My birth father moved to my town but doesn’t want to know me

Tell Me About It: I would also like to know my half-brother but I just can’t face more rejection

“My father said building a relationship would be of little benefit to either of us”

“My father said building a relationship would be of little benefit to either of us”

 

PROBLEM 

I am a 21-year-old male college student and I grew up as an only child of a single mother. As a child I never met my father but I always knew his name and some few details but not a lot of information about him.

In fact, my mother also knew very little about him. She only dated him for a very brief period, and not long after she announced that she was pregnant, he took up employment abroad and made no contact and offered no financial assistance.

I had a very happy childhood with a fantastic mother whom I believe was traumatised by her experience with my father. Despite interest from other men, she has never entered into any new relationships. More than a year ago, my father returned to our small town with his new family.

I return home from college for weekend visits almost every month and I have seen him many times in passing, but he has never acknowledged me. I have contacted him via social media, however he gave a brief reply saying that he wished me well, but that we both had very separate lives and that building a relationship would be of little benefit to either of us.

It is public knowledge in the area that he is my father, so I am fairly certain that his children will know of my existence. He has another son who is about 19 and looks very like me, and from what I can tell online, he has similar interests in music and drama. My family unit has always been very small, and I feel I have missed out from not having a close male relation. I would like to contact him, but am not sure I could face another rejection so soon. I have not discussed my interest in meeting my father or his family with my mother, as I know this may cause her distress.

ADVICE

This is a very complicated situation. My first suggestion is for you to avail of student counselling in whatever college you are in. You are vulnerable to further rejection and so will need a place to reflect and gain some perspective. There are two men in your life with whom you have a right to a relationship – your father and your half-brother – but relying on either to be a support might prove disappointing. 

That you want to have strong supportive male role models in your life is a healthy desire, but you may need to widen your net to include other men, such as a grandfather, uncle, cousins or friends.  What is your goal? To have an extended family or to have a father figure – or both? 

That you had a wonderful childhood is a huge credit to your mother, but it seems she and you have both suffered from some trauma due to the disappearance of your father, and this has been reignited by his return to your small community. 

At 21 you are now an adult. Perhaps you and your mother could engage with some family therapy to assist you to explore the legacy and ongoing issues about both of your experiences. If any change or challenge is going to happen, it is likely to involve both of you, and your desire to protect your mum from knowing your wish to connect might simply make your relationship with her less secure. It is also likely that she is trying to protect you by not bringing up your father as a topic of conversation, so there is an opportunity for both of you to take the risk of upset and speak honestly to each other.  

If you feel more supported by your mum, relations, friends and counsellor, you might then be in a position to take the risk of contacting your half-brother. At 19 he may still be too young or vulnerable to face the reality of his complicated family, but you might be able to offer him time and patience until he is willing to meet you; for example, you might suggest that you message him twice a year and he is free to reply if and when he is able. He (like you) might be worried about exposure in his community, so some reassurance about this might also allow him to think positively of you and to be open to future connection. 

In the meantime, you are having a successful life with a career path in front of you and a childhood that was full of love and security.  Know that while you would like a connection with your birth father, he would need to demonstrate that he is deserving of your attention and that you are already a complete human being without his involvement.

Trish Murphy is a psychotherapist. Email tellmeaboutit@irishtimes.com for advice. We regret that personal correspondence cannot be entered into

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