My Daughter Hates Me: “I love you” screws up everything (Part 6 of 13)


As you can tell from my earlier writing I wasn’t a nice guy. My interaction with my daughter’s mom, Betty, was a continuous list of harms done. Which is why the universe gave me a daughter. From the moment, she was born I wanted better for her and I knew I wasn’t going to be much of a role model if I continued on my wandering and destructive path.

Even Slim Shady knows he is slim…and shady. Of course, Betty dated me willingly so it certainly calls into questions her judgement and character. The former I’m sure she would acknowledge; I doubt the latter.

It is for this reason fathers lock up their daughters. We realize our little girls will eventually be alone with a man-child…on a prom date…in a car…at a frat party…on a vacation…or a honeymoon. I think daughters make fathers realize just how depraved men can be. Men think about sex every six seconds. So while a women is thinking about what to wear, a man is thinking about how to get her out of what she is wearing.

For all my faults, and I have a few, I love my daughter and believe if our relationship existed in a vacuum, I would have been a great father. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your perspective, relationships are inherently dynamic and I was unable to move past a deep and entrenched soul sickness that clouded my judgment and undermined all my relationships. Sadly, it was a while before I learned the truth.

I would like to say the truth was presented in the form of a burning bush, a flaming sword or a bolt of lightning throwing this ass from my ass to my ass. Instead, I was presented something much more spiritually moving – a daughter. She has been the catalyst for a fundamental change in who I am and what I want to become. The result is a desire, a willingness, and a passion to improve my character: to change my spots. This has been, and is, a slow, deliberate, trudge uphill. I’ve been caught in small slips and complete mudslides. The evolution of my character and attitude has been an ongoing and gradual twenty-year remodeling. As a friend says, “Sometimes quickly. Sometimes slowly”.

What is the truth?

Basically, I had no idea what love looks like. I know “love” as an expression such as, “I love Greater’s Raspberry Chocolate Chip ice cream,” or, “I love blues music”. In either case, I order the ice cream and then eat it. Or I sit in the living room and listen to Stevie Ray Vaughan wail on his guitar. Sometimes, I listen to Stevie’s “Chitlins Con Carne” while eating ice cream. That’s heaven. I love that.

Unfortunately, saying “I love you” screws up everything. It’s when I have to do something “loving” I struggle. It is much easier to say I love you then to show you I love you. “Love” as an action becomes a quandary. “Love” as a verb reveals my Achilles Heel. Thank God for my daughter. She is an angel giving me an opportunity to “love”. She made me want to be a man who acted lovingly.

If my daughter, Cassie, is the catalyst that drove my desire to be a better man, than my my first wife, Rachel, is the instrument by which I learned. Our marriage ended for a number of reasons shortly after the incident in Chicago. Upon reflection, it may have ended because it is frustrating to love someone who doesn’t love them self. Perhaps, it ended because it is difficult to respect someone who is unable to look you in the eyes. Maybe amazing sex isn’t the best foundation on which to build a marriage. Maybe it really was because I selfishly ate the last piece of pizza.

Perhaps it is more selfishness to think I had anything to do with Rachel leaving at all. People are attracted to people at the same spiritual level. Maybe our marriage was just one step on her spiritual journey and it was time for her to move on. Perhaps it was a little bit of all these things. I don’t know and can only speculate but the bottom line is she didn’t want to be married to me.

Honestly, can you blame her?

Looking on my life it is obvious that my selfishness was a sword that cut deeply the people I care about. But if it is a sword, it cuts both ways. My selfishness cut me off from people, from love, from the community, from my daughter and from my family.

Naturally, being a selfish and immature individual I didn’t want the divorce and fought it. I fooled myself into thinking if she saw what a great guy I was she would change her mind. I wasn’t and she didn’t. And in truth, in the end, it was the “best” thing for both of us. It taught me two life altering lessons.

First of all, letting go stinks. I made the pain worse for both of us by hanging on. I hung on because I thought when a man loves a woman he stays and fights.

Let me repeat that.

Letting go stinks. I made the pain worse for both of us by hanging on. I hung on because I thought when a man loves a woman he stays and fights. Of course, I was wrong. Fighting is how you win a battle. Sometimes letting someone go, when he or she is ready to go, is how to love.

But it was a long and painful eighteen months before I realized nothing I did was going to make her want to stay. In reality, practically everything I did made it impossible for her to stay. “Sometimes a man’s own angry pride is cap and bells for a fool,” wrote the poet Tennyson. I was definitely a fool. A friend even bought me the fool’s cap with bells. I let angry male pride make my decisions. My pride was telling me that she was leaving me because I was unlovable so I needed to prove my love. That if she left no one would ever love me. And truthfully, more than anything else I wanted someone to love me. It was simply cover for more self-centeredness.

