Tips on Improving Your Relationship with Your Dad
Let the past go
There are a plethora on articles on how women can fix their relationship with mom, but only a few on improving the relationship with their dad.
It’s true that dad/daughter relationships can have fewer issues than the potent mom/daughter combo, but there are still things that come up that might need repair over the years.
No matter whether you’re 18 or 38, there’s still time to accept your dad as he is, and love him all
the more. As Ben Michaelis, clinical psychologist and author of Your Next Big Thing, said, “If you have had issues with your dad in the past, you want to think about what you need in order to move forward in your relationship together. For example, if your issues were about trust you need to ask yourself 'Can I trust him now?' You may need to spend some time with your dad to determine this. You are older and wiser now, and presumably so is your dad.”
No one is perfect
Tiffany Komba, author, speaker and blogger, shared her best tips on getting along with your dad:
- Come to terms with the fact he is not perfect. Accepting this will save you a ton of heartbreak and let down. Truly understanding and knowing that he isn't perfect will leave room for grace when he lets you down.
- Lose your expectations of what a “real father” should do, would do, and does. When we place expectations on people, all we're doing is setting ourselves up for disappointment. Especially if we already have issues with them because of past hurts. You can let your father know what you expect of him, but if he doesn't meet them, then you right back at disappointment and hurt. So just lose the expectations and give your relationship with him freedom to flourish however it may.
- Know this: You cannot change him. He is who he is. Yes, people can change, but not because you want them to. Let go of the idea that you can change him. Just love him and accept him right where he is. Time is precious, so when you're with him, don't waste it wishing he was someone else or like another father that you know of. Love and accept him for who he is. He would appreciate that more than you trying to make him into someone that he just isn't at the time. Love has a way of changing people far better than we can.
- Don't compare him to other “good fathers” that you've seen. Comparing will only create sadness. Just enjoy your dad, flaws and all. No one is perfect.
- Let the past go. Remember you have a choice. If you have issues with your father because of the past, talk about those issues with him and move forward. Don't waste time lingering and dwelling on old hurts. Let the past go. Enjoy your time with him and accept him for who he is. Don't set yourself up for disappointment by placing unknown and known expectations on him.
Be willing to forgive
Lisa Bahar, a family therapist, added her insights:
- Be willing to mend the relationship and explore forgiveness. If you’re not willing, then it will be hard to improve the relationship.
- Communicate your feelings in an effective way, your perception of your experience, being mindful that dad may not agree or see it the same way, be accepting of his perspective, does not mean you approve or agree, you just have a different point of view.
- Work on creating moments in the present by being mindful of the here and now, versus obsessing over the past and getting angry.
- Take it slow, don't push on time and length.
And from Denise Limongello, a family therapist:
- Learn to open up. Studies show that people often report feeling closer to someone after asking them for advice. Seeking feedback from your father with problem solving can be a great way to reconnect with him and learn more about how he thinks. Studies also show that people often seek feeling safe and protected by their parents, even in adulthood, so receiving help from your dad can increase comfort levels around him and improve the relationship.
- Find common ground. People often report feeling most comfortable reconnecting with someone if it is centered around an activity. Finding an activity that you both enjoy can be a great way to ease into spending more time together. It can also be a way break the ice if prior tensions exist between you two.
Dr. Jane Greer, New York-based relationship expert and author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship, suggested:
- Extend yourself, rather than waiting for him to call you or ask what's going on in your life. Call him first; plan some together time, perhaps going out for lunch or dinner.
- If you're arguing with your dad all the time, try to shelve your disagreements and focus instead on what you can share in a positive way. For example, update him on positive happenings in your life instead of topics you know you disagree upon. If he's unreceptive, then limit your conversation to what's going on in his life and what he's doing.
- If he's done something that's made you angry, rather than continuing to bring it up in anger and blame, instead focus on what you'd like to do in the present. In other words, you might be angry at him for missing your birthday party as a kid, but now move past that, invite him to your daughter's birthday, and ask him to participate.