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October 22, 2018 - Welcome Guest!

Advice » Relationships

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Dad is lying to mom


I am a 12-year-old girl. I learned some things about my father I shouldn't have. It's making me depressed. I have to lie to my mom and brother everyday to protect them from the truth I know.

My dad runs a festival. One day I went behind the stage area because my mom said to go find him. I was 10 or 11. I saw him smoking a cigarette. When I was 3 he stopped smoking so I wasn't affected by it. My mother hates smoking. He vowed to never smoke again. I saw him smoking that day. I lied to my mom. I didn't tell her he was smoking. I told her he was talking with his friend and shooed me away.

About 3 months later I found a pack of cigarettes in his pocket and a red lighter. I can't tell my mom or she will hate him. And I can't tell my brother because he would freak out. Every day I get more and more depressed. My mom keeps asking me what's wrong but I can't tell her. What should I do? Help me please.

"Confused and scared"


My dear,

You can get rid of this problem that has been torturing you. This is because it is not your problem.

Your situation hurts because you feel responsible for the happiness and wellbeing of all your family. This says wonderful things about you as a person. You care, and want everyone to be happy. This is a strength, and says to me you should train for one of the helping professions. In my work as a psychologist, I get a great deal of joy in leading people to improve their lives. That can also be your path.

But also, any extreme is bad. The middle path is better. When someone comes to me with troubles, I can be of service because I make sure my client's problem is not my problem. Nurses are taught: "It's not your pain. You are not there to share it, but to relieve it." With a psychotherapist, it's even more: I am not even there to relieve the pain, but to lead my client to go onto a path of relieving the pain. The client does the work, I am only a guide.

Sometimes, my client doesn't succeed. That is NOT my failure. I said, "If you walk on this path, you'll arrive at a better place." But, my client chose to go another way. Let's apply this thinking to your family' situation.

Nine years ago, your dad made a promise to your mom. He has been doing his best to keep that promise - but quitting cigarettes is harder than stopping any other drug. He has not been able to manage it, and has occasional slip-backs.

This is not your responsibility, but his. It is not your secret, but his. Only he can change it. If you choose to, you could wait till the two of you are alone, and tell him you know his secret, and have been keeping it, and you're on his team. If you do it right, that'll make him feel loved.

You can look up http://bobswriting.com/psych/stopsmoking.html and draw his attention to it. He CAN stop smoking, and you can be his inspiration and assistant. He has probably been desperately doing his best to stop, but believes he can't. So, he has made the choice of not ever smoking where your mom might discover it. I am willing to bet that your mom knows this. If you have found him out twice, she is likely to have done so too.

He is hiding his smoking because he loves her and doesn't want to hurt her. If she knows anyway (and that's highly likely), then she is keeping that a secret, respects his attempt at hiding it, and is keeping quiet out of love for him.

You were right to say nothing to your mom and brother about your dad's smoking. It's not your secret. But this doesn't make you a liar. It makes you respectful of your dad. Keeping the secret was the right thing. Feeling guilty about it is not. You have nothing to be ashamed of.

Your family would work better with honesty all around - but you are a child of the family, not one of its heads. That's your parents. Let them do it, their way.



This question was answered by Dr. Bob Rich. Dr. Rich has 30+ years of experience as a psychotherapist. Dr. Rich is also a writer and a "mudsmith". Bob is now retired from psychological practice, but still works with people as a counselor.

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