Estranged father tests unconditional love
BY Ask Amy
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
11/28/12 at 4:22 AM
Dear Amy: When I was an adolescent, my father came out of the closet as gay and my parents divorced. At the same time, my father, who is also bipolar, made some poor financial decisions that forced my family into bankruptcy.
That was 17 years ago. Since then he has lived out of the country with limited communication. I know my father loves me unconditionally, but with only a handful of visits, I have trouble feeling close to him beyond the obligatory love of distant family.
I've become more and more disillusioned about him. He may have the best intentions in the world, but ultimately he spent my childhood focusing on himself.
Now, for health reasons, my father wants to move back to the States to be near me and the rest of his family. This is a positive step for him, but I am terrified of the burden that I imagine it will place on me.
I worry about the need to support him financially and the expectation to give him time that I don't really have. I'm also not comfortable with the fact that he will want to hit fast forward on our relationship to make up for lost time.
How do I set up boundaries that will allow me to maintain a comfortable distance but still show some measure of respect for the fact that he is my father? - Anxious Daughter
Dear Daughter: Unconditional love is the perfect concept to ponder while you wrestle with this. Unconditional love requires surrendering your harsh judgment of your father to simply accept him - as deeply flawed as he is. This sort of love does not require that you surrender your sense of self, your other relationships or your money.
Your first job is to protect your health and well-being. You should notify your father that you are open to a relationship with him but that he simply may not receive everything he wants from you.
You should be vigilant, honest and aware of the various "hooks" your father may dangle that you must avoid biting.
For help creating and maintaining boundaries, you should see a professional counselor. Your father should also receive mental health counseling.
Dear Amy: You and "Frustrated Husband" sure let his stay-at-home wife off the hook!
Many women manage to raise children and keep a decently clean and well-ordered household. That's the mother's job if she doesn't work outside the home! - Mom at Home
Dear Mom at Home: You're right. And many dual-career parents also manage to keep a well-ordered home. Obviously this couple didn't get that particular memo.
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