The Complex Relationships Surrounding Fathers

The Complex Relationships Surrounding Fathers

We spend most of our lives cultivating various relationships, whether it be through work, school or romance, but none are as complicated as those we have with out parents, especially our fathers. They are supposed to be our guide, our rock, our go-to-person for when we get in trouble. But what happens if they’re not present in our lives either through death, divorce or just a plain desire not to be there? How do navigate the complex waters of fatherhood when we’re on the outside looking in? Our readers asked some interesting questions recently and we hope to shed some helpful and hopeful light on these difficult situations.

Mending a strained relationship with a mother after a father's death may be as easy as investing a few hours in a visit.
Mending a strained relationship with a mother after a father's death may be as easy as investing a few hours in a visit.

My mother has always been jealous of my relationship with my father. We did a lot of things together and shared a huge interest in sports. He was my best friend and when he passed away from cancer a few years ago, I was devastated and the dynamic of my relationship with my mother changed. She became even more distant and began paying more attention to my brother and his family and not to me. Now she's in an assisted living home and is suffering from even more mental and physical health problems. She refuses to even speak to me but I don't want this relationship to worsen, as my father would have wanted us to get along. Any advice on how to bridge the gap?

Bridging the gap in a relationship that has been worsening over the years can be hard. Your mother may feel like she lost her connection to you when your father died and maybe she just gave up on your relationship. However, it doesn’t sound like you really pushed for a strong relationship after your father passed either. Now that your mother is in an assisted living home you may be starting to realize how precious your relationship is, but she may still be hurting from the years of feeling like you two were not close. Show her how much you care and go visit her. Even if you both sit there in silence for an hour she’ll be happy you are there and it will show her you are not giving up on your relationship. It may take just one visit for her to soften, or it may take 100. Regardless, if you continue to try to bridge the gap your mother will eventually come around.

It's not always easy for children to accept a new stepfather after a messy divorce.
It's not always easy for children to accept a new stepfather after a messy divorce.

I have been married to a wonderful man for over a year now and he has no problem accepting my two children from a previous marriage, which ended in a horrible divorce. I have one girl who is eight and a son who is twelve. My daughter is very receptive to him being her step dad, but my son is outright nasty and rude to him no matter how much my husband tries to be nice to him. My son lashes out constantly and causes scenes in public. I am at my wit's end. How do I get my son to accept my husband?

Although a year may seem like enough time for your son to adjust to this new life, it may not be enough for him. He’s a little older than your daughter and therefore his memories of the nasty divorce may still be with him. It is just going to take time for him to accept your new husband. However, if you’re looking to speed the process up a bit you can try and find common ground between the two. Do they both love the Saints? Have your husband take him to a game. Does your son love scary movies and you hate them? Have your husband watch them with him. The small things will eventually add up and begin to help your son bond with your husband. Don’t rush things and try not to get too frustrated. The feelings from the bad end to your previous marriage may still be lingering with your son.

I've been dating a great guy for over a year now who has a son who is in his early twenties. His last marriage ended in divorce over three years ago. I think our relationship is definitely progressing, however my boyfriend constantly makes sure that his son and I don't cross paths, for example, when his son visits him, I have to wait until he leaves in order to see my boyfriend. I know his son is close to his mother but I'd think after a year, he'd at least introduce me to him. I don't like being on the outside, so how do I get in?

The internet makes it easier for children to track down unknown parents and create sticky situations.
The internet makes it easier for children to track down unknown parents and create sticky situations.

Your current boyfriend is definitely being shady. Waiting until his son leaves in order for you to come over is not okay, and you should tell him that. You need to explain to him that hiding you from his son is going to ultimately hurt everyone. The son is in his twenties and can understand how complex relationships and life are. He can maintain being close with his mother and also getting to know you at the same time. If you explain the importance of getting to meet his son and becoming a part of your boyfriends life since you’ve been committed for a year you may open up his eyes to letting you meet his son. He may realize his attempts to protect his son are unnecessary. However, if you’re honest with him and he still wants you to sneak around you may want to reevaluate your relationship.

I've been a single mom to my daughter for all her life. She's now sixteen and has managed to track down her father online and wants to get in contact with him. I haven't spoken or seen him since he left when he found I was pregnant with my daughter when I was exactly her age. Apparently he's married for several years now with his own young children and I'm focusing on my career and raising her. I just don't know what to tell my daughter to do. I want to her to have a father figure in her life, but cannot forgive him for leaving me. I'm also afraid he'll reject her and she'll be devastated; he was a deadbeat dad then and he may still be...I don't know.

Everyone changes drastically from when they were a teenager into adulthood. Though he may have run at sixteen does not mean he’s going to run at thirty. Ultimately, what your daughter wants to do is her decision. If you try and prevent her from seeing her father she’s going to end up resenting you and it will damage your close relationship. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t tell her how you feel. Be honest with her, if her father rejected the two of you back then explain you are nervous he will do it again. You can’t protect your daughter from everything, but you can prepare her for what might come. If she chooses to get in contact with him, great. He may end up being the father figure she wants, or he may not. However, your daughter will end up finding it out for herself and it may answer all the questions she has about her father.

She may not be the only woman your brother is seeing, but how it affects his children is important.
She may not be the only woman your brother is seeing, but how it affects his children is important.

My brother, who lives in Los Angeles, lost his wife six months ago in a fatal car accident. They were married for 23 years and He recently has started dating multiple women. He spends the week with his son and daughter who are in their mid-teens but leaves them to fend for themselves during the weekends while he's out with these different women. I'm his only living relative and I live in Metairie, so I cannot help him out with his kids. The daughter, who is 15, called me last week with this story and I'm in a quandary as to what to do. I know my brother is a good father, but it seems as if his sex life is trumping his duties as a dad.

Though it may seem like your brother’s sex life has gotten completely out of hand, it may just be one of his ways of coping with his wife’s death. However, just because it’s a way of coping doesn’t mean it’s healthy. The first thing to always do is be honest with your brother and talk to him about how you feel and how his kids feel about what is going on. He honestly might be clueless to how much it actually hurts his children. That in and of itself may be enough to get him to straighten up. If not, maybe it’s time to open your home to your niece and nephew. Maybe offer having them come stay a summer in New Orleans. That way, they are temporarily removed from an uncomfortable situation, it gives your brother time to continue grieving in the different ways he does, and maybe by the time the school year is starting again and it is time to go home your brother will be back to his normal self.