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Dr. Saltzman,

I happened to find your page by performing a Google search. I am currently trying to find a psychologist in my area, but I thought it would be best to talk to you first. I'm a 28 year old male who has a very strained relationship with his father. My father, Joe, raised me as a child and I had limited contact with my mother until the age of 13, at which point I chose to sever all communication.

My mother was a selfish individual who had little concern for anyone but herself. Thus, my father became "Mr. Mom." We had a very good relationship throughout grade school. However, my father had his house foreclosed on in 1991, when I started to attend seventh grade. The foreclosure was a direct result of the financial pressures my mother put my father under (i.e. alimony payments). My father was able to make the payments, but then my mother sabotaged both of us by telling my father's employer lies (she claimed that my father was overcharging the company, which was not true).

My father had his own a/c company (which he still operates to this very day) and this was his main customer (who owned 5 very large building complexes). As a result, he lost most of his financial stability. It was at this point in 1991 that he started becoming a different person, but it wouldn't start to really show until I started high school 1993-1994. Most parents expect their children to become more independent as time goes on, but my father was not as understanding. Times were hard and money was scarce, and when my grandmother (his mother) died in 1996, he decided (despite my best efforts) to take up residence in her old one bedroom home in Century Village. He took the bedroom, while I slept on an air mattress on the floor.

He expected me to work on the truck with him whenever he received work, and in essence I became more or less his helper (reluctantly). The reason for my reluctance was that when the two of us would work together it would cause more problems than anything else. I was under his thumb for the majority of the time, and living in Century Village, I also had no friends (outside of my old friends in Coral Springs). I had no car and my father wouldn't teach me how to drive because he claimed it would raise his insurance. I begged him to give me money to attend college classes at Palm Beach Community College so that I could eventually become a college graduate, but he refused to, claiming that he needed me to work with him on, and that he had no helpers.

This continued until 1999, when I finally wore him down enough, and I started college classes. I began to feel like I was worth something. Aside from college classes, though, I became more of a homebody during the weekdays and when weekends came I would be able to spend time with my friends when I wasn't working with my father. I also had an established musical band that I spent the majority of my free time with and we were making a name for ourselves, but practices were scarce and my father would lock himself in his room when I played my acoustic guitar at night. This living arrangement continued for 6 years (from 1996 until 2002) at which point I decided to move out. I was lucky enough to have student grants and loans, and I used the money to live on campus (where my father wouldn't be able to control me).

Jan 3, 2002 was one of the best days of my life. I finally moved out of Century Village and had some space from my father to become my own person. Now, don't get me wrong, my dad was really there for me for everything when I was younger, but from 1996 on (when my grandmother died) he became quite bitter and had a very one-sided point of view. He has always disliked all of my friends and has not been approving of any of my girlfriends, including my fiancee.

I am currently attending FAU for a degree in business and my fiancee has a degree in education. I don't do drugs, I have a steady job which pays for the bills and I am a respectable human being. Between working 40 hours a week, I also attend 3 classes and my free time has become limited. However, I still found time to help my father with things sometimes. The last communication we had was over Chanukah when I was leaving to visit my fiancee's family. The night before, he had asked for me to come over his house and clean it for him. I reluctantly declined and explained to him why I could not do this. I called him when I returned from the trip, but he did not return my phone call.

I have called him repeatedly in the last few months, all to no avail. I know he is ok, but he won't reply. I am at my wit's end here, as he swears "I'm never there for him" all the while laying on the Jewish guilt and it just makes me ill (literally). I don't feel like confronting him in person about this, because I've just had enough. Is there anything you can suggest? I'm sorry if this was long, but it's a long story. I appreciate your time. I hope to hear from you.

Hello, Jude--

Often single parents become far too enmeshed with their children, projecting onto them the kinds of demands that normally would be asked of a mate, not a child. To see what I mean by "enmeshed," take a look at this ask dr-robert reply.

I understand that you feel grateful to your father for raising you alone, and that your gratitude, along with your sense of familial obligation, makes this situation difficult to handle. Nevertheless, it is time that you began to live your own life, on your own terms, making your own decisions in a way that meets your own requirements, and in a manner that makes sense to you, whether or not your father approves, disapproves, or whatever.

I do not think you should try to confront your father with his failure to respond to you, or with anything else for that matter. As I see it, if he needs to be that way, you should let him. Confronting him with his behaviors will only deepen the enmeshment, not dissolve it. In my opinion, you should put all of your energy into cutting loose from this far too enmeshed situation, and get on with your life. If you need help in doing this, please go forward with your plan to find a counselor or therapist who can help you work on it.

Be well.

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