Accepting rejection from a parent

"Daughters are less likely than sons to reconcile or come closer to their dads even years after the divorce."

"Daughters are less likely than sons to reconcile or come closer to their dads even years after the divorce."

‘Sometimes I wish I had cancer so that my dad would give me some attention,’ confides my friend.

I should be surprised by her dark sentiments, but I’m not. In fact, I understand completely.

My friend’s parents divorced when she was 10 and ever since her father has been, at best, an absent presence in her life. For most of the year the pain of rejection is a dull ache, but for those big celebrations, like Christmas, the grief and loss come crashing through.

While I haven’t imagined myself with cancer, I have nurtured fantasies in which my dad recovers from a near-death experience and re-evaluates his life priorities.

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In my dreams, my father, confronted by his own mortality, realises what he’s been missing and starts the process of reconnecting with his children and makes time to see his grandchildren. 

I know that my fantasies are likely to remain just that: fantasies.  All the research shows that daughters pay a high price for their parents’ divorce.

Research shows that girls’ and women’s relationships with their fathers suffer much more after divorce than their relationship with their mothers. Daughters also suffer more rejections than sons.

A 2011 study published in the Journal of Divorce and Remarriage found that college-age daughters ‘are less likely than the sons to think that their fathers wanted to spend time with them’.

These daughters also report being less satisfied than sons with the amount of time they had together with their fathers and are less content than sons with their current relationship with their father.

Daughters are less likely than sons to reconcile or come closer to their dads even years after the divorce.

I have too many friends and acquaintances who bear out the research. The ‘relationship‘ — and I use that word loosely — that they have with their fathers is a strictly one-way affair.

One friend says that her father seemed to simply up and walk away from her family. Any effort to connect with her dad had to be on his terms — and his terms only. No allowance was made for her to adjust to him having a new partner or even to sit down and talk about the divorce. Any attempt to see him alone was interpreted as a sign of disloyalty to his new partner.

It seems that unless daughters enthusiastically and immediately embrace the new partner and their father’s new life choices, they will never be fully permitted back into his life.

While the details are different, the basic pattern is the same. Fathers seem to think that their job is over after their daughter finishes puberty. As my dad told me when I asked him why he no longer had time for me, ‘I was a good father to you when you are young’.

I no longer need a father to tell me to do my homework or pick me up from parties. But I still crave the love and support he once offered me unconditionally. I will never be too old for the love that parents are supposed to offer their children no matter what.

And even though I now have a family of my own, I feel the rejection from my father like a knife in the heart.

On so many Christmas and special occasions since my dad left mum for another women, and subsequently remarried, I have turned into a labrador. I bound in with stupid optimism, my tail wagging, and I roll over in the submissive position hoping for attention, approval and love.

But it never comes. Every year I leave with my tail between my legs, and indigestion from the scraps that I had been tossed to appease and shut me up.

But this Christmas I’m going to try something different. I’m going to take the advice of a psychologist who told me: ‘I have seen many fathers divorce their kids but kids never seem to be able to divorce their parents.’

‘Your dad is never going to be the father that you want. The only healthy thing you can do is accept it and move on. As long you keep hoping that he will change you will always be hurt and disappointed.’

I’m quite sure this psychologist is right. I’ve tried everything to reconnect with my dad. I’ve been hurt, angry, sad, vulnerable, happy, indulgent and yet I remain nothing more than an inconvenience from his past life.

This year at Christmas, I’m going to try to focus on the loving relationships that I do have rather than dwell on the ones that I don’t. I don’t think the wound of my rejection will ever heal. But neither do I have to rub salt into it every year.

Because after all these past Christmases, the best present I’ve had is the realisation that false hope is a bitch.

 

Kasey Edwards is the best-selling author of 4 books: 30-Something and Over It, 30-Something and The Clock is Ticking, OMG! That's Not My Husband, and OMG! That's Not My Child. www.kaseyedwards.com

84 comments

  • My experience is the same. I've accepted that things are the way they are but the question which I've been asking myself since I was a preschooler remains: why?

