Abandoned

Written by
Michael Wells

Abandoned

Coping, as a Child of Divorce

Written by
Michael Wells

Abandoned

Coping, as a Child of Divorce

Written by
Michael Wells
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QUESTION
“How am I supposed to cope with my father choosing his girlfriend over me?”

My father and mother divorced when I was all of four years old.

Before I understood what was happening, my father moved out and started a new family, which would eventually feature 3 daughters and a son. All of his attention was demanded there, and my mother discouraged any contact between us.

As such, I never got to know him.

As a kid, I didn't understand anything except that my dad had left us, and had chosen another family. My imagination said "he doesn't love me," "I'm not enough," "people can't be depended on."

And this was how I saw my life. But someday- I always intended to get "closure" on those feelings and find out why he left.

Unfortunately, during my teenage years, before I was old enough to leave home and seek him out on my own- he passed away. We never got to meet and learn about each other's lives.

I never knew what happened, or how he could leave me.

However I did manage to find, and to meet my half-siblings. I got to see his house, where he lived. I got to visit his study library, which defined who he was and what he sought to understand. I even got to meet and talk to his second wife.

Meeting his “other” family provoked all kinds of weird feelings, but it showed me some essential things I didn’t know.

Here's what I learned

  • My dad wanted to have a relationship with me, but my mom made that very difficult.
  • My dad had new, pressing commitments to his new family as well. That didn’t mean he didn’t love me, or had forgotten about me, but he had more immediate, pressing needs from people under the same roof.
  • My dad’s new wife wanted him to have a relationship with me, however, she didn’t want him to maintain much connection with my mom. I understand jealousy, and why that was difficult for her to feel comfortable with.
  • His new kids, my half-siblings, knew all about me. I knew nothing about them. My mother hadn't even told me they existed. I discovered them by accident.
  • To my surprise... my dad suffered from our separation, as much as I did.

In short, relationships are complicated... and I didn't know any of this as a kid.

Dad psychology

For men, the father-child relationship involves a neurotransmitter called Vasopressin. You can think of it as the desire to protect-and-provide for your kids.

And it's intense.

Dads will do amazing things, sacrifice decades of their lives to protect and to provide. But once the child is self-sufficient, that relationship changes.

At that point as a dad, you want them to develop that independence, that self-confidence and self-esteem. Dads quietly fade into the background, and focus their energy on other things- watching... there to help, but not interfering.

What this means for you

I don’t know your age, but my guess is that these are probably true;

  1. Your dad loves you very much
  2. He’s always there if you need him, but in his view, you don’t need him right now, and want your independence
  3. He probably didn’t “choose” his girlfriend over you. She likely had some influence there- even if she didn’t intend to. She shapes his world and priorities in a big way, simply by being a more immediate part of his world.
  4. Being an adult doesn’t mean you are suddenly full of wisdom. He’s likely just as confused about your situation, his feelings, and what to do- as you are.
  5. He can’t read your mind. If he knew that you feel unloved, and want more connection with him, it would break his heart. He would also try is best to make that happen, unless someone is actively preventing it.

You’ll understand much better with age and experience, especially if you become a parent someday, and experience watching your own kids grow to adulthood.

Whatever you do, know that your dad loves you in his own way, even when he’s not messaging, even when he’s not with you.

You might be surprised how much he loves you, and how often he thinks about you, how much he misses you, and how badly he wishes life were different.

Reach out. It's your life, and sometimes you have to be the "parent" even with your own parents.

Weird, eh.

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First published on 
. Last updated on 
February 12, 2022

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