One of my mother’s complaints was always that my father was “the hero” in my eyes. She said that I never criticised him and I acted as though he was “perfect”; that he left our family and then he made a new life for himself, but that none of us kids ever found any fault with him; only with her. She said that he got off “scot free” and she got stuck being the “bad guy.”
And even here on my blog, “Emerging from Broken” I have been pretty easy on him. But recently, inspired by fresh pain that my father has caused me, I realized it is time to write more about my father and the lack of contribution that he made to my life.
My father never “saw” me. He never tried to get to know me. He didn’t seem to hate me, he didn’t seem to resent me, he never called me names like stupid or ugly and he didn’t hit me, but the thing is that he didn’t really do the opposite of those things either. He never saw me as a person. He was emotionally unavailable. It is as though I didn’t have a father.
I have come to realize that my father is a passive abuser. One definition of passive abuse is hurting a child with a lack of interest, a lack of communication all of which is neglectful and discounting. There is a message that this behaviour sends the child and I was that child. I got the message. And I realize that the way that he disregards me has always defined me as not enough and it has defined me as unlovable and unworthy.
Really seeing and accepting the truth about my father and our dysfunctional father daughter relationship (or lack of father daughter relationship) this past two years or so has made it difficult for me to want to deal with him since I began to stand up to other abusers in my life. My father seemed so “nice” that I had trouble putting my finger on what to stand up to him about.
I have told him several times over the years that he doesn’t listen to me or to my children. He admitted it, and promised to change but nothing changes. He phones to talk about his own life. He sometimes questions expressing interest, such as “how is school?” or “how is the farm” But then he interrupts the answers as they remind him of his own stories, and that he has a better story to tell. So he interrupts ~ he cuts everyone off in the middle of a sentence. This is very discounting. It tells a story of its own. My children feel frustrated by him. This is the way it has been for me my whole life. His actions towards me defined me as having nothing interesting to say; that there was nothing about me or about my life that would be of interest to him. I was uncomfortable having my children defined the same way.
Recently I told my father that we don’t really have a relationship and I told him again how I feel about his lack of interest in my life and in the lives of my children and my family. He says he cares but his actions PROVE that he doesn’t. He said that he loves me. He said that he loves all five of his children the same. (I wonder what he means by that.)
He apologized profusely. (Which is where the confusion always comes in; If he is sorry, I want to believe that he is sorry, but the action is always missing.) He even followed up with an email apology with just a little bit of justification in it, (which I was willing to overlook) and out of hope, I engaged and replied back with more explanation; I tried harder to explain my feelings, about our failed relationship. I wanted to make sure that he understood what I was saying. I wanted him to realize that this was not the first time I had told him. I gave him examples of what he does and how it makes me feel. I wanted him to HEAR me.
For about an hour I allowed myself the hope that we might be able to salvage something and possibly repair our relationship. I really believe he heard me this time. I believed he was sorry. I thought/hoped he might even want to try to work it out with me. About an hour later, in response to my continued explanation, he sent an excuse. He said I had misunderstood him about one little point. Just one excuse for one point about the whole conversation, as though that is all that it would take, as though I had made an error in this one tiny part of the whole picture of my life without a father. As though his pointing out that (in his view) I had misunderstood this one little thing that proved that I was wrong about everything.
It was his excuse for not trying with me. It was his out, his way of telling himself that it is really my fault that we don’t have a relationship and not his.
And I was stunned.
In that one single moment, all hope of restoring any kind of father daughter relationship, whooshed down the drain. Just like that. My father isn’t capable of loving me. My father is never going to see me for who I am.
His lame little fault finding scrap of defence translated to my feelings; it felt as though he had said:
~ “you think I want to work on it? Oh sorry, you misunderstood. I just want to be right. I just want you to know that you are wrong. I don’t want to be bothered to actually have to DEAL with this. I don’t want to have to try with you. You are not worth it.”
I have never been worth it to him. I have never been worth the effort that it would take for my emotional unavailable father to listen to me. He defined me a certain way and he will never see me for who I am, but that doesn’t hurt as much as the fact that he STILL does not want to see who I am. I have never had enough value (to him) to interest him in making any kind of effort. I take too much energy, I take too much space. I am just not worth whatever it would take for my passive abusive father to have a real father daughter relationship with me.
I wondered for years what I did, what I had done to cause him to forget about me when my parents got divorced. It didn’t dawn on me that he was really not present before they got divorced. He never noticed me BEFORE they got divorced. It didn’t dawn on me that the defect was his and not mine. His actions don’t define me, they define him.
And you know what? It took me years to realize that his actions define him and not me. It also took me most of my life to realize that I am so worth the effort that he didn’t bother to give me. I am not the one that is at fault in this dysfunctional father daughter relationship. I am not the one that failed and I am not the one that deserves to be treated with such utter disregard. This loss is his loss, not mine. I never had a functional relationship with my father in the first place.
Exposing Truth, one snapshot at a time;
~For definitions of neglect and abuse click here to see the U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services page
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