Connecting with an Absent Father

Postby WhatIs_87 » Thu Mar 12, 2020 8:06 pm

Good afternoon,

I posted a while ago and really appreciated the feedback I received. I’m going through the ringer, and would really appreciate feedback again. I want to be exhaustive to make everything as clear as possible. Thank you in advance for anyone’s time and effort.


I grew up without knowing my father. He had a falling out with my grandmother over their own issues, and for whatever reason, he decided that he didn’t want to have any type of connection with anybody in the family. He told my mom that he wanted either no custody or full custody of me, and my mom balked at the suggestion.

Growing up without a father, or even a father figure, I remembered the idea of having a dad felt super awkward and vulnerable. I was content just having my mom, and for whatever reason, I had deep internalized issues with shame in which I felt like a male figure over me merely represented a person who would ultimately find me insufficient.

When I was 11, my mom went through hard times, and in the midst of her pain, decided to reach out to my dad (who now lived across the country). The way my family situation was, my mom and I lived close to my dad’s side of the family here in the U.S., but my dad didn’t have any contact with them at all. Because of what was shared with me about my dad, I was only allowed to speak to him on the phone when I was at my aunt’s house, but allegedly he preferred to speak with me when my mom and my grandma and grandfather weren’t there. I remember just kind of going along with everything. Within about six months for summer vacation, I ended up taking a flight from California to Ohio to spend a week with my dad, his wife, and his step-son.

He and his wife were both good to me, but the one thing I remember was that the father-son dynamic always made me feel weird and uncomfortable. In one instance, he wrestled with me and rough-housed me in a normal father-son way, but then I had to excuse myself and ended up bawling my eyes out in the bathroom. I remember feeling almost violated; I didn’t know how to take that kind of interaction with a male figure. I’m sure there is some precedence or psychological phrase to describe this dynamic, but the only thing I knew in that moment was the deep-presence of shame and vulnerability I felt.

I left and returned home, and then a year later, I was scheduled to fly out again to spend time with him. This time he had purchased tickets for us to watch a Cleveland Browns game, and had also planned a trip where we would visit Niagara Falls. As the trip loomed closer and closer, I began to feel a deep sense of fear and discomfort over the prospect of flying over there once again. It wasn’t a fear of mistreatment, but if my memory serves me correctly, it was a fear of leaving my mom, and then also the general discomfort of having to entertain the father-son dynamic. I never had the validation of a male figure I could really respect, and maybe that’s why I just didn’t know how to entertain any of this. The morning I was scheduled to fly out there, I just had a meltdown where I started sobbing. At the end of the day, I simply didn’t want to have to go out there and deal with all this. I had seriously strong attachments to my mother. Everybody kept telling me I needed to “bite the bullet,” but inevitably I was so freaked out and scared that they relented, and I didn’t end up going. I remember my grandmother repeating after all this that it was a shame because she had held out hope that by me forging a bond with my dad, she would have an opportunity at reconciliation with him. I also remember my aunt suspecting that somehow my mom had discouraged me from visiting him because she was developing some type of jealousy. From the age of 12 all the way through now as a 32 year old, I carried guilt that I had hurt the chance of my father having a relationship with my grandmother, and that I had ruined something.

Roughly a year ago, I decided that enough was enough, and so even though I didn’t *want* to have a relationship with my father, I felt at some level like it was the right thing to do. To provide him a chance, to let him know I didn’t hate him, and that I understood the complexity and dysfunction of our family environment. I just wanted to do something that I felt could be somewhat redemptive, so I relented to my conscience and ended up trying to contact him. I left a voicemail at his house number, I wrote him a letter, I sent him a facebook message, and I also sent him an email. I heard nothing back, so I decided that he was over it, and I tried to move on realizing I had at least given it my best shot.

More recently, this past Monday, I located his step-daughter online. I again relented to my conscience and contacted her, just in case he somehow did not receive any of my messages. She sent him and his wife a message saying I had been trying to contact him. While the mother seemed to receive this message, my dad didn’t. My stepsister believes that he had lost his phone, and she has insisted that both he and the mom are both terrible communicators, and that in all likelihood, they have just been so scatterbrained that they have not gotten back to me. Apparently, when the wife arrived back at home, she and my father took an RV trip down to Kentucky for a dog show, and apparently they are probably out of cell range.

