About 5 years ago, I made a deal with my dad that I would try out 10 episodes of his favorite TV show because he really wanted me to try it. Then he said if I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t have to watch it anymore. I didn’t like it — sci-fi isn’t my genre. Anyway, my dad has asked a few times every year since then if I’ll try the show again, and I always say no and remind him I don’t like it. He says I didn’t give it a fair shot, and basically says anyone would like it. It involves some gory things like worms coming out of someone’s stomach, and I hate watching any violence or gory things. He tries to argue with me about why I’ll like it, but I’ve always hated sci-fi. I’ve offered to watch a show that we both like together. My dad has said multiple times “there’s no way you’re my daughter” or “you can’t be my daughter” since I hate sci-fi. I’m adamant against watching this show because I think he’s not respecting my answer and always wanted his kids to be interested in what he is interested in. He has tried to manipulate me by saying he would do what his father asked, and that if I’m so inflexible on this I’m bound to have problems in future relationships. He has said he doesn’t ask much of me. My dad has guilt-tripped me my whole life and has always been controlling. Maybe my resistance is partially coming from a huge history. Recently he asked again and I said no– I have a big problem being assertive, and I’m practicing sticking up for myself. I very rarely stick up for myself with my dad because he’s so overbearing.
Anyway, he got very angry and now he has said to me that on Father’s Day he wants nothing but for me to watch the show. If I don’t, he will not accept any gifts from me. He says it’s my choice what to do — “you can refuse if you can live with your conscience.” This puts me in a very tough position. I tried to explain my point of view, but he refuses to listen. He says one episode is not a big deal, and that he did things for his father all the time that he didn’t want to do. He asked if I would leave my mother to starve if he was dead and she lost her memory, which is such an unfair comparison. I really don’t know what to do. Do you think I should just give in? If I do, this all goes away and peace will be restored (artificially). But it will be telling him that it’s okay to treat me this way. If I don’t, I can imagine him holding a grudge forever and he gets to look like the victim since it’s Father’s Day. I’m still living with him too, so it may make things that much more difficult. He’s an incredible arguer, and can make me question very easily whether I’m brave and independent or ungrateful and selfish.
It is time to liberate yourself from your father. His imposition has set up an unfortunate dynamic. He is essentially saying he won’t love you if you don’t watch a science fiction TV show. This isn’t a loving gesture — and demonstrates a highly controlling and manipulative stance that does not have your best interest, growth, or respect at heart.
Offer to do something else with him that you would both enjoy — negotiate something if you can. But if he insists you watch the show I would make other plans for Father’s Day. Leave him a card and or present if you desire but capitulating to his request after fully explaining yourself several times would be the wrong thing to do. He has created this consequence, not you. If you watch the TV show (again) the problem, of course, is that this won’t be the last thing. He’ll keep pushing his agenda, and you’ll lose who you are in the process.
Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: http://www.dare2behappy.com/. He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.
APA Reference Tomasulo, D. (2018). My Dad Is Manipulating Me for Father’s Day. Psych Central.
Retrieved on July 17, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2015/06/03/my-dad-is-manipulating-me-for-fathers-day/
Last updated: 8 May 2018 Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018 Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.