Dear Dad

Relationships

Dear Dad,

I’ve spent the last hour silently crying as J sleeps.  I suppose that means it’s time.  It’s time I take the advice of my counselor and others who have urged me to start working through this pain I’ve carried for 19 years.

I was thinking maybe I should talk to you, but someone said I should write instead, so you don’t feel like you’re backed into a corner.  So you can have time to think before you react.  Honestly, though, I don’t know if I am brave enough to give this letter to you.

You’ve been a really good dad.  When my big brother was little, you led his boy scouts troop.  During my big sister’s formative years, you made a special effort to spend time with her…to pay attention to her…because you heard that middle children often feel neglected.  You’ve invested your life into being a good dad and husband for your new family.  And now that your other kids are teenagers, you’ve made a point to support them in their hobbies and extra-curricular activities, even going so far as to drive to another state to watch them compete.  You’re a good man, and you’ve been a good dad. …to all of your kids but me.

Nineteen years ago this month, when I needed you most, you left.  You abandoned me.  You betrayed me.  You lied to me.  My brother was married and my sister was away at college, so that left 13-year-old me to be the adult when mom fell to pieces.  Ever since then, I’ve tried to fill the hole you left in my life by adopting other father figures.  My music director.  My youth group leader.  And countless others over the years: professors, pastors, even my husband.  But as much as I love and admire these amazing men, no one can fill your shoes.

The thing that hurts the most is that I was the one who defended you when my older siblings shut you out of their lives.  How long did my sister avoid you after you chose S and her unborn daughter over us?  And hasn’t it only been in the past couple years that my brother finally started speaking to you again?  But I stuck by you as best as I could.  I fought to maintain a relationship with you and your new family even when I got heat from everyone else.  I finally gave up when I realized you wouldn’t reciprocate the effort.  You don’t call.  You don’t email.  You don’t visit.  When I fly out for a weekend, your weekly small group is a bigger priority for you than me, your daughter who can barely afford to visit once a year.  When I brought O with me last time, you were thrilled to see her, yet you barely even spoke to me.  Did you know that I wept in the car as I drove away that night?

I remember the moment when I realized that your new daughter is now older than I was when you left…that she’s had a dad longer than I ever did.  I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach.  I still do.

Why did you check out when I came along?  Why were you there for J and J when they were growing up, but you weren’t there for me?  Why are you so attentive to L and B, but you won’t so much as text me?  Why do you withhold your love from me, when you so freely give it to your other children?

It’s not fair Dad.  I tried so hard to be good enough for you…to earn your love.  But it’s no good, and I can’t do it any more.  Love me or don’t.  I’ve got nothing left.

And yet….  Still…

I love you.

If wishes were horses, I’d have a whole herd.

Relationships

I’m so tired.

I feel like most of the time that J and I spend together is strained.  Counselor has been telling us that we need to learn to ask for our wants and needs, and so I have been making an effort to do so rather than resent him when he doesn’t read my mind.  It should be simple, right?  It can’t be that hard, can it?  Yep. Very hard.  If the thing I want is an emotionally charged request (“Will you please hold me? I’m lonely”), it’s hard to be vulnerable enough to ask for it, especially knowing that he is allowed to say no.  Counselor says it’s important to say no sometimes.  When someone says yes to every single request, it begins to feel inauthentic.  (I think, in general, this is a female way of thinking.  “I want him to choose to stay home with me because he WANTS to be with me, not because I TELL him.”  Ladies, does that sound familiar to you?)  Well, if every time I ask J for something he says yes then it doesn’t feel like he’s actually choosing to do whatever it is I am asking for.  It feels like he’s going through the motions but doesn’t actually mean the sentiment behind the request.  Theoretically, if he says no from time to time, then when he does say yes, I can trust that he actually wants it…or means it…or whatever.  (Shoot, I have no idea if this makes sense to anyone other than me.  Okay, back to the topic at hand…)

It’s hard for me to ask J for what I need from him.  Because it’s a vulnerable place, right?  And what if he does say no?  And, even worse, what if he says no in one of the nasty, sneaky, confusing ways?  What if he says no by getting defensive, simultaneously making me feel like I’m being unreasonable AND distracting me from my original request by raising a new complaint of his own?  Or what if he says no by verbally saying yes, but not following through on whatever he’s agreeing to?  (*Ahem!* Sex.)  Or what if he says no by saying yes and sort of following through, but not being fully present in the gesture.  (Like I’ll ask him for more physical affection and he’ll put his hand on my knee while browsing on his phone with the other hand.)  All of these ways of effectively saying no without actually saying the word “no” are so much harder to take than a real no.  If he said something like “I’m sorry, Sophie, but <insert reason>,” at least then I’d feel like my request hasn’t been belittled.  At least then I would have a chance to offer an alternative that would meet the need behind the requested gesture.  (“You don’t want to kiss me because you don’t feel close to me?  Okay, well, what if we just held hands for now and see if we can start to feel closer?”)

I’m making J out to be this terrible, villainous character.  He’s not.  He’s a really good man, and I respect him a lot…  He’s not trying to be a jerk.  I don’t think he realizes what he’s doing.

I wish we could unload all the…  All the BADNESS of the past decade and just start fresh.  There’s so much crap between us that we end up defaulting to bad reactions (both of us).  We hear accusation in a tone of voice, even when it’s not there.  I wish it wasn’t like this.  I wish I could ask for my emotional needs to be met, without shame or guilt or fear.  And I wish that he could do the same.

I wish a lot for my marriage.

There has to be away to get past this ugliness in our relationship.  There has to be a future for us.