Q&A: Pursuing a relationship with absentee dad

Q: I’m a woman in my twenties, raised by a single mum and who rarely saw my dad. Recently he’s expressed an interest in seeing me, but when I schedule a time he always cancels. I’ve decided not to initiate anything further because I feel he doesn’t really care for me. I love my mum, but she’s insisting that I continue to pursue a relationship with him, to the point where it’s created tension between us. What should I do?

A: We can understand some of the emotions you’re feeling. You’ve never had a relationship with your dad and want to guard your heart against further disappointment. But this is threatening the good relationship you have with your mum. You’re feeling caught in between.

Since the relationship with your mum is one you value and want to preserve, we’d start there. Talk to her and try to understand why this is such an important issue for her. The energy behind this may possibly stem from feelings of guilt over the divorce, or perhaps regrets from an unfulfilled relationship with her own father. Your goal here is to better understand your mum’s feelings, but notto be controlled by them. As part of the conversation, you’ll want to set clear boundaries and respectfully communicate that the relationship with your dad is a matter between him and you, and that you won’t be discussing it unless you raise the subject. 

As for what happens with your dad, the decision is yours. If you want a relationship with him, let him know that’s your desire. If you haven’t, he may be thinking it’s all your mum’s idea. Move slowly. Start by writing him a letter, or communicating on Skype or Facebook. And work on getting to know each other first, before airing your grievances or sharing deep emotions.

© 2018 Focus on the Family.  All rights reserved.  Used by permission.

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