In the process of deciding whether or not to reconcile with my father, I was encouraged to consider the following:
1. Can I handle the possibility of being rejected, or of having to walk away all over again?
No cut and dry answer here – to some degree, it depends on where we are in the process. Yes, I can handle having to walk away again; how difficult that might be is subject to variables unknowable at this point in time.
2. Have we both experienced significant emotional growth and change since we estranged? Or, are we the same as we were at the time of our estrangement?
I can speak only for myself; I am fifty-two, not twenty-two – the age I was when I last saw my father; my emotional growth since estrangement is a given. When I decided to walk away, I couldn’t talk about Why – and I didn’t think I owed him an explanation even if I could. When dealing with Ed then, I was purposely who he taught me to be – now, I try to show kindness and respect to everyone, even Ed. I can still be reactive, and I will never forgive, but I am able now to engage – to meet him, not in the middle, but somewhere along the path. His emotional growth will take me time to recognize, acknowledge and accept …
3. Can I trust myself to set and maintain clear, respectful boundaries?
4. Do I feel the need to engage in old arguments and to “change” his perceptions, or can I respond differently to old family patterns?
Quite simply: I want nothing to do with the man, the father, I know him to be. I don’t feel a need to change him, but if he hasn’t changed we cannot reconcile. Old Family Patterns – there is so much to this thought I could write volumes, but the short answer is: I will no longer engage in the flawed thinking that defined my family, and my father, when last I knew him.
5. Am I able to stand confidently in my own separate identity? Or am I emotionally enmeshed with my family members?
I am confident – I know without a doubt who and what I am; my identity is safe. I don’t identify with my family – my father in that way, I never have – this is part of why walking away was so easy for me; I never felt a real connection to him to begin with. I always felt out of place in my parent’s house … never understood them, and never wanted to; there is no understanding people who did what they did to me. I didn’t want to be like them in any way.
6. Do I feel the need to rehash the past?
At a certain point, to a certain degree, this is inevitable.
7. Do I feel internal or external pressure to reconcile before I am emotionally capable?
8. Is the threat of physical and/or emotional violence still present in my family?
This is complicated … I grew up, he can’t hurt me now; I want to know he wouldn’t even if he still could. I want to believe the man he is today views the man he once was as vile and repugnant. I want to know the man he is today is incapable of doing the things he did to me. If the man he was is still present in our family, I will not be.
9. Am I still angry? Is he/she angry?
Anger is hard for me. Anger, when I was sick and couldn’t control it, caused pain and anguish for my wife and children – I don’t do Angry anymore, haven’t for a very long time …
but yes, I am damned mad at Ed. For everything he did and everything it caused. It is manageable anger, and it isn’t connected to a need to lash out or seek any kind of revenge, but it is there. I think it will resolve itself with time, understanding and acceptance of who he is now … if the man who hurt me no longer exists, how can I be mad at him directly?
10. Will reconciliation add to or detract from my life?
Selfish question; what do I gain from having a relationship with my father – or, what do I lose by rejecting him … ? People are not tools, we shouldn’t use them, nor should we choose to have them in our lives based on what they can and cannot do for us.
If the relationship with my father feels comfortable and right, something I need to spend time with him to know, it will be a welcomed addition to my life … and like all other relationships in my life, it will be healthy and based in mutual respect, love and concern each for the other …
It’s about balance and understanding, not adding to or detracting from.