How Can I Let Go of This

Updated on July 17, 2013
S.T. asks from Kingwood, TX
14 answers

I don't know why my father can have such a hold over me, at almost 40 years old, and living 4000 miles away. But he does. When I lived close to him, he rarely, and I'm talking 3 times a year would visit me, I lived about 15 miles from him, and he always expected me to visit with him, and would make me feel guilty for not visiting him often enough. When we were there he would read the paper or watch TV. He is not very engaging.
I moved to the USA in 2006, I have lived here almost 7 years, he has never visited me, even though I have invited him many times. He says it is too expensive, yet he just bought a brand new BMW, he has at the last count 6 houses which he rents out, he just put several new rooms onto his 4000 sq foot house so they can foster kids. They have 4 other kids including me, but they are all in their 20's, so it would only be him, or him and my stepmother. I feel like he expects me to go and visit over there, which I would dearly love to, but with 4 of us, it costs $4000 just for the flights, and I am not working at the moment.
He rarely calls me, I have to call him, then he guilts me and says "Haven't heard from you in a while" Ugh. This is so petty and I feel so stupid and juvenile just writing it. We have never had a great relationship, my mother left us when I was 13, one month later he was so lonely that he married my step mother, who is one of the most unmotherly people I have ever met (but strangely to only me and my sister). After they got remarried, there was no room for us in their new house so they put us in a shabby caravan at the bottom of the property. We felt like outcasts. within the year she had twins, then a year later another baby. They got a bigger house after about 6 months, and we had our own rooms, but as you can imagine with 3 babies, two moody and distressed teenagers were not what she needed. I got myself a boyfriend at 13, and we had sex, because I really felt like I needed someone to give me attention, and he found out about that and made us break up - So at least that got his attention. Although I didn't stop seeing him, and then he also found out about that! And I'm sure that hurt him. But it's a testament to both his and my mothers total lack of parenting that I was able to still see this boy for at least a year without them realizing!
My sister and I stuck it out living with my father and stepmother for about 2 years, and then we moved back in with my mother, who had now re organized her life and got herself back on track. Anyway, I don't know whether he is sore all this time about us moving back with my mother, who had done a very bad thing to him, or because I lied to him, after my mother lied to him, so he feels we are the same mold.
I think he loves me, and I don't think he wants me to be hurt, but he is super hard to talk to, and a very distant type of person.
I'm just wondering how to get past this...

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So What Happened?

When my parents were together, he was a good dad. Still a little distant, but that is how he was brought up. But after they split, he just faded from us.

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answers from Killeen on

You are not alone. I really think this blog could help you: You aren't the one being juvenile, he is. Hang in there. :)

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answers from Sacramento on

I just wrote about a similar situation. This is such a hard thing to deal with because every daughter deserve a father who loves and appreciates her.

I am sorry you are going through this, but I think the best thing you can do is allow yourself to heal. Know in your heart that you have been the best daughter to him and you haven't done anything wrong.

My grandmother said that you can't change who people are but that doesn't mean you should stop loving them. Just love your dad for who he is and realize that he will not change no matter how hard you try.

The absentee father in your life can certainly have a hold over your for many , many years. But it seems that you recognize this about yourself and now you need to give yourself permission to heal. Be proud of the woman you've become and don't let your past control how you move forward.

I let my relationship with my dad affect my marriage for a long time. when I realized what I was doing, I forgave my dad and moved on. It changed everything.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Therapy for you so you can cope with this in a healthy way. It takes a LONG time. My mother is the clueless one. I talk to her maybe 4-5 times a year. And I'm OK with it, but it took counseling and time.

Blood does not make a family, love and respect do. I am lucky in that my older sister and mother in law have filled my heart in place of what my bio-mother "should" be. That's the thing. Your dad doesn't act like a father "should". He's not capable. Wanting it to be different will not change things. The only thing you can do is change your expectations. Your father is a person you know, a "peer", that just happens to be your parent. He's just a person. You have to move him into a different part of your brain/heart.

Again, this will take time and work, but it's possible. I'm still a little sad that I don't have a good mother relationship, and sometimes I get angry (usually when I look at how I parent my son and think "why wasn't she capable of this?", but it is what it is and I let it go after a few days.

Good luck! Take care of yourself.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

These are his issues, and you do not have to make them yours. He can't make you feel guilty or inferior unless you allow it and bring those values into your own life and your own head.

Some people are just lousy parents. Sometimes they look at their older children from their "first family" and feel there's nothing that can be done to salvage it, so try try to put the blame on you. Kids are NEVER responsible for their parents' failings.

