being a little selfish. As for their father I hope he learns from this and see’s that saying nothing or not dealing with the issues in his face is not the answer. Dr Phil needs to help that man grow some back bone. I hope they can heal together or not. And I hope their beautiful daughters can continue to share their feelings with their parents and then go and live their own lives.

  20. Dr Phil,
    Two sides of the pancake: Side #1 Parent side: Something is missing in the Mom’s life within herself. I feel that when the problem is not really apparent but the emotions are felt one would tend to seek a solution that is short in gradifaction, not being fully aware of it’s repercussions either to themselves or family. It just feels good which is better than feeling bad. But the “truth” begins to be distant and a positive path can not be found or reached. And many mistakes are made along the way while searching for the real problem, thus complicating the process. Could be Ego, could be low self esteem or the feeling of being helpless. These short solutions feels good at the time but does not bring a positive solution. The Mom needs assistance to find out what the real problem is and than finding a a path to a true solution. But the Mom should always remember (depending on the age of the Children) where her Parental responsibilities are. On the flip side: side#2 The Children: depending on the age, many children can be told the truth..it doesn’t have to be graphic. Details given at the appropriate age. You wouldn’t give the same information to a 6 year old that you would a teenager. But when a Parent threatens the stability of what the Child perceives as security, as you know, the child’s dynamic changes. Unfortunately when a Parent has personal issues, sometimes their parental common sense goes out the window. Their needs to be a fine line drawn here regarding a Child’s input and Parent responsibility. I do believe the Parent and Child needs a life Coach.

  21. Tonya says:

    I am an adult child. My mother moved a female friend of hers in with her about 5 years ago that was a total drunk. As a result my mom started drinking too. Then she started calling men on a love line along with this woman. She called me one night before I went in to work and had this man on 3-way that told me he was in love with my mom. My mom is MARRIED!!! She and this man were planning on moving my step-dad out in the back 2 acres of their property in a trailer and taking over the house for themselves!! When I went to work that night and tried to log into my computer, I had a total panic attack and had to leave. Well, my mom eventually got a clue and stopped talking to the guy but she continues to do stupid things like that and our relationship has never been the same. I don’t even see her as a mother anymore but as a needy child that needs supervision.

  22. Kaite says:

    I think it definitely depends, in my case I’m still living at home, so my mom’s decisions affect me and I should have a say. My dad on the other hand has told me more than I needed to know, he’s also asked me my opinion on things only to blatently disregard it, so I don’t bother advising him anymore. I want to know what’s going on, but there is such a thing as too much information. If it affects me I think they should hear me out, but their decisions are their’s to make.

  23. Linda says:

    It depends on the situations. I don´t think it is any of their business unless maybe if it is a man who they serioulsy suspect is using their mother in some way and is really bad for her ( maybe hard be impartial). But if she wants a divorce it is definitely her decision

  24. Darin says:

    Linda – Getting a divorce because you want out is one thing. Getting a divorce because you’ve already found another partner is another. As DrP keeps saying, there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about it. If dear-ole mom has a problem with dad, fix it or get out. And, only once out, THEN she can find a new boyfriend.

    Reversing the order is just asking for problems, not only in the new relationship, but in the acceptance from the kids. Or even her siblings. My wife’s sister got a divorce after starting a relationship with a new man. That has made it much more difficult to accept the new man in our family’s life, especially since auntie is so loved by our daughter, and we want to ensure that our daughter knows this is not the way to relate in this world.

  25. Amanda says:

    Well, Dr Phil, my parents are serious alcoholics that live in a dangerous and rotting house, but I choose to not be involved in it. I don’t want to have this burden. When I was a teen, they never listened. They don’t listen now. I moved out at 17 because of it.

    I’m 23 and my parents having been running the alcoholic road severely since I was 12. My brother is 20 now and still tries to talk to them about this, but it doesn’t help. They don’t WANT to. My husband has told me that he wouldn’t be surprised that this winter the house will fall in and they will probably be killed. And the scary thing is that my own parents say they know that!

