My brother and I are both in our 30s and happily married. I’m married 10 years, with four young children, and live quite far from my parents. My brother also lives in another province, so most of our family’s communication happens via group texting, phone calls, and video chat. We are all very polite and civil to one another and communicate daily.
My relationship with my father has always felt strained, but recently, I’ve noticed that my father hasn’t been responding to anything that I say, even if it’s related to something he’s interested in. He only responds to my mother and brother in a group conversation, and he never calls — not even on my birthday. He seems to be ignoring my existence and making a point of saying nice things to my brother and his wife. I wish I understood why, but I don’t. No one in my family acknowledges it and I’m afraid to ask because I don’t want to rock the boat for everyone else.
My theory is that he just doesn’t like me. We are so completely different with differing beliefs and opinions. Still, it’s incredibly hurtful to be ignored by my own father. I try to be kind and polite to both of my parents, even when we disagree.
Sometimes, I think my father is trying to punish me by purposely giving me the silent treatment while giving my brother and his wife plenty of fatherly advice and attention. The last time I saw my father in person, he “forgot” to hug me goodbye before my parents left for the airport, right after giving my brother and his new wife a hug. I hadn’t seen him in four years, was also flying back home, and was expecting a hug from both my parents before they left. Now I’m wondering if this was an intentional display and he meant to forget about me.
Maybe I’m reading too much into something that was an honest mistake. He was very civil and kind to me during the visit. I am very hurt and confused by his actions.
Not Daddy’s girl
It’s impossible for me to know what’s going on in your father’s mind, if anything at all, regarding your relationship with him. I find it strange that, though you communicate daily, you say it’s “polite and civil.” That doesn’t sound very warm and fuzzy to me. If you’re not feeling it, why do you speak daily?
You say your relationship has always felt strained, but you don’t mention doing anything about that, ever. I’m not saying it’s too late, because it’s NEVER too late to work on a relationship with anyone. But why have you waited until now?
Also, you don’t mention how old your parents are, but could he be having health issues?
I strongly suggest you speak to your dad and your mom. Call your dad directly so you can’t be ignored. Ask him what’s up. If he doesn’t know what you’re talking about, tell him. Maybe he was overwhelmed with the goodbyes at the airport – or maybe he was expecting a hug from you; maybe no one reminded him it was your birthday and he’s embarrassed that he forgot; maybe he’s writing me the exact same column from his perspective.
I don’t understand why you’re worried about anyone else when the issue is between you and your father. I can’t say whether your theory is right or wrong, but that and thinking he’s trying to punish you, are childish responses. You’re an adult adept at communicating. Use your words and ask.
Every column you publish has some feedback, or what you call, reader’s commentary. If I wanted the advice of the general public, I wouldn’t read your column. I want your advice only.
I appreciate you. I’m not 20, but I’m also not omniscient. Sometimes people show me something I didn’t think of. There are multiple sides to every story. Food for thought.
Reader’s Commentary Regarding the woman who wanted to avoid her ex on a dating website (Jan. 24):
“GOOD LUCK WITH THAT! Old OR new, he'll be there. Just swipe him left and move on.”
Reader’s Commentary Regarding the advice for a friend who thinks it’s all about her (Feb. 2):
“The person described is a narcissist, and that’s a hard-wired personality trait. There’s actually nothing that can be done with a narcissist except create as much distance as possible.”
Lisi – You may be right, but I’m not qualified or comfortable making personality disorder diagnoses from a letter.