My case began ten years ago. My father has always had a weakness for women; in other words, he’s a womanizer. My mother has always argued with him about this, but he won’t settle down. They have separated thousands of times, only to get back together. I have an older brother, a sister who is younger than I, and a brother who is the youngest of all.

My problem is with my mother. She hates me just because I look like my father, and since he’s not around much, she takes her frustration about him out on me. I used to think that it was because I wasn’t her child, because she treats all the others very well. When she begins to discipline any of them, it ends with me and not in a good way.

I used to say to myself, “Well, she loves my older brother because he is her firstborn, my sister because she is the only girl, and the youngest because he’s her baby.” It’s always been like this, and I am now twenty‑six years old. There are times when if I have a financial hardship and I can’t give her money for the month, she starts saying that of all her children, I’m the worst. But even though I’m aware of everything she says because everyone tells me, I just ignore it. Many have told me that they don’t understand how I, knowing this, can still treat her as if she were the best mother in the world. It’s just that God made me this way.

Dear Friend,

You are very wise and mature to be so young! You are able to do what the majority of people cannot do: overlook someone’s wrong behavior because you recognize the reasons behind it. You see that your mother is projecting her frustration with your father onto you. So it’s not about you at all; it’s about the two of them. You are just the one trapped in the middle.

We think that probably your mother loves you the same as your siblings; she just acts like she doesn’t. (In addition, you are a middle son, which can be difficult all by itself.) But somehow, in spite of her actions, you have grown into a loving, caring, and responsible man who is wise enough to recognize her problems.

Abraham, the patriarch, sent his son Ishmael away just because Ishmael’s step‑mother, Sarah, wanted to get rid of the boy. Ishmael had done nothing wrong, but he was a constant reminder to Sarah of wrong decisions that she herself had made. It wasn’t Ishmael’s fault at all, but she took it all out on him. It wasn’t fair!

But God was with Ishmael, and God is with you. You are His deeply‑loved child! And the fifth commandment says that He will bless you with a long and good life for honoring your mother as you do. (1)

So what can you do? It sounds like you are already doing things right. We would simply add that you should not expect your mother to change. Even though she is wrong to treat you this way, her emotions are too confused for her to be able to see the situation from a completely rational point of view. And the more you expect from her, the more you will be disappointed and hurt when you don’t get it. So start expecting her to treat you badly, and then when she does, at least you will have the satisfaction of having been right! A good principle to follow about this, as well as other situations is: The higher the level of expectation, the lower the level of satisfaction. As you lower your expectations, your satisfaction will go higher.

We assume that you have talked and argued with your mother many times about this subject. Rather than argue anymore, we would suggest that you write her letters expressing how you feel. Start every sentence with “I feel.” An example might be, “I feel very rejected when you tell me I am a bad son. I feel hurt when my siblings are hugged by you and I am not. I feel frustrated when I give you monthly money but you don’t seem to appreciate it.” In a letter you will be able to say everything you want to, without her interrupting or changing the subject. She needs to know how you feel, even though we do not expect her to change her behavior because of a letter. Instead, she will very likely make excuses and say that you shouldn’t feel the way you do.

Keep acting in wisdom!

1 Exo 20:12