Father Matters

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Dear Dr. Darcy,

I'm 19 and have never really had a relationship with my father. He and my mother broke up when I was a baby and my entire life I've only seen him 10-15 times. When I was between 6-10 I had the most regular contact with him but like he always does, he moved somewhere else and the meetings ceased, he wrote letters and sent presents but I didn't see him in person. He hasn't sent me any presents or letters since I was about 12.

We've been in contact on and off via email for the past couple of years but he hasn't responded to the emails I've sent him over the last year, I'm not sure if this is because he is no longer using this email and has a new email address or just can't be bothered with me. I should make it known that I didn't respond to his email for six months because not only was I busy with school but I was wondering whether I wanted him back in my life when all he has ever done is let me down.

I managed to find his business details online which was surprising as my father is a difficult man to track down (I'm told this is because he owes people money). Anyway, I emailed a man who I know was his business partner and also my father's son (my half sibling), neither have responded to me. I don't know what to do at this point. I want a relationship with my father and have a lot of questions that remain unanswered but I feel like I'm making a fool of myself, he is my father, I shouldn't have to go to these lengths to contact him. I have a good life but my mother is the only family I have, I'm an only child (the half sibling I mentioned I've never met) and both of my parents are only children too. I don't want to get a call in 20 years telling me my father is dead and regretting never really knowing him but I also don't want to waste my time and energy on someone if they don't want to know me. Should I give up on him? I'm upset that the people who know him are so unwilling to help me despite the fact I'm his daughter.

ANSWER

Give up on your father being in your life in this moment but allow for the possibility that he may become available at some point in the future. That’s not to say that you need to welcome him with open arms. That’s your choice and I don’t think anyone would blame you if you rejected him after what he’s done to you. The point is that you can't have a relationship with someone who doesn't want one with you and my deepest concern is that you open yourself up to being re-wounded by pursuing him when he's non-responsive.

I don’t like to create a victim mentality but I want you to hear me loud and clear: What he has done to you is inexcusable. As painful as it’s been for you to experience first-hand, you (and I) don’t even know what long-term damage his abandonment has caused you.  I would be very cautious about becoming attracted to and attracting men who, like your father, are also unavailable, whether it’s physically, emotionally, or legally (legally=married man).

Your father is missing out on having a second chance with his daughter, and for that I pity him.  He must be an emotional train wreck.  But no matter where he goes, he can’t get away from himself, and that’s really who he’s running from.  Still, I’m sure it’s virtually impossible for you not to take his absence personally.

I suspect that the big lesson here, the take away, is that you are meant to become a very independent woman ~ someone who does not become dependent on men in her life. With that said, your challenge is to remain open to having relationships with men, whether intimate or platonic, and not to become so scarred from your father’s absence that you’re incapable of attaching healthfully to a man.

Speaking as someone who has lots of daddy baggage, I can tell you it’s not been easy.  But I was so committed to not repeating the same mistakes my mother made that it drove me to begin therapy at your age, which helped. I still made mistakes ~ just my own. Definitely not the same ones my mother made. And now I have a handful of men in my life who I love dearly, who grace my table during holidays and on weekends. They have become members of my family of choice. I recommend that you begin collecting people who will become yours. And of course, therapy wouldn't hurt. Let me know if I can help in any other way.

Writer’s Stats: Female, Unsure.