Is it appropriate for me to choose not to have a relationship with my only son?
I am divorced 21 years. Is it appropriate for me to estrange myself from my only son (age 24) and never look back? Just because he is my son only means that society expects me to meet a standard of their own social bias, which is an expectation (since he is my son) that I need to "morally" maintain a relationship with him because I will always be the father. With the lack of respect he shows me (which is not loving at all), he is 24! I waited all these years to finally have a relationship with my son that we couldn't have because of the divorce. Everyone told me, "Someday you and he will be able to make up for lost time and build a loving relationship that you both missed out on." -- That is not true. Instead, it is a continuous daily and weekly struggle of being hurt and ignored by him, and I am not willing to wait anymore with false hope. I waited and endured the pain of waiting long enough. By deliberately estranging myself from him, I can walk away from the ongoing disappointment of the same disappointment I felt for the last 21 years. I can't endure anymore! I feel broken inside, and I am out of hope. I want to walk away and never look back. -- Is this OK for me to do? I mean, does it really mean I am a bad person after enduring this for so long and wanting no more of it? I feel so strongly about this that if I ever have a funeral, I don't even want him there! -- I am not sure what to think or how much I should endure anymore.
As a parent, I don't think I personally would give up forever. I may take a break and back off for a bit but I'd leave the door open and always hope.
You are filled with hostility and anger. This is unhealthy. I would consider some therapy.
Remember, children are victims in divorce. They have much going on and are pulled in different directions. yeah, they can get a bit screwed up--- and the teen years and young adulthood is notorious for parent/child issues. Cut your son some slack.
To me, you sound like you need to work on all these feelings without taking any drastic steps. good luck
It seems like you are looking for someone to tell you 'yes, that is okay'. I can't do that, in fact, I can't tell you not to do it, either. No one here is in your life, in your mind, feeling your feelings, or having your opinions. You are right when you say that society has expectations of people that do not always make sense. This is exactly why I can't answer for you. You are you. Do as you feel is right for you. God bless - Blu
"The same disappointment I've been experiencing for the last 21 years?" You mean, since your son was 3, he has been disappointing you by not taking the lead in your relationship? Or are you transferring your anger at your ex wife to your son, who was a child for most of the last 21 years and probably still is, given how slowly young men mature in our society?
Please see a counselor. You're dumping a load of wants, emotional expectations and undefined demands onto someone who did not create them, and probably had a difficult time himself, being raised without a dad. You're acting like you are expecting him to come around, act sorry for things he did not create, and take care of you relationship-wise. Would you have known how to do that for your father when you were only 24 if your dad came along with victimized-sounding statements like "I'm broken inside"?
Please take a break from expecting your child to come in like Saint Son and fix everything, and instead see a therapist and begin to work on you, so you can feel better, son or no son.
BUT, I have to say, reading through your post my guess is your son might be very happy to be done with this relationship - that has come about way way too late in life to be helpful for him. He needed you when he was little, and for whatever reason you weren't there.
Now, you need him, and he doesn't really need you so much.
Of course, none of us here know why you were denied access, or even if you were, or what the circumstances were that you waited until he was an adult to achieve a connection.
You might want to YouTube Cats in the Cradle by Harry Chapin.
This reply is not to one person, but in general:
I had to work all of my life. I could not be home to be with my family. We lived in a poor area where there are "haves" and "have not's." I maintained a nice place for my son and my ex-wife to live, and I provided the "creature comforts" including (of course) all child support that was ever due. I never blamed my son for the divorce. I know he is not at fault. I loved and cared for him the best I could, but the courts chose his mother as the custodial parent, and I fought it, but lost. Their reasoning was "she is a female." -- No kidding.
So, I had no choice but to wait and hope that some day we could/might connect later. At least I was financially responsible, and I loved him more than he knows.
It is this post (quote) from RockRose that I now know is correct:
// your son might be very happy to be done with this relationship - that has come about way way too late in life to be helpful for him. He needed you when he was little, and for whatever reason you weren't there. //
That IS what is eating at me, and it is not his fault. Yet, as responsible as I was, and as loving as I was, but as absent as I was, and as much as it was no one's fault (except my ex-wife who used to physically beat on me) -- although I married her! -- So, that is my fault -- That quote is exactly correct. I can feel it, and I know it. THAT is what I was looking for, but could not put my finger on it! -- And now I know that it is OK for me to walk away and estrange myself from my son because, in reality, he has already done so.