    I’ve talked to them about public assistance, but they know once they’re in public housing that they’ll have to quit drinking. My mom is on probation due to her and her sister (who were seriously wasted) got the bright idea to burn down her sisters house for insurance money, which was considered arson and no money was collected (Duh!). My mom took the blame and has been on probation for a year now. That also prevents them from getting any public housing.

  26. Nichole D. says:

    Originally I wasn’t going to post anything to this blog due to my lack of ‘experience’ on the matter. As far as cheating/divorce goes, I’ve been very blessed to be in a family with VERY few of these instances. But thinking more deeply on the matter and reading others’ responses, the thought occurred to me, ‘I may have not been directly affected by cheating and divorce, but I’ve heard enough to know that too many people will get this ‘idea’ in their head and make any justification they can think of to make what they’re doing seem “okay”. In these cases, I wouldn’t consider a little “nudge” back in to reality to be a bad thing whether it be your child or someone else’s. Now, I agree that children, regardless of age, don’t need to know everything going on in your relationship but at the same time, they are your family and should have a right to express themselves, especially if your decisions are directly effecting them. Your children are a portion of both you and your spouse; so I feel like by cheating on/leaving your spouse, you’re essentially cheating on/leaving a portion of your children as well. And I can’t help but wonder if that’s why divorce affects children so deeply; they all-of-a-sudden feel like a part of them is missing?

    All-in-all, I believe if anyone believes in your marriage, it should be you. I know my parents would sit down and “have a talk” with me if I either cheated on my husband or wanted to divorce him, why shouldn’t I be allowed to do the same thing? They raised me up and taught me everything that is important in my life including the sanctity of marriage; wouldn’t my concern for their marriage be something they should, essentially, be proud of?

    Personally, I think this world is way too concerned with “It’s my life…I’ll do what I want” rather than asking themselves, “How are my actions going to affect someone else?” Because as much as we hate to admit it, “cause and effect” do exist…and you may not be the only one affected by your actions. So, it’s NOT just your life because everything you do essentially affects someone else. Therefore, I think others (including your children) should have just as much of a right to express their thoughts on your decisions as you do in making those decisions because they will, in some way, be affected by it.

  27. Robyn says:

    I have been parenting my mother since I was a kid (i’m 40 now). I hate the role I have adopted and I don’t know how to break out. She has always treated me as an advisor, confidante, looking to me for approval and acceptance and permission. I just don’t want to know about my mother’s personal sex life, marital issues, etc. It’s a painful burden. I don’t live in the same country as her but that hasn’t changed things, especially when she visits.

    I want to be the (adult) kid. I want her approval and acceptance and permission, not the inverse! Crazy world!

  28. Janet Davies says:

    Eleven years ago I was having a much needed emotional affair (via Internet) with a 24 year old. I say much needed emotional affair because my husband of 18 years and 4 children was very cold and cruel towards me. I didn’t go looking for anything ( I had never been unfaithful) but when this young man showed me some kindness and told me things I wanted to hear I was hooked! Since it was just the internet I figured nothing can happen. I wasn’t a cheat. I thought eventually things will peeter out and that will be that but until then I soaked up every lovely word he said. It made me feel valued and alive again. My then 18 year old daughter became suspicious (she was trained by her insecure daddy to report what mommy got up to from a young age) and hacked into my email account. She confronted me and I told her to stay out of it. Well, she didn’t stay out of it and nearly got me killed. I had to flee my home in the night. A nasty divorce ensued which disrupted all our lives. Things are ok now but I definitely believe that children should stay out of their parent’s business unless they are asked for their input.

  29. Diane says:

    This 1st show was phenomenal! I think our children have been given too much say and they think they can rule our lives! We raised them- the lines are fuzzy we are their parents, not their friends! I am all for hearing what they have to say- but dont dare tlak to me or try to rule my life or interfere like those daughters are! We have friends, and our own mothers to tell us rightn and wrong! I think those daughters have their role mixed up, they are not the mother, they are the daughteRS!!

