My father raised me and was in my life for twenty years, then my parents divorced. Year by year he becomes more distant. Now at twenty-nine, he is completely out my life and not interested in coming back. I feel my issue is opposite of most, but I'm starting to feel unloved because of it. How can I handle this?

Answer

The phenomenon of fathers distancing themselves (or disconnecting completely) from their adult children most definitely deserves an article of its own. Not much has been written on this topic, but many of us know someone in our circle who's experienced this painful situation. While knowing the cause of the estrangement may help us make sense of it cognitively, it doesn't stop the pain from this perceived rejection. You may want to deal with your feelings in therapy, so they don't hold you back from enjoying your life and forming relationships with other men. Here are three key reasons why dads distance themselves from their adult kids:

1. His new wife or girlfriend is setting the social calendar.

When a man pairs up with a new woman, he typically lets her handle their social calendar as a couple. She makes plans for them: where they'll travel, how they'll spend the holidays, and with whom they'll spend their time. Naturally, she'll put her own children, relatives, and friends ahead of his. Feeling threatened by his previous marriage, she may intentionally marginalize his first family. Wanting to keep her happy since they share a bed, he goes along with her decisions.

This happened in my own family when my 65-year-old grandfather married a wealthy and well-connected woman. Even though my mother was his only child, he distanced himself from her and us four grandchildren throughout his marriage. He got swept up in his new wife's social world with her rich friends and their exotic adventures. It hurt my mother terribly, but nothing she said made him change his ways. He didn't connect with us again until his wife died but, by then, the damage was already done.

2. He saw his role as a father in a very narrow way--as a provider and little more.

Sadly, many dads even today see their parental role as merely to provide for their children financially. When they're done fulfilling that obligation, they no longer feel needed and move on with their own lives. They don't recognize the important emotional role they should play in their adult children's lives: listening, guiding, empathizing, and providing the unconditional love that only a parent can.

My father was a workaholic and didn't know how to relate to my siblings and me on an emotional level. When we were adults, he didn't see a role for himself in our lives and the lives of our children. He was too stiff, serious, and formal to enjoy being silly and playful with his grand-kids.

3. They see their divorce as a failure and are ashamed by it.

Some men are ashamed by their divorce and see it as a failing on their part, especially when it was instigated by their wives. They choose to disconnect because their adult children remind them of this failure and of that difficult period in their lives. They'd rather forget the past and move forward.

Many men feel incompetent and powerless when their marriages falter. They blame themselves for not being able to fix the problem. Because they're solution-oriented, they feel frustrated that they couldn't do something to prevent a divorce.

I'm so sorry your dad has chosen to disconnect from you. Please see a therapist if you feel stuck in your suffering.

Updated on January 18, 2019

Original Article:

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