I'm glad you saw Rose's point, because I agree. I read a lot of resentment in your posts..maybe not directed right at your son, but it's kind of coming off that way...and most likely, your son has felt that way too. I'm going to give you my honest input.
While paying child support and providing financially is ever so important, you obviously know that doesn't make one a "dad". Even though your ex wife got sole custody, it sounds like you didn't try very hard to pursue a relationship, because of your issues with her. I'm sure it wasn't easy in that kind of circumstance, but for the children, you need to do whatever it takes to be there for your children, in EVERY sense of the word. It sounds like you were sure to take care of your legal/financial obligations, but kind of gave yourself a pass on the rest...so as not to have to deal with your ex too much. Does that sound about right?
I can see why your son would be angry...especially because you're trying NOW. Try to put yourself in his shoes. He was a baby when you got divorced, so all he knows from YOU is disappointment. Do you think a child of 5, 6 cares that the tennis shoes on his feet were provided by YOU? Of course not..what sticks with the kids is who was around for the important stuff...who they could count on, turn to, feel close to. You came up short in the categories that mattered the most. It would be frustrating to have a parent then come much later, after the damage is done, to try to have a relationship. He probably feels like, "why now?" and probably questions your motive.
I think you're looking for people to tell you it's okay to walk away...and while that MAY end up being best, it's the easy way out...I think you're again looking for the ok to give yourself a pass, because to try means having to admit to some things that will make you uncomfortable. Just like it was easy not to face the uncomfortable stuff in the past, you don't want to do it now either. MOST relationships are repairable...you have to sort through a LOT of hurt and make your son BELIEVE that you have a lot of regrets, and that you KNOW you did a lot of things wrong. You have to convince him that you're sincere.
It's a lot easier, and more comfortable emotionally to tell yourself that he's too far gone, hates you and wants nothing to do with you. Somewhere in that 24 year old is that little boy who needs and wants a Daddy...who probably wants a grandpap for his kids...but he probably has NO clue how to chip away at all of the anger and hurt to get to that boy.
He would have to work on forgiveness and acceptance, and judging from what you've said here, up until now, I doubt you've been very convincing about your regret for your past shortcomings. If anything, you probably just pissed him off more, because an apology likely came wrapped with an excuse..."I'm sorry I wasn't there for you son, BUT the courts sided with your Mom"...or..."I feel badly that I wasn't a better Dad, BUT remember who put the roof over your head". If those are the kinds of convos you have had with your son to date, of course he wants nothing to do with you...he's not seeing any accountability, and just hearing more excuses...and all that does is pour salt in the wounds.
If you REALLY want to repair what you have with your son, you have to start by taking accountabilty for the things you didn't do...which means a sincere apology, NO excuses, an offer to try to get to know one another from scratch, preferrably with some help from a professional, like a family therapist. Someone who can mediate the discussions where you will work through all of the stuff from the past. It's going to take time...he's used to not being able to count on you...so you have to have patience, and while he may not be very flexible and giving in this situation, as hard as it is, I think it's important that YOU own that...that's something that is the way it is because of you being an absentee father. He has to be able to SEE that you're going to follow through.
Your son probably feels as though he was nothing more than a financial/legal obligation...which translates into a "burden" in his eyes I'm sure. I'm sure you love your son, and I'm sure you have lots of regrets. You need to SHOW him that...and try to move forward. Writing him off shouldn't be an option...even if it takes a lifetime.
I know some of my words are harsh, and I'm not trying to be unkind, just very honest...,some of it may apply, and some of it may not. You have to think that through yourself...and decide how much of it is true. Best of luck to you...I sincerely hope you are able to reconnect with your son. Life is far too short to not try at least. It would be a shame to go through life with all of those regrets. You may end up with a relationship you never expected...and that would be wonderful for the BOTH of you.
I entirely agree with nursegirl. If I were separated from my son, even if it were by a sleazy legal trick and I were infuriated with my husband, the last thing I would ever do is sulk and back off. I'd be in his face about contact and push him on it every day. They would have to lock me up to keep me away from the issue because I would do anything to stay connected to my son. You didn't do that. You pouted and acted taken advantage of and paid the money presumably so you could keep the mental movie going about poor, misunderstood victim of the legal system, starring you, who now doesn't have to try to stay in touch with his baby. I don't hear a lot of emotional connection to your son then or now, no breaking through your wall of self pity and blame of others for your issues. Too bad, mostly too bad for yourself, because it sounds like in these many years you have not become accountable. Sounds like you're eager to walk away from this difficult relationship because your M.O. is walking away from difficult relationships and looking to justify it. Wish you'd get some therapy for that tendency, or you'll never find lasting love or peace in relationships, whether with your son or someone else.