  30. Michelle says:

    This show is really hitting home with me.

    I am an adult child that is in this same situation, it’s been going on for years. Parents are now divorced, we grew up very ‘beaver cleaver’. What my parents did by divorcing was wrong and selfish.

    I think and feel that, as a family unit, if one family member is making decisions that will effect the entire unit, than the entire unit is involved. The adult children have a voice in the matter, just as much as the parents. As young children we are taught the essence of ‘family’. As young children we cannot decide to go to new families just because we are not happy and not getting what we want. Now as adult children we are forced to accept that the same people that taught us ‘family’ are throwing in the towel because they are not happy. Ridiculous! It makes me wonder if parents think that ‘family’ is just a stage of life and it ends when their children are 18+.

    If there is no abuse in the relationship, than it needs to be worked out. Not just for the parents and their children, but the rest of their generations as well.

    I’m in my early 30’s, my parents in their mid 50’s. There must be something wrong with this generation of people. How can they be happy one minute and the next claim that there is something ‘missing’. Suck it up! Figure out what is wrong with your relationship and fix it.

  31. Natali McKee says:

    Oh man, we are having issues with my in laws, acting like they are teenagers, with everything, even my 40 something Mother in Law has posters of a teenager she is infatuated with hanging in her room, and he is younger than her son. And that is just the tip of the Iceberg. I just got mad at her and told her to stop lying to me. Ah, Interesting. I would like to watch the show, I might be out with the kids Trick or Treating, so I hope there is a way I can.

  32. Claudia says:

    I believe a lot of parents don’t think ENOUGH of how much their decisions affect others–namely their children. The divorce rate is so high because the concept of marriage has gone from “till death do us part” to “until things get tough/I’m bored/I need to find myself by myself/fill-the-blank.” The selfishness of this mindset never ceases to astound me.

    When a couple become parents they cease to be autonomous.

    In a situation where a parent’s actions affect their family, I believe the children have every right to weigh in. Why? Because they are a family.

    The ultimate decision to cheat/end a marriage/etc. does rest with the parents–good, bad, or ugly. However, with the power to make the decision also comes the responsibility to shoulder the consequences. If you abuse the trust and respect of your children you accept the responsibility of damaging that relationship.

    I don’t think there’s any one in the world worth losing that precious bond.

  33. Jessi says:

    Not totally. My Dad always told me “This isn’t democracy. I’m the parent you’re, the child.” It mad me mad when I was younger but now I kind of understand it. Our parents were living their lives before they had us. They obviously don’t need our opinion to continue living. If I would’ve been old enough when my parents got divorced to understand what was going on and my mother or father asked me what they should do I would’ve said STAY TOGETHER! DON’T RUIN MY FAMILY! Luckily I wasn’t though because if what I said made them stay together it would not have turned out well at all. They are adults they can handle it themselves. They don’t need their children as a crutch. Children should not be that involved.

  34. Rob says:

    A family is a commitment held fast by love and integrity, or a healthy one is at least. When a parent is making a moral detour that a child has the courage to speak up about, that child is showing love in a huge way. That child is hurting, that should matter to a parent who truly wishes to love them back.

    A parent who wants them to butt out is a parent who is selfish, their self-love is more important than the aching, sincere cries of a child who just wants their loved one to show a value that these days seems in real short supply in some families. That being personal integrity, or the willingness to do the right thing even if it is the hard thing. That may mean giving up what they want for the sake of family unity. More aptly put, it means loving our kids back by listening to their cries of concern and saving a family from ruin and the brokeness that will become their legacy.

  35. Robin Guyton says:

    2 years ago my husband and I decided to leave the religion that we lived for 20 years of our marriage, one of our older kids and my extended family has cut off contact with me. If they do speak it is in one line digs or critisizms. We have come to a new understanding of God and are very happy, our values have not changed and our other kids have seen a marked increase in harmony and peace in our relationships. I am so torn about how to mend this situation and sometimes I am not sure if leaving the church was a good decision, even though most of the family are experiencing healing and more closeness than before. Should grown kids have a say in that particular kind of decision?

