The Record (Troy, NY)

How to handle a distant dad

- — Too Old to Be Abandoned Send your questions for Annie Lane to

DEAR ANNIE » I am 39 with a wife and three kids.

I’m writing not about my marriage or kids but to ask for help with feelings I have toward my father that I cannot let go.

Now that I have three young children, my negative feelings toward my father have grown. And as my wife and I work on our struggling marriage, my negative feelings toward my father have grown even more.

My parents divorced when I was 7 or 8 because they weren’t in love with each other anymore. They have both found great partners since then, and I have great step-parents.

Looking back, it is evident my mom was going through postpartum, and she would later be diagnosed with depression and was one of the first group of people to be on antidepres­sants in the early 1990s.

My problem with my father is not because of the divorce specifical­ly, but with what he did after the divorce. My father is emotionall­y distant, lacks empathy for others and has never had close friends other than one of his brothers. My father has problems with emotional regulation, goal-oriented persistenc­e and impulsiven­ess. My dad wasn’t around much after the divorce and never did the usual things I thought a father should do, like go to my sporting events, play catch, teach me to shave or help with homework. He even moved four hours away to work for a landscapin­g company for a year or more when I was 10. I felt and still feel abandoned, disregarde­d and not important.

Although people in my family always give the excuse “that’s just how your dad is” or “you have to accept him for who he is,” it just doesn’t seem good enough for me.

Even now when we speak on the phone, I don’t feel like sharing anything about my life with him because he thinks he knows it all or offers me opinions when they aren’t necessary. I have tried to form bonds with him my whole life and never feel like I am successful.

A related issue is that I found out I have ADHD a few years ago, and I have learned as much as I could to understand and accept my challenges. I do believe my dad has ADHD as well, but I can never tell him. He seems to think people with ADHD are dumb or “less than.” I want to stop having a relationsh­ip with my father altogether. I want to be estranged from him. I recently went two months without conversing with him and felt much better.

My concern is that he has Type 2 diabetes and does not manage his health well at all, despite his wife’s help. If I break contact, he could pass away, but I am done with feeling two inches tall whenever we speak. I want to be done, but will I regret it? DEAR TOO OLD TO BE ABANDONED » Usually I would say that no one can make you feel inferior without your consent, but that is much easier said than done when it is your father. Creating healthy boundaries for seeing him might be a way to avoid completely shutting him out of your life forever. The hurt feelings from when you were young are still there, and he triggers them.

With the help of a profession­al counselor, you could get to a point where his putdowns don’t have the same impact they had when you were young and impression­able. You are grieving the father you wanted and didn’t have and are understand­ably angry at him for not providing that to you. So everything he says triggers you. With the help of a profession­al to test your ADHD, my hope is that you are able to continue a relationsh­ip — but only on your terms. Ideally, you will begin to see him as a hurt man who hurt his son and feel sorry for him.

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