In hindsight, I acted as if Rachel were a possession and not a human being. It never occurred to me the universe is structured in a way that constantly moves people in and out of my life. Because relationships are inherently dynamic, grandparents, parents, lovers, children, friends, enemies and complete strangers constantly move through our lives teaching us and learning from us. Rachel showed me I needed to treat each individual as an individual and not as my possession.

As soon as I saw Rachel as something other than “my wife” I began to gain some peace about the divorce and learned to act lovingly. To genuinely want for them what I want for myself: to love and be loved. In the end, all of my wailing and scheming resulted in a difficult situation becoming insufferable. I hurt the woman I loved because I didn’t love her enough to want her to be where she could be happy, doing what made her happy. That is selfish and self-seeking behavior. I’m working to make amends for this behavior by supporting the dreams and desires of the people in my life today.

The second lesson came in four parts and is more pragmatic and less abstract. In my zeal to make, manage, manipulate, maneuver and maintain my marriage I learned a great deal about the court system.

1.) It means well, but generally it doesn’t care about anything other than the law. That is as it should be.

2.) The interpretation and application of the law appears to be directly proportional to the hourly rate of the lawyers. I’m not sure that is “right” but it is reality.

3.) Lastly, the administration of the law is never intended to be personal unless I make it personal.

4.) Legal decisions are based on the quality of the legal argument (See Lesson #2), while the extent of the legal consequences is usually measured against the intensity of the self-centered choices.

These are hard truth to face when you have lived your life selfishly while taking everything personally.

In the end, when the judge did for me what I could not do for myself and granted our divorce, I was emotionally, spiritually and financially broken.

There was no place to go but up…

13 Comments

  1. I am continuously baffled at why you feel your broken relationship with your daughter should be plastered all over the interwebs. I know you claim you’re trying to heal things, but all you’re doing is using this strained relationship to promote yourself and your writing. It feels VERY insincere to me. If I were your daughter, I would be upset with the way your self-aggrandizing is being used to spread this situation around for strangers to read. If I were your daughter, I’d see right through this for the sham that it is. Why don’t you deal with this in private? Keep it between you and your daughter. The way it should be instead of fishing for compliments, publicity and forgiveness.

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    1. Although I can understand the point that “baffled” is trying to make, I feel that everyone has different ways of dealing with certain issues. For the same reason a doctor advises different medicines to different people for the same illness, each person has their personal way of healing and dealing with problems. As long as is it helping and works for you, that is what matters. I know that if I were your daughter, I would not be mad at all. I would appreciate the effort of seeking forgiveness. I can also see that this is your way of starting to forgive yourself. Bless You!

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    2. Hi Baffled,

      My knee jerk reaction is to jump in an defend myself so I’m glad I’ve taken a week or so to think about what you wrote.

      First of all, I understand. I’ve gone back and forth myself debating the appropriateness – or inappropriateness – of this series. You aren’t the only person who thinks this way – you just happen to be the only one brave enough to voice your opinion. I usually just get a half-ass tweet or bitter email. Honestly though, yours is a minority opinion. I’m going to assume you’ve not read the whole series because you would understand why I’m writing it. If you did read it and still don’t understand no amount of explanation will clarify my motives for you. However, because other well-meaning people graciously choose to speak-up in my defense I thought I should take a moment and add a few details to clarify any questions that might arise from your posting – or theirs.

      The reality is there are men (and women) in the world who have lost relationships with loved ones out of someones selfishness, immaturity or anger and in the quiet of the night, away from the distractions of a material world, feel the loss deeply and spiritually. It has a profound effect on their lives and their relationships with others. For me that sense of loss weighs on me and results in what can best be described as a soul sadness – if there is such a thing as a soul.

      What I have found when I share this story with young and reluctant fathers is they leave the conversation with a better sense of their own values and a better sense of the consequences. Often the people who judge the situations the harshest are the people closest to the young father and young mother leaving them no one safe to talk with. The advice and attitudes of these family members and friends is more often than not, riddled with shaming attitudes and projected fears. The father’s mother often sees the pregnant teen as a Jezzabel; while the mother’s father sees the teen boy as deflowering his Virgin Mary. These attitudes certainly don’t help the young parents make good decisions.

