Post # 1
Since about my senior year in high school, my father and I have had a rocky relationship. He’s very conservative, very religious and had this master plan for all of his kids (I’m second in line out of five kids). I didn’t agree with his “plan” and went my own way which he could never understand. Unfortunately, this singled me out as the “black sheep” of the family. The road I choose wasn’t always the best, but I learned and grew to be a better person from it.
He’s never really approved of my choices as an adult but that generally doesn’t bother me. I’m not living my life to impress him; I’m living it for myself. However, I’m getting extremely tired of his constant need to voice his disapproval to my family members.
He’ll be ok around me, joking around like everything is ok but then he goes behind my back and says that my choices are terrible and I’m living a bad life. He uses me as an example of what not to do. He’s always bad-mouthing me to everyone, especially my littlest sister who is 20 and is trying to find her own path in life. It makes her mad because she sees my life and thinks I’ve done pretty well. And she’s just tired of all the bashing my dad does.
This habit of his is quickly becoming very destructive, not just to our relationship, but to our whole family. He is paying for my wedding and again, talking with him, you’d never know he has such a deep-seated hatred for my choices. I’ve been out of the house and on my own for 8 years now, so what’s the deal? I’ve always supported myself, I went to college, have a job and now I’m getting married! I call that being relatively successful. I’m proud of the life I have, so why can’t he be?
It hurts just a little to know that he thinks that low of me. I would never live my life a certain way just to please him so I feel like we’re at an impasse. He doesn’t see anything wrong with his behavior – he likes to think that I make my choices out of resentment towards him. He doesn’t see that I’m making my decisions based on what I think is best for me. So I could just ignore the behind-my-back talk (it doesn’t affect my life on a day-to-day basis) but that solves absolutely nothing.
I’d like to go to my parent’s house and not wonder what kind of insults I’ll get to find out about, I’d like to be able to answer my dad’s calls without cringing and wonder what he wants. It’s difficult to talk to him because he doesn’t discuss things – he lectures. He can’t see that his behavior is part of the reason we have such a tough relationship.
Any advice on how to improve things with him in a way that doesn’t start a huge fight?
Post # 3
I am working under the assumption that you two do love each other. This issue comes down to communication. Get some time alone with him. Don’t know if he drinks, but maybe have a couple beers together on the porch (or wherever; thinking of what I’d do w/ my dad). Tell him how you’re feeling in a non-aggressive, mature way. I assume he does not want to hurt you so he needs to knows he’s hurting you. Don’t justify your choices but maybe ask him what specific things he doesn’t like (I’m assuming since he’s religious he doesn’t like that you’re not a virgin/living with Fiance, go out at night, or similar) and counter with how those actions are in keeping with the woman you are. I bet on some level he respects your tenacity, your stubborness, and independence.
I will say, I would be wary about having my father pay for my wedding when he doesn’t like my decisions. There might be resentment on his end that you claim independence and want to do things your way but still have him paying. I’m not saying that’s right, but I could see that.
Ultimately, I’d just say “Dad, this is how I am. I’m not going to change. This is how you are and you aren’t going to change. But I love you and I want us to be close so let’s just let our problems rest. If you really need to say something, let me know.”
Then you’ve got to be open from there. Maybe give him a phone call once a week, take him to lunch. Sometimes older men only express their own feelings of hurt through crankiness and force. He may just miss you or feel you judge him/don’t see him how he is.
ETA: Try and have neutral, positive conversations. Watch a football game with him, talk to him about something in the news, whatever. When he starts to lecture or get too personal, you’ve got to disengage: “I understand that’s how you feel dad.” Then just shut down and nod. Don’t get pissed. Act like a teacher dealing with a loud 3-year-old. If he can’t rile you up, he’ll end up feeling sheepish and hopefully stop. Then you just jump into another neutral, positive conversation: “anyway, dad, we finally heard back from the caterer.”
You’ve got to break that pattern of authoritarian dad yelling at rebellious daughter. You are now two adults with differing opinions but I bet your dad has friends who don’t think exactly like he does. He’s figuring this out too.