I am also thinking, if this is just too much and you are shrinking entirely away from it, one way you could consider rekindling the relationship (if your son will ever let you) is to learn to and plan to be the best grandpa ever, against the time when your son is married and his wife (if not himself) could stand the help. My stepdad, not my dad, is my son's favorite grandpa, and the guy and I didn't even know each other when I was growing up. This is because he is trustworthy, patient, present emotionally, and comes over with my mom once a week to play with my son, without boredom or his own agenda. He transparently enjoys the grandpa role and that makes him welcome. Of course, if this is how you tried to reconnect some day, you would have to get past a wall of suspicion from your son, but it might be an entree where other doors are shut.
It isn't that I am unwilling to agree entirely with the feedback from everyone because some of it (or much of it) is on target. Yet, there is nothing different that I could have done in the past to change anything. I picked my son up every chance I had, whenever I had the time, whenever my employer allowed the time for me to do so. That is the consequence of divorce and not being the custodial parent, which is also not my fault, nor my son's fault. No one, really, is to blame. I am not actually searching for blame, and the anger and resentment that I feel most of all rests with the Court. I would have most certainly been far better the parent for custody, but I cannot change that, either. What is done, is done.
What I am asking mostly is not so much "permission" to estrange myself from my son, but to ask if it is best to do so since, as RockRose pointed out, I am not useful for my son, and that not being his fault either -- nor mine.
Yet, since this is the case that my son does not feel a sense of usefulness for me to be involved in his life, and my willingness to mend, fix, soothe, comfort, share, build, participate, give, forgive, love, accept, nurture, encourage, etc... -- in a relationship with my son, which is being met by him with rejection, carelessness, thoughtlessness, shallow concern, haphazard gratitude, disrespect, and a general overall reflection of casual interest. -----
The question is not so much to figure out "what aught to have been and how bad I was for not being able to have changed a thing," but to ask "what am I to do now, and if he just doesn't feel a sense of obligation to reciprocate, then should I just walk away for his benefit, and for mine?"
I am only human. I did the best I could. I was there for him as much as I possibly could be. I could not have changed a thing, nor could I have done anymore than I already did to be there for him. He, too, is only human. I cannot force him to feel something he doesn't feel. So, I wonder if it is better that I walk away.
However, if I do --- THAT can never be undone. So, I have decided to accept whatever it is that he doesn't feel, and not to fault him for not feeling a certain way. Maybe someday he will feel willing to allow a relationship with him to grow. --- But, I am not getting any younger. I will just have to see.
Thanks for all the replies and feedback. I appreciate it. -- Thank you.
What's confusing is that you say you couldn't have done anything different...and couldn't change anything, but yet initially you said this..
I waited all these years to finally have a relationship with my son that we couldn't have because of the divorce. Everyone told me, "Someday you and he will be able to make up for lost time and build a loving relationship that you both missed out on."
What would change when he became an adult? I mean, I get that you were not the custodial parent, but what were your visitation arrangements? If you felt you weren't granted enough visitation, did you try to ammend that with the courts? While I understand that many times the child gets placed with the mother...there shouldn't have been any reason you couldn't have had frequent visitations, is there?
If you knew in the moment that there was some sort of disconnect there, what did you do to fix it at that time? I'll give you that you probably would have had a different kind of closeness had you raised him under the same roof 24/7...but I don't get how a custody arrangement could have impeded the relationship that severely. I'll be honest that it sounds like you just went through the motions and did what was required, with not a lot of extra. I don't think you're FULLY taking accountability for the fact that there IS blame to be assigned...and a good bit probably lies with you.
I just think if your son is getting the same impression WE are, then I can understand where his anger is coming from. You admit to knowing that there was a closeness/bonding problem from very early on after the divorce. Can you fairly say you did enough to fix that? And by fix...I don't think waiting until he became an adult was a reasonable option.
Just being honest. I would hate to see you pile on even more regrets. You seem to be the kind of person who says "I'll fix it later". Later may never come.
