Being realistic about paternal relationship
January 24, 2012 5:23 PM Subscribe
How do I become comfortable with how my father chooses to be involved in my life (minimally, not of his own initiative) as an adult? What are the limits between healthy and compassionate effort on my part and a realistic acknowledgment of both of our limitations?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (8 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
My father has never kept track of my life. This isn't especially unique -- growing up, I went to my mom for virtually all concerns related to school, money, etc. and for my dad for long rambly conversations about things. We're buddies, or at least we have been in my young adulthood (I'm 22 now).
My parents have been going through a very long, drawn-out divorce. Throughout college while this was happening, I played a very active role as the 'communicator,' establishing lines of dialogue between people. As a family, we begun to process some of the tough situations my dad's alcoholism put us through. Eventually we even got my older brother on page, who kind of opted out of the emotional difficulties my special needs sister and I went through in adolescence. I got to convert my hurt, angry feelings into positive action, and I took a lot of pride in it.
Flash forward to the present moment. I'm somewhat of an independent adult. My parents are just about to finalize their divorce. And I'm starting to realize that my father really has no problem going multiple months without talking. Despite our occasional earnest chats where he tells me he feels 'rejected' by the family, and my insistence that I feel rejected by him not wanting to include me in his life, the truth is that if I let things slack, it's always me that re-establishes conversation (choosing the lesser evil of caving over a rejection that lasts many months). The fact that he has shared no details with me about the house he is about to buy feels like the firmest message in quite some time that he does not want to include me in his new life. Or maybe he wants it, but he doesn't know how to express it.
I'm struggling with whether I just need to commit to always being the one who tries in our relationship or facing the fact that he just isn't too invested in my life. I know that he has worked to provide for us, but that doesn't really apply to me any more. I know that traditionally that would be enough of a role for a father figure to play. Bu that just makes me feel pessimistic and cheap about familial relationships. I'm somebody who demands more, I guess, and my relationships with my siblings and mother have benefited from that. Plus, I've worked all kinds of part time jobs and gotten scholarships and now am going into credit card debt to rely on family funds as little as possible.
An undercurrent of this is the fact that I absorbed a considerable amount of emotional abuse in my teen years. While I'm 98% of the way re-adjusted life-wise, I have had to deal with the emotional repercussions of constant unpredictable threats and insults. Again, I love him and we have laughs and fun hanging out, but he has never put any effort into understanding and making up for my hurt other than in the context of one hour-long conversation (talk epiphanies are cheap, I've realized..) I'm mostly moved on as an individual, but I don't know if he ever even gave one thousandath of the consideration to my hurt that I have put into efforts to relate to him and support him, try to establish communication knowing that he does feel depressed and dejected, etc.
So internet world, what do you do in this kind of situation? Should I just adopt a regiment of 'minimal effort' and try not to get hopeful for anything else? I went so far as to confront him on the phone and call him out on his patterns of avoidance, which he agreed to, but the thing is, he does nothing different. He'll make some grand realization in conversation ("you know, I'm so lucky to have a good son," "you're xyzcomplimentarything") and then months of silence. I feel this need to come to some understanding about who my father was as both an individual and a father to me, and how this can shape our potential relationship in the future. Any thoughts?