When I was about 20 years old my Dad decided to cheat on my Mom and run off with his secretary. It came as a huge shock to everyone as it appeared my parents were incredibly close. There was absolutely no warning. My Mom filed for divorce shortly after it happened and I was totally on her side!
It’s been 12 years since the cheating scandal and I haven’t talked to my Dad once. He’s tried to write me several times and I just throw the letters away. My older brother visit’s him regularly but I just can’t forgive what he did. I can’t understand how he could betray our family like that.
The problem is, as I’ve gotten older I’ve been thinking of starting my own family. I’m still mad at my Dad, but I’m tired of being angry. I’m beginning to feel like I should forgive him, if only for my sake. I feel like he might have some explanation as to why he did what he did, however bad I think it is. Is it time to forgive my Dad?
Yes, with what you’ve written about your Dad, and where you’re at in this stage of your life, it is time to move toward forgiveness. The notion of “moving toward” is key here.
Forgiveness is a process, so don’t expect to reconnect with your Dad and immediately feel ready to forgive him for cheating on your Mom. Give yourselves time to refashion a new father, son relationship. After all, it’s been 12 years since the two of you even had a conversation. At 32 years old, you are a different person than you were at 20.
Build your new relationship with conversation that includes sharing your feelings about how his betrayal affected you. If he empathizes with what you have to say, and shows he’s sorry for how his choices affected you, you have a start at a real connection.
A one-time-only apology won’t suffice, since there are mountains of hurt. To really touch your heart, his empathy and apology need to be on-going. A weak apology can point to a self-absorption, akin to the kind that allows a man to cheat on his spouse. It will be much harder to reconnect on a deeper level if his apology is shallow or isn’t freely offered.
In addition, if he defends his actions without showing concern for how his choices left you feeling hurt and betrayed, you can still forge a new relationship, it will just be more superficial.
Some personalities are unable or unwilling to be emotionally vulnerable in relationship. Lacking this, relationships are shallow at best. It’s like the guy who loves to go fishing with his buddies, but his buddies are the last to hear his wife is divorcing him.
If the best you can get from your Dad is buddy time, even that can be enriching in your life. You’ll know to go to your Mom for comfort when you’re emotionally hurting.
Regarding forgiving for your own sake…when you give yourself adequate time to process forgiveness, and avoid forgiving too quickly, it will help you calm the sadness and anger you’ve been feeling. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you have to approve of what your Dad did to hurt you. It doesn’t mean forgetting the pain and trauma his affair caused. It doesn’t mean that you dismiss the pain he caused your mother and brother. It doesn’t even mean that you have to renew a relationship with him. Yet, since he’s your Dad, I think you’re wise to try.
Here’s hoping your new relationship with your Dad turns out to be more than fishing buddies!
Embrace your Personal Power with Life Coaching~
1. How motivated are you to reach out to your Dad?
2. Do you feel emotionally strong and prepared to weather the tension you’re sure to encounter?
3. Do you want to talk about feelings or are you OK to keep your reunion superficial?
4. What type of a relationship would you like with your Dad?
5. Are you willing to put in the work of a deeper relationship?
Listen to “The Joan Jerkovich Show” this Saturday from 6-8am and Sunday from 9-10pm. The topic is “Absentee Fathers” and “Forgiveness”. Listen to hear about the high price absentee fathers pay when dropping out of their children’s lives.