I hope you decide to give it some more time (he's only 24 after all) and I hope your son gives you a chance to prove that things will be different this time around. The circumstances might not have been the most optimal...but I bet you could have done a lot better. Sounds like you kind of rolled over and gave up.
I think the problem that I still have with this is your statements that you did the best you could. I just don't believe that - it keeps coming out in your posts. You visited him when you had the time, whenever your employer allowed you the time to do so. There are other jobs. The point is, your son wasn't your priority, but something you made some effort to see when your real priorities allowed could be arranged around your son.
I'm just not sensing at all that he's ever been a priority, and isn't now. and you are relieved to believe that maybe it's best for both of you to go your separate ways so he won't keep up that unpleasantness. If you were to say you were forbidden from seeing him based on a false accusation of abuse, for example, and you bankrupted yourself on lawyer fees trying to get visitation, I'd say you tried your best.
But you didn't try your best, and now he's resentful and if he's not going to be warm and receptive, you'd frankly rather not have to put up with that unpleasantness.
Although honestly I do think that might be better for him. No one wants to be told to make nice with someone who abandoned them.
I do wish you well, but all I can keep hearing is Cats in the Cradle when I read your stuff. You weren't there, by choices you made.
Where you choose to spend your time and your treasure, there is your heart. It's not with him. It's with whatever else you were spending your time and treasure on while he was desperate for Dad.
None of those assessments are even remotely accurate.
The expense of a degree and the debt to pay off that expense are a priority for anyone, and filing bankrupt was never an option. Debt is a responsibility, and that includes child support, which I paid faithfully, including his medical bills and school supplies, and his clothes.
As for his living, when I was married, my ex-wife and her two children (and then my son) lived on our 18 acre farm with horses, a new reliable vehicle, plenty of food, and a beautiful home. All of them had horses and other things they enjoyed as any family with a decent income would enjoy.
I came home from work one night after working away from home for three weeks. I was home five minutes (because I kept track) and my ex-wife began arguing with me at the end of five minutes. She was verbally, emotionally and physically abusive. She didn't become that way until one year after marriage.
As for my son and visitation: I picked up my son every chance I had. Sometimes it was every weekend, and sometimes it was once every two weeks. There were occasions when I was out of the state due to my career which kept me away from him for three to four weeks.
As for the home and the farm, when I divorced I didn't fight for any possessions. I gave my ex-wife the farm, the furniture, the car, the horses, and I never took anything but my clothes. I believed it was bad enough that my son was losing his father, so I wanted to ensure that the home and the farm remain as familiar to him as it was when I was there, as much as I could be there.
The fact of the matter is that I DID do the best i could, and I WAS there for my son on many occasions, as much as I could possibly be. There were a few times that I took him with me while I had to travel during my career. We had fun together and enjoyed our time together. I am not a bad or useless father by any means.
As for the Court, yes -- I fought it. I spent $10,000. in court costs to get custody until my attorney told me that the judge would not budge because he favored women no matter what. So, yes, I did fight for custody, and I fought hard.
As for being dedicated (rather than going through the motions), I was very dedicated. The reason others told me to be patient and hopeful for later years when he and I can connect again and build a meaningful relationship when he would finally move out of the home is because, like any non-custodial parent and child, there is no way that any such relationship could ever flourish under those circumstances (that being divorce and sporadic visitation), and especially when he had school to attend, friends he wanted/needed to spend time with, etc...
When he graduated, I gave him $20,000. so he could either buy a car, or apply it toward college. What more is a man/father to do when he is not the custodial parent?
So, now that the time has arrived after all these years, there is a "distance" and a huge disconnect, as though he doesn't have any use for me, and it is quite clear to me that he doesn't have much use for me.
So, in my mind I have to honestly ask myself if it is appropriate for me to turn and walk away. I don't think that is an unreasonable question without having to assign blame to anything. Assigning blame in any of this isn't useful at all. Te circumstances of divorce are difficult, at best. When I say that I did the best I could do, that actually means that I did much more than most do whom are divorced.
But, thanks for the feedback and the advice, though.
I am retired now. I moved 1,000 miles to the city where my son lives. I make sure to talk with him every day. I make sure to see him nearly every day. I have tried to get him to go golfing, but he doesn't go golfing. I have tried to go shopping with him, but he doesn't want to do that. I spend time visiting, and I am never part of their dinner plans (him and his new wife - which I paid for his last divorce because he had no money to pay for it). There is never a place set for me. I have made dinner for them, but dinners have fallen by the wayside, too. There is no such thing as going to movies together, or bowling together, nor much of anything together. I moved to be near him and there is no "near him." Therefore, at what point do I accept "the writing on the wall" and turn and walk away? -- That is the essence of my question.