You can't change him. Stop trying. Stop calling all the time if he's distant and uncommunicative. Drop him an email not and then, and if your kids are little, pick out a picture they make every month or so and send it to your father and stepmother. They may or may not appreciate it, but be sure it's not something important to you in case they just toss it out. Kids make tons of stuff and most of us parents are running out of refrigerator space to hang it all up - so make a file of things you really don't want to throw away but which aren't "keepers" either, and send them to your father every so often. It's a way of staying in contact without actually having to talk to him. That might be better for you and for him. Meantime, take some photos of the family and email them to your father and stepmother every so often with a brief "thinking of you" note and saying you thought they'd like to see how big the kids are. If your father and stepmother ever send a gift to the kids, be sure to take a picture of the kids playing with it or wearing the clothes they sent. Even if they never play with it again, send a picture! But just in the course of doing your daily life - not in any way to earn your father's display of love and caring. I think that's probably way beyond him. All this will do is give you a list of all the times you DID reach out and do something for him, and it was his failure to respond.

Meantime, move on with your own family and get whatever guidance or therapy you need to be sure you don't inflict the same issues (or "rebound" issues) on your own kids. We all compensate for bad stuff done to us by our parents, and we either do the same thing or we over-correct in the other direction. So it's good to get a handle on our own issues and separate them from stuff we're really responsible for. I'm sure your local librarian can help you with a number of books helping adult children deal with the failures and hurts of their own parents.

It's likely that your father has few interpersonal skills - he wasn't a good husband and he wasn't a good father, by your estimation. Think about why you really want him to visit you - because it would be fun? Or because you continue to feel rejected by him? He rejected you when you were 13, and he's still doing it. You cannot fix him. But his behavior is not any reflection on your worth as a human being or as a daughter.

Don't visit him if you can't afford it and if it would be painful or frustrating. If he doesn't want to visit you, so be it. You are an adult with your own family and they come first.

Remind yourself that he is a limited person (who may or may not have been damaged by his own parents) and he rewards himself with cars and big houses to feel better about himself. None of that - NONE - is your fault and you did nothing to deserve this treatment.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

I'm not going to say this to make you feel worse, but frankly, you are just not his priority. He probably "loves" you but just doesn't care about you. Some people are like this. My ex husbands parents were (his mom passed away this year). Our kids are their only grand kids and unless WE went to see them (they lived 10 min from us) or called them, we would NEVER see or hear from them. We only saw them on holiday and bdays because I think it was "expected". I always took it personally, I mean, I'm a great person and I have great kids so WHY don't they want to see us???? It took a long time for me to accept that that is just how they are and it doesn't matter WHY. And when I turned 39, it hit me how short life is and I shouldn't spend it being unhappy. So I divorced and got rid of everyone and everything from my life. I'm 46 now, happily remarried and things got so much better for me. So I'm saying all this because you asked how you can get over it. I think it's great that you appear to know you need to let it go. Just change your outlook on how you see the situation. Don't feel obligated to go see him. You can have a decent relationship via Skype and phone calls. So try to accept that he is like this, he is not going to change and you need to make adjustments. Call him on occasion when you think about it, if he makes a snarky remark, just ignore it. It's hard to explain but you just have to change your outlook. You can't change other people, you can only change how you handle them and react to them. I hope my rambling has helped some. Oh, and when I hit 40, I'm an only child, and my mom is my ONLY family left and she was/is one of those negative people I had to deal with. She lives right down the street from me. I had to LIMIT my conversations with her and the time we spent with her. Since doing that, my anxiety and stress with her is now minimal and we have an ok relationship. So I understand what you are saying. I wish you the best and hope you figure out something that will work for you. Good luck.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

If your dad treated you the way he did when you were younger, what makes you think he would all of a sudden change and treat you any differently? It seems he cared more about his needs than his children's (you and your sister) in the past and he still cares more about his needs than yours in the present. I don't see people like him changing in the near future, becoming a selfless dad, putting your needs first.

Actions speak louder than words. He seems to be spending a lot of money on cars, house, etc., but he wouldn't visit you? He also ignored you and your sister after your mom left (when you both needed him the most) and put you in a shabby caravan at the bottom of the property.

If I were you I would do whatever I can to get over him and move on, whether it's therapy, confronting him about the past, ignoring him in the future, etc., and not let him affect you in anyway from now on. I speak from experience.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Try writing letters. No instant feed back of guilting you. You can give only the information you want to give. You can print up a few envelopes to have on hand. You can send pictures. You can start to detach yourself from an emotionally charged relationship. You can see what he wants to do because he can't say you don't communicate. But he would have to put forth effort to communicate with you.

I bet you will understand his lack of parenting skills even better when your child gets 13. Let go of the guilt. It does nobody any good.

