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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,


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.


Join The Conversation
singleinthesity singleinthesity 8 years
No one should ever put themselves in an abusive situation. If he cant talk to you like an adult without the verbal abuse then you should burn your bridges. Id rather not have a father than have to be put through that.It is not fair to you. Which makes me wonder how he talks to your sisters? Reguardless, Id try really hard to keep in touch with my sisters even if you have to communicate through email or snail mail. If he can carry on an adult conversation without the verbal abuse or raising his voice by all means, try and patch your relationship, otherwise, get away and stay away for your mental sanity!
Janine22 Janine22 8 years
I think that you should seriously consider counselling to work out some of your feelings about him. As for reconnecting, I agree with dearsugar on that it partly depends on whether he was abusive to you. Did he still continue to be that way when you last talked to him? Because if he was/is abusive, it may not be in your best interest to have a relationship with him. But since you have not said whether he was or not, I will assume he wasn't. I think that if you decide to talk to him again, you have to set your boundaries, right away. What are you comfortable with? What are you comfortable talking about? What are you not comfortable talking about? Decide this now, so you can know and set your boundaries when you need to. Remember also that you are an adult now, so you have the power in this situation to make all of the choices about what you want your relationship with him to be like, and how often you want to see him. He no longer has power over you. You are being the more mature person here for even wanting to inititate contact with him again, remember that. Perhaps you can have a somewhat shallow relationship with him, just in order to maintain contact with your sisters. It is up to you. You don't need to hash everything out again if you are not comfortable with that. I really think that counselling could help you. Good luck to you.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 8 years
I also went through a similar situation, my parents after 17 years (my real father died when i was 3, this one adopted me) divorced, My 3 sisters and myself always called him dad, he was always there for us, but after the divorce, he just drifted away got remarried, didnt call me, i had to call him, he never came to see me we always had to go to him, it was never on my terms, always his. We didnt talk for a year and finally tearfully i called him and we had it out, his version of things was different than mine. We are now pretty estranged, I talk to him maybe once every couple of months, I dont get a call for birthdays, or holidays, but when i call him he always says "you can come over anytime!" like its my decision......I have stopped blaming myself, carrying that guilt, mourning over the loss of another father, i cannot make him into something he doesnt want to be anymore. sometimes you just have to let go, mourn and move on.
TidalWave TidalWave 8 years
"Dear daddy, I write you in spite of fears of silence. You cleaned up, found jesus, things are good also I hear." Obligatory! :) I would just straight out tell him that you want to have a positive relationship with your sisters and just do your best to stay in contact with them. Let them know that you are always there for them; write them letters, etc.
cubadog cubadog 8 years
I went through a similar situation with my dad. He wasn't the best dad but as we have both gotten older he has acknowledged he did not always do the right thing. Since I do not know all that has happened between you it makes it a little difficult to say whether or not you should try to have a relationship. One thing I can tell you is waiting for him to make the first move is silly the reason you are in this situation is because you are waiting around for him to do something. My Dad and I did not speak for 4 years it has taken a lot of work but our relationship is the best it has been. Any relationship is work. Past is past you can not expect him to go back and fix his bad parenting. You both need to move past it and work on rebuilding your relationship if that means you need the help of a therapist than do it.
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