  36. Emily says:

    I was told everything by my mother. I wish I was not told. It did not change my view of my dad – honestly, I sided with my dad. My parents are still together, 37 years, but at times I wish they weren’t. My dad puts up with a lot of crap and doesn’t say a word. There’s no reason a mother should tell their child negative things about their father. I don’t care what problems I have in my marriage, it would break my heart for my daughter to know anything is wrong – my greatest desire is for her to be a daddy’s girl and be close to my husband, no matter what. It’s called being loving, not selfish.

    On another note, in the show there was a girl who didn’t know she was pregnant. As a lot of you may know, there is a show on TLC called “I didn’t know I was pregnant.” You hear the stories and think how could that be? But it’s real, it’s true and it happens all the time. A lot of woman have irregular cycles, every pregnancy is different – some have NO symptoms, or attribute them to another underlying health condition. One of my husband’s friends took his wife to the ER one night because she was having strange pains, and she ended up giving birth to a baby boy – she didn’t know she was pregnant. Unfortunately, she died when he was 7 years old because she always had medical problems. Anyway, I just couldn’t believe that Dr. Phil never heard of that before and didn’t seem to believe it at all…. so I just wanted to say, it happens! Watch the show on TLC!

  37. Donna says:

    A mother and father are your mother and father for life, and you are always their child. But once you become an adult, you cease to be a CHILD.

  38. Kimberly Schwelm says:

    Hi Dr. Phil,

    Strange how this is a recent topic and is exactly what I am dealing with right now. My parents have been married for 38 years. Just recently, my Mom asked my Dad for a divorce. I have 4 siblings and we are all dealing with this in our own way. My Mom is close to my 2 sisters and I and has confided in us not only as her daughters, but as her friends. My Dad, on the other hand, has not spoken to any of us about what is going on and I completely support, respect and understand that.

    I respect their relationship and I respect their privacy. They are both hurting in their own ways. I had to step back and think of how I would want my parents to deal with me if I was in their situation (which I have been through a divorce). All I would want is their support and guidance and that is what I would expect from them as my parents. I wouldn’t expect for them to be telling me, as an adult, what I should or should not be doing with my relationship or my life (and boy, is there history with that on my end of things when I left a cult-like religion I was raised in which forced me to commit social suicide with everyone I knew, including my family! Everyone wanted to tell me what I should be doing with MY life.) Because of that specific history between my family and I, I have always left the door open to my family to be in my life by supporting them in any way I could. I know from experience that when you try to tell someone what YOU think they should do with THEIR life, they retract from you and do not feel supported.

    I told both of my parents that I am here for each of them. I will support both of them in whatever decision will be made over the next few weeks whether it is to work things out or divorce. I don’t feel I have the right to have a say in THEIR relationship, just as I feel they do not have a “say” in mine. I can offer them both support and guidance just like they have done so for me, which is always a great help for anyone.

    I am an adult living my own life outside of my parents home and whether or not they stay together or divorce, that will not break our family unit. They are the only Mother and Father I have and are still my family.

  39. Karen says:

    Families are intricately intertwined. There are so many different aspects to consider when talking about parent/child relationships.

    I watched the show yesterday. In context of the show, most everyone here is an adult. I think that one of the issues is that they are having a hard time transitioning their relationships. I don’t feel Mom is looking at her two oldest daughters as adults and showing them that kind of respect. I don’t feel the daughters are looking at their Mom as an adult and respecting her boundaries. I see the dynamic of lack of respect throughout the entire family. Dad doesn’t really respect Mom, neither does Mom respect Dad. If so, she would never have turned to another man and if Dad respected Mom he would pursue her with questions more. The sisters are following this example in dealing with each other. They all treat each other with judgment. The way they respond to each other is like they are judge and jury and have handed down the verdict before finding out how the other person really feels. They are throwing out accusations all over the place and asking questions like they really want to gather more information but the truth is they’ve already come to their own conclusions.

