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During special occasions throughout the year the card aisle in the stores are filled with a variety of special sayings that are supposed to evoke memories from the past and childhood. But what if those memories don’t exist.? What if your father was physically there in your house growing up, but emotionally absent? Abuse comes in different forms and just because it’s not physical, doesn’t mean it’s not toxic or dysfunctional.

All loving relationships should be healthy and create a sense of mutual respect. I found an excerpt of a woman who says her dad was emotionally absent her whole life. Here is what she had to say

My father is passive abusive. His emotional abuse is very covert. Mostly he just doesn’t care, doesn’t listen when I talk to him, doesn’t know anything about me, my life or my kids because he doesn’t care to know and he doesn’t listen to anyone who tries to tell him. To the general public (and according to my siblings), my father is regarded as this ‘nice’ guy and he is never violent, never mean and never hurtful with his words, but the truth is that his relationship style is dismissive and disinterested all of which is very hurtful. I spent many years in childhood and in adulthood ‘begging’ (in all kinds of ways) my emotionally abusive father to notice me. The fact that he didn’t was and is very hurtful. There is a very loud message that is delivered to me when I am disregarded. The message is that I don’t matter, that I am not important, that I am not worth listening to and that I don’t have anything to contribute to his life. My father is emotionally unavailable, and that is very hurtful. Love is an action and love doesn’t damage self-esteem. Love doesn’t define a ‘loved one’ as insignificant.

So why are some parents emotionally absent?

Well, this can be a long list but some reasons may include that their parents were the same way, they are dealing with their own life disappointments, they are depressed and could never pull out of it, they could have some chronic illness that keeps them grumpy and distant. Regardless of the reason why, it can still be very painful for children involved.

If you had, and still have an emotionally absent parent here are some things to try:

Don’t Ignore Your Emotions
The way you feel is valid and important. Don’t ever shove your emotions under a rug to make someone else feel better. It’s important to have an outlet. Whether that outlet is a therapist, journaling, or talking to a best friend, try and figure a way to get some things out from childhood.

Set Boundaries
Stop asking this parent to do things you know he will continue to say no to because you will just continue to get disappointed every time. Instead, if you know you have to be around him a lot or at least for family gatherings, deal with him accordingly. Keep the conversations short and sweet and keep it moving. Send your love and prayers from a distance because that’s all you really can do for now until he ever heals himself.

Don’t Blame Yourself
My father was never in my life at all (physically or emotionally) and I had a tendency to wonder over the years, what did I do to deserve that? The answer is: nothing! Remember that your father is a human being with his own very serious issues that could range from depression to being mentally ill and it’s not your fault.

Focus on Self
The best thing you can do when you have hurt and painful memories from an emotionally absent father is slowly re-build your own self-esteem. This is a process and will vary per person but could start in the most simple way. It will not happen overnight but you could even buy some sticky notes and write positive things about yourself and put them all over the house where you can see them. Leave them up until you start to believe some of them. You could read books on self-esteem or join a support group for women that are in your same boat to see what works for them. But whatever you do don’t dwell in the sadness. If you allow his behavior to ruin your entire life, he wins.

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