The Never-Ending Dad

During this short week before American Thanksgiving, we decided to explore the topic of family. Specifically, our family of origin and its relationship to the new baby families we make when we get married. Because really, is there a better time to explore this topic than right before the holidays when we all go home and, to quote Submissions Editor Maddie, “Start acting like we’re 13 again”? So today we dive in with a super smart, super moving essay from Brytani (who you’ll remember from her lovely and simple wedding) about the shifting relationship with the parent we’re closest to after the wedding.
Father, Daughter, Baby Family, Letting Go

A couple months before our wedding, I had a mini-breakdown outside of a house that my man and I were considering renting. My sweet partner had looked for everything I asked for and found it in a house that we could afford, but it was old and had a structural strangeness to it that made me anxious about the decision. Our landlord asked us how we liked it—we looked at each other and I rocked back and forth from one foot to the other.

“I need my dad to look at it,” I said, all the words tumbling from my mouth in one breath.

My partner shook his head and tossed up one hand, as if to say, “What are you gonna do?”

Car doors slamming, tears, high-pitched conversation.

“You didn’t tell me what made you nervous about the place,” he said.

“I know, I’m sorry,” I said and meant it. “I just… need my dad on this one. I can’t feel confident until he tells me it’s okay.”

I could read his expression so clearly—the hurt, the frustration. He was screaming at me on the inside, wondering why I hadn’t grown beyond my father. He wanted the total trust, the absolute certainty that I gave my dad to be transferred to him all at once, and I just couldn’t do it.

On our wedding day, our photographers paid special attention to moments between my dad and me. At one point I was asked if we were very close, and between thoughts of how awkward it would be to answer if we weren’t, my dad and I nodded with big smiles. Yes, we each had the same favorite episodes of Star Trek. Yes, we always played co-op video games together. Yes, we took naps at the same time on Sundays. We were close. On that day, I was particular about where I wanted him and what his duties would be because above everyone but my husband, I needed him most to get me through. At one point when we were being mobbed by family with cameras, panic rushed over me and my eyes glazed over. The way Dad’s eyes were misty all day, the way everyone wanted pictures of us together, all the father-daughter rituals… was this going to be The Last Time? Were things going to be different somehow now? I swallowed down the feelings and summoned my inner wells of wisdom and calm.

I told myself to ignore that prickly, gut warning and be rational. Marriage wouldn’t change our relationship. So when I visited my parents’ house and he went out of his way to make me comfortable or made a fuss over making sure my tea was made correctly, I freaked out a little. My mom tried to reassure me that he would be okay and that he would get used to “it.” I wanted to grab and shake her. What fucking “it” woman?!

See, no one told me this (or maybe someone did and I just denied it) but marriage does change the way you’re expected to deal with your father. By some definition that was definitely not of my choosing, I was someone else’s girl now. I wanted to be my husband’s wife, sure, but never at the expense of being my dad’s daughter. I learned from context clues that I wasn’t expected to need my dad anymore. He was to be labeled “auxiliary” now—a fallback. Marriage made my husband expect to be my first call when things broke. It made him expect to be my primary source of knowledge and comfort on… well, everything that I didn’t know or felt anxious about. I didn’t prepare myself for that.

This may be because I’m a young wife (now twenty-three) but I’m just not done needing my dad, and somehow I doubt that I ever will be. I’ve been married for a year now, and I can tell you that while I want to lean on my husband, it’s not exactly my default instinct to dial his number when I need technical support. It’s not because I think my husband is incapable of providing it, I’m just running on years of experience with my father—years of baking together, arms covered in flour, years of playing chess and listening to classical music, and years of calling him in tears when I can’t fix it. It’s an act of will every time I ask my husband for help, a conscious decision to regard his feelings first and to trust him to be what I need.

It’s a hard transition, and while at first I felt it was one of those societal torture devices pushed on new wives and brides, I see now why it is a little necessary. My husband and I are a team and a tiny family on our own. We have to be the most important people in each other’s lives now and while we can go to my dad for help together, I can’t skip my husband entirely. I’m not used to it and neither is my dad. In fact, at first his struggle with it made me feel like I had abandoned him, but in a way, I’m comforted by how hard it is for both of us. It’s not fair or reasonable for anyone to expect us to be sunny and perfect right away, and that’s why I’m sharing this now. I think it’s okay to set your own pace for transitioning to your new family, and if you still bawl looking at old family photos, damn it, that’s just fine.

A few days before our wedding, I was going through a massive trunk of family pictures when I came across a picture of my dad riding an elephant with little baby me in his lap. Since I had just finished creating a page in our adventure book about wanting to ride an elephant one day, I just stopped everything and cuddled with the photo for a moment. I still feel all warm about it—that he knew me that well even in the beginning. So there you have it. Dads are forever.

Photo by: Aria Images

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  • I really liked the sentiment of this piece, but I politely disagree with ‘while we can go to my dad for help together, I can’t skip my husband entirely.’ It seems as if the purpose of this would be to make my husband feel like a ‘man’ and not be threatened by my Dad. I’m not into that. When I need my Dad, I’ll call my Dad, when I need my husband, I’ll call him.

    But otherwise it was a lovely reflection on how marriage affects not only the romantic relationship, but other relationships around us too. I hadn’t really thought of it in that way.

    • I don’t think Brytani means that she goes to her husband first to make him feel like the “man” in her life. I think she means more that she and her husband are the primary team members–not her father. If there’s a problem that affects the marriage team, those team members should be equally involved, and an outside force shouldn’t have more say than the inside forces. I see it as more about building a strong team than making a “man” in the family.

