In Summary
  • It is only when you are sober that you will be able to walk with your mother towards her healing so seek help (for yourself) from a professional counsellor.
  • Seek out the right kind of support system that your mother will trust so that she can be willing to talk.
  • Helping your mother deal with her fears and rebuild her self-worth will help her gain the much needed inner strength to move forward.

I am a woman in my late 20s and the last-born in a family of six. My father and mother are in their sixties. We have all moved out of the family home and left my parents in their empty nest.

For as long as I can remember, my parents’ marriage has been abusive. My mother has endured over forty years of abuse from my father. It has ranged from physical to verbal, emotional and psychological.

As they got older, the physical abuse stopped and now it is just the other forms of abuse. As a result of being in this toxic marriage, my mother’s self-confidence has been greatly affected. She has raised us alone because my father one day quit his job and has never worked again.

I’ve witnessed instances of my mother being unable to express herself in very simple situations, shying away from things because she does not believe in herself, being manipulated and just being this shell of a woman with no life. She has no friends and no interests.

We even started a business for her, but my father took it away. She recently retired and she now just stays at home taking care of the house — doing dishes, cooking, washing. I don’t know why she chooses to stay in this abusive marriage.

It’s like she is defeated or feels too worthless to deserve anything better. Recently, she found out that my father is still cheating on her as he has done over the course of their marriage. As you can imagine, this is not only hurting but humiliating to her as well.

I fear that this marriage will take a toll on her mental health especially since she has no other distractions in her life. I am fearing for the worst and need suggestions on how to help her. Please note that my mother is already on long-term medication for a stress-related condition. Can my mother be helped? How? Please help me before we run out of time. Disturbed daughter


As we mentioned in this column in the past, abuse is common, but few are gathering the courage to confront it productively. Many have confronted abuse, but in the end, it has left them wounded.

There are several issues here that you are struggling with that I will attempt to bring out. First, your mother’s abusive marriage has lasted a long time. Your worry is the extent of damage this has been on her esteem, productivity and emotional health.

Truth be told, abuse of whatever kind is unhealthy and unwarranted in any relationship. The impact of abuse, according to many relational experts, can be long lasting.

Since in many places society or certain cultures seem to normalise certain unhealthy behaviours, a number of people may tend to see their relationship as not being abusive. There are still some cultures that view wife-beating as some form of needed discipline. This normalisation has kept many in fear and unwillingness to deal with abuse.

In addition, growing up in an abusive home could make one hate abuse or learn to tolerate. In other instances, an abused person may have the fear seeing it impossible to start fresh.

Attachment to children and resources could keep others in the trap. In most cases, those who remain in such abusive relationships do so live in a lie that creates this feeling that things might change. This becomes worse where close friends instil fear that keeps the abused person feeling helpless.


According to a 2017 article by Eric Winston, the sad part for the abuse victims is that they lack someone to help them through such difficult periods. Others do not even know where to begin looking for help. Hence, most victims not only fail to get justice, but also lack moral, financial and emotional support. Like your mum, many have decided to live with this kind of pain for the rest of their life, notes Winston.

Abuse survivors face challenging effects of that abuse and can take time to adjust especially when it has been ongoing over an extended period of time. Although it is hard to tell why your mother kept at the marriage in which she faced regular abuse, looking for opportunities for her to deal with this abuse is key.

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