My Complicated Relationship with my Father

CW: This article contains discussion of parental abuse. 


When you’re a child, it’s only natural to assume that the life you live is the norm—that everyone goes home after school to similar homes, circumstances, and parents. As one grows, however, the differences between your life and others lives begin to be seen, and begin to become obvious.

I remember one of the first days that I realized that my home life was different than the home lives of my friends. I had stayed the night at my friend’s house, and after staying up all night gossiping we were both exhausted and sprawled out on the couch. My friend’s mother was (extremely thoughtfully) making us pancakes when her father walked in. My friend immediately perked up, and seeing that she was visibly tired, he picked her up and pulled her onto his lap, hugging her and kissing her, comforting her. I was confused, I genuinely did not know that fathers could, or did, treat their daughters that way.

I excused myself quickly after breakfast, and I went home to my mother. As soon as I walked in and saw my mom I started crying. She was obviously concerned, and wondered what was wrong. I didn’t know how to express what I was feeling. All I said was “He was nice to her,” and kept on crying. I was younger then, I didn’t know how to say what I meant, but as I got older I found the words.

My whole life, all I had received from my father was either a cold indifference or a powerful anger—I was either ignored, or the object of rage that I assumed I had caused. I’m sure I was hugged, yet what stands out in my mind are not these few instances of forced affection. I remember the shouting, the glares, the threats, the calling of names that I had never heard in real life, only in movies that I was deemed too young to be watching.

As I grew up and realized that these interactions were not “normal,” they only began to hurt more and to have a visible effect on my life. I developed crippling anxiety that began to affect every part of my life, culminating in panic attacks and physical illness. As part of my parents’ divorce agreement I was required to go to my father’s house, and for a few weeks around my freshman or sophomore year, I vomited every time I entered the house.

In addition to realizing that my relationship with my father was not “normal” and definitely not healthy, I realized something else as I aged as well. Despite the feelings of confusion, anger, worthlessness, and overall negativity that I had grown so used to experiencing and feeling, I realized that I was not defined by my relationship with this person. No matter how he made me feel or what he said to me, I knew my worth and my value as a human being, and I knew that eventually I would be able to move past what I had experienced, and allow it to make me stronger.

While moving past something like years of abuse is never easy and I can’t say that at this point in my life I have yet been able to fully grow and move on, I can say that I now know that I am in control of who I allow myself to spend time with, what I am willing to put up with from others, and when I need to stand up for myself. Despite how someone treated me for years, I know that I have worth and that I do not deserve to be treated as anything less than the smart, successful, strong woman that I am.

To anyone who may be involved in a similar situation, be strong. I know how hard it is to live with abuse—especially from a parent, someone who is supposed to love and support you more than anyone else in your life. In my experience, the best way to survive and thrive is to seek help, whether from another parent, friends, or from a mental health professional, and to persevere no matter what comes your way, even when it seems impossible. There is no better revenge against someone who wants to tear you down than your success and your survival.

You are strong enough to withstand whatever is put your way, and despite what you may be told or what you may experience, you are loved, you are valued, and you are worthy of love and everything that this world has to offer you. Believe in your worth and your strength, and anything is possible.


Image credit: Featured image, 1, 2