Family

How A Dad Goes From 'Best Friend' To Estranged Parent With Just Five Words

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estranged father

"You'll always be daddy's little girl."

This phrase is a dream for most little girls, and fortunately, many of us have had this dream come true even as we grew into adults.

For others, it turns out to be a lie. Sometimes Daddy has conditions for their love.

Even Siri Lindley, an American triathlon coach and former professional triathlete, has experience with this. She shared the heartbreaking experience with host Andrea Miller on the Open Relationships: Transforming Together podcast. Her father, who had been her best friend and biggest cheerleader, had impossible conditions for his love and acceptance: she couldn't love who she loved or be who she truly was if she wanted to be his daughter. 

The bond between a parent and child is often celebrated as one of the strongest, most enduring connections one can experience. However, beneath the surface of this cherished relationship lies a vulnerability that, when mishandled, can lead to irreparable rifts.

RELATED: To The Daughters Whose Dads Left — From A Dad Whose Daughter Doesn't Sleep In His Home Every Night

Five words that turned a best friend into an estranged father

The journey from being a trusted confidant to becoming an estranged parent can sometimes be triggered by a mere handful of words — words that carry the power to shatter trust, inflict pain, and drive a wedge between hearts.

Such is the sobering reality captured in the five simple, yet profoundly impactful words:

"Somebody told me you're gay." 

   

   

These words, when uttered by a parent to their child, represent more than just a statement of hearsay. They symbolize a breach of confidence, a betrayal of trust, and a failure to uphold the unconditional love that should be the cornerstone of any parent-child relationship.

To the child on the receiving end, these words can be a devastating revelation, not only because of the personal aspect of their sexuality being exposed without consent but also due to the realization that their own parent has succumbed to prejudice and gossip.

For the father who speaks these words, there may be a myriad of emotions at play — fear, confusion, perhaps even a misguided sense of concern.

However, regardless of the intentions behind them, the impact remains the same. In one swift moment, a once cherished bond is tarnished, and the foundation of trust crumbles beneath the weight of judgment and misunderstanding.

"When my father found out [I was gay], he called me and he was crying so hard he couldn't even speak for about 2 minutes," she said. "I thought: Here's my dad who is my hero. He came to every single game at Brown University. He would drive 3 hours there, 3 hours back, twice a week. My best friend, my greatest source of love."

She explained, "So, I'm thinking he's dying and I'm panicking." Lindley revealed that when her father was finally able to speak he said, "Somebody told me you're gay and I could not possibly have a daughter that's gay. Tell me right now, Siri, that this isn't true."

Her response was, "Dad, it's true — but I'm me, I'm the same me that I've always been please just love me anyway this doesn't change anything."

The words are haunting. "Please just love me anyway..."

Unfortunately, her father only hung up the phone on her and didn't call back for two years. 

RELATED: 9 Things Every Unloved Daughter Needs To Hear

You have two options after a parent rejects you: 

1. Stay in your anger.

After those words, things often get harder — a space grows between us, getting wider with every quiet moment and every chance to make things right that we don't take. The child, feeling let down and alone, might stay quiet, finding comfort in places where they're accepted just as they are.

At the same time, the parent, dealing with their own feelings of guilt and regret, might keep denying there's a problem and get defensive, making it even harder to fix things.

Feeling mad is okay. You might want to use that anger to push your dad away even more or decide you don't need him anymore. But are you being really honest with yourself when you say that out of anger?

Probably not.

During the years after her father rejected her, Lindley let her anger fester, and when her father did eventually call she would unleash herself on him, "After that [his calls] became more and more rare. Mostly because when he did call, I took that as an opportunity to just unleash and purge all my anger, all my resentment, all my bitterness."

She explained, "That was painful and it made me feel like everything that I had become as a 23-year-old meant nothing now that I was gay."

2. Forgive and build a bridge.

You can also extend forgiveness to the older generation for their lack of progress, but only if they are committed to altering their ways.

Lindley said that she looks back and now realizes that her father was trying when he called her, "I failed to see at the time is that he was trying to reconnect. But when he did, I just took that as an opportunity to rip him to bits. I was kind of doing the same thing that he had done to me."

Amidst the sadness and longing for what once was, there's still a bit of hope — a hope that grows from people's ability to bounce back and learn. This hope says that with time and effort, we can fix what's broken, heal old hurts, and make love win over any differences.

To dads on the edge of losing their kids, don't see those five words as a slap in the face, but as a chance to think and grow. Remember to be kind, accepting, and love without conditions. And know that making up after a fight can make your relationship even stronger than before.

In the end, it is not the words themselves that define the relationship between a parent and child, but rather the willingness to listen, to understand, and to love without condition.

And it is in this spirit of compassion and forgiveness that true healing can begin — a healing that has the power to mend even the deepest of wounds and restore the bond that was once thought lost forever.

RELATED: 5 Signs You Were Emotionally Neglected By Your Dad (And It's Affecting You Now)

Deauna Roane is a writer and the Editorial Project Manager for YourTango. She's had bylines in Emerson College's literary magazine, Generic, and MSN.