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You Asked: How Do I Repair My Relationship With My Father?


Dear Sugar,

My relationship with my father has always been rocky, since before my parents divorced 18 years ago. It has been over a year since the last time we interacted — our last correspondence was filled with nasty, hateful words through email. He's never been much of a role model or a parent to me. I think he should make the first move and put out the proverbial olive branch, but he hasn't made a move. Now there's a void in my life and it's making it very hard for me to feel emotionally well.

To be honest, I'm not even sure I want to open the lines of communication, but losing touch with my dad has pulled me apart from my much-younger sisters; they're both under 10. I miss them dearly. Is this worth repairing? What should I do to regain somewhat of a relationship with my family?

— On the Outs Olinda

To see DearSugar's answer, read more.

Dear On the Outs Olinda,

Though I think that most familial relationships are worth repairing, there are some circumstances in which I think distancing yourself from a particular family member is a must in order to avoid abuse or emotional anguish. Since I don't know the details of your issues with your father, it's impossible for me to say whether this is a relationship worth saving. However, it's obvious the relationship you have with your sisters is one worth fighting for.

Try reaching out to your dad in a simple and cordial manner. Don't languish in apologies if you don't feel sorry, and don't excuse his bad behavior just because you're trying to reconnect. It's OK to let him know that this dispute is weighing heavily on your mind, and that you don't want your sisters to grow up without knowing you. Take this opportunity to express some of your feelings in a respectful way, and be prepared to hear his thoughts, too.

Perhaps you can both resolve this once and for all, but otherwise, keep it friendly and work on connecting with your sisters again. Once they get a little older, you can maintain a separate relationship with them without having to interact with your father at all if you don't want to. Issues with our parents can run far deeper than we realize, so don't hesitate to talk to a therapist if this conflict with your dad continues to hurt your day-to-day life. Good luck.

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