      • Exactly- its not about threatening his masculinity, its the genuine hurt he’s feeling that he’s not being treated as her partner. I’d feel the same way if my husband kept asking his mom for advice without asking me first (or at least discussing the question with me). When you get married, you sign up to be a new family, a two-person team, and part of that is being the go-to guy or gal. You want to be there to support your partner, and it sucks to be basically told “you’re not necessary, I already have everthing I need with my OLD family”.

    • meg

      If the sentiment were what you were saying, and we were talking about making our partners feel like a ‘man’ I’d agree. But I don’t think that’s it. I think it’s about the long and painful process of forming a primary partnership with our partners, and they way that changes ALL parent relationships: ones with moms and dads. It’s tough, it happens over a period of years. And honestly, parents know it’s coming. It’s why they can be so stressed out and emotional during wedding planning, if you ask me.

      • “And honestly, parents know it’s coming. It’s why they can be so stressed out and emotional during wedding planning, if you ask me.”

        So true. I wish I had known this during the wedding planning process. I haven’t heard it put like this before, but it’s so basic and universal.

        It was a little bit easier with my mom because she kind of said as much, although not in the most helpful terms. But his parents. They flew off the handle at every little thing, and it turned out it was because they were of the mindset (helped by his mother’s coworkers) that they were losing their son, that things would never be the same, that they couldn’t do anything about it but be sad and keep it all inside… because that works. We didn’t find any of this out until after the wedding, and so much damage had already been done.

  • You are so very lucky to have that sort of relationship with your father. If I were that lucky, I would be hard-pressed to give it up too. I’m sure you’ll find some sort of balance. I think there’s this silly societal idea (that particularly applies to women) that once you get married, you give up your family of origin… when in reality… you’re just expanding on the family you already have.

    • There’s an old saying that’s kind of the opposite of that: ” A son is a son till he takes him a wife, but a daughter’s a daughter the whole of your life”.

      • Kristen

        My mother-in-law quotes this to me constantly. It makes me a little bit stabby, because it’s always in the context of how I’m closer to my actual mother than I am to her. Because, duh.

    • meg

      Well, kind of. Things change, over time. They *have* to, for your new family to survive. Sometimes it takes years, often you stay very close to your family of origin, but in my experience things change. It’s not just a silly society idea, it’s part of forming a new family. But yes, you can and do find a balance. (And no, by the way, I don’t think it particularly applies to women. In many ways I think it’s far harder for guys.)

      • I think it’s a very American idea … that a married couple becomes this separate unit.

        I grew up in the US, where families are all divided up into this little nuclear units and I now live in Latin America, and have had to luck to marry into a huge, close loving Latin family. And honestly, I much prefer it. Sure… our extended family probably has a lot more say in what we do than the common American nuclear family but we also have a lot more support. And, of course, we get to make our own decisions ultimately but we do so always taking our family into consideration. Not because we have to but because we’re family.

        I like to think that we’re just a new branch of the family… not a baby tree family off on our own. I don’t want to be on my own. It would be too lonely.

        • Ceebee

          I think it is necessary to realize that the married couple is forming a new family and that that will be the priority. Having said that, marriage is not leaving the nest for good (although for my grandmother it really was in the 1910s being shipped off from Canton to Southeast Asia and never having anymore contact with her own family). It really is expanding your existing family to the left and right, but with you and your husband’s new family as the center.

          I was the kind of girl that thought I didn’t need/want a wedding (when weddings were all flowers and dresses) until I realized this. A wedding is a celebration of the life you came from (your own family) –> to the life that you are building (you two) –> to the life that will sustain you both/you both will sustain (the community built from your families and friends). That’s how you would feel the love on your wedding day.

          Of course in times of distress in the extended family, you now have one another to lean on as you return to those individual communities’ challenges. Having that support from one another makes you braver. Marriage are your individual walks turned into A singular one.

          But never drag the extended family into any issues you have between yourselves, as once people take sides, things can get bigger than they are.

        • MEI

          I’m with Alice. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a multi-generational household, but I’ve always been a little perplexed by the nuclear unit sectioning off thing. Part of the reason we thought getting married was important was because we wanted to welcome each other officially into our respective families. Marriage is another support system. This idea of some hiearchy of prioritization has just never really entered my mind to think about. My family’s here for me, and I’m here for them. Husbands’s part of my family now, and so is his family. They’re here for me and I’m here for them. That’s what families do. I love your branch of a tree image, Alice. I’d rather be a branch of an old wise oak than a sapling on its own.

          • K

            I agree that it’s very much cultural. That being said, I think that in the first few years of marriage, it can be helpful for some couples (depending on the in-laws) to take some time to differentiate/individuate themselves as a family from the larger families. Particularly when there’s power dynamics involved w/holidays. This year, we’re celebrating the holidays together, creating our own traditions and also sending a clear message to some relatives who assume we will always show up to their house during the holidays.

            But if there weren’t these power dynamics, and if we enjoyed these relatives more, we might be spending more time with them– but everyone has their own ideas about what is normal/acceptable/ok with family.

  • A very thoughtful post, and I can certainly relate in terms of forming your own family unit outside of your parents’. When my husband and I first got engaged, my mom wanted to spend more time with me. Even though my husband and I lived together for a couple of years before getting married, my mom said she was afraid things would change–and she was right. It’s all about creating your own family, and sometimes that means feeling “homesick” in a weird way.

  • Amy March

    And this is why Butterfly Kisses makes me cry Every. Single. Time.

  • This is a very interesting piece. Thank you for being so open Brytani.

    I wonder how my relationship with my parents will change, post-marriage. Will there be a sudden shift after Friday? Will it be gradual? Or will I have been self-sufficient for so long that it’s not really all that noticeable anymore?