Post # 4
Unfortunately all you can do is talk to him about how you’re feeling. It may lead to a fight, especially if you tell him that you know all the hurtful things. This is also sticky because he is paying for your wedding so he may very well not fight fair and throw that in your face.
I am sorry your relationship is so rocky. I have a similar story (being the blacksheep) with a hunk of my family. We didn’t resolve it but as they played such a little part of my life I just let go and let god. They’ve got their opinions, I elect to not hear them.
One thing you can adjust immediately is telling the other family members to keep whatever they hear that is negative to themselves. It is obviously doing you no good to hear it. I hope your father will be able to better understand you and upon hearing how hurt this situation is making you will try to adjust his behavior.
Bottom line is you’re going to have to have a conversation to resolve it and it very well may get unpleasant. Just think of it this way, “is potential discomfort now worth a potentially happier later?”
Post # 5
I wouldn’t put too much stock in what people tell you he’s saying, not that they’re lying, but thing get lost or exaggerated in translation, so it’s best to request these informers to keep those things to themselves since you weren’t part of that conversation. Next up, set up your boundaries and stick to them as far as what you will tolerate from your father and what you won’t, if that means your wedding fund goes bye-bye, so be it. A white dress and all the cake in the state aren’t worth your self respect and dignity. Finally, set yourself up to succeed when you are with your father, know what topics you two can talk about, and which ones you can’t….there’s no point in you trying to change his perspective anymore than him trying to alter yours….quit trying to push a cart sideways with each other and enjoy the things you can.
Post # 6
@MrsDocHorrorShow: I know for a fact that he hates that I live with my Fiance and that we go out on the weekends. He hates that we don’t go to a church, even though we both have Christian values and beliefs. He has it in his head that I do things to specifically “disobey” him. He’s had a tough time transitioning to being a parent of an adult.
I knew it would be a gamble letting him pay for the wedding, but if I didn’t, that would have started a HUGE fight and made things worse.
I need to learn to keep my cool around him. I have a tendency to cry and get emotional and that only fuels the fire.
@piacavoleKt: I like the idea of telling my family to just not share the negative comments my dad makes. I don’t need to hear them, it only makes me sad. But it would be worth it to try to talk to him about things. I hate feeling this way, and would rather take the uncomfortable conversation than having to deal with this all the time.
I should add that my family is close and I only live about 45 minutes from all of them. So I have to interact with them a lot.
Post # 7
@Nona99: Sometimes I wonder if my dad meant something else but it gets twisted in translation. I was prepared to pay for my own wedding when I moved in with my Fiance because I knew my dad would be pissed. I thought we had turned a corner when we talked about the move, but apparently he still feels the need to bash the decision every chance he gets. But you’re right, I’m not going to change his mind and he’s not going to change mine. Unfortunately, stubbornness may have been something I inherited from him 🙂
Post # 8
@ColoradoGirl: I compleeetely understand. My dad can make me bawl with one harsh word…but that’s because we do want their approval on some level.
I’d jokingly say, “Dad, you don’t have to worry about us living in sin anymore do you?” (Cause he doesn’t) and as far as going out on weekends, well that’s just him being ridiculous.
Would you ever consider going to church with him once a month? I don’t know if I would, but wondering if it would help?
You mention he thinks you’re disobeying him. I’d be clear with him and, in a kind way, say “Dad, only children can disobey their parents. I am not a child. I really, really want you to love me and be happy for me, but I promise I do not make my decisions based on trying to hurt you.”
Post # 9
@MrsDocHorrorShow: I couldn’t agree more with every aspect of your response. I think I’m going to hire you when similar issues arise in my life!
@ColoradoGirl: Listen to MrsDocHorrorShow! Well-written and respectful way to deal with this on all fronts.
Post # 10
@MrsDocHorrorShow: It would be nice to have his approval, and I do seek that on some level. We could go to church with them once a month and it might help, but I’m not sure. I do need to convey that I’m not a child, therefore, I can’t disobey him and my decisions are meant to hurt him. Thanks for your advice!
@Cornflakegirl: I agree, MrsDocHorrorShow has some very good advice for me!
Post # 11
@Cornflakegirl: Aw, thank you 🙂 It’s only cause this is kind of familiar to me.