My Parents Are on The Verge of Divorce Because of My Brother’s Engagement

Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a woman in my 30s. My parents are about to divorce because of my brother’s engagement.

My brother is in his 30s and his fiancee is in her late 20s. He recently told our parents that he wanted to get married. Our father was delighted, but our mother barraged him with questions such as: “What is she like?” “What about her parents?” “Does she have any siblings?” “What does her family do?”

The fiancee’s mother has divorced three times, and her children have different fathers. When my mother heard this, she became furious and said, “She’s crazy. No one thinking of her children could divorce. She’s trash! And so is her daughter!” This infuriated not only my brother but also my father.

My parents do not get along well and have fought constantly since I was little. Honestly, I’ve thought they should get divorced, and my brother’s engagement appears to have only made their relationship worse.

I want everyone in my family, including my parents, my brother and his wife, to get along, but I don’t know what to do. Please give me advice.

— I, Saitama Prefecture

Dear Ms. I:

Today, one in every three married couples gets divorced in Japan. There are many respectable divorced people, like Britain’s King Charles III and former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. If divorce is wrong, they too should be “trash,” to use your mother’s word.

But, likely you can’t persuade your mother with such logical arguments, and that’s why you’re having a hard time. Just criticizing your mother’s way of thinking will not solve the problem.

First, please let your parents deal with their problems. Though they fight, your mother seems to get some emotional support by their staying together. Your father, too, must have a reason for staying. I understand your wish for everyone in the family to get along, but reality often causes trouble for such wishes.

I don’t know what will happen in the future, but I suggest you keep out of your parents’ problems.

All you have to do is to celebrate your brother’s marriage, and if there’s anything within reason you can do in place of your mother, do this for him. Your mother may soften a little if she sees your brother and his wife living happily together.

— Masahiro Yamada, university professor