Try reading "Boundaries". It's a Christian book about letting people own their own problems. That's what you should do. He still is a terrible parent. It's his problem. The lack of a reasonable relationship with you is because of his terrible relationship skills, not you. If I were to tell this story to you, you would see it. Stop trying so hard. Let him start trying.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

You're 40. It's time to grow up and stop living in the past and let go of the fantasy that other people will do what you want.

Live your life. More importantly, stay PRESENT. Your mind is 1/2 way across the world.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Salt Lake City on

Definitely let go of what happened in the past and live in the present and for the future. This is sometimes easier said than done, but you can't dwell in the past or you won't be able to "move on" and be a healthy person for your own family. You have to see your dad for who he truly is and not want to change him. What you can change is how YOU are and what you DO going forward. As part of your healing process, it might be good to write a heart-felt letter stating your feelings; again, try not to bring much up about the past. I would also focus the letter on the relationship between you and him-not anyone else. At least if you do that, he will know exactly how you feel; even if you never send the letter, this can be a healing process. It's up to you. You need to know what your boundaries are and maybe even make an agreement with yourself to only write or call or try Skype on occasion, his Birthday, Father's Day or around a special holiday. He needs to start trying and put forth some effort. However, if he doesn't, it is not your issue; it's his. You need to let go. We all deserve loving relationships and if it is just too painful and hurtful, you might have to even cut some ties with him. If you have kids (which it sounds like you might), you need to decide how you will handle him being a Grandfather and what that relationship will be; if he is not close with you, then he's probably not with your kids, either. Hopefully the children have another Grandpa or an older gentleman in their lives that they can connect with since he lives so far away and is distant emotionally. I would work on bonding with my other family members-Your Mom, Sister; also some dear friends and neighbors can really feel more like family sometimes. That's how it is in my life anyhow. I always say, "Blood is not thicker than water"; family is important...but keep in mind that you have your own family to focus on now, too and you can make a family out of really good friends and neighbors who love and care about you as an individual. I wish you the best on getting past this issue with your dad...

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

It's not you -- he's self-centered. Good advice below.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Cleveland on

i'm sorry sweetie but a dad is there for their kids, They might not call all the time but they are interested in you when you do talk,

quite trying to figure out why he isn't a good dad. Because honey it isn't you, honestly it does'nt sound like he is a nice person.

the best way to get past it is to either get counseling or find a subsitute dad what will be interestesed in you. Volunteer somewhere, join a church or something, find someone that you can build that relationship with, because that guy that could treat you that way isn't worth it.


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Colorado Springs on

I think some counseling is in order here. Would you consider it?

You are carrying a great burden - you've been carrying it for a very long time - and it may take some help in order for you to drop it. You seem still to be wanting and waiting for your father to give you the sort of care and attention a beloved daughter should have.

The fact is that some people are incapable of supplying that kind of attention, for any number of reasons (and I'm not going to guess about your father). So it would not be the fault of the daughter, but a fault in the parent.

You can't do anything about your father's failings. You can only do something about yourself and, as you say, get past this. AND... since you are an important person, with or without a father's attention, you are valuable enough to deserve help with this.


answers from Hartford on

The way your father is really has nothing to do with you. It's all about him. I mean... you said so yourself. Your mother left him, and he remarried quickly and had more children with his new wife very quickly. I would guess that he's always associated you with your mother. I would also guess that your mother left him for very good reasons... reasons that you discovered as you got older, learned over your adulthood, and in the past few years.

As a father it was HIS responsibility to foster his relationship with you and to maintain a bond. He doesn't get to criticize you now for the fact that you don't feel close to him, that you're not bonded with him very well, and that you don't fawn all over him bending over backwards to do whatever he asks. It wasn't your fault that your mom left and it's not your fault that he wasn't a great father. I also sincerely doubt that one instance in your life when you were 13/14 for a year or so that your Dad is holding a grudge. If he is... tough noogies on him. You're not your mom. You were a child. And honestly it does sound like your mom had good reason to leave. It's just too bad she couldn't/didn't? take you with her.



answers from Austin on

I'm sending a big hug to you, and a Hooray! just for writing it all out. Sometimes, that just makes things feel better, but it's hard to open up like that, especially about someone who is a big part of your life. Of COURSE he has a big hold on you. For me, anyway, I can be a confident woman anywhere else, but I always seem to revert to "kid" status when I'm talking to one of my parents.

That being said, I think just writing all this out, is a sign that you are beginning to get past it.

Now the really hard part if finding out how to be YOURSELF. NOT the 'you' who is defined by this man, but really YOU.

As for the relationship, there is only so much reaching out that you can do to your father, before he needs to start reaching back. Telephones dial from both ends, and roads go both directions. The burden is not entirely on you. All you can do is a reasonable effort - and I'm guessing you've done that - phone calls, etc - and then let it go.

Someone else suggested counseling, and if that will help, then go do that.

Best wishes for you.

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