Los Angeles, CA–“Many relationships are strained – or have ended – because the daughter continues to blame her father for the divorce. She figures that if dad was a lousy husband, he should lose the right to be her father.”
Dr. Linda Nielsen, the president of the American Coalition for Fathers & Children, often writes about fathers and daughters. Her latest book, Between Fathers and Daughters: Enriching or Rebuilding Your Adult Relationship has an excellent chapter on the devastating effects that divorce often has upon the father-daughter relationship.
In her section The Blame Game: Lousy Husband, Lousy Father?, Nielsen discusses the common issue of daughters blaming their fathers for their parents’ divorce.
Many relationships are strained – or have ended – because the daughter continues to blame her father for the divorce. She figures that if dad was a lousy husband, he should lose the right to be her father.
As Gabby says, “If it hadn”t been for dad, they would still be married and my mom and I wouldn”t have had to go through hell. Why should I give him a second chance given how he betrayed mom? If I forgive him, I would be saying what he did wasn”t wrong. It would be disloyal to mom for me to overlook what he did.’
It might seem okay to punish dad for his “sins’ as a husband. But daughters who do this are sticking their nose into their parents” business – and taking on a dangerous role as judge and prosecutor. Let”s reconsider Gabby”s choices.
First, if Gabby knows for certain that her father cheated, why is she assuming that his infidelity is the only reason – or the main reason – that the marriage ended? Isn”t it highly likely there were longstanding problems in the marriage – problems having to do with Gabby”s mother, or money, or meddling in-laws, or…?
Second, if Gabby accepts the fact that both parents were probably responsible for their eroding marriage, this doesn”t mean she has to excuse or to overlook her dad”s infidelity. Cheating is wrong – period. But Gabby doesn”t have to choose to punish her father for his shortcomings as a husband.
Third, Gabby is old enough to face reality: A person can be a lousy spouse and still be a good parent. For example, just because someone commits adultery, is emotionally abusive or is cold and withdrawn with their spouse, doesn”t automatically mean that he or she can”t be a good mother or father. Yes, some people are terrible spouses and terrible parents. But more often than not, daughters are punishing their fathers for being “D’ husbands even when they are “A’, “B’ or “C’ fathers.
That”s unfair, unloving and unwise. If you, as a daughter, think your dad was a failure as a husband, then don”t marry a man like him. But if he was getting a passing grade as a father before the divorce, then why are you flunking him now? Why do that to yourself? Why do that to him?
Finally, Gabby is punishing her father because she”s only considering the mistakes he made – not mistakes that she probably made after her parents divorced. If her father is willing to forgive her for the mean or insensitive things that she did to him, then why can”t she do the same? As a father and a daughter, surely each of you can admit that there are things you could have done better – things you wish you could do differently.
To order the book or to learn more, click here.
To learn more, see my blog posts Divorced Dads: How Would Your Son or Daughter Answer This Quiz? (Part I), Part II, Part III, as well as ‘Mothers tend to stay angrier longer and refuse to forgive more than fathers after divorce’, ‘Mom and Money both play a major hand in how everyone reacts to dad”s new marriage’, and When Mom and Stepmom Collide, Grandkids Become ‘The Pawns.’