Dear Neil: I can relate to an article you wrote some months ago on parental alienation. My two daughters are now in their mid-twenties, and have started the beginnings of their own lives. To this day, nothing has changed for me regarding my relationship with my now two young adult children. My time spent with my children slowly dissolved since the divorce with their mother many years ago. But I kept trying: every birthday, every holiday, every weekend. Through a call, a card or through me being in their town, I was there. But the relationship slowly died to where there were no more phone calls, no more weekends—to where it is now—no more contact.
Reading your description of parental alienation, I felt myself slipping from the present moment back into my past, casting a pall over me. Thankfully for the years of counseling, years of recovery and a loving relationship, those feelings were quickly put into check.
I have chosen to accept this situation for what it is. Not for what I want, but for what it is. There comes a time when you don’t have to “give up,” but rather accept what is, and embrace your life now.
You failed to mention this.
Accepting in Colorado
Dear Accepting: Good point. If we expand the subject to include all the dreams that we have not achieved and all the goals we have failed to accomplish, we are forced to accept that some things just don’t work out no matter how hard we try. We then have no choice but to make peace with the relationship we wanted but can’t have, the goal we couldn’t achieve, or the dream that we simply can’t reach.
So how do we make peace with what is—rather than what we want, what we wish for or what we try hard to accomplish—but fail at?
The answer, simply put, is to continue doing what you described in your letter. You must redirect your attention to what creates satisfaction and happiness in your life, and reduce the investment you have in being hurt, angry or vengeful.
I do not mean to imply that you shouldn’t leave the door open to your two girls. You could still communicate that you would love to reestablish contact whenever they are ready and willing. But you have wisely accepted that you can’t force them to have a relationship with you, so all you are left with is to patiently wait and hope.
But you could also look at what you are grateful for regarding the relationship you have had with your two kids. How are you enriched, wiser, more empathetic and a better person because of those relationships? What will you always hold dear about your relationship with your girls? What are the proud, happy memories? What do you cherish about your two daughters and your role as a father, even if you can’t have a daddy-daughter connection right now?
You mention several things that are good about your life right now. That’s another way to keep your spirit high and your attitude positive. In which ways are you actually living your dreams? Are there additional dreams you desire, but that you’re not actively pursuing? Are there things you could do that would improve your intimate relationship, or your career/profession, or your relationships with friends, animals and others you feel close to? How about your health, level of fitness and diet? Reasonably speaking, how could you add more fun to your life?
None of this will give you a relationship with your daughters, but it hopefully will keep your spirit strong and your emotions in check. But just so that you know, you are doing some of the tougher things that life asks of us: remaining strong, practicing forgiveness and being resilient.