How to navigate crazy daddy issues?
May 18, 2012 7:49 PM Subscribe
How do I deal with an emotionally charged email from my (semi-estranged?) father? Is it time to cut ties? Crazy snowflake wall of text inside.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (15 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
My dad sent me a very emotionally charged email. Now I'm considering cutting ties. Or just finding another way to distance myself.
After an extended period of family drama that I won't go into, my parents separated after 30 years of marriage because my dad had an affair with some lady. He now lives with this person somewhere in Canada. My siblings, mother and I live in the States. I have never felt particularly supported by my father, especially once my siblings started getting married and having children. He believes children are just the best damn thing, and I don't have any so he doesn't care about what I have going on (pets, partner, successful career, successful artistic hobby after work). Fine. I don't have kids. Sue me.
Around Christmas time, we had a conversation in person (he showed up unannounced while I was in the middle of moving to "reach out) that was very upsetting, where he tried to turn me against one of my siblings and blamed my issues with depression/anxiety on me because I didn't ask for help as loudly as I should have. A few weeks after that, he sent me an email asking me to come get him in Canada because he feared he was going to die and he didn't think he could count on anyone else to help him. I was inconsolable and had to ask my boss to leave work several hours early because I couldn't compose myself. Two days later, I got an email saying he was fine and had overreacted. I cooled off for a couple days, then sent him a long letter telling him that I was truly sorry for his suffering but if he had feelings like that in the future, he needed to contact professionals and that I was not comfortable being a sounding board for my father's suicidal thoughts. I included the numbers for a few suicide hotlines in the area I believe he is in. Privately, I think it's a very inappropriate position to put me in and I was extremely angry that I felt like he was trying to make it my fault if he did commit suicide.
After that, I haven't contacted him much. I did send him a few photos when I got a puppy. Other than that, I have not heard from him. He is able to contact me by phone/text, email and Skype. I haven't heard from him through any of those avenues. Admittedly, I haven't really reached out either. He has reached out to my siblings, and asked them for more time on Skype with their children. They are pretty wary of how irrational he can be, but they do talk to him on Skype occasionally. So, that's the way it's been. It's a lot less stressful with him kind of out of the picture, which feels cruel to say.
Fast forward to a few days ago. My siblings and I all received an email from him, asking us why he hasn't heard from us. He explains that it was not his choice to move/leave, and that he had to because of the consequences of the family drama (they are serious enough to justify not wanting to live here). He explains how unhappy he was in his marriage to our mother (ew don't want to hear) and how he wishes we wouldnt begrudge him finding happiness. It does not, however, apologize for any of the conversations where he lashed out at us (he told my sister in law he thought my brother was gay, he told my sister that the family drama was her fault, he had the conversation with me about my depression) or about the way he stole and lied to our mother before leaving her high and dry. He ends with saying that he feels abandoned by us, and that he wishes we would stay in touch more.
My initial reaction? Eff this guy. He walked away from me, betrayed my mother, and tries to put his shit on me? Boo. On the other hand, I have an extremely hard time telling my father I want nothing to do with him, though that is kind of the case. While I sympathize with his struggles with addiction and mental illness, I think he needs to grow up and deal with it. All of his adult children have had similar situations, and we've all sought help and bettered ourselves. I haven't completely lost hope that he might get better someday. Part of me is saying "do not engage"
I want to find a way to respond that is kind, but also sets a boundary that this is NOT okay. How does one do that? Or, do you think it's time to just call it quits and wish him well? Right this minute, I wouldn't be welcoming to him at a wedding or child birth. Is that a sign?