Saturday, June 26, 2021

The Humiliated Father

So much for the patriarchy. So much for oppressing poor, powerless women. In yesterday’s letter to Carolyn Hax a woman wrote of her father, who cheated on his wife (her mother), got divorced, married his mistress, and has effectively cut off contact with the children from his first marriage. Evidently, these children are now adults. 

As for strictly limiting contact with his children, he has done so because his new wife abuses him verbally every time he tries to speak with them. When the father remarried, his children were explicitly excluded from the ceremony. The new wife’s children were in attendance.

The letter writer feels, not unjustly, that she has lost her father because his new wife has been policing her contact with him.

So, the letter writer feels that she is facing two unsavory possibilities. Should she accept the situation as it is or should she cut ties? And she asks Hax if there is a third way.

For that question, I applaud the letter writer, who calls herself, Still Hurt. She is asking the right question. Hax misses the point and will tell her to remain in the status quo.

Dare we mention, because no one else seems to care, that said father seems like a perfect wimp, a pathetic weakling who cannot stand up to his wife, even when it comes to maintaining good relationships with his children. He is being systematically humiliated by his new wife, a woman who stole him from his first wife.

So, for your edification, here is the letter:

Eight years ago, my dad cheated on my mom and ended their marriage. A month after the divorce, my dad married his mistress. While her adult children were in the wedding party, neither my brother nor I were even invited. I didn’t meet her until a year later, when I was told she didn’t feel comfortable with me staying with them in the house I grew up in, and they demanded I leave. The one other time I have seen him in the years since, she insisted on chaperoning the visit.

Now my dad insists he wants a relationship with me, but he reaches out only sporadically, and only with superficial emails — updates on his favorite baseball team, etc. — as though nothing has happened. He rarely answers my calls, and when she is in the room, he will usher me off the phone as quickly as possible.

I have written him exhaustive emails telling him how badly he has hurt me and how I need more of a reckoning to move forward. These have been met with unwillingness to engage.

I am tired of being hurt and sad. I don't want to lose my dad forever, but I don't know how to reconcile if he doesn't want to put in any real effort. I live abroad, so a low-stakes in-person meeting isn't possible.

Is there a third option that is neither cutting him off completely nor accepting this status quo?

— Still Hurt

To be fair, here is Hax’s response.

So here’s what I suggest: View your father’s actions through the lens of his attachment to an extremely controlling person. It might explain what has seemed inexplicable to you, like his professing to care about reconciling with you while mustering only a sporadic effort toward it. It might explain why “this status quo” isn’t actually the face-slap you’ve believed it to be, and instead grounds to stay patient and in touch.

It is bad advice. It veers toward trying to understand the poor man. It should not. In truth, said father needs something like an intervention. The issue is: who can perform it? The letter writer does not tell us how her brother is adapting to the new regime. 

As for making contact, it is possible that the father is retired. But, if he is still working, the daughter should contact him in his office, or through a work number.

Apparently, she lives abroad and cannot easily schedule a lunch. But still, any time she is in town she should drop by his work office-- the better to embarrass him in front of his colleagues. Does she know any of his friends. Does she have contact with any of his and her other family members?

If she was excluded from the wedding, who did attend? Did any of the attendees remark that it was strange to see the new wife’s children in attendance and the man’s children absent?

One understands that she does not want to wash the dirty family linen in public, but, seriously, isn’t there anyone she can contact who can act as an intermediary? That is, who can tell this man how pathetic he seems to be, and how unfair he is to his daughter.

The third way is thus to bring the situation to the attention of a third party. And to ask the third party to speak directly with her father. Surely, he needs help and he needs to learn that he has become completely whipped, as the saying goes.

And of course this man, who seems to think that he is still keeping in touch with his children, ought to be put on notice. If he cannot stand up for himself, if he cannot grow a spine, he is going to lose his daughter… forever.

The one thing she should not do is passively to accept the situation as it is. Aside from her hurt feelings, the man is in serious trouble. He needs help.

1 comment:

Sam L. said...

I do not read Hax, as I don't know what magazine/paper carries her, but I'm wondering, is she a "hack"?