Thursday, August 13, 2009

Daddy Issues

After I got engaged I really started to think about what I wanted my wedding to be, and I decided I wanted my dad to be there. While for some this would be a no brainer, for me it was something I agonized over. To call my relationship with my father troubled, would be a gross understatement. My parents were married less than a year, and divorced by the time I was six months old. My father was physically and mentally abusive. I know all the horrid things he did to her, and I think my mother is one of the strongest & most amazing women I've ever known. At the time of the divorce, my father had no record of abusing children so he was given some custody rights, and I spent summers and holidays with him in Texas.

In some ways those summers were great. I lived like an only child in St.Louis, but in Texas I spent everyday with my cousins. But my father was hard to please, and I was always in trouble. It was nonstop yelling and insults from my father. One summer I went to Vacation Bible School, and on the last day the parents got to come and see what the children had been doing all week. I was so happy to have my dad there. But on the drive home I could tell he was angry at me. And when we finally got home, he pulled me into his bedroom and yelled at me for over an hour because he said I had not smiled enough that night. Another time I put on some make-up that belonged to an older cousin, and he called me a whore. I was never good enough, smart enough, or pretty enough. I don't remember him ever striking me, but sometimes I have intense dream where he does. And I don't really know what that means.

My family never treated me right either. Growing up I spent every Christmas eve with my mother, and every Christmas day with my father. But one holiday my father and his family had guilted me into staying the night with them instead. So I stayed the night, and when I awoke on Christmas day, my stocking was empty and I had no gifts. That is how I learned there was no Santa. Worse than that, I had to watch for hours as my cousins unwrapped all of their new items. I did it with a big smile on my face, but I don't think I ever felt as bad as I did that morning.

I feel like a lot of my anxiety issues can be attributed to my father. From my studies in psychology, I know women who experience high stress pregnancies are more likely to have anxious/ depressed children. My mother was definitely in a stressful situation throughout her pregnancy. Additionally, kids who grow up in unstable home environments are more likely to have issues. I still have deep self-esteem issues. I'm the type of person who blames myself for everything, and I will apologize to you if you step on my foot. When I fight with Adam, I will always say I'm sorry and claim that its 100% my fault. If I shared an accomplishment of mine with anyone, my father would call me conceited. So I sometimes get really upset when Adam tells his family about any of my accomplishments. I worry that they will think I'm full of myself. I don't know how to take a compliment, and I never feel like I deserve success.

When you are child, and a parent says terrible things about you, you think, "Wow, I must really be this terrible person." This is why I never mentioned anything to my mother until one particularly bad Thanksgiving when I was 12 years old. After that I cut my father and his family out of my life for a few years, not letting them back in until I was 17. I don't even remember why. Perhaps I just had a misguided notion of needing them in my life. They treated me worse than before after the falling out, but I tried to ignore it and solider on. My family had told me they were going to come to my high school graduation. They had attended all my older cousins' graduations, and showered them with gifts. My graduation just happened to fall on my 18th birthday. Not only did they not tell me they weren't coming, I never even got a phone call or a congratulatory card. I cried myself to sleep for a week.

So I wrote them a letter, and spilled 18 years of hurt onto the page, and severed ties yet again. They immediately ran out and bought me graduation gifts; they thought that would win me over. I never wanted any gifts; I just wanted to be acknowledged. However, during my senior year of college I learned that my father was very ill. He had lost a leg due to complications with diabetes, and he has been hospitalized several times to have fluid drained from his heart. I just started thinking how would I feel if he died, and the last words I said to him were out of anger? So last Christmas I just dropped by his house, and we patched things up. I was excited to have my father at my wedding, so he could give me away, and dance with me. And better yet, he is a professional photographer, so he can take my photos, and I can save money. He seemed genuinely excited about everything.

I'm not 100% sure why I really wanted my dad and his family at my wedding. I didn't necessarily think their presence would make it better. In fact, I thought it might be a little uncomfortable. But I think the truth of the matter is I did not want our friends or Adam's family to notice & ask about their absence. Because in a twisted way, I thought they might feel I wasn't good enough for their son, that I was damaged goods, and that I didn't deserve happiness just as my family feels. Because deep down that’s what I felt about myself then.

I had a bridal shower a month before the wedding, and no one from my dad's side showed and they never even gave an excuse. I figured it was because they didn't want to give me a gift. But I assumed they would come to my wedding. But no one from my dad's side (except him) came to my wedding, and my father gave me some flimsy excuse that luckily I didn't see through until later. Not only was it hurtful, but we had paid for 30 people who didn't come. Talk about a waste of money. However, the time spent with my father on my wedding day was amazing. He walked me down the aisle, we danced, and for the first time that I can remember he told me he loved me and that he was sorry. We left on such a great note, I thought things were great.

Its been four months since the wedding, and I haven’t gotten the pictures, and he wont respond to my contact (which I know he has received). I've even offered to pay for them. I'm pretty sure he has decided not to give them to me. I am heartbroken. I do have great pictures from my friends, but no professional shots. My father may have never given me anything, but for the first time I feel as if he has stolen something from me. I feel like an idiot for trusting him, and giving him this opportunity to hurt me. And now the people who want pictures have to know what happened, and I'm so embarrassed. Was everything he said that day a lie? I don't think so. I just don't get it. The worst thing is I find myself wondering what I did to make him mad. Is it because my mother walked me down the aisle too? Is it because I danced with my stepfather? Is it because Adam wasn't overly friendly towards him (he was cordial, but he can't stand him for what he did to me). Logically I know this is not my fault, but the little kid in me feels like it is.