    In the wedding planning I have noticed that I’ve already become more of a team leader. If I say ‘no’ to my parents, I’m not just saying ‘no’ on behalf of me, but also (or entirely) on behalf of my partner.

    My dad – whom I resemble a lot – has said he does not see the wedding as something big and transformative. I don’t know if I believe him :) I do think (or at least hope) that he will see this wedding as a bit of closure. Not as an ending to his being my dad, of course, but as a sort of ‘coming full circle’ of his parenting. And I hope that will be a comforting thought and a sort of unspoken “thank you” for his dedication.

  • North Star

    i’m so glad to see this post. this was one aspect of getting married that i didn’t think much about before the engagement & i felt kind of embarrassed about this “homesickness” feeling. i’d lived on my own for 2 years, had a decent job, and was living in a city 4hrs away from my parents when i got engaged. i was surprised by how much of a shift it was to thinking of my husband as my primary family. there were times i was so used to asking my parents; opinions about things i had to really be conscious of not leaving my husband out of the loop. it was a hard thing to talk about, i remember worrying that people would think it weird or childish that i was feeling a little sad and strange about the change in relationship with my family.

    • Have you changed your emergency contacts yet? It was a weird day when I switched those from my parents to my man.

      • Or your benfits? Like, the who-does-the-money-go-to-when-you-die benefits? That one was also pretty weird for me.

        • meg

          Yeah. That is always such a weird moment. My money had gone to my sister, and I felt GUILTY when I switched it to my brand new husband.

          • When I was with my ex-fiance, I left it at 50% him and 50% my mother. Telling, perhaps? :)

          • k

            Replying to Meg because I can’t reply to Morgan: I don’t know about that; I would say it depends on the situation. For example, my husband and I are both in our mid-forties and quite self sufficient, with (one hopes) years of earning power left and a decent amount of savings, and I would be APPALLED if he left nothing to his elderly mother on a fixed income and left everything to me, and I certainly plan to do my best to be sure that if I go, my parents will have enough to be comfortable rather than barely scraping by on Social Security.

          • MWK

            I left my sister and brother money for a while (they got half and my husband got half).

      • ElisabethJoanne

        Leah, Morgan, Meg – I hope I’m doing this gradually. I had to state an emergency contact for the first time in years, and almost said my fiance, but stopped myself and put Mom, as always. She’s a doctor who can be contacted 24/7, so there’s practical advantages, but I was also surprised by how ready I was to switch things over to this man I’ve never even lived with.

        The benefits and estate planning stuff is an area of professional expertise for me, so I’ve been thinking about it for awhile (like before-we-met awhile). Hopefully, I’ll know my own mind when it comes time to do that and it’ll be just another chore.

        • vee

          Ooh. Guest post on your views/recommendations/things to consider on benefits and estate planning, pretty please? That’s been on my to-do list for a while (1.5 months newlywed here, after having dated for 7 years). We’ve been procrastinating on seeking out a tax advisor as well.

      • It’s not that I have a bad relationship with my parents, I have a great one, but my husband has been my emergency contact since he was my boyfriend!
        I suppose it all depends on circumstances though, because my parents are a plane ride away, so it made sense to have someone actually in this province as my emergency contact.

        Also, I feel like I was more ready to leave my parents than a lot of people – maybe this comes from living with them for all 4 years of university, and wanting my own place, my own oven, my own life…

  • kireina

    Beautiful. Thanks! :)

  • Noleen

    I have a great relationship with my dad too. And although I moved out of my parents home 14 years ago – and I have been living with my finace for 3 years, I still need my dad.
    That’s the thing. If you have that kind of relationship with your parents then you will never stop needing them. It’s just that the way you need him will change.
    I don’t need dad to come in (he live 4 hours away) so that he can replace the flooring. My finace will do that. But I need him for advice because most likely, he’s been there and he’s learned from the mistakes that he made.
    It’s funny because as you get older, your relationship with your parents change – they start to become more than just parents, they become your friends.
    I don’t expect that to change once my legal status changes to “married.”

  • YngMadeline

    Thank you so much for posting this piece. One of the reasons I have been dragging my feet in proposing to my boyfriend. I am struggling with making an addition to my family. Yes, my boyfriend and I are partners, we live together, we make decisions together, and we are a team. However, my family is my family and I’m not ready to mess with those dynamics. I like the shared history I have with them and what it means to be my parent’s daughter. I’m afraid that getting married will shift something permanently. Ultimately, this won’t keep me from proposing because I do think it will work itself out, but it’s scary too.

    • meg

      It will. It will end up a good thing, but I think it actually is healthy, and probably shows that you’re ready to do this (and taking this appropriately seriously) that you’re scared. Godspeed, lady, godspeed.

    • Moz

      When you DO propose come back here and tell us how it went!

  • Maddie, I definitely agree that I feel 14 whenever I go home (for me, that’s the number I pick). It is always weird.

    I am really close to my dad too, and he is often the first person I call when I need something. But this has changed, over time, as I’ve gotten older. I’m 29 now and getting married in a month, and I’ll be interested to see if my transition is the same as Brytani’s. At 24, I moved across the country from my parents, and I still live half the continent away. I visit home frequently, but every year, there’s just a little more break. I call my dad just a little bit less. He’s still important, but I’ve been working on making those decisions without him.

    So, in my mind, I see the process of becoming your own person as related to marriage but also very much as the growing up process. I think I will complete the transition at marriage, when I will then have to trade off holidays (normally verboten in our family — you just don’t miss Christmas at home. Even my Marine brother only miss one Christmas, and that was when he was in bootcamp). But I do think my transition has been more drawn out but also slower as I have gradually become ever more independent.

