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Lowering Expectations Without Losing Hope | How to have a healthy boundary around your heart

This is for all of you who are struggling in a relationship with someone that has constantly let you down but in some way or another you are stuck with them. For me this person is my Dad. When I was young he had a drug and alcohol addiction. To be clear his drug of choice at the time was crack cocaine. Because of this addiction he would navigate in and out of my life. This left my mother to raise 3 children on her own.

There were times when he would get himself clean and talk my mom into giving him another chance. Sometimes it would work out for a little while but it was always just long enough for us to let down our guard and begin to get used to having him around, then he would find a way to sabotage. Typically that meant he went off on a bender and just wouldn't show up at home. Sometimes there was collateral damage involved which meant he would leave for one of his benders with things that were essential to our family. Sometimes it would be with any extra cash my mom had, sometimes our family vehicle. I remember specific times driving around the city looking for our car. To me this was like a crazy drama filled adventure and I didn't ever really comprehend how much my mom must have been hurting, she always kept it together.

A few times and obviously the worst was when his itch for the drug was so bad that he put his own children in danger. That in itself is another story for a different time. To his credit the reason he left or atleast the reason he always gave was because he didn’t want to bring that into his home and around us.

His excuse for sabotaging and leaving was because he didn’t want to do something bad and he felt like it was bound to fail anyways. He grew up in a home with a lot of verbal and physical abuse so instead of staying home and that being the outcome he left. I can say that I remember fights between him and my mom but my dad never hurt me physically and never verbally abused me either. The wounds I have from my father are wholly from abandonment.

The hardest part is that my Dad at least to me was actually lovable. He has this ability to strike up a conversation with anyone and make them laugh. He is extremely intelligent and gifted in a lot of areas. He worked in construction and so just to be able to communicate with a good portion of the other workers he became fluent in Spanish. He can hear a song and then play it on the piano. He is a beautiful person truly. So that is what makes it so dang hard. If he wasn't all of that than it would be easy to give up on him. If it wasn't for all of that there would be there lingering want for him to be in my life.

I have always felt this way my entire life. He would be the perfect dad if he could just figure out how to be there. As I grew up though his antics became less entertaining and less lovable because the broken promises began to overshadow all of that. I remember specifically telling a friend of mine in high school that she was lucky when her parents were going through a divorce and she was telling me about the custody agreement. I was actually jealous because my friends father wanted to come and see her on the weekend.

I remember once my dad told me over the phone that he bought me tickets to see a band called Immature and that he was going to pick me up to go to the concert. I didn’t even tell my mom because I knew what she would say, that i probably shouldn’t get my hopes up. I casually watched out of the window all night waiting for him to arrive. You’ll understand when I say they were no longer my favorite band because listening to their music made me sad.

My dad is not a bad person but when it comes to making good choices he struggles a bit. He has never chose to put his family first. He decides when he comes and when he goes and I got used to that. He ended up moving to California when I was 14 so it really has been only a few visits since. But he would just show up unannounced and expect everyone to be happy and move there schedules around for him. And for a While I did that, but it always ended in a very dramatic way. He would start a fight with someone and try to make all of us feel guilty for his many mistakes. I started to realize this pattern and then I realized I now was the one with the choices.

Now it’s up to me, I am a grown woman and my relationship with my Dad is now my choice. I have had to chose to forgive him and let go of the ways that he hurt me. I also had to let go of the mistakes that I made and blamed him for because he just wasn’t there to show me love. I got past all of that and truly moved on. When he would do things to upset me it was my choice to just not communicate for a while until I knew for sure it was not something that was lingering and upsetting me.

It also was my choice whether or not I wanted to make an effort to see him. Now more than ever I have a reason to be guarded. I have a daughter and she is my world and I know the type of world that I want to give her and none of which includes a cycle of disappointed hopes. So I began to think about whether or not I wanted my father to meet my daughter. And because I had forgiven him and because he was relentless in the pursuit. When he came to town I decided that I wanted them to meet.


The number one and most important thing is that I had no expectation as to how this meeting would go. In the past I would dream up these enchanted meetings we would have together where he would want to learn everything about me and listen and then he would make me laugh. We would go off and do fun things together and then after that he would call and check in consistently. But it had never panned out like that.

So I chose to have zero expectations and that I can live with. We decide to meet him for lunch and I hadn’t made up this elaborate encounter in my head and because of that I am not really able to be disappointed and thank God. Of course I wanted this Grand reaction as he met my daughter the first time but i just didn't let myself get too wrapped up in how it went. I decided that they would meet and I would go from there on if there would be a continued relationship.

He got there and acknowledged my daughter for a few minutes and maybe asked a few questions about us and then he went on to talk about himself the rest of the time. My sister brought my nieces and he ignored there pleas for his attention. I tried to slip in topics about the girls and all of the activities they were in and he would barely pause to listen before continuing to spew out all of this crap that he felt was a more important topic of conversation.

I left that lunch thankful that God gave me the discernment to know how to protect my own heart without being callous. Because I sat there and listened and I looked at him through patient eyes but I knew that I could leave that table and not see him again. Not because I don't love him and not because I don't care but because it is OK to protect yourself and it is important to protect your children.

People like this have an uncanny ability to make you feel guilty for all of the things that they have done. They make it seem as if it is your job to fix them and if not it is your fault that they are still so messed up. They make you feel like a bad person for having to make decisions that are best for you and your family. And when you fall into that trap you end up hurt and disappointed. They don't really want your help, they want your pity. They don't really want your understanding they want you to feel sorry for them.

My dad has even had the tendency to throw my beliefs back in my face. Because I am a christian and I live a life that I believe would be pleasing to my father, he on several occasions has brought up how “unchristian” i am for not respecting him and forgiving him.

Here is the deal. I have a God that can do all things and I believe with all of my heart that if my dad decided that he wanted to change my God could restore him in every area of his life. So no I have not lost hope that he could someday have a come to Jesus moment and get his life right. With the right relationship with the father he would realize that his priorities have been severely out of whack. From personal experience with the right type of relationship with God he would begin to lead you down a path of correcting all of the mistakes that you have made. And if that type of God intervention was allowed then I believe that my dad and myself could have an awesome relationship. But Just as I knew better that night when I was just a kid, I am not going to continue to look out of the window waiting for that Changed man to appear.

You need to know that it is OK to protect yourself. It is OK to make decisions for your family with God’s guidance. Its OK to not continue to let someone hurt you just because that is who they are and who they always have been. If they really want you in their life they will seek to understand why you have created a separation and if they don't then you know they are still consumed in self. And anytime you have an encounter with them and you feel pity or guilt realize that they have been able to manipulate your pure heart. Trust me I get it, you want to be the person that changes their life but when it comes to choices; that one just isn't yours.

It's frustrating how I can’t hate you

How I can’t seem to hold it against you

Its annoying how he hasn’t released me

Given me the freedom to stop loving you so dang much

Even if I wanted to be callous to you I couldn't

When you see my call know that God still wants you

Because he just wont let me forget you

Someday maybe he will

Or maybe that's a never and he wont

Either way know that my love for you

Is not in my strength alone

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