By Laura Zipris, Psy. D., LMHC
Dear Dr. Z.,
My mother died when I was 8 years old and my little brother was 5, leaving my father a very young widower. Despite all of his grief and despair, he never skipped a beat with us. He did an amazing job raising us and he worked really hard to provide us with everything we needed physically and emotionally. He has sacrificed so much for us and gave us his whole life. I do know how lucky I am to have him but the problem is I now feel so much pressure to always be there for him, as he always was for us.
My brother is away at college now, but I am 25 years old and still living at home. I never went away to college so that I wouldn’t have to leave my father alone. I am in a serious relationship right now and even feel guilty when I stay at my boyfriend’s house or when we go away together. My boyfriend has talked about taking the next step in our relationship (i.e. marriage and moving in together) but I feel overwhelmingly panicked and torn at the notion of leaving my father. What should I do?
I certainly understand why you feel so grateful for having a father who dedicated his life to his children and who did everything in his power to ensure you felt loved and nurtured, despite the tragic loss of your mother. Your father sounds like an amazing man who deserves to be honored and loved for the sacrifices he made and the selflessness he has shown. He did his job well!
That being said, it is time for you to “leave the nest” so to speak, and embark on new adventures. Given the way you have described your father, I am sure that he wants you to live a very full and happy life; one that he can be a part of. Leaving your childhood home, finding true love, and starting your own family are the milestones in life that parents hope for and dream about for their children.
Try not to underestimate your father’s strength or over inflate his dependency upon you. Your father has an opportunity to create a life for himself now outside of his children. He has the opportunity to explore his own hobbies, interests and maybe even find new companionships. While he may have some of his own fears and may express reservations about what lies ahead, he might also be filled with some excitement as he enters into this next phase in life. Encourage him to explore this new path.
You and your father have a special relationship and a loving foundation to build on. Talk to him about the future and share your concerns with one another. He has always been there for you in the past so there is no reason to believe that now will be any different.
Laura Zipris holds a doctorate in Psychology and is licensed to practice psychotherapy in New York, as well as in Florida. Laura is certified in Imago Relationship Therapy, a transformational approach that has been used successfully with couples around the world to help them to strengthen their partnerships, deepen their connection and reignite their passion for one another. Laura sees individuals of all ages and sexual orientations, couples, families, and groups in her offices located in Wellington and Delray Beach. In addition to her psychotherapy practice, Dr. Zipris works part time as a licensed school psychologist for the Palm Beach County School District.
For more information about Laura, please visit her website at www.drlaurazipris.com or to set up an appointment, contact Laura directly at (561) 558-7815.
Questions for this column should be sent to Dr. “Z” at Drlaurazip@gmail.com