My father seeks arguments. Say one small thing that he disagrees with and he immediately builds it up into something explosive.
His rows go right across the spectrum from politics to veganism and his views are the only ones that count. My opinions are deliberately held to wind him up. When I try to explain they are just what I believe in, he becomes even more furious.
He spouts very old-fashioned views at great length and is incandescent if I mention that I have heard them before. Nor does he care if my wife and children are with me. It upsets them enormously when he shouts at me, but I feel very sorry for my mother having to live with such a monster so feel obliged to visit her at least. I’ve tried to get her out on her own for tea, but she is a home body and prefers me to come to her.
I tried my best to find something we had in common and for a while some years ago we went out sailing together. He’s enjoyed it as a young man and I’d had lots of training and take part in several races, which I suppose he didn’t like. After a few attempts It became impossible as he shouted non-stop orders at me, some of which were ridiculous.
A couple of years ago I finally lost my temper with him, something I really try not to do because it is pointless. I aim to keep to topics that are safe and we were talking about the best time to plant a particular shrub, a soft subject if ever there was one. He kept saying autumn while I said it was spring. I knew I was correct as I’d looked it up on-line the previous day. I refused to give in and just blurted out that I was fed up with him thinking he was always right and it was about time he listened to me.
We didn’t speak for a year, which upset my mother enormously. It all eventually calmed down but I now feel another row is building up, this time about Brexit. Can I have some hints on how to cope?
You’ve made a clear and accurate assessment of your father’s character and style of communication. He wants an audience and believes your role is to listen and agree with him. He is unlikely to change. When you tried to get him to see your point of view it only lead to an argument. So think carefully about how you can support your mother and manage time with your father. You could, for example, phone her more often, send her emails or texts and even try an old-fashioned letter if you think she’d like that. Perhaps when you visit you could try to do joint tasks with her, that wouldn’t interest your father. His behaviour sounds so upsetting that it also might be a good idea to cut right down on your children coming along too.
It is a good plan to try to stick to neutral topics of conversation but you need to go one step further and work out how to avoid getting into any discussion at all with him. We recommend you don’t offer a different opinion or insist that you are correct. Instead change the subject, or say something bland like: ‘I See’ or ‘interesting’ or ‘possibly’. Keep your own ideas and views for your family and friends who appreciate you. And finally steer well clear of talking about Brexit!