Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Adult Child Has Forgiven Dad, Thinks Mom Should, Too

DEAR HARRIETTE: My dad and I haven’t always had the best relationship, but now that I am older, I am starting to realize the importance of having a father figure in my life. We’ve been reconnecting lately and starting to mend our relationship, but we’ve been doing it privately because I am afraid that our reconnecting would hurt my mother. She was never able to forgive him for a lot of things he did in the past -- including being an absentee father. I’ve forgiven him, and I think she should, too. What should I do? -- Dad Issues

DEAR DAD ISSUES: Your budding relationship with your father is wonderful. And you should definitely continue to nurture that bond and get to know him. You should also be able to do so publicly if you like. He is your father, after all. But what you cannot do is put a burden on your mother by trying to get her to have a relationship with him. What happened between the two of them is very different from what happened between you and him. Marriages can be complicated and messy. Whatever occurred that hurt your mother so deeply is up to her to face.

What you can do is let her know how grateful you are that you are able to develop a new bond with your father. You can let her know that you do not want this to hurt her feelings. You should also be thoughtful about it. While you may see your father publicly, do not create scenarios where the two of them have to be in the same space unless and until your mother is comfortable with that.