    Commenter
    Daughter
    Date and time
    December 12, 2012, 8:23AM
    • This article rings so true for my son who was rejected by his mother when he was 10 who has a controlling boyfriend. My son lives with me full time. The boyfriend made no allowance for my son to adjust to his mother having a new partner (who was a bully to my son) . Any attempt to see her son alone was interpreted as a sign of disloyalty to the boyfriend. My son now has accepted it and has moved on. But at birthdays and Christmas he does get angry and sad about his mother.

      Commenter
      Mark of Adelaide
      Date and time
      December 12, 2012, 9:15AM
    • It has a lot more to do with your father than it does with you.

      Commenter
      Christian
      Date and time
      December 12, 2012, 10:57AM
  • My father was also a no show, but now that I have reached adulthood he suddenly has all the time in the world for me. I have found that the roles have reversed; I now do not want to spend time with him when he chases me. My three older siblings all spend every other weekend with him and I don't want a bar of him.
    I'm spending Christmas with my mum and my partner. My siblings are spending it with him. I'm only filling my life with people who don't change their mind on loving you once all of the hard work of raising kids is done.

    Commenter
    Mas
    Location
    Tumut
    Date and time
    December 12, 2012, 8:36AM
    • Since your siblings have what appears to be a good relationship with your father perhaps you should ask yourself why. You may well be at least part of the problem.

      Commenter
      Bev
      Date and time
      December 12, 2012, 11:09AM
    • Bev, that was low. Just as some parents have "favourite" children, some parents also have "black sheep" children for no apparent reason. It has more to do with the parent's feelings than it does the child, judging by all the families I have observed. I myself am an only child, and was always keenly aware of other families' dynamics even as a child.

      Commenter
      The evil twin
      Date and time
      December 12, 2012, 12:50PM
    • A ready wallet and a fond sense of nostalgia seems to be the main culprits. He is ready and willing to pay for their different ventures despite the years of poverty he left us in when he departed.
      I prefer to maintain to emotional, rather than financial, connection I have with my mother.

      Commenter
      Mas
      Location
      Tumut
      Date and time
      December 12, 2012, 12:55PM
    • Gee Bev, judgemental much, unless you have been in this position and I can't see any comment that you have, you can hardly judge.

      I hardly think its fair to put any blame on the child (regardless of their age) in the relationship. The father is the adult and should act as much, it really is that simple. My stepmother put all sorts of barriers up and he didn't care enough about his children to take any sort of action. Maybe if your new partner is that insecure, they are not good quality perople, and they are the ones that should be out in the cold.

      I have been the unwanted daughter, who didn't speak to my own father for 17 years despite years of trying to have some kind of relationship with him. I now find myself seperated and am terrified of this for my own children. Which is why despite the difficulty and awkwardness, I will make every effort I need to, to ensure nothing gets int he way of their relationship. If he doesn't, it is all on him, and the kids for the rest of their lives.

      My father died before any reconciliation took place, and again I tried many times, there will never be an opportunity now for anything, and I will never know why. I find that so incredibly sad, and it is something I will never (probably) get over.

      Commenter
      kross
      Location
      Melbs
      Date and time
      December 12, 2012, 1:12PM
    • @kross When children are young I would agree with you. Children in their teenage and later years normally form a more adult relationship with their parents. As such the dynamics change and both must accept that the relationship requires two inputs. As such the actions of both MAY contribute to the situation.

      Commenter
      Bev
      Date and time
      December 12, 2012, 1:37PM
  • I was ?26 and having a horrendously bad patch in my life when My father stopped ringing me. He was probably hurt because I didn't ring him because my life was in ruins and I was hanging by a thread. That was more than 15 years ago. We spoke briefly at a family wedding, where he met his (then) only grandchild, and then nothing since.

    I'm a bit different from you. I seldom think of him and feel no curiosity about him. He's just gone. I do struggle with the idea of people being close to their fathers because I've just never experienced it and don't understand it. Honestly, I tend to think fathers are just an optional extra - nice if you have them, but it's hardly devastating if they're not there.

    Commenter
    Old bag
    Date and time
    December 12, 2012, 8:42AM

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