Since every effort on my part is filled with so much fear and challenge, my body and brain have been stuck in a fight or flight response since Monday, and it may be that I don’t receive any clarity whatsoever until next week. With them being together, presumably he would have caught wind that I have been trying to contact him. But I find myself hoping that he is letting bygones be bygones and doesn’t really want to put effort in any relationship. The longer time goes on, the more I hope this so I can go back to some semblance of a comfort zone.

I have diagnosed OCD, and deep underlying shame issues. They mix together to create hell in my psyche. Because I’m here in California, and my dad is in Ohio, I end up going through this really sick fear response where I anticipate *having* to fly out to Ohio to see my dad so I can have some peace of mind. So I can just do the right thing. And I feel like I can’t move forward and do anything else like find a new job until then. I’m trying to piece together a lot, and I’m also questioning my efforts to rekindle something with him in the first place. Can you guys tell me how this all resonates with you? Sometimes you think you know something well, but you’re so deep in the bs that you need a second set of eyes. Also -- my family can’t really be there for me because all of them have their own personal narratives involving my dad, and more often than not I end up having to manage the way they perceive him instead of focusing on my own personal needs.

If it’s useful, I could boil down this chaos of emotions and thought into a few questions that I wouldn’t mind getting feedback on:

>>>Does it sound like moral scrupulosity with me feeling the burden to connect with my dad?
>>>>If I were to reconnect with my dad, what kind of correspondence would be fair: is it fallacious for me to feel like I have to go see him in another state, or could I expect him to come to me instead?
>>>>Are you familiar with any type of explanatory box that summarizes my childhood emotions regarding a father figure, and attachment to my mother?

Thanks again in advance for your time.
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#1

Postby Richard@DecisionSkills » Fri Mar 13, 2020 9:03 am

So from age 12 to 32 you had no contact by your choice. Now you want to resolve your personal issues or you can't get a job, etc.

If I was this man I would not have any emotional attachment to you. I would not resent or hate you, but I also don't have any care or feelings for you. Don't call, don't write, don't try to track me down. If you do try, I'm not interested in whatever issues you might have going on in your life anymore so than any other individual.

In other words, your problems are your problems. Stop trying to include me in your problems.
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#2

Postby WhatIs_87 » Fri Mar 13, 2020 2:29 pm

We still maintained phone contact afterwards, but gradually any interactions just dissipated.
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#3

Postby Richard@DecisionSkills » Fri Mar 13, 2020 7:00 pm

Which tells you that he has no interest in a relationship with you. He has moved on with his life. You are not part of it. Let him be.

Your desire to connect and modify the relationship is all about you, not him. You want to interject yourself into his life for your personal benefit.

Again, if I am him I don’t answer/reply. If you keep pushing I’m polite, but simply wish you the best and tell you to move on. I have no interest in connecting with you after twenty years. I have other people in my life, other relationships that are my priority.
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#4

Postby WhatIs_87 » Fri Mar 13, 2020 7:04 pm

I see.

I appreciate how candid you are Richard. I still remember your feedback from my last post, and I found it useful. It's good to hear an original reply from many of the other comments I've received.

I think there is a lot of wisdom in acknowledging that what I'm doing is a lot about me. I would also add that it's easy to make assumptions about the mental state of the other person, in this case my father.

Apparently, he is out of town until after the weekend and away from cell phone signal. We will see what comes of it, but I'm weary that his wife and step-daughter may try to coerce him into some type of a response.

Thanks again for your time and response Richard
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#5

Postby Richard@DecisionSkills » Sat Mar 14, 2020 2:33 am

WhatIs_87 wrote: I would also add that it's easy to make assumptions about the mental state of the other person, in this case my father.


Agreed. That is why I say what I would do. It is my mental state, how I believe I would react if I were in that situation based on my values, beliefs, and experiences.

You also project a mental state of how you hope your father might be. You hope his mental state is receptive to your attempts to reconnect. Why? Because of what you want for you.

So my response is not claiming knowledge of which way your father will react. I’m just offering up a single perspective.
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#6

Postby WhatIs_87 » Sat Mar 14, 2020 3:46 am

I think you came close to inferencing it when you said his silence suggested he didn't want a relationship afterwards. Another possibility could have been mutual misunderstanding, or mutual insecurities.

I'm trying to hold either possibility loosely but it's very hard waiting until Monday, lol. Thanks again
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