How can I connect with my conservative father?
How can I communicate effectively with my conservative father? It hasn’t bothered me much until now, as he is furloughed and has a lot of extra time. We are as opposite as can be and I’ve always refrained from expressing my opinion around him to avoid conflict, but he isn’t as courteous. With him, it always comes down to politics, but I don’t want our relationship to be about that. I lost my mom two years ago and I long to feel a closeness to him that I haven’t felt since I was a child. I also just want him to find happiness. The more he expresses his political opinions and gets wrapped up in the news, the angrier I get and my tendency is to avoid. I look at my friends who can say anything they want around their parents with envy. But I don’t want to push him away! I’m getting married in November and want him to play an integral role like most fathers. I’ve considered writing a letter so I can express myself carefully, but I’m afraid of not being taken seriously and that’s what hurts the most.
I am deeply touched by your love for your father. It comes through every line of this paragraph; your desire for connection and closeness with your dad is evident. This love from a daughter to her father is a primal ache, sometimes a grief-filled one, and, in your case, a complicated balance of opposites. Your longing to be close to your father is likely compounded by the fact that you have so recently lost your mother, and that you have a wedding ahead. You say you long to feel close to him as you felt as a child—at this incredible time in your life, you long to be parented, and you deserve to be parented.
Write the letter.
Deliver it to him or don’t. As an adult, I have written many unsent letters to my parents. It might be too delicate for you to share this letter with your dad, or it might resonate with him. Either way, your desire for connection and peacefulness within the relationship deserves to be written.
If you do share the letter with your dad—and I encourage you to do so—it is not likely he will be capable of adjusting his tone overnight. He has his own entanglements with fear, with grief, to his own identity—these are often at the root of our political conflicts and are not easily untangled. Beyond that, this is one of the most politically charged and polarized eras in our country’s history. It’s a difficult time to ease tensions and host meaningful conversations, especially within families. But it is important work, both for ourselves and the world.
Reading your letter may reveal to him the integral role that you desire he plays not only in your wedding but in your life. A letter may also offer him a glimpse that, in some real way, this political discussion and division is degrading to your sense of safety in the relationship. If he is incapable of respecting this boundary, yes, it will hurt a great deal. But this hurt will heal in time.
You clearly wish the best for your dad, and you want him to be happy. I admire that goodness inside of you, and I urge you to turn that love and generosity to yourself: advocate for what you need and what you feel is right. Be truthful to your father, or at the very least, to yourself.
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AmyAnn Cadwell is CEO & Co-Founder of The Good Trade and an angel investor in mission-driven companies.