    • The holidays thing is the big part I’m worried about too. We are both super close to our families. We’ve just been kind of putting off the decision, and I think we can get away with that again this year. But next year once we are married I don’t think we’ll be able to keep putting it off.
      I would love to hear from someone who had some trouble dividing holidays. How did you deal with it? I don’t really have any examples in my life. All of my married cousins and friends can do both families in the same day because everyone lives in the same city.

      • Laura

        It is really hard at the holidays! My fiance and I have been spending Christmas at home with my family one year, and traveling to his family the next year. If we go to see his family, we have a Christmas dinner and open presents, etc. with my family the weekend before we leave.
        The fact that both of our sets of parents are no longer together makes things more difficult too, because regardless of who we spend Christmas with, we’re always trying to divide our time equitably, and it’s pretty stressful :(
        It’s also hard because this year we’re supposed to be going to see his family at Christmas, but financially we can’t do it.
        I’m not sure there are any easy answers!

        • There are no easy answers. Even the “easy answer” still has challanges. I’m lucky that this year my in-laws offered to drive up to our city for Christmas, which is great, but still leaves a bunch of questions. Like: celebrate at home or with my aunt like we always do? Can I invite 3 extra people to someone else’s Christmas dinner? Or do I cook at home and miss our family’s celebration? How many days do I have to entertain my inlaws for? How pissed will my mother get, no matter what happens?

          And this, as I said, is an easy year compared to others. And EXACTLY why David and I skipped both Easter (anniversay trip to LA) and Thanksgiving (road trip around New England) this year. Because holidays are always hard.

      • Caroline

        It hasn’t been a problem yet (sort of), because my family lives nearby and we are too broke for a plane ticket for both of us to his home (saving up for next summer though), so we’ve just always gone to my family Hanukkah and Christmas (my parents were an interfaith but not religious couple. I’m Jewish but it doesn’t mean we abandon my family celebrations.)
        However, a few years ago, to accommodate my slightly older married cousins, and us if we “chose”, we switched family Christmas to every other year on Christmas, every other year the weekend before. It seems to work fairly well for my cousins.

        That said, my mom will be quite hurt the first year we decide to actually to to his family’s Christmas, because we always do something with her on the years family Christmas isn’t on Christmas, and that’s really important to her.

      • HH

        Dividing holidays!!!! So crazy- my fiance and I (*just* engaged!) have been together for five previous holiday seasons and always gone to our own families, whom we are both very close to. This year we’re doing them together because I couldn’t be without him for another, and vice versa. Our families are four hours apart, so there’s no easy way to do both in a day. The way we’re handling it is this:

        His parents would be alone after Christmas morning/afternoon because of his siblings’ previous plans. My parents will not be alone, at all. So we’re doing Thanksgiving with my family, then the following weekend, going to an annual pre-Christmas event hosted by his family. We head back to his family for Christmas Eve and Christmas, and are getting up early on the 26th to travel to my family so we can have another “Christmas”, then going home that night and going to work (I may end up calling in sick) on the 27th. So we get to see both families for both holidays… sort of.

        That’s how this year is being handled. Who knows what next year will look like? It’s HARD to figure it out.

        Also adding to difficulties- living in a major city= no car, so getting to and around the suburbs to our families requires a lot of planning ahead and depending on other people.

        HARD. But worth it, I think.

        Good luck!

  • Alana

    This really resonated with me… One of my only anxieties about this whole marriage business is the worry that my parents will somehow feel marginalised or rejected. And I sometimes feel guilty for feeling, in my heart, that even though my fiance loves me with all of his heart and soul, on some level my parents love me more – or at least, have loved me longer – and will have to see me ‘choose’ to make someone else number one in my life. It’s exacerbated by the fact that I live (with the beau) on the other side of the world to my parents. I sometimes have heartwrenching thoughts about things like, for example, if I die, my husband can choose to have me buried etc here where he is, and my parents, who have loved me for so much longer, no longer have rights over me. Is that a stupid thing to think about? I don’t know, but its shows how the transition in the ‘number one’ role can have really powerful dimensions.

    I really don’t mean to downplay the staggering love between my soulmate and I – but I am struck by the way in which parents lose out after knowing you and loving you longer than anyone else… And you can say ‘nothing changes’, and I hope it doesn’t unless something forces the issue, but tell that to Terri Schiavo’s parents and husband! I would really appreciate any one else’s thoughts or experiences with these kinds of emotions because I feel almost traitorous feeling them – either to the darling love of my life, or to my beloved parents who have loved me unconditionally always…

    • I’m always reassured by the fact that my parents and my husband understand. I’ve talked to my husband and explained the way I feel and he really does get it. I know my parents understand because they give us space and they’re married themselves. They’re all happy for me starting my family in my own way and at my own pace but it doesn’t mean we’re not all upset from time to time. My mom went into hysterics when she thought I wasn’t visiting her for her birthday. I think you’re even entitled to being upset. It’s big! It’s scary! I’ve already shared that I mourn over it sometimes. If you’re really worried about the issues of your husband’s wishes possibly overruling your parents’, though, I would talk to him and come up with some rules that you both feel good about. Talk over how you want to spend holidays, who should be the emergency contact (I have both my mom and my husband listed because–let’s face it–Hubs has to ask me what his SSN is), what to do if, like you said, you died overseas. The great thing is you can change your mind about any of the rules later on.

    • Shelly

      Alana, I struggled a bit too with the “bigger” things – the life and death parts and how to include my family of origin (or not). When my husband & I drafted up our wills just a few months after marrying, I felt strangely uncomfortable with designating him to make medical decisions on my behalf if I were to be incapacitated. In theory, it was a natural extension of our vows to make that decision. But in practice, I was surprised by my natural instinct to want my mom to make those decisions.

