Absent Dads


Dear Dr. Bill,

After eleven years of being a completely absent father, my ex-husband now wants to “become a dad” to my thirteen year old daughter.  She is VERY ANGRY and wants nothing to do with him.  She even hangs up on his calls. My ex is almost begging for a relationship with her.  I’ve talked to my daughter and asked her to give him a chance, but she refuses.  What should I do?



Dear Laura,

I’m sure it is very difficult for you to be in the middle of this situation.  You want to spare your daughter more pain and heartache, but it sounds like you want to give your ex a chance to make amends over his past behavior.

The bible teaches that we “reap what we sow.”  In other words, there are consequences for our actions.  Your husband completely abandoned his daughter for eleven years, and now he is dealing with the fallout from his irresponsibility and selfishness.  He is going to have to earn the right to have a relationship with her.  This is going to take patience, humility, and time.

Here’s a question for you—is your ex truly repentant, or is he simply feeling guilty for his past actions.  Does he truly have your daughter’s best interests at heart, or does he just want to get rid of his own guilt feelings?

If he has really turned his life around and wants to make things right, he’s going to need to demonstrate it through concrete actions, shown consistently over time.

Don’t pressure your daughter to reconcile with her father.  Give her lots of space and let her move at her own pace, which may be very slowly and cautiously.  Your ex-husband shouldn’t expect to start with phone conversations or personal visits.  It might be better for him to express his remorse and ask her forgiveness through letters.

Let your daughter know that you will respect her decisions in this matter, and that you understand how much pain and anger she feels.  But explain that holding on to resentment and bitterness will only hurt HER in the long run.

Thanks for writing, Laura.


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