    Having said that, I do feel Mom has the greater responsibility here to step up and direct this entire situation, as does Dad. What Mom is not hearing is how she is hurting her daughters feelings. It’s pretty easy to miss since that is not exactly what the daughters are articulating. If Mom could just take a step back and look at it from her daughters perspective I think they could all begin to realize where they’ve overstepped each others boundaries and healing can begin.

  40. FosterBoys says:

    Dr. Phil,

    You, like my husband, are an intelligent, strong-willed man. I hate “negotiating” with him. He oversimplifies the issue. I over-complicate it. And never the twain shall meet.

  41. Trudy says:

    I’ve so been where Carole has been. Met my ex-husband at 17 married two years later. We were blessed with two fine boys. Our marriage was a chaotic argument prone relationship–it had been from the get go. I did my ex a disservice by not having the courage to explore who I was first before pressuring him into marriage. 15 years later I realized I had married the wrong person for me. And Yes, I took that wrong path for a bit. Had a brief affair with a single man very willing to have sex with a married woman. But somehow I knew if I was going to make a decision that would alter three other lives forever I was going to have to uncouple by the book–meaning giving it everything I had to try to help the marriage work. Counseling, Al-Anon, Co-Dependents Anonymous, numerous personal growth books. After three years we still separated and divorced. Within one year my ex remarried. Twenty years later they are still married. I never remarried.

    During this time a minister offered me some very sage advice–whatever my ex and I did, a) don’t overly involve our children (10 and 12 at the time) in our emotional turmoil that we will experience while uncoupling b) alow them to fully experience childhood without being saddled with grown-up problems that had nothing to do with them.

    And that’s what we did. Tough? You betcha. Especially adding a step-mother into the mix. Very hard to step back and “share” may children with another woman. But keeping two innocent children “innocent” but aware of not repeating my poor choices became my driving force. Happy to say..20 years later one is a Marine fighter pilot, the other recently completed his MBA.. both have turned out splendidly, have chosen fine young women as mates.

  42. I’m not generally speaking because we are all individuals. There are many variables that come into play from Aspergers to Manic Depression etc. …To spoiled child syndrome gone adult to fugue-like behavior from stress to burned out domestic goddess syndrome who is tired of her toilet brush scepter…

    To self centeredness to being bossed so much you’ve lost your NO. To latent jealousy at key ages of children if parent feels deprived if wasn’t as privileged so tunes out. …To social lackadaisical attitudes that are modeled after such as on “Desperate Housewives” and humpy hump “my hump, my hump, my hump” orgy type music videos to you name it…


    Dr. Phil just like you say women need to not let themselves go at home the flip side of that pancake is true for men too when men are home. I’ve seen men get snazzed up for work and treat the gals at work like queens for attention then growl to wife since wife already a given under contract. Oh, and some single people at work for free meals & drinks flirt with married guys for what it gets them.

    Meanwhile, wife at home sees the man in his sweats not wanting to go out since already has with clients or business lunches. I think men with expense accounts often in beginning take out co-workers just to be nice (and since can) yet time spent together is how deeper relationships ARE built (even online). Some, too, do enjoy the power and showing off wining and dining all the gals.

    Not just men are going to Vegas now though we see on this show. Although, I think people can deceive themselves just going for shows, golf etc. (and actually believe especially women) and end up in deeper since men and women don’t know just how to hug. Looks like “what happens there might not stay there” and end up on Dr. Phil Show.

    Men and more and more women go out for meals at work and come home and just want to unwind and hang out whereas other spouse may not have had that luxury and might be told… “we need to save money.” Sure be happy for a spouse that gets an expense account to go to nice restaurants and travel etc. Yet understand too naturally spouse that doesn’t feels left out.