      I do think that time helps bring a bit of clarity and eases the anxiety though. I find us feeling more like a family unit in the little things, making the big things feel more natural as we separate ourselves in certain ways from our parents.

    • KEA1

      The fact that you care so much about all of this makes me a) want to reach out and hug you and b) thank your parents for raising such an incredible soul. Even though I’ve never met you. %) Thing is, and this may be a bit harsh, but that’s one of the things you sign up for when you decide to become a parent: Your kids will grow up. They will become independently-functioning members of society, and they will (at least very likely) pair off with a life partner of their own, and, yes, that life partner may very well become the one who has rights to decide on matters of life and death. I’m not going to pretend that any of that should be easy, but I think parents can learn to accept that their roles may change, even as they love you as powerfully now as ever–and I think that most parents are capable of thinking of that in the positive terms, not just in terms of “what they lose.” Your parents obviously did so many things right when it came to instilling such thoughtfulness, compassion and care for the feelings of the people you love (and who love you). I hope you can at least take some confort in that, even as you realize some of the heartwrenching parts of all this! *big hugs*

      • Alana

        awww you made me cry… :) thank you for your lovely words! *hugs*

        • KEA1

          Back atcha, O awesome one–you made me cry too! %) It’s heartwarming to hear all these stories of family ties, even the hard ones!

  • REM

    Thanks for sharing. I really enjoyed reading this and I feel much like you do. Even now after having been married for 8 months, my dad is the first one I call when my car makes a weird noise.

    • As much as it might bother the fiance, my dad will always be the first one I call about the car, and I think that’s okay.
      He was a little insulted when helping me while car shopping when I kept saying “I need to call my dad.” Finally I explained to him, it has nothing to do with my dad being more important and everything to do with my dad being a former mechanic. Same way I will always talk to my grandpa before buying a house. He’s a building inspector. If I have a travel question I call my mom, she’s a travel agent.

  • Louise

    Brytani, what an interesting post. For some reason it is one of the posts that I could relate to least since starting to read APW about 3-4 years ago – maybe because I’d lived on my own for 10 years before getting engaged, lived with my now husband for 4 years by then, and was 28 when we got married. But your post describes well what a big transition it must have been for you to go through. I’m sure it will get a little easier over time.

    • Bambi

      I felt the exact same way. I love him very much, and we have a good relationship, but I don’t really relate to the feeling of needing him the way Brytani talks about in the post. I agree that it is most likely because I have lived on my own for over a decade and lived with my boyfriend for years. Even before living with my boyfriend, I had learned how to do things like talk to the auto-repair mechanic about my car, file my taxes, buy a house, fix a leaky faucet, etc. – things that I used to rely on my dad to do when I lived at home. And honestly, I am damn proud of myself for learning to do this stuff on my own. A few years ago, while driving home from a party, I hit a rock and my car made a funny sound the whole way home. When I got home, I changed out of my party dress and grabbed a flashlight and crawled under the car to take a look. I remember feeling so proud of myself for being able to do that kind of stuff – and feeling that my dad would be really proud of me too (he was!). I am just posting, I guess, to say that I think sometimes we forget that while parents have a hard time with huge milestones that mean that their kids are growing up, in the end they are really happy and proud to raise someone who can stand on her own two feet. I think this also goes toward your new family that you and your husband create. I don’t look at it as a loss between my dad and me that I no longer call him to ask him how to fix my computer when it freezes up or what to do about our broken heater – I like to think that he is really proud and happy that my boyfriend and I are figuring all of this out and making our own way. Our relationship has changed, but it is great.

  • This was a beautiful piece, but I do not think you *should* stop needing your dad. I think you can have your old family, your dad, for support, and still, start constructing, building your new baby family with your husband.
    And if your dad is better for something, let’s imagine he is an engineer and you need help with computers, and your husband is in a different area, why should you not rely on him ?
    Emotionally, I think it is the same, I do not think both the “new” and “old” families should exclude each other, the way I feel it is more about families growing together, like, in a family tree.

  • Arachna

    This is a lovely and difficult post.

    I’ve had a similar issue, except not with my dad but with my mom with whom I am very close.

    The first time I spent a significant number of days at my parent’s home with my husband I was very conflicted.

    I’m an introvert that really tends to focus in on one person and prioritize them – if I’m at a party I want to be hanging out with one or two people etc. If I’m with someone I love I’m tuned in to their feelings and trying to make them happy and frankly don’t really care about anything else, a kind of tunnel vision.

    I’ve gotten used to doing that “tuning in” and “prioritizing’ with both my mom and my husband and having them there at the same time was confusing to me because I felt torn on whom to pay attention to.

    Thankfully there tends to be a breakdown in when I want to call my mom and when I want to call my husband – both very much have a place as the “first call”.

    I don’t think it’s a problem for your relationship with your husband if you dad is your first call for some issues/times, I do think it’s probably problematic if your dad (or my mom) is always your first call.

    • Kess

      This is exactly how I feel – very introverted and tend to focus on people. Also, I am only 21, my parents are still currently paying for my cell phone and all insurance so sometimes that makes me feel even guiltier for prioritizing my boyfriend over them. My mother is also my best friend, and has been since we could start to have an ‘adultish’ relationship.

      I feel bad for when my BF comes to my house because I tend to ignore him (I live with him, so I get to see him all the time) and focus solely on my parents and my siblings if they are there as well. I love my BF in a way I’ve never loved anyone else, but I love my family very fiercely in a completely different way.