I don't think anyone is saying you're a bad person or a horrible father. I know I'm not. I just think your VIEW of the situation is skewed. Like this statement for example:
The reason others told me to be patient and hopeful for later years when he and I can connect again and build a meaningful relationship when he would finally move out of the home is because, like any non-custodial parent and child, there is no way that any such relationship could ever flourish under those circumstances (that being divorce and sporadic visitation), and especially when he had school to attend, friends he wanted/needed to spend time with, etc...
I know plenty of people who have close loving relationships with their kids after a divorce, people that aren't the custodial parent. Is it a DIFFERENT kind of relationship? Absolutely, of course. I agree with you 100% that when you're not living with your child under the same roof, that the dynamic is different.
I sincerely just think you had (and have) this view like because you weren't the custodial parent, you weren't going to have a close relationship with your son. You decided that the moment your ex got custoday...that's the feeling I get. I think that's where you maybe didn't do as much as you could have and I think you decided from the start that things were going to be this way...you accepted that you wouldn't be close with your son because of the situation. I think you sold yourself short, to be honest.
The other thing that I'm hearing...and it comes out SO loud and clear in all of your posts is that you feel your financial obligation was enough...that somehow he should be forever indebted to you for providing a comfortable life. It IS nice that you enabled him to live comfortably...but that and the emotional relationship are two totally different things. I hear a LOT of resentment over the money stuff too. I would bet if your son could have chosen your money or YOU...he would have picked YOU.
You keep going back to your original question, which I understand seems like a logical one to you. I honestly couldn't PERSONALLY tell you that it's okay to walk away. I think there are LOTS of issues that haven't been dealt with to ALLOW you to have the relationship you want with your son.
I sincerely think professional family counselling would be a necessity here. There are things that need said...things your son needs to hear from you before you could move forward. Your son is only 24. He's barely an adult....it's just WAY too premature to say, "Well, I've given him a chance and it isn't working", in my opinion. If you consider that he's been an adult since 18, that's only 6 years. To be willing to walk away from your son forever, and sever ties...after 6 years just seems unfathomable to me. I think deep down you know it would be EASIER (much less work) to wash your hands of the situation. It's going to be much harder to actually work on it.
My advice to you is for you to tell him that you DO really want to work on your relationship, and ask him if he'd be willing to go to therapy with you. Acknowledge that there are a lot of issues that need worked through...validate for him that he must have a lot of resentment towards you...and you would really like to address that so you can explore having a closer relationship. I honestly think that your effort to grow close to your son has maybe been superficial on a alot of levels. I just think you're not "getting it".
If this relationship has a chance, it's going to take TIME and healing. You've not given it nearly enough of a chance IMO. He's got a whole childhood of memories that include probably feeling like he was not much more than a financial obligation. I have a sneaking suspicion that you have mentioned that to him many times...how much you've "done" for him. That would cause him to feel resentment..that the money is a big focus for you.
This is a huge decision to make...and NOT one I would advise doing rashly, without a LOT of thought and a LOT of effort. And by effort, I mean REALLY being willing to swallow your pride a little and allowing the accountability for the situation to fall on your shoulders...letting go of the divorce and the unfortunate circumctances. I think you're looking at this from a dettached, emotionless way...more like an analytical approach, which is why you may not be getting very far with your son. Have you EVER tried to sit down and talk to him about all of this.,..ask him to share how he feels and ask him point blank what he NEEDS from you to move forward?
I just think you're having a hard time letting go of your resentment of the situation, and while you may not be doing it purposefully...the resentment comes out like it's directed at your son. I'm SURE he feels that way.
Just take some time to read and reread our replies....without taking the words personally (I know, that's not easy). Remember, we don't KNOW you, so we're not judging YOU...we're trying to give you our honest and straightforward opinion of the situation from what you've shared. If you can try to take in the info and not make it personal..hopefully you'll see where we're coming from.
I DO hope it works out, because it would be a lose-lose situation for you BOTH to walk away. There ARE times in a family when that's absolutely appropriate, but I don't feel this is one of them...especially so early in the game. If he was 45, and you had been trying since he was an adult, I could maybe see getting to that point.
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