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Forging a relationship with a distant father

Published May 4, 2013 1:01 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Dear Carolyn • My parents are getting divorced, which wouldn't have surprised me 10 or 20 years ago, but by now I thought they were fine with the status quo. How do I begin to build a relationship with my dad, who was physically present but completely emotionally inert throughout my childhood? He is clearly trying to address the lifestyle issues that caused their longtime problems, but it will take a while to see if any of the changes last. We had our first "real" conversation, involving honest, emotional give-and-take, in the weeks after my mom left. Where do we go from here?

Adult

Dear Adult • Sounds possible that you're already there. Your first "real" connection occurred after your mom left the scene. Coincidence? Your mom's availability to maintain a relationship with you might have allowed him to remain at arm's length from his kid(s) all these years. As long as you and Mom were close, you'd keep calling and visiting. Now, he'll see or talk to you only on the strength of your direct relationship with him. The "I might die alone" alarm is a loud and scary one, and his just might have gone off.

Dear Carolyn • Next month, a close friend of mine is coming for a four-day visit with her baby. I'm really excited to see her and meet her son. A party for my husband's office has just been moved to the first night of my friend's visit. We're new here, so I was looking forward to the party as a way to make some friends. I know my friend will say it's fine, but is it rude to bring up in the first place?

Party

Dear Party • There's no universal "rude/not rude" here. If I were the houseguest, assuming I had a comfy chair and a good snack supply, I might even appreciate time to regroup from traveling with a baby. As usual, it depends largely on your friend. If you know she'll say it's fine because she's cool that way, then tell her about the party and why you want to drop in; also say that her feelings are paramount and you'll go only with her blessing. Read her reaction. If she balks, stay home, because you'll have other chances to circulate.

Carolyn Hax's column runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.