      Also, I find it difficult, I guess, to ask my BF for advice opposed to my family as I am the baby of the family by 5 years and my BF is one year older than I am – everyone in my family has at least 4 years of experience on me and my BF. For emotional matters, my BF is excellent, but still just slightly behind what my mother can give because she just knows me that much more – even if I haven’t shared as many feelings with her as I have my BF. (It also helps that my mother and I are very similar).

      This is one of the major reasons I am not yet quite comfortable with getting married – obviously I’ve been thinking about it a lot, but I’m not yet quite ready to cut those strings – even if I really tried to keep them tied.

      • Anne

        At least for me, it isn’t necessarily about cutting strings, but just having more years of not being dependent on my parents. My fiance and I have been living together for three years now, and lived in a foreign country together last year, 6000 miles away from either of our parents. I’m still close to my parents, particularly my mom, and there are definitely still things we each call our parents to ask advice about (like how we should invest our retirement savings, or something), but as your relationship grows, it just starts becoming more natural, I guess.

  • KW

    I am so happy to see a discussion of this subject, especially since there is such a wide range of experiences here. My SO has had a difficult relationship with his mother and has more of a “peer” relationship with his father rather than “father-son.” When I feel the need to check in with my own parents on something (after all, they have several decades of valuable experiences to pass along), he doesn’t understand it. On the other side of the spectrum, I know a younger married woman who still ships all online purchases to her parent’s house instead of her own.

    It takes a lot of flexibility — and time — to shift away from “people who have known me my whole life” to “someone who I will spend the *rest* of my life with.”

  • Anon

    I made a speech at my wedding (I am feminist, hear me roar) to say publicly how much I loved my parents, how grateful I was to them for making me who I was, and how they would always be some of the most important people in my – and our – married life. And I meant every word, so much. Then a few weeks after the wedding it emerged that my dad has lied to us all for thirty years and has a secret second family. Bombshell!

    I feel desperately guilty that this has overshadowed the start of our married life, that my emotional energy has been elsewhere (mostly trying to support my mom), that my new husband has seen me crying my heart out again and again over the collapse of “my” family at a time when I should be excited to be starting out with him.

    But it has also made me see how lucky I am – to be able to choose my family for the rest of my life, beyond the one I was born into. I’ve chosen my husband to be my number one person, my in-case-of-emergency call and my shoulder to cry on – and our new family is only just beginning. And hopefully things will get better from here!

    It’s wonderful that you are so close to your dad, and this was a beautiful piece. Hope everything goes really well for you as you get used to being a wife as well as a daughter.

    • HUGS. Many many hugs to you, lady.

    • Many hugs and much support to you. I’m so sorry about the revelation.

      The timing is raw as anything but that he’s there for you, like I’m sure you’ve been for him in the past and will be in the future, is the most important part of this difficult moment in your marriage, of many more moments to come.

      Less than a week after our wedding, my mom died. And I’ve been trying not to let that overshadow our new marriage either. It’s a struggle but we have our life partners for this very reason: to love, support, and help each other through anything.

  • Meredith

    Back in senior year of college, when I thought about marrying my boyfriend I tried to think of what would really change in our relationship. Finances- yes- but mainly logistics, neither of us had any debt and are both good savers, Health Insurance- yes- but still just logistics, Taxes- yes- logistics. Then I thought of Medical/ End Of Life Decisions. and oh my god I freaked out. My parents could be completely cut out of the loop and if they were in the loop, the decision wouldn’t immediately pass to them, it would pass to my boyfriend. When I was 22, I was VERY uncomfortable with that. Not because I didn’t trust my boyfriend but because THEY. ARE. MY. PARENTS!! They know me. They MADE me. They would know what to do.

    Now, 2.5 year later, I’m completely comfortable with my boyfriend making that decision (same boyfriend, not yet married); actually I’d prefer him to make it (with my parents input of course). He knows me in a way my parents do not. Though I’m close with my parents and have a solid, stable relationship with them, they are, now, NOT my go-to people. I have an intimate relationship with my partner, physically and emotionally. I live with him, I tell him LOTS of things I do not tell my parents. And when I had surgery this year, the #1 person I wanted there was him (if I had to choose).

    In the last 2-ish years, I’ve made the transition to my partner being my #1 (now, this of course is for emotional needs and sometimes practical, but if I have questions about my car or taxes or investments I call my Dad because he’s gonna know the answer, my partner, though he knows lots of things, does not know anything about cars, taxes or investments). I’m not quite sure how it happened other than just time. On my end it wasn’t a conscious choice, it just naturally occurred. It may, of course, be completely different for you.

    • Shelly

      We must have been posting at the same time! I felt very similarly on this issue in particular, both in thought process and eventual comfort with the decision :-)

    • An “exactly” did feel like enough.

      My boyfriend totally freaked out when I told him I was putting him as the primary beneficary on my (very modest) life insurance policy. But we live together, we’re pre-engaged and our finances are totally mingled. He is the one I want to take care of and support for the rest of my life. If I (God forbid) can’t do that while living, I want to make sure he’s cared for.

      But the shift from my primary emotional support coming from my parents to coming from my boyfriend was gradual and organic. There are some things my parents simply know more about (souffles, home-ownership) but my emotional grounding is in the baby family my boyfriend and I have created.

  • Yes yes yes. Truth and tears. My dad and I are also very close, and I worry about what will change in our relationship after I’m married. But, I think this post made me realize that I’ve already balanced my relationship with him and my relationship with my lady more than I’m giving myself credit for.

  • amy

    Love this post. When I first moved back to my home state to be with my boyfriend (now husband), I had dinner with my parents and talked about my decision, and how it was a decision I had made not just for my love life, but for all sorts of practical reasons, like saving money, shifting my career and being closer to my family.

