My dad is a narcissist. Growing up I received a lot of criticism from him and it was really damaging. Recently he has been nice to me and it scares me. I want with all my heart to be close with my dad. What if this is just a phase?

Answer

I'd be cautious about labeling your father a narcissist. That's the “diagnosis du jour” with everyone utterly convinced that their self-absorbed partner, parent, friend, neighbor, or co-worker deserves the title. To know for sure, your dad would have to be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder by a psychologist or psychiatrist.

I'm stressing this point because it's far more useful to examine your dad's self-centered behaviors rather than focus on a label. What does he do (or fail to do) that disappoints you? Examples could be: not phoning when he says that he will, not showing up for birthdays and holidays, criticizing your appearance, nitpicking your clothes, complaining about your choices in a career, a boyfriend, or a place to live.

To determine whether or not you should become closer to him, you need to have blunt conversations with your dad. Open up to him about what's tolerable and intolerable in your relationship. Talk about what's hurt you in the past. Ask if he's willing to change his ways. He can't make the relationship better unless he knows what you want to state it clearly. Communication is key.

It's said that past behavior is the strongest indicator of future behavior. Therefore, keep in mind that your father will most likely revert to operating as he always has. You'd be wise, therefore, to keep your expectations low. The writer, Maya Angelou, said: “If someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” When I was a kid, we'd said it this way: “Fooled me once, shame on you. Fooled me twice, shame on me!”

Like all daughters, you want a loving and supportive dad. However, you may have to practice radical acceptance and acknowledge that you don't have one. While that's incredibly painful at first, it eventually becomes incredibly liberating.

Updated on January 20, 2020

Original Article:

Fatherless Daughters: How Growing Up Without a Dad Affects Women
By McKenna Meyers
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