Is a long-term marriage more like a cult or a gang?

As we witness the daily craziness of my parents’ behavior, it struck  me that together they have become their own mini-gang of two. My dad has moments where we believe he recognizes my mom’s behavior is demented, but he would never betray their alliance.

Rather than fret, I wondered if it was more of cult or gang behavior, so I googled it and found an abstract discussing cults vs. gangs. In summary, both fall into the realm of deviance and they seem to encourage each other to become situationally dependent on their “group identity.” The primary difference between cults and gangs is that cults have as their axial principle of organization some spiritual/religious/ideological belief system; gangs, on the other hand, are commonly perceived to have no such well-developed belief system.

Given their cognitive states, I put them in the “no such well-developed belief system group” which means that at 80, my parents are now members of a gang.

My siblings and I wonder if we could provide them with a better quality of care if they were separate. Our neighbor faced a similar issue where one parent has dementia and he was put into assisted living and his mom remained in independent living. They are at the same community so they see each other daily. What surprised them was how quickly their dad improved and their mom floundered. Two years later and both are doing much better than when they entered the retirement community.

Since my parents are codependent and both suffering from short-term memory loss and dementia, we don’t believe they would be able to rationally make any good decisions. We may have to start making them, but each day I get a little better understanding of who they have become. Unfortunately, most days, they aren’t my parents any more. Surrendered.