Dealing with Toxic Family
Words by Jess Downey
I have a toxic relationship with my father.
I didn't really know how to start this post so I figured I might as well just start with something honest. Something real. And at the age of almost 37, I still find it hard to say those words out loud.
I want to preface everything I'm about to say in this post with the fact that I do have a father. He's alive and (I assume) well. He was around as I was growing up. He was in the room when I was born. He watched me take my first steps and ride a bike. He was there when I drove my first car, graduated high school, and graduated college. I also find it incredibly important to say that my father was an excellent provider. We took vacations, had clothes, and always had food.
But I haven't talked to my father in probably 10 years or so. I mean, I guess he called me once, but we didn't really talk if that makes sense. And let me also add that I've seen him. At my niece and nephew's birthday parties. And at other family events. Where people would ask if he was my father too and he awkwardly whispered to his current wife "that's the one I was telling you about" (in reference to me).
We don't talk because it's better for me. It's better for him. It's just better. Because everything about our relationship is toxic.
I don’t talk about it often. Because I've been judged so many times. And because people simply don't understand a toxic relationship. So, here's everything I've ever wanted everyone to understand about having a toxic father (or insert family member here).
I'm not mad, bitter, or holding a grudge. This didn’t come about because of some fight my dad and I had. He didn’t do anything wrong.
I still love my father. Very deeply. And many times, I've cried because he's not in my life.
I wish with all my heart and soul that things could be different.
This isn't a choice I take lightly.
This isn’t easy for me. He missed my wedding. He missed watching me move into my first house. He's never even met my husband. I hate that.
I do not currently, nor will I ever regret my decision.
I'm not a bad person or a monster. I’m just choosing to do what’s best for myself.
I understand and love people unconditionally.
I'm not solely responsible for this. This isn’t my fault. It isn’t his fault either. It just is what it is.
I know I’m not perfect. And I’m not expecting him to be.
My father is toxic to me. That doesn’t mean he’s toxic to everyone, but the key word here is me. He doesn’t have to be toxic to everyone. What’s relevant is that he’s toxic to me.
Jess is the lady behind Facebook for Holl & Lane. She runs Chaotic & Collected where she makes quirky garlands and party decor. She's a crafter, DIY-er, and (sometimes) a lifestyle blogger who currently lives in the Midwest with her husband and the cutest little doxies, Brooklyn & Grendel.