The father of a teenager struggles to keep things civil with her – just as he used to with her mother. Mariella Frostrup says the couple’s ‘emotional hangover’ is hurting everyone
The dilemma I don’t know what to do with my teenage daughter (she’s turning 18 this month). I left her mum five years ago, and moved into a flat close by. Since then she has not sent me a text or a card or anything on my birthday or at Christmas, never invited me to a birthday party or thanked me for gifts and money. Looking back through all the messages she has sent me, every single one has been either an angry tirade or a request for a lift. If I do everything she wants and give her a lift every time she wants it, she is at least indifferent, if not, she gets really angry. She has an older brother and it was difficult with him for a few years too, but we’ve been getting on better recently, and we’ve even gone to the pub a couple of times (at his suggestion). But I have seen zero progress with my daughter. She uses the same phrases as her mother when pointing out all my character flaws and I can’t help feeling that as she gets older, she is becoming more and more like her mother, which is bad news for our future relationship. I feel that I can do the right things every time and when I trip up once I undo all the good things immediately.
Mariella replies Damned if you do, damned if you don’t! The clearest thing I can glean from your letter is that there are high levels of anger bubbling just beneath the surface. Despite the passage of years, it certainly doesn’t sound like yours is a break-up that’s been resolved but rather an event that continues to reverberate. The words we choose to use are always telling. As you describe it you “left” her mother, your daughter is “becoming more and more like her mother” and that’s “bad news” for your relationship. With so little love lost between you and your ex-wife, it’s small wonder your daughter remains so conflicted in her feelings toward you.
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