Be Honest With Her Old Dad?
Q: My father has asked me if I resent him for anything. I said no, but I lied. I go back and forth in my own head whether to unload everything I've wanted to say to him just to make me feel better, or to simply shut up and live with it. He's 77 years old, so why be honest this late in the game when it will likely make little difference regardless of what he tries to do about it. A matter of too little, too late. Telling how I really feel could wreck a relationship that is broken but still working, or it might help heal the relationship. What should I do? -- Joan, 44
Dr. Susan: The quandary here is not so much about what the outcome will be. That's unpredictable. However, your father actually asked you to tell him if you resented him. Either he's a total egotist who merely wants to be validated for doing a great job, or he realizes, finally, that he was not a good dad and wants some kind of forgiveness before it's too late. And you're the one who's going to live with the results long after he's gone. I suggest you tip-toe into the subject and gauge his reaction. Let's say he was never there for you, in which case you can say something like, "You know Dad, now that you ask, it was always hard for me to feel good about you never coming to my school performances." Then if he gets all defensive and unpleasant, you can decide if you want to dig deeper. It's not a matter of him fixing the past, but of you finding a way to move on from it without harboring such emotional turmoil. There is something to be said for getting your resentments off your chest, but try it with something small first and take it in stages. You may discover that your dad simply isn't capable of understanding your feelings. I'm a great believer in honesty, especially when asked, but a total implosion of your half-hearted present relationship may be sadder for you than just leaving things as they are at this late date.
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.