I've spent a lot of time thinking these last few weeks and I've come to a decision. I'm no longer going to reach out to my family, and will not ask for the pictures again. I am not writing them off with some letter or e-mail, I'll just let it all fade away naturally. They know how to contact me, and if they want to spend time with me they can call me. I will never turn down an earnest request. But other than that, I'm not putting myself out there to just keep getting hurt. I know this will get easier with time, but for now it’s like there a gaping hole in my heart.
365 days ago (give or take):
I’m a 100% control freak. Not because I'm this raging witch that has to have everything my way, but because I'm affected by a case of the crazies, that makes me believe that all the dogs in the world will die if the dirty dishes stay in the sink for any extended length of time. And luckily Adam understands me enough to put up with this, because I don't really ask him to fix too many things for me, instead I just go behind him and do it myself. This is what I learned in therapy: my neurosis need not be anyone else's neurosis.
Adam and I have our first big fight, that was a stupid one.


  1. Wow....I want to first say how brave and courageous you are to have poured so much emotion into this post. Yes, this is a compliment and now you smile and feel proud of yourself. :)

    It is hard to understand why some people behave the way they do...perhaps it has something to do with how they were raised ~ in an uncaring or cynical without love or compassion for others? I believe your father has some real issues....and as I have learned over my many years, no matter how much you love someone, how much you want it to be right....sometimes that isn't enough to help or "fix" them. It may be embarrassing to admit your father has withheld the photos....or maybe it will be that first step for the little girl inside to admitting he is (and always was) the bad person....not you. My thoughts are with you as you work through this.

  2. I can relate to some of the things you wrote. My dad and I had a rocky relationship for years...he cheated on my mom, and I had a hard time forgiving him for what that did to her...and one day, I caught him at his girlfriends house, and told my mom. That night, he came into my room and told me that he would stay out of my life, so i needed to stay out of his. We didn't talk for years, and then one night he was rushed to the hospital with a brain anyerism (sp?) and almost died. That was a big wake up call. Luckily I got the chance to work things out with him. We still have issues, but things are better. I was also told every day of my pre teen and teen years that I needed to lose weight (by my mom) and that ruined me. I can not accept a compliment either, and have a hard time making and keeping friends. Why would someone want to know me, the fat girl? I know I have issues, but don't know what to do to fix me.

    I hate that your dad and his family have decided to not be a part of your life. They are the ones who are missing out. If there is one thing that I have learned, it is that the people who chose not to know me are the ones who are losing out.

    I am sorry this is so long, but so much of what you wrote sounded like my life. As for the pictures, I wish I knew what to say. I hope he decides to give them to you. I was pregnant on my wedding day (which was a trip to the courthouse) and i refused to have my picture taken. I do not have even one picture of my husband and I from that day, and that is something I regret. Find comfort knowing you have some beautiful pictures. I love the one you use as your profile. You make such a beautiful couple.

  3. Oh Britt...I feel for you on so many levels. I'm so sorry your Dad has hurt you yet again. I think you're doing the right thing, by letting it fade. The angry letters won't do anything for you, just make you feel worse. If you must write one, write an angry letter and then never send it. Just get it all out there and off your chest.

    I didn't have an abusive dad, but I had a dad who was never present, even when we were in the same room. I've recently written him off, and I have no plans for him walking me down the aisle. He has brought nothing but disappointment and heartbreak to my life. I've come to the conclusion that life is too short for all that negativity. People are right when they say you can't choose your family. But you can choose happiness, and who you want to surround yourself with. And I'm with you, I wouldn't turn down and earnest request, but I'm setting myself up for hurt. You're doing the right thing, and you will feel so much better for it. HUGS!

  4. Sweetie, and I feel I can call you that because I am old enough to be your Granny - I know, from experience, every thing you are talking about except I had a physically and emotionally abusive mother. I understand your psychological state because I lived there for far too many years. Even with 3 years of therapy it took me until I was 48 years old to get away from the toxic relationship with my abusive parent.

    Please talk about ALL your issues and feelings with a professional, this crap is going to continue to affect every aspect of your life until you put it into perspective and move on and up.

    Do this for yourself. You deserve it.

    Monster {{huggiez}}

  5. Britt,

    I could have totally written this post myself, in a way-- My dad and I have a lot of unresolved issues that I just cannot come to terms with. He will be at my wedding, and he will be walking me down the aisle, but mainly because I have such a close relationship with my half brother & half sister. But I have already decided that after our wedding, I will not be contacting my dad or my step mom again.

    My brother & sister are 18, and 14 respectively, and I can't use "missing out on seeing them" anymore as an excuse for not cutting ties with my dad, who is a "dad of convenience."

    I am so so so so sorry about the wedding photos. I cannot imagine the hurt you feel. If you need to vent, etc, my email is always open hon.


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  7. I have gone through a similar situation. My parents split in '99 after being married almost 20 years. Some bad stuff went down over the years and finally in '03 I said screw it and have had nothing to do with my father. He still tries to call and text but only ends up yelling at me and cussing. He's never met my husband or my kids and never will. I gave him too many chances.

    You have to do what you have to do no matter how hard.

  8. Holy Moly...that is an extreme post and so incredibly moving. Hang in there!


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