    Sometimes the ONLY way a woman gets to not do chores around house is to go to a hotel and, men, if you wine & dine ladies at work and don’t have time for wife… another man may make time and vice versa. So there you have it. Couples run, don’t walk, and check out bedandbreakfast.com and go to a great B&B like Montford Inn in Norman. Help around the house families or the lady of the house might run away.

    I actually highly recommend running away once in awhile to regroup yet not to be unfaithful. Lynn has gone to Washington D.C. and Italy without me. Too, I truly believe many people are so hug deprived that have frantic desires “Oh it must be love” and confuse sex for love. People are so out of touch with reality that at its core sex is reproduction… that kids are popping out that many parents are not committed to raising.

    Too, I’ve seen parents tune out at same age their children are that they were when their parents tuned out for them feeling jealous (or void) of love giving never received. As many as there are people you can find scenarios including fear nobody is or will be there for person. I think often it is like you said that children who are out of control grow up to be. The ones who threw tantrums or got everything asked for or had no guidance to better choices. Actually, though, sometimes an absent parent might be best if a toxic parent to not model toxic behavior or be exploited by. IDK A child that suffers great loss if doesn’t have a safety net support system can later act out.

    Emotional and Life Skill Education K-12 since parents cannot teach what they have not learned. Even though these daughters are making a stand to their mother they very well could end up in same position themselves if depressed or fugue out from stress. Shoes you think might never fit you sometimes later do.

    Hopefully, mother in this show has an embarrassed smile and not smiling thinking amusing. That “Desperate Housewives” is popular sort of shows how out of kilter many relationships are. Gee whiz… one daughter didn’t know pregnant until day delivered?

    Then, you have the battered wives who have had NO stolen that not only can’t say NO to husband… cannot say NO to any other man from “learned helplessness.” This isn’t meant to be insulting as sad.

    Also, I believe those who had to grow up fast or with lack can have delayed adolescence with adult consequences. Too, I’ve seen abusive women and men stealthily control emotions and play the victim when quite the contrary and when nobody looking belittles/batters spouse. So wife so deprived for compliments falls for a smooth talker.

    I could speak up to my parents and I think people are doing a disservice if you see someone heading for a ditch to not speak up and just watch it happen. Or rubber neck afterwards validated since knew would happen yet just stood on sidelines watching.

    I was invited to a alcoholic’s house and spoke up milk spoiled by two weeks and was considered the bad guy for noticing. Mother of household lactose intolerant and didn’t drink and said dates didn’t matter. Finally, family listened and went there and threw out food in freezer from ten years ago. Cans had exploded so old.

    Their house guest who’d sneered at me like I was rude then gagged since milk spoiled yet not one person said a word because an alcoholic household where wife’s nonsense overlooked since she overlooked drinking. For Christmas I gave him and her an AA book and an Alanon book in a box wrapped up. He quit drinking. When you risk speaking up you risk being clobbered by addictions of people online and offline. Whether addiction of passion of a new relationship confusion for love by both men and women to… you name it.

    I feel sorry for husband on show and hope doesn’t go into depression when airs and if wife isn’t embarrassed when she sees and thinks funny she is off balance. That entire family needs to run, not walk, to the nearest counselor. The plus is this show is probably helping a lot of people see the reality of the pain that this unscrupulous behavior can cause when catches up to you. Life is a team effort and your loudest team players should be your family especially in these hard economic times.

    Should kids have a say? Yes. Our not being allowed to speak up is exactly why we are so vulnerable to giving in to be polite etc. Read the book “The Gift of Fear” of predators that target polite, diplomatic persons who think everyone is just like them so don’t heed intuition. Many are literally embarrassed to death to maintain boundaries all for the sake of being polite. I learned this because when stalked the police report said I was “too diplomatic.” I’ve gotten myself in lots of jams ignoring red flags being polite. In fact, most EVERY bad situation I’ve EVER been in I ignored red flags. If people really think… they’ll realize most wrong turns first had a first better thought “might not be a good idea”. I suppose if a person ignores enough might not be cognizant of. However, hence and so saying, “Hindsight is 20/20″ and usually therein was that first intuitive inkling overlooked. Sincerely, SEA