      You believe I’m using this to promote myself in a “self-aggrandizing” sham. I’m not sure how being honest about my faults and what I did wrong makes me “boastful” or is promoting myself as “more important” than I am but you are entitled to your opinion. My motive is fairly straight forward – I want my writing about these experiences to be of benefit to the man (or woman) who is lost and is trudging through a world where they feel alone and isolated. There is hope. There are options. It can and does get better provided they take a few basic actions.

      In truth, I am very proud of my writing. I have an excellent writing voice and style that is uniquely mine. I also have a lifetime of experience in sales and marketing and understand how to leverage those experiences to spread the word about my writing. I am willing to use those. What you will not find on this site are advertisements selling materials. I’m not trying to turn a buck on this website.

      However, to be clear I am working on a book of letters from parents that are estranged from their children. A portion of the proceeds will go to helping parents behind in child-support because of job losses or medical issues get caught up on their financial obligations. Sometimes we all need help and this is a way to use both my failures and my strengths to help another. Like all human beings we made mistakes, errors and gaffs. Our shortcomings just involve our children and so we are easier targets for those that would have us hide our sins in shame. I think it is because it allows the “judges” the comfort of their own sins.

      Again, I appreciate your making a few minutes to express your opinion. More importantly I want to thank those people who continue to read this site for what it is intended to be.

      Cheers,
      Sean

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  2. Talking about the things that have happen is self healing, shareing them with other can create a bond w/someone that is going through the same things. Many people have broken relationships w/their children, this is a fact. To hear a man, a father say it is his fault is refreshing to me. First step is to admnit it, if I was his daughter, I would be pleased at that, whether to forgive or not is up to the child in question only. I don’t beleive that the writer is self promoting or looking for forgivness from stangers. I think this is about changeing from the inside, how many people can sit down and admit some of the things that WE believe belong in a dark hidden closet? I give the writer credit for the ablity to make it known, opening that closet and cleaning it out! Kuddos to you!!

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  3. Personally, I think Baffled is the one with the problems! Open discussions are necessary and informative. I don’t feel anyone is looking for sympathy here, just sharing a life experience and maybe, just maybe, it may help someone. Good article…

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  4. Another powerful installment Sean! However, not as powerful as the last IMO. You held back a bit, you didn’t bare your soul as much. I sense this is more uncomfortable area into which to tread. The area of your being love worthy. You still hold deep beliefs around the concept of love and yourself. Just decide to throw them ALL away and live from a place of total “not-knowingness” and go moment by moment, breath by breath, relationship by relationship. What you’ll find is Love.

    I can tell you that none of us is “love worthy” – we *ARE* Love. Love worthiness is based on the definition of Love as a verb, a noun (something you receive) – all of which is incorrect. Love is a force, an energy – it IS Lifeforce and it IS you. You are “inherently love worthy” because you are the force of Love. Everything is Love, but this is not what we are taught or what we are shown in our human culture.

    You cannot know this force with your intellect or reason, you can only know it through experiential connection to the wholeness of your being. And when you do – it is wordless so you are left being unable to describe it. But you can Be it and you can Live it.

    With Love,
    Amy

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  5. I have never seen this blog as Baffled has… maybe because I am living a small part of this myself. Even though my situation is not similar, except for the being estranged from my child part, it helps me look at my situation with fresh eyes.

    Another powerful segment Sean. Thanks for writing..

    Jennifer

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  6. Hi Sean,
    Thanks for sharing a very personal part of your life. I never make judgements about another’s life experience in the belief that it isn’t possible to walk the mile in that person’s shoes. Your entries tell me that you are reflecting on your personal journey and maybe trying to make sense of it all. I wish you well; that is, personal peace, many loving relationships, resolution to a conflict and acceptance.

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  7. I have read the letter Baffled and your blogs about your daughter. Frankly I don’t know why you are still going on about it. It is what it is, their opinion nothing more nothing less. Isnt that what blogs are? peoples opinions?
    Frankly I found Baffled to be very judgemental.
    My Mom always said that people that judge other people are really judging themselves.
    I think you should just move on and take the letter for what it is, merely their opinion.
    For what its worth I personally enjoyed your blogs, but that’s just my opinion.

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  8. Well for one I say who cares to those who dont like what you wrote. Writing is about expressing youself and what you feel no one can tell you how you should and shouldnt feel. As a matter of fact being this open will help others see that they aren’t alone. what made slim shady so hated wasn’t what he said , it was because some people like the little bubbles they live in and he made a choice and said no I’m not going to sugar coat anything this is what i truly think and feel about my life and the people in it. If we really knew what people thought we all might in shock. As for your daughter if she doesnt already know she might be in shock but in the end she will thank you for being honest and second… I love it . Okay i’ve said enough see ya around.

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