real life

"Dear Dad: You had an affair and this is what I dream of saying to you."

These are the life lessons no one tells you about.

I know the relationship between a father and daughter is special and unique, as it should be. It may involve a melting pot of emotions, thoughts and behaviour or actually be pretty chill. Unfortunately, my relationship with my father was marred by his affair. This was a man who in my mind, stood high on a moral pedestal, and the thought of taking him down that stool was painful. This is how I felt at a particular point in time, and while it’s not the fondest memory I have of my father, it made me the individual I am today; strong, vulnerable and compassionate.

Dear Dad, these are things I never dreamt of saying about you:

“You flirted with the idea of having an affair for a long time, and soon flirting became a reality. I don’t know who you are. At this moment in time, you are alone, serving yourself and your own needs. At 18, I don’t share an emotional connection with you, however, you’re my blood and I want only the best for you. Right now, I have departed from our relationship. Even though I think I’m incredibly strong, emotionally and mentally, I too have my weak and fragile moments. And during those moments, I crave a mature father figure, someone who I can completely trust and have faith in, someone who can clean up my emotional spills and messes.

A father who can impart stability, wisdom and kindness. I have never experienced my ideal father-daughter relationship. I don’t know what it feels like. When I see my friend’s fathers, I feel nothing, just sadness and envy. It feels incredibly foreign to me. Why can’t I have that? Why don’t you care that you have lost the respect and adoration of your kids? Why doesn’t it bother you? You have literally brought out the worst in mum. Why?

I don’t see myself in you, we’re complete strangers. When people ask me who I miss the most, I say “my Dad”. I’m mourning the absence of a father figure. I’ve tried many times to forgive you but I just can’t. I don’t think I will ever be able to forgive you. Your actions have damaged lives, leaving people absolutely broken. I wish I could fix my family members. I would do anything to take their pain away, but I can’t. I feel completely spent, I don’t have the mental and emotional strength or energy to continue our relationship. I’m abandoning this relationship, all our conversations will be transactional, as they have been for a long time. Our interactions had, and will have no meaning or love. You are you, and I am me. That’s how it was for a very long time and will continue to be. Goodbye.”

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"I don't see myself in you, we're complete strangers. When people ask me who I miss the most, I say "my Dad"." Image via Istock.

This is the complex relationship which I know I have to live with forever. The strange mix of loving and hating the same person has completely changed the way I think about people, life and love. Before my dad did what he did I lived in a black and white world, which was soon vividly coloured by anger, betrayal and pain. Suddenly, wrong became right and bad became good. What the hell was going on?

At 19, I’m still a work in progress. I’m coming to terms with the fact that every daughter-father relationship doesn’t need to subscribe to one particular ideal. What is real for someone else may not be synonymous with the next person, and vice versa.

To anyone out there who has had or is currently going through a similar experience, you will get through it. But no two days are the same, one day you might feel joyful and forgiving, but the next just simple eye contact can anger you. However, the most important piece of advice I can share is to never put a lid on your emotions, feel everything completely and talk about it. It does get better.

And this is why, my family’s most painful tragedy until today, is my most valuable life lesson.

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