Carolyn Hax: Adult child wants to rebuild with Dad

Carolyn Hax:

May 6, 2013 

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Carolyn: My parents are getting divorced. How do I begin to build a long-distance relationship with my dad, who was physically present but completely emotionally inert throughout my childhood?

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

Sounds possible that you're already there. Your first "real" connection occurred after your mom left. 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.

Neither of you has changed, so he's probably still going to leave you a bit cold emotionally and you're still going to wonder what to say around him.

But as long as you both understand that it's on each of you to stay in touch, the answers will likely come naturally, in the form of the truth - starting with: "I'm not always sure what to say to you, Dad, because you've always been present physically but not always emotionally." Naming the silence between you can quickly break it apart.

Carolyn: Next month, a close friend is coming for a four-day visit with her baby.

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. My husband has to go - it would look bad if he didn't - but should I make an appearance? I could make the rounds and then leave … I know my friend will say it's fine, but is it rude to bring up in the first place?

PARTY?

If you know she'll say it's fine because she's cool that way, then tell her about the party; also say that her feelings are paramount and you'll go only with her blessing. If she balks, stay home; you'll have other chances to circulate.

Email tellme@washpost.com. Chat online at 10 a.m. Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.

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