    My dad just sighed and kind of shook his head and said, “You’re with the only family that matters now.” He meant my boyfriend. We had only been dating for a few months at that point and even I hadn’t thought of us as a family, or considered that choosing to be with someone was in effect changing the structure of my family life. That conversation completely shifted the way I thought about my relationship to him and to my parents (and to my husband’s parents and siblings, too).

  • KateM

    I think that to a large extent this is an age thing. When you first go out into the world on your own, you fall back on your parents a lot for the little things you have never dealt with before, they clearly have experience and it makes sense to turn to them. As we grow older we don’t rely on them for as many experiences, because we ourselves now posses that knowledge, and I know my parents, in particular, my father is so proud of my being a mature adult capable of doing pretty much anything on my own now. That was what he raised me to be. That being said, I am no less close to him now that I was when I physically needed him on a more regular basis. We talk a little less, that is true. When I was single he would call more often just to check in and see how I was doing. It is an old school tradition, the handing over of the bride to the groom at the altar and I understand that many people object to it because they feel it denotes ownership. But on another level, it is your parents handing you over to your new baby family, they are showing their love and trust in your choice of a partner. They are giving up being the primary figures in your life and stepping aside literally to allow your partner to be the most important. They don’t love you less, you can still go to them for advice(although beware about discussing martial problems with parents, they don’t forgive your loved one as fast as you do and it can cause problems) and they are always the ones who brought us into the world and raised us. The dynamic just changes, and can make your relationship even better, if different.

    • I really love the idea of being handed over into your baby family!

  • Mihaela

    At 23, I’m also a young wife. I think that makes it harder. I went straight from living with my parents to moving in with my husband on the day of our wedding. My father and I had always been extremely close, and I was definitely “his little girl.” But when I started primarily going to my fiancé for advice and help before I got married, my dad had a really tough time with what, for him, was an abrupt shift in gears. He didn’t speak to me for three months. But eventually, he got into the right place and we moved on. He loves my fiancé – that definitely wasn’t the problem – it was just that he wasn’t the go-to man in my life anymore, after all those years, and it hurt him.

  • DeeAnna

    Your post about not knowing how you felt about the new house until your dad gave you an opion totally resonated with me. In college, I lived for a couple years in a terrible little falling apart house that I loved because it was filled with good friends. However, years later my mom told me that my dad almost cried when he dropped me off there, because he really didn’t think it was a suitable place to live–but he didn’t say anything because he honored my decisions. To this day, when looking at new places to live my first internal question is “Would my dad cry if I lived here?”

    I ask my dad’s opinion about a lot of things. Luckily, my husband is right on board — he’s always impressed by how much my dad knows! But I get your point about letting go…I call dad more as a consultant now.

    • Vmed

      This is really sweet. I want to second your post because it resonates with me; one of the reasons I knew my husband would be good for me was that he has shown a lot of respect for my dad’s experience and knowledge.

      And we have this general appreciation of our parents’ respective areas of expertise, which not only improves our relationships with them, but also comes in handy when we could use the advice. (e.g. his parents have decades of teaching experience and this is my first year teaching middle school… can you say, jackpot?)

  • Pippa

    Ohh that homesick feeling, I know it very very well.

    But to add something different to the discussion, I have to say that for me, the relationship between myself and my Dad (closer to him than to my Mum) has been tested by not my romantic ties but by his. Now when I visit or need to talk, his partner will always be there and be included. Which is fine, I have nothing against the woman and have enormous respect for the love that she shares with my father. But whereas before my parents’ divorce I would only have the dynamic of the two people who raised me and know me, now I feel as though an ‘outsider’ is complicating things. I don’t begrudge my Dad for it but it certainly makes it a lot more difficult to retain that closeness and level of communication. I wonder if my Dad feels the same way about my partner..?

  • Gen

    Thank you for this. I have never been able to fully express how I feel about my Dad/Husband relationship. I am very very close with my dad and there have been fights and yelling matches with my husband about what I go to my dad for.

    I sent this to my husband to read, and I hope he understands now. We have been married for a year, together for 8 years – but I’ve been in a relationship with my dad for all my 25 years. Its not an easy one to let go. It really is a conscious decision to ask my husband and not my dad first.

    Thanks, yet again, for a great piece.

  • Chronically Ill Bride

    Beautiful piece, and man, I’m jealous of your relationship with your dad.

  • Beautiful post.

    My husband often defers to his family for advice on our decisions and it drives me slightly bonkers. When it comes to the big things in life, I’ve always been independent and made my own choices. So this piece was great to get a little perspective on the other side.

    And now I am wondering if my independence (which my parents instilled in me) has caused them any sadness/regret. Hmm…I still think that I am very close with both parents even though I don’t go to them for life help. I definitely do rely on them being out there, a phone call away, to share our mundane goings on and plot future visits.

  • I’ve actually been thinking a lot about all this lately, so this post speaks to me, but maybe in the opposite way?
    I’m 35 and I’ve been living 3,000 miles away from my family for over 10 years now. I’m not really close to any of them. My parents divorced when I was 4. My mom and I don’t speak, and my dad and I are close only recently, like the last 6 years. These are all long stories for another time.
    Anyway… last year, my car died and I had to replace it with a “new” one almost overnight. I live in LA and I own a dog walking business, so I need my car. I was feeling nervous about having to make such a big decision so quickly, so I called my dad. I called my dad as my darling boyfriend was doing all the research to try and find a car I could afford on the fly.
    Well, he didn’t answer. I left a message. Kind of a panicked message. And he didn’t call me back. For like, almost a week. When I finally got to talk to him, he said, “I knew you and Joe would figure it out. You didn’t need me.”
    Well, I was floored. And a little hurt. What do you mean, I don’t need you? You’re my dad!

