To say my father and I did not get along when I was younger would be a severe understatement. We loathed the sight of each other, annoyed the heck out of one another and we fought like mad. Twenty-nine years of experience and much therapy later, my dad and I have a considerably better relationship.
When I was growing up, I played softball pretty heavily, which I was pretty sure was the only reason my father actually spoke to me. When he spoke (yelled) to me, it was correcting me, sometimes instructing me (angrily) on technique, ball speed, placement (general “awfulness”) etc. Being a complacent adolescent, I complied with everything without hesitation. The issue that broke the proverbial camel’s back is the fact that I am overweight. Let me correct myself, when I was younger I was definitely in shape (123 lbs. with a six pack that I rocked), but I wasn’t stick thin like everyone else. My entire family, especially my dad would get on my case about losing weight. The problem with that is, my dad cannot say anything subtly, like “oh Lee, you should keep lifting it was really working well for you” or “you look great no matter what.” My dad’s statements came out like, “no one will date a fat girl” or “I am surprised you can even run.”
I digress. Naturally, the quiet little girl eventually had a massive breakdown in high school. At this time, my older sister was in college, my mother had taken a temporary job and lived out of the area during the week, so it was my dad and I on our own. I went certifiably nuts on my father, yelling, cursing, acting out, anything. This of course, landed me in therapy.
Therapy, at first, was no help. None. Zilch. Nada. I hated it. My relationship with my father struggled throughout my college career but I finally found a therapist that I liked. I do not know so much that therapy finally worked because I ‘liked” my therapist or because I had matured. Needless to say, my therapist taught me the hard truth. My father was NOT going to change his behavior and I could only change the way I REACT to his behavior. My father, the uncouth, PTSD suffering, blunt man that he is, would always be that way.
Now, my father and I get along very well. Yes, he still makes comments about my weight or other things that make me mad, and if he really offends me, then I gently tell him that what he said hurt my feelings and I did not appreciate it. Eventually, my dad started to realize the statements that offended me and even though they would still slip out of his mouth, he would almost immediately regret it and apologize and try to make it up to me. He may not have changed, but I certainly did, and it was a lesson that I have carried with me everywhere.