  43. Jacqueline says:

    Oh my goodness, Dr. Phil. I recorded both shows. That is my life…I am that WOMAN as much as I hate to admit it. My husband and I have been married 19 years but together 27 years and have a 23 year old and a 16 year old and 1 grandchild. As we speak, we are going through the same process. And yes, I call mine “an emotional affair” as well. The only difference in our families–they have more kids involved–I’M IN A STATE OF SHOCK RIGHT NOW!!! My husband is just like hers. He even told me that he didn’t think he could leave me if he caught me in the bed with this man. It broke my heart…but, I still love this other man….One thing you said-not word for word but that the other man came into the relationship knowing that I was a married woman-would he be willing to wait for me to work my marriage out or work myself out of the marriage in the right way and wait for me? That is a ? that I will be asking him TODAY! I only wish you could send us to the right counselor! Thanks for your shows.

  44. Jacqueline says:

    Forgive me, I was in such shock that I didn’t address the ? about the kids being involved. I don’t think they should know everything that is going on between their parents; however, I do think that their feelings should matter. I am a wonderful mother and have raised 2 respectful young people that I am so PROUD to be called their mom. It hurts me that I feel that I’ve betrayed them in a sense but I’ve never ever neglected them. This may sound selfish but they are the reasons that I’m still here. But like you said Dr. Phil, they don’t know what goes on behind closed doors but in our case…they probably do…because we have a big house and their dad has slept on the couch for years-so that kinda tells them something henceforth the affair started……so, they’re not completely clueless………

  45. FosterBoys says:

    My strategy for negotiating? WIN. No, just kidding…sort of. I guess my strategy is to position myself in such a way that I’ll still walk away with my pride, no matter what the outcome is.
    If I got what I want by resorting to any sort of childish behavior (crying, pouting, personal attacks, brow beating, whatever), it’s a hollow victory.
    If I didn’t get what I wanted, I at least want to know that my position was heard and weighed as a reasonable/legitimate option.

  46. Blgspc says:

    This one definitely comes straight out of the Sticky-Wicket File! I’m concern on MANY fronts with this family. One concern wasn’t actually addressed!

    I was really concerned about the involvement of the adult children and especially concerned about those younger girls! Carole’s lack of regard for her choices and how those choices are impacting her daughters was unnerving, to say the least! I really was wondering about the relationship Carole had with her older daughter’s before her ‘changes’. Carole just seemed so flip about EVERYTHING! And, her detachment from what is/was going on with the younger girls is also disturbing.

    I was also concerned about Bill. Initially, I felt that he was one of THE MOST passive men I had ever seen-especially given the possibility that his wife may be cheating. However, when I saw an earlier photo of him, coupled with his appearance today and yesterday, on stage, I honestly began wondering about whether or not this man was actually Clinically Depressed. Bill appears to have lost weight, seemed very low energy, even withdrawn! I’m REALLY hoping that Dr. Phil spends SOME TIME addressing what appears to be both Bill’s physical, as well as his emotional decline, at some point.

    As for the older adult daughters, I believe, that this IS NOT just about one issue like, ‘Oh Geez! I think Mom’s having an affair!’ I think the older daughters are watching their family unit spinning out of control due to a variety of problems. I think that their mother’s affair is at the forefront and that they may see the other problems as related to that central issue! And, while it is apparent that their mother IS involved in some kind of affair, Bill seems morose and distracted. I think that their father’s appearance and non-verbal response factors into the older girls decision to intervene. I think Bill’s daughter’s are worried about HIM. I believe that to the older daughters it’s as if NO ONE IS ‘minding the store’. They ARE worried about their little sisters. They may have been reluctant to point a finger at their father BECAUSE they view him as vulnerable, right now.

    I don’t see Bill as “laid back”. From MY Den, he appears passive, low energy and just there! I think that has A LOT to do with the adult children’s decision to ‘move in’, on this situation. I think Bill NEEDS more than Marriage Counseling, I think Bill could use a good Anti-Depressant!

