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I'm 25 years old, my parents got divorced when I was 22 years old. I've been staying with my mother since. My father has moved out and lives quite far from me, so occasionally about once every 2 weeks I'd see my father and maybe spend a Saturday or the weekend with him.

Before my parents got divorced, I got along well with my father and we had good times, but I was never really THAT close to him. Now since my parent's divorce, I feel I have drifted away from my father even more.

Whenever he calls me up, I don't really have anything to say to him. He just asks me how is my day, how is things going, how is my work and stuff like that. But I feel there's nothing much to talk about, and whenever I see him once about once every 2 weeks, there is really nothing to do or talk to him about. Furthermore, he is quite an dominating person (not dominating in a violent way but he acts like he is the head of the family, making decisions what to do), and I feel I'm already 25 years old and I have my own life, so sometimes when I see him once every 2 weeks, he tells me things like "hey lets go for a movie then go for lunch". But the problem is I feel I'm already an adult and I have my own plans.

I still love both my father (and mother) and I don't want to offend them in anyway, but sometimes I feel its unnecessary for my father to call me up few times a week and to make a huge effort to spend time with me, one reason being I'm already 25 years old. How do I deal with this whole problem? Is it normal to drift away from my father since he moved out and I don't see him often?

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3 Answers 3

There's a couple of answers here already, but so far nothing touches on the gorilla in the room:

Your relationship with your father is damaged. He knows it, you know it.

Your relationship doesn't sound completely broken (alcohol, abuse, anger, hate, etc.), just a little worse for the wear. You've seen the divorce and had to deal with an overbearing man. But now you're an adult. You have your own personality and as you said yourself, you have your own plans. (You were probably thinking about the trivialities of a Saturday afternoon when you typed that, but IMO it was a rather Freudian statement.)

Personally, I don't hear "distance" in your post, I hear "weariness". It seems that there are certain aspects of the relationship that have become tedious. Nobody wants to feel that talking to a close family member is akin to doing the damn dishes... again.

But, the good part is that it's not like the weather. When the weather is not what you want, nobody can do anything about it. When a relationship is not what you want, you absolutely can fix it. It's uncomfortable and nobody truly knows how to do it, but I will tell you from my own experience as the father in a similar situation, it takes guts to start the conversation and perseverance to finish it.

My opinion: You have to talk with him (not us) about the things you mentioned here.

You love him like your father, but you're not a kid anymore.

This is clearly one of your concerns. Who doesn't want to live their life free of someone interjecting? Explain this. Explain that he doesn't have to protect you from the world anymore. Explain that you have goals and the ambition to achieve them... I suppose that if you're staying with mom for reasons other than the utilitarian (rent is too expensive, haven't gotten a job related to your education, etc) you might change that last part a bit.

I would, however, suggest that you remember that he's old enough to be your father and that he probably has some useful thoughts on 'things'. In other words, don't forget to ask his advice on things every now and then.

You love him like your father and you're not playing favorites by staying with mom.

This is clearly one of his concerns, otherwise he wouldn't call you all the time about nothing. Hell, maybe you are playing favorites, but he needs to at least know that he's divorced from her, not you. You can absolutely have a great relationship with someone and only talk to them 4-5 times a year. A great relationship doesn't really need weekly maintenance. I believe that your relationship with your father can be like that, you both just have to get used to it after X number of years of being there daily.

But you know what else? It's not a convo that has to drag on for an hour, or needs a special appointment. Take him up on a movie and lunch offer or make the offer yourself. Then during lunch you bring it up... make your points clearly and talk... but let the convo flow... and you might just learn a little something about each other.

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Your situation is very familiar to me. You want to be independent and make your own choices, yet at the same time you wish for a closer bond with your father. Fortunately, you can have it both ways.

You've probably already realized that one reason for the rather empty phone calls is simply that nothing much has changed since last time. So you end up talking about incredibly boring and superficial stuff like the weather and the neighbor's cat. I never liked those phone calls; they'd be devastatingly boring and after hanging up I'd have no idea how he's doing or what he's thinking about. That often left me with conflicting emotions of "nothing to say" and "wasted opportunity."

One simple solution is to have less frequent phone calls so that there'll be more news to talk about in each one. Since he's calling you, try asking him for a weekly "phone date" that you can look forward to and where you can make sure to avoid conflicting appointments. If he calls you at other times, politely ask him to call later as agreed. Consider a video chat session if you want to show him something like photos or new objects.

If you don't like his usual movie and lunch suggestions, then make a preemptive strike: think of something that you like and that you'd love to have him participate in, and cheerily invite him to it. The point is not just to do what you want but also to give him a view into his son's adult life. Try making it something that somehow demonstrates the adult version of you, to show that you're not his little son but now his big son instead.

Perhaps you have a hobby construction project, or a huge errand, or anything else he can help you with? Is there a sport you like to perform where you could offer a friendly challenge? You could also take a hike around a lake you used to visit as a kid -- he will certainly notice the contrast between that kid and the adult you.

I've found that the best bonding (whether in the family or in other settings) is doing some activity that involves a little cooperation and does not require constant eye contact. This happens to rule out both the movie and the lunch...

You say you've got your own plans so you don't need your father to dominate and plan your joint activities. Perhaps he plans for you because he feels a fatherly obligation which you could relieve him of. Involve him in your plans, and see how he responds. Finally: be open about this -- let him know that you love him and that you want to improve your relationship; that you want to try a few changes to see which one works for you. He might appreciate your initiative.

Good luck, and have fun!

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4  
+1 "I've found that the best bonding (whether in the family or in other settings) is doing some activity that involves a little cooperation and does not require constant eye contact." –  woliveirajr May 13 '13 at 21:25
    
+1 for being "open about this", it is only through honest communication that you will both have a happy and healthy relationship. –  Dave Nelson May 14 '13 at 13:42
    
Good post, but I hate the word "bonding". In my experience, if people are talking or thinking "bonding" when they're doing something, then they're doing anything but. Maybe it's just me but my great relationships aren't work. Not at all. –  monsto May 30 '13 at 5:42
    
@monsto: I understand "bonding" to mean the act of building/improving a relationship. I agree the word sounds odd but couldn't think of a better word. And yes, blatant attempts aimed straight at "bonding" is the least effective method, and probably even counterproductive. As you say, it has to come naturally -- that's why I suggest a non-confrontational team activity. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun May 31 '13 at 7:17

If you want to maintain a relationship with him, "I'm already an adult and have my own plans" isn't going to contribute to it. Perhaps you just need to plan further in advance. If you know now that 2 weeks from now you'll be spending the day together, you won't make conflicting plans with other people.

A movie followed by a meal is a great choice because it gives you something to talk about during the meal. You could also ask him to help you with some grownup thing you are doing. If you had your own place you might need help fixing things or choosing things, but even while still living with your other parent, perhaps you would like to go on some sort of shopping expedition and he could come and help? Or could you come to his new place and garden together, paint a room, work on a car? Let him cook for you, or you go to his house and cook for him? There are lots of things you can do together rather than just staring at each other wondering what to talk about and how to have a relationship. Bike rides, hikes, fishing, and attending or watching sports events are also classic father-kid activities for a reason.

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