I have to admit that I have not been a good father to my daughter. Though I have changed significantly in recent years, my temper has truly scarred her. She is afraid of me. I can see it in her eyes. Over the years, she has kept her distance. I am so proud of her. She is a terrific student, athlete, and young woman. I love her very much. I am not certain she knows that. All I want is to be her father. I have been without hope for a long time. I suppose writing to you suggests that I have not given up. But I just do not know what to do.
At a Loss
Dear At a Loss,
Your situation reminds me of the movie, The Wrestler. Mickey Rourke’s down-and-out character desperately wants to reconcile with his daughter, whom he had abandoned. He succeeds in the early stages, only to repeat his old habits and lose his daughter forever. Perhaps this is a cautionary tale for you.
It’s never too late to be the man, father and husband you want to be. But if you’re not committed, as the “Ram” clearly was not in the film, your efforts will likely create additional pain.
So your first order of business is making a commitment. To do that, it’s important to discover what it was about you that caused you to hurt your daughter. Have you done that work? Do you know where the anger comes from? Do you know who hurt you and caused you to disconnect from your own feelings? Do you know why it’s been so difficult for you to trust yourself?
If these issues are clear to you, then I’d say you have a good chance of honoring a new commitment to your daughter. A commitment defines who you are. In the BetterMen work, we call this a N.U.T.—non-negotiable unalterable term. Once you make this commitment, once your relationship with your daughter becomes your N.U.T., you MUST honor it, period. Ready for that?
Are you ready for the rejection, the disappointment, your little boy feelings coming up to strangle you? Well, get ready. All you can do is commit to her. But you cannot control her reaction. You have no idea when, or if, she’ll warm up to you. That’s entirely up to her. As with any commitment we men make, we make it because it’s the right thing to do, because it’s reflects who we now are as men. But the results remain a great unknown.
So as you walk this path, be sure to have in place the support you’ll need to make sure you can honor your N.U.T., despite the short-term or long-term disappointments. As always, I recommend you rely on trusting relationships with men. The men in our lives can keep us on track, especially when we get derailed. And I guarantee you will be derailed. Not just in your attempts to creating a loving and trusting relationship with your daughter, but in all of your important pursuits. That’s why we need support. That’s why it’s critical to have men you can trust.
Randy “The Ram” felt completely alone in the miserable life he had created for himself. Even when love came his way, he couldn’t feel worthy of it. He had to sabotage it. Let’s hope you can feel worthy of being the father your daughter needs you to be.