Interesting piece in today’s Wall Street Journal about how adult women stumble when trying to communicate with their fathers:
When Jennifer Wallace realized her marriage was over, the very first person she called was her mother. During that initial conversation—and each morning for weeks afterward as she drove to work—she poured her heart out about her anger, embarrassment and despair.
But it wasn’t until four years later (long after she had divorced, changed jobs and remarried) that she talked about the experience with her father.
In a lifetime of difficult male-female conversations, some of the toughest, surprisingly, can be the ones between fathers and adult daughters—especially when there is a problem in the daughter’s life.
Ms. Wallace, 29, an executive and personal assistant in Los Angeles, says she always knew her father loved her dearly. When she was growing up, he praised her often, ate dinner with her each night and attended every track meet, play and debate team event she participated in. These days, he is her go-to person for career advice.
Yet at the time of her divorce, she and her dad had never discussed personal problems—hers or his—and she found it impossible to bring up such a sensitive topic with him. “I felt that he would have been deeply, deeply sad,” says Ms. Wallace. “And I felt that he wouldn’t know what to do with me.”
Her dad says she is right: “I needed to protect my princess, but I failed,” says Bruce Wray, 58, a marketing manager for a bar-code company in St. Paul, Minn. “I wasn’t there being Prince Valiant, preventing her mistake.”
Why is it so hard for a grown woman to bare herself emotionally to a man she’s loved all her life? And why would a man have trouble discussing something sensitive with a woman he helped raise?
I often post on stories, and issues, that hit a chord for me personally — and this one did. It was too funny, the phone ringing with an unfamiliar number as I was reading that article.
It was my Dad calling from London, where he’s on vacation, to and from Spain. No big deal for many people, but my Dad and I went many years not talking at all, angry and bitter and frustrated. We’re both stubborn, determined and have a complicated enough family as it is, with 3 step-siblings and my late step-mother, with whom my dealings were often very strained.
So it was great to hear from him and to get the emailed photo of him with a candle-lit cupcake — he celebrated his 81st. birthday in London with his new partner.
I was hit hard by the lede of the Journal story, as I went to Ireland to visit my Dad about two months after my husband walked out of our very brief marriage, and Dad said some things I won’t ever forget and had to work hard to forgive, but I think it’s also because he has always had high hopes, if not expectations, for me and what I will accomplish and achieve. I like that he sets the bar high, for himself and others, but am also really glad it’s come down a few notches over the years. It had to!
I also know that my Dad’s Dad (who I never met) was pretty tough and frosty, and he comes from a generation of men (maybe all generations?) that wasn’t big on expressing feelings, let alone tender, private or emotional ones. So I’ve grown up in this style as well. We rarely, if ever, say “I love you” — but our actions show it, and that’s how I prefer it. At his 80th. birthday celebration last year I made a short speech and thanked him publicly for what he’d taught me: to embrace the world as a place full of adventure and possibility, to be confident, and to want to tell stories, as he did through his films.
Better to say it aloud now than at a funeral or memorial service.
How is your relationship with your adult daughter? Or with your Dad?
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- The Importance of Fathers (lifescript.com)