I am a college student who watched her parent’s marriage implode four years ago due to my father’s infidelity. My mom, without many close female friends or family members, slopped her grief on me. I know a lot more details about the divorce than perhaps I should.
The short version is that my dad used Facebook to reconnect with a woman he had known in high school. They commiserated about their “abusive” home lives. They decided they were long-lost soul mates. The emotional affair lasted at least a year, but I think I’ve read enough Chump Lady to know it probably wasn’t just emotional. My mom found out and told my Dad to stop talking to the woman. He deleted his Facebook, but then still continued to send her sweet nothings. I don’t think my dad ever really tried to save the marriage, but rather just waited until his “goal”: that both of his kids graduate high school before he divorced our mom. They split three weeks after our graduation party.
My relationship with my dad is very strained. While he has never been a terribly active parent (working late and spending a lot of time with his friends when I was young), he has always supported me financially. I now go to an expensive private college in a big city. I paid for most of the tuition myself through grants and scholarships, but I still rely on my dad for a big portion of my rent and other bills. I have done the math, and it’s not really possible for me to support myself and continue the academic pursuits that will later set me apart from other graduate candidates. Basically, I COULD quit my lucrative but unpaid research job to get one flipping burgers or folding clothes, but it would really affect my chances of continuing in academia.
I don’t like my dad. I think he is a narcissist who rubbed the affair in everyone’s faces just because he could. He chose his OW over my brother and I, and now happily provides for her kids while giving us angry phone calls about every dime he sends. He is clearly only helping us financially because it’s in his divorce settlement. He demands affection and had a temper tantrum when I finished a phone call with him without saying “I love you”. He is needlessly difficult and calls when it is convenient for him, but god forbid I can’t pick up the phone in time. Seeing his name on my caller ID makes me sick to my stomach.
I have a little less than two more years in college where he is supporting me financially. After that, I can pretty much do whatever I want, and I really don’t see myself having a relationship with him. But how do I deal with him in the meantime? I am tired of the emotional blackmail and arguing over money, and I can’t shake the feeling that he didn’t actually have any real consequences for abandoning us. I have been in therapy for a while, but my therapist is more accustomed to standard “college problems” than infidelity-related divorces.
Any advice you have would be greatly appreciated.
You have a choice. You can accept your father’s financial support and all the bullshit that goes with it — or you can choose independence and the peace and sanity that comes from not needing One. Damn. Thing. from him.
What you cannot have (which is what I suspect you really want) — is a father who will willingly, lovingly, and ungrudgingly support you, financially and otherwise.
I’m sorry you didn’t get that father. A good parent wouldn’t put his child in this position. He’s not a good parent. He’s a lousy person with lousy character and you’ve got to deal with the reality you were dealt. So… about that sweater folding…
I can’t tell you what path to choose. I can tell you that plenty of people in this world succeed in life and worked shit jobs through college (and grad school). Mr. CL, in fact, put himself through undergrad, an Ivy League graduate degree, and law school. (He’s one of five kids, and they all put themselves through higher ed — his siblings are: a rocket scientist, an engineer, a CPA, and an English professor). All to say, it CAN be done (says the privileged person who went to a private liberal arts college, financed by family, and had no student loans… but did work a lot of shit jobs in and out of college… and worked full-time through a graduate degree).
It’s also okay to accept his support — however spiteful and court-ordered it is. Accepting his financial support for the next two years (which your mother and her lawyer were prescient enough to fight for) does not mean you accept what he did, or how he conducts his life. I suspect you feel like taking his money is using him. Well, CK, in a sense you are. You don’t have to reply to those guilting calls with “I love you,” but you could tell your dad thanks for the support. It’s okay to say you appreciate the financial help even if he is a total dick about it. That’s truthful and authentic — you do appreciate it and it’s helping you reach your personal goals. Saying thanks is for YOU, to assuage that icky feeling. I don’t expect it will be sufficient kibbles for Dad.
By way of perspective, CK, consider that the majority of people in the U.S. are never able to collect the full amount of child support they’re owed for kids under 18. Fact is, by law anyway, you aren’t entitled to his support. You’re over 18. College help is GRAVY. Most people on this blog are doing without. My own son’s father owes me thousands in back support and hasn’t bought his son so much as a pencil eraser for college.
Whether you have to tolerate your dad now, or cut him off in two years, is your choice. But I would encourage you to never NEED a narcissist for ANYTHING. Because that’s handing him the power to disappoint you. Your dad has proven himself to be a person who does not honor his commitments, so I would prepare yourself for the scenario that he could welch out on college support too. Needing him makes you vulnerable to him.
I know it’s more than the money — it’s the validation that he cares. That he’s invested in you (quite literally). And it’s heartbreaking that he isn’t. I’m sorry that he sucks. You may find that you have a better relationship with him when it’s on your own terms. It will be a superficial one (WHERE WERE YOU WHEN I NEEDED YOU?!), but it will be a lot easier once you don’t need anything from him.
It’s okay to be clear-eyed about that. Whatever you do, don’t make the mistake of putting up with shit for a lifestyle. Don’t be a person who fakes a relationship for goodies or thinks they can “nice” a narcissist into caring. Be the kind of person who has her own fuck off money and fuck off skills.
You’re in college — you’re working on that skillset now. Keep at it, with or without his support. You can DO IT.