My mother raised me as a single parent, and I only met my father a few times as a child. I’m now in my 20s and a relatively accomplished woman. Last year my father visited me (he lives in another state), and we’ve been in touch since then. I like talking to him on occasion, and we have a few shared interests. But he’s emotionally needy, texting a few times a week, saying how much he loves me and begging me to talk to him more often. I do not feel loved as a person, but craved, like I represent a void in his life. Once, when I didn’t respond to his texts for a while (I was feeling withdrawn when the shutdown started), he wrote, “I’m having [my name] withdrawal.”
He does not seem to register anything less blunt than “I haven’t been up for talking lately, but hope you’re doing well.” But in my experience, anything direct is met with anger and defensiveness, or yet another flood of emotion, which is exactly what I’m not prepared to deal with from him. I listen to your podcasts, and I think I’m pretty good at stating what I need in a way that is kind. But let me tell you, it doesn’t work on everybody. I want to be very clear: I do not feel like I owe him anything. But do you think there is a way for me to have a relationship with my father that is enjoyable for both of us and not a burden on me?
—Needy Absent Father