    I could be wrong- I’ve been wrong before- but I don’t think Bill is well AND I don’t think that he’s just ‘laid back’, he looks absolutely grim!

    If ALL of my speculations are true, then the daughters are NOT interloper, they are HEROS! There IS a point to be made about setting boundaries with children, I just don’t believe that this is the case for that!

    My Two Cents,


  47. andrea says:

    Omg–am I ever living this! My mother met a man on the internet in february. Moved him into her house by march-engaged by april. They married this past august and she signed her house and all her belongings to him–leaving us three kids nothing–all to a man she has known months. I am 36 and I have 2 brothers 28 and 30. I have not spoke to my mother since august. I was diagnosed with ms last february of 2008–she said the stress led her to internet dating by december of last year. She quickly “forgot” phoning me,coming to see me–all was forgotten (even my illness) as soon as he appeared. The final blow to our relationship was this quick marriage and sigbing everything to him. She married her second husband within months of meeting him ( a much younger man who was rentimg a room from her)-and that led us to a courtroom from him physically throwing me out the door at 17 and my mother watching–then lying in court–which I forgave her for. Now-do I have a right to protect myself as the “child”–i believe I do. I had my say and am not speaking to her now to protect my health and my mental stability–her history is as repeating as a tape recorder. Please understand why some “children” do become “overly” involved in irresponsible parents lives. Andrea

  48. Debbi says:

    Dr. Phil,
    I have watched your show for the last two days, I have to say that I never watch your show because I never got an answer from you years ago,but for some reason I felt I needed to watch it. I am so glad that you were able to intervene with this family before it was too late. My husband and I just celebrated our 27th anniversary, when I found out he was having an affair. He told me he didn’t think he loved me and she loved him and needed him more than I did. I was totally blindsided by this, I had no clue that anything was even wrong. My 2 girls were totally devastated as was I. I got into counselling but my girls wouldn’t. I begged them too but that’s all I could do. Last month my oldest girl tried to kill herself because of this mess, fortunately she wasn’t successful. Both of us were there to help her.but all of her anger has now turned to me, she won’t say anything to her father. Now I haven’t talked to this daughter in along time because anything I say sets her off in a rage. I don’t know what will happen next, but I was so happy to see that this family is going to try for the kids. I think she is still going to leave, I see that look in her that I saw in my husband, Thanks Dr. Phil for helping those kids!!

  49. Lisa says:

    I have never been so heart broken for a family. This mother is heartless and is thinking only of herself. I am just sick looking at her face and how she has caused so much pain to her kids and her handsom sweet husband. If I were Lee I would have gave her a kick in the butt a year ago. Dr. Phil how you can stay so calm and continue to look at this woman and talk nice to her i dont know I guess your a really great person.

  50. Debbie says:

    The timing of this show was impeccable. I am the wife of a man who had an affair with a married woman he supervised at work and who subsequently left our marriage to live with his mistress after I found out about the affair, I can’t begin to describe the pain and loss I have endured. To make matters worse, the other woman has two daughters ages 10 and 4 and my husband has a 22 year old son and 16 year old daughter from his first marriage. My four children ranging in age from 19 to 24 are from a prior marriage and have a very limited relationship with their alcoholic father and called my husband Dad when speaking of him to other people because he assumed the role of their father early on in our relationship. My husband is clearly tortured by what he’s done because this is so out of character for him and he knows it’s wrong and I have concerns about his welfare both mentally and emotionally. This relationship borne out of adultery is doomed to fail and though my children don’t seem to have been too deeply effected by this, there are still four children who have been seriously damaged by what’s happened. There are no winners when someone makes the choice to look outside of their marriage for happiness instead of making every effort to keep their marriage and family intact. I agree with Dr. Phil that there’s a right way and a wrong way to work through a relationship but adultery is never an acceptable answer. Whew, I feel so much better having gotten that off my chest!

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