Dear Amy: I am 32 years old. My parents divorced 17 years ago. I came home from school to find my dad gone. Months went by before there was any communication. Within a year, he had remarried.
Originally his wife was friendly. When I became an adult, that changed. She completely fell off the face of the Earth, and so did my dad, even though we live just miles apart. The last time I was at his house was 2014.
My dad barely stayed an hour at my wedding (his wife didn’t attend), and also missed the birth of my and my husband’s first child. I’ve invited them both to our home, and when I ask to have a get-together, he informs me that he (alone) will “stop by.” At this point, I no longer seek affirmation.
My mom says I need to be honest with him, but I have already told him that we are running out of time to form a relationship with his grandson, and that I’m disappointed that he is not available.
I don’t know what I have done to offend his wife.
Someone close to me recommended that I bypass my dad and contact her instead. I’m a little nervous doing that because I hate to create conflict.
I’m trying to do what I can to spare any regrets or hard feelings. What can you suggest?
Amy says: You are not creating conflict. Stating your own wishes with an open attitude is not provocative behavior.
One good reason to put your feelings into writing is because doing so will give you the opportunity to say exactly what is on your mind and heart, without the sometimes confusing dynamic of a verbal interaction. You will also have the chance to reread your missive before sending it to make sure that what you are writing is accurate and respectful, and (hopefully) inspiring a response.
When writing, you will also have a record of exactly what you said.
I suggest keeping your note short and simple, addressing it to both your father and his wife, and sending it via e-mail (if possible) to both of them.
Here is an example:
“Dear Dad and Charlotte: I’ve tried to communicate this in various ways, but I want you to know that Brad and I are eager to have more contact with you, especially now that we have our wonderful son in our lives. Our boy makes us want to get a fresh start and have the very best relationships possible — for all of our sakes. If there are things we can do differently to help make this happen, I hope you will let us know, but for now I hope you understand that we want to have a renewed and positive relationship. We go to the park on Saturdays. Can you join us next Saturday? I’ll bring coffee.”
Attach a photo of your cutie.
I hope you understand that it is not actually in your power to fix this. I give you a lot of credit for trying.