Since it is father’s day, and not all of us have a great relationship with a father, I thought I would write something about difficult father daughter relationships. I have a father who is still alive and sometimes I wish I could write more about him, but there just isn’t much to say. To put it bluntly, he can’t be bothered with me. This relationship that I had with my father is equally as dysfunctional and devaluing as the relationship I had with my mother, it was just “different.” I spent years as a child trying to get his attention, but I failed to capture his interest. I used to think that perhaps if I were a boy like my brother who was gifted in sports he would have noticed me, or perhaps that was only about the sports and not really about my brother.
My father is really into himself. He has this sort of happy go lucky personality and I always thought he was great with people but the truth is that he is really terrible at relationships. He is really only interested in talking about himself and in telling his stories. I didn’t notice that about him for a very long time. The way I saw it when I was younger was that my dad liked everyone EXCEPT ME. That he talked to everyone and he was interested in everyone but me. I see it differently today. Today I realize that my Dad is pretty much an emotionally unavailable father.
My father isn’t connected to himself or to anyone else. Some people might think that he is narcissistic, or that he has some sort of attention deficit disorder, but I think that if you looked up the word “dissociated” there would surely be a photo of my father. None the less, the truth is that my father and I have a very dysfunctional father daughter relationship.
It took me a long time to realize that his disinterest in me wasn’t about me. It was about him. He isn’t interested in me. He never was. Why is that my fault? It was hard to realize my father’s part in the destruction of my self esteem and where he contributed to the malfunction in my life. I didn’t connect that his emotional unavailability and lack of interest in me was in itself the problem. He just didn’t care. That is pretty devaluing. It communicates a lot. I didn’t have a father by ANY definition of the word other than it was his seed that helped to produce me and I suppose his money that paid the financial responsibilities. That isn’t exactly the definition of a great relationship with my dad. It isn’t a very good or truth based definition of love. He wasn’t “there for me” he didn’t spend any “energy” on me, he wasn’t emotionally invested in me; this is the definition of a dysfunctional father daughter relationship and as I have said, an emotionally unavailable father.
It has been hard to face the truth about my father. There was so much glaring dysfunction when it came to my mother, that with my father, I just wasn’t sure where to start looking at our relationship. One day I found myself trying to remember good memories that had to do with my father. I remembered this one Christmas when I was too sick to go to the church Christmas party. My father stayed home with me. I was so sick that I was just lying on the couch watching him put tinsel on the Christmas tree. That is my best memory. That is the only really great childhood memory I have. Isn’t that a sad story? He never noticed me. He never talked to me. He never listened to me.
The truth was that I grew tired of always having to chase after his attention years ago. I didn’t even know that I had given up. I kept in touch with him because I thought my children needed to have a grandfather. That they “should” have a grandfather and that I OWED him that much. Where do these thoughts even come from?? My children “should” have a grandfather? I thought “I OWE my father that much” and “my father has a right to be a grandfather” But WHY??
Turns out he wasn’t interested in them as individuals exactly the same as he wasn’t interested in me and they are painfully aware of it. He used to act interested, but when they wanted to tell him something he cut them off and talked about his own stuff. (He is still emotionally unavailable) So the cycle of being devalued, un-noticed and unappreciated as an individual, just continued.
Today I wonder what the heck I was thinking. I look back over my life and I realize that my father never “bothered himself” with me. This wasn’t something new at all. I was used to carrying the FULL burden of relationship with him. I was used to trying harder and harder for his attention. That WAS the extent of the relationship that I had with him.
Not having a father who is interested in me doesn’t define me as being “not good enough as a daughter” anymore. For years I thought that his disinterest was about me, that it was my defect and my fault. But now I know that it is about him, it defines HIM and really had nothing to do with me.
Today I know that I was a great daughter. My heart was always good; I just got ripped off in the parent department.
Please share your thoughts, your pain or your inspiration.
Happy Fathers Day, especially to all those who have to “Father” themselves!
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