My dad and I just don’t get along. He makes me feel bad about myself. Many of his comments and conversations are borderline emotionally abusive and have been since I was young. He self medicated his depression and anxiety with alcohol for many years and after my parents divorced, he fell off the grid. When I was in college, he re-emerged and that’s when the guilt began.
My sister has chosen to maintain contact and visits with him. This dynamic is part of what exacerbated the guilt in me. I felt that my dad’s side of the family viewed me as selfish and a “bad” daughter for not trying harder and accepting my dad for who he is.
Through lots of counseling, prayer, and self-reflection, I came to the conclusion that trying to force a relationship with him wasn’t healthy. Deciding that was the easy part. Maintaining those boundaries was relatively simple as well. But the guilt that comes with that decision has gnawed at me for the better part of two decades.
And so I let the guilt take up residence in my mind and in moments of weakness, I would reach out and try to establish a meaningful relationship. The guilt would temporarily subside and I would feel a renewed sense of community with him. But then old habits would appear, and I would feel belittled and angry and cheated. I cut off communication and told myself that this time was the last. I wouldn’t put myself through this anymore. The guilt would always creep back in and comments from well meaning friends or family would start me wondering if I had made the right choice and why I couldn’t let those comments slide off my back in order to maintain a relationship with my dad.
After I met my husband, part of us getting to know each other meant that I had to share with him my difficult past with my dad. My husband’s heart is one of the purest I’ve ever known and he always chooses to see the best in people. I was nervous to tell him about my choices. He was kind and gentle and supportive. Having him there by my side has allowed me to let go of that guilt. Knowing that he not only understands but also actively encourages me to do what is right and healthy for me and our family is the support I need.
After my son’s birth, my husband and I talked it over and decided to allow my father access to our Facebook pages so that he could see pictures of his only grandson. But this time I did it with a different perspective. I wanted to share his precious grandson with him so he could see the joy this little guy brought to our lives. I wasn’t trying to force a relationship and didn’t expect nor care to communicate with him. He chose to post offensive comments and inflammatory remarks on our pages. Without hesitation, I unfriended and blocked him.
And I chose not to feel guilty.