Meeting my father for the first time.

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

My biological father has never been a part of my life. He divorced my mom when me and my brother were babies and left the country. He has never contacted me or given my mother any child support money. We grew up very poor, but both of us turned out to be pretty good people and put ourselves through college.

Recently, my brother looked up our long-lost father’s address and showed up at his front door. It turns out he (dad) has 3 teenage kids and a wife. The reunion went well, but now my brother says that our dad (and his family) wants to meet me.

I’m debating whether or not to meet him. On one hand, I’m curious about that part of my family. On the other hand, he has ignored us for the past 27 years and has never tried to contact us. I want to punish him by ignoring him now. It was really hard for my mom to raise two kids all on her own. Why should I give this stranger the privilege of being in my life??

My brother called me a “b****” for not going to meet him, but I don’t see why I should just run into his arms and act like we’re all one big happy family.

Should I meet this guy or what??

A: It can be very dysregulating to have a parent come into your life that has been absent and I certainly understand your ambivalence. But I would look at your motivation in the decision-making process. To quote Buddha: “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”

Your wanting to punish your father, a man who has not cared what you did or felt or accomplished for 27 years, is leaving you with the hot coal, not him. You do not have to make your brother’s nor father’s quest yours, but you have to allow the choice to be one that genuinely suits your needs. Otherwise it puts you in orbit around theirs.

You did not mention your brother’s age relative to yours, but this may be partly why he is in a different place wanting the connection. He is tracking down the same-sex parent and I would hope he comes to understand that his needs, by both age and gender, may be very different than yours. You and your brother may also want to employ the skills of a family therapist who has some expertise in reuniting families. Here is a list of therapists you can review.

You obviously have done well taking good care of yourself, and I suspect that trend will continue. Keep your needs and timeline for meeting them as a priority. If you choose to meet him only do it when you are ready, not pressured. Otherwise your resentment may undo whatever good might come from the meeting. Good things can come from such a meeting, but only when your willingness and readiness are combined.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 24 Mar 2010

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2010). Meeting my father for the first time.. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 20, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/03/24/meeting-my-father-for-the-first-time/

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