    A few months later, Joe and I were back east for a visit. I was telling a (i thought it was) funny story about a disagreement Joe & I had, where my sole reason for thinking I was right was “well, my Dad told me that’s how it works, so I know I’m right”. Well, after a quick iphone search, turns out Dad & I were wrong. My Dad listened to the story and said, “That’s good. This is the transition. This is where you stop thinking that I have all the answers and start thinking your husband does.”
    Well. You could have knocked my over with a feather. Ignoring for a moment the slightly veiled implication that I don’t have the answers for myself, it really made me think.
    And it made me feel like a grown up for maybe the first time.

    • Oh wow, that would have ticked me off if my father, or anyone else for that matter, would have said that my husband was the one I should turn to with all my questions and thus implying that I needed a head-of-the-family type man to figure it out for me.

      • Yeah, it really did tick me off too.
        Did I mention I live 3,000 miles away from them?

  • Jo

    Bawling. At work. This is what I get for reading APW at lunch. Yup, beautiful business. Timely. Etc. And for someone who doesn’t always feel able to go to my dad for first things, the societal push to get even more independent after our wedding was too much in some ways. I pushed back and have been wanting lots of closeness with my dad, in the husband-honoring ways that I can. It’s a hard thing. Ok. That is all I can say coherently now.

  • Danielle

    I have experienced something similar with my husband and his parents and it has been frustrating at times. I know that he does view me as his family, but I realize that it is often a conscious effort for him to turn to me with things where he used to turn to his parents.

    I remember one awkward situation where he was buying his “first adult suit” and he invited his mother to go shopping with him to help him pick it out. The husband was so surprised when I was in tears trying to explain why I was upset that he didn’t ask me to go with him to pick out a suit. At the time he definitely didn’t see the harm in turning to his mother, but since he has made a significant effort (like you said, “conscious decisions”) to turn to me first.

    And because he does this, I have found myself much more willing to suggest asking his parents for input/support/feedback about decisions on occasion.

  • Beautiful. You are a lucky woman to have such a wonderful Dad & loving husband in your life. It may take trial & error to establish this new “I’m married now” relationship with your Dad but you will find your way. Keep trying & keep the faith!

  • maura

    The Dad posts always hit close to home, as a member of the Dead Dad Club. I was always closest to him, and he had the most impact on me during my college years. (He died 4 months after I graduated college.) I felt I had a slew of men who I could lean on about car stuff and boy stuff, but I always missed him.

    Enjoy your holidays with your family, origin and baby! And to figuring out how everyone fits in and changing relationships. It really never ends….

    • Oh, man, with you in the Dead Dad club. It’s certainly an unpleasant way to force this transition.

  • Holy cow, what timing. I’ve been living on my own for 7 years now, with my fiance for 3 years and engaged one year. We are moving into a new house next week and for the first time since I left home, I’m feeling homesick because my parents are not coming to help us move! Prior, I always knew I could call my dad to help me hang the curtains for an awkward window, call my mom to brainstorm room arrangements, now it’s my fiance. I know my parents are still there, but they already see me as starting my own family and it’s not easy! So great to see all the people here that struggle with the same feelings. Thank you!

  • When I first got my driver’s license my dad refused to answer the phone if I was out driving in case it was the police or hospital calling to say I’d been in an accident. He did not want to get that phone call.

    When we got engaged I made my husband watch “Father of the Bride” just to show him what dad’s can be like when they have to let their little girl grow up like that.

    We still need our parents. Just this weekend we both called home to get ideas for Thanksgiving dinner because we’d come up with mashed potatoes and pie (and there will be lots of both!) and figured there had to be more than that.

    Change is hard, but it isn’t always bad.

  • I’m imagining an adventure book a la “Up.” I hope yours is just as awesome :)

    • That was it exactly. We had an Up-themed cocktail hour.

      • Kira

        That sounds so awesome! Gah.

  • Kat

    Wow. I totally had the Dad/husband meltdown, it was just much earlier than the wedding. After my (now) husband and I finished our degrees we went to stay with my parents for a couple of months (we are very fortunate that my parents have a house in the Bay of Islands (New Zealand) and are teachers, so spend the summer there – it’s where I spent every summer growing up). Before Christmas my Mum and I spent some time away (my grandfather was dying of cancer) and my husband did a scuba dive course and went diving with Dad. I came home physically and emotionally tired and then went diving with my husband and Dad the next day. Halfway through the first dive I started crying and didn’t stop until we got home.

    My wise mother helped me realise this was because diving was something my father and I had always done together (we’re very close) and in the week we were away husband and Dad had found a routine of working together – so husband was doing all the boat-type things that used to be my job. While I know I should be delighted they were getting on so well, it hurt A LOT.

    Now, 5 years later (and married nearly 2), I’m thrilled that my husband and parents are close. And my Dad and I are still very close. But there was a period of adjustment where we both had to sort through our feelings about me having a significant other and it was HARD.
    (Mum told me later Dad had made a conscious effort to get to know my husband, which is part of the reason they were doing so well together – it made me feel bad about being all miserable about their closeness, but gave me warm fuzzies about the effort Dad was making on my behalf)

  • My dad is more attuned to this than I or my Boy are. About a month ago when the Boy was over at my place cooking dinner, my wireless adapter stopped working. So he tried and tried, but couldn’t figure it out, so I called my dad to come over and fix it. Boy sat nearby on his own laptop, Googling the error messages and occasionally letting my dad know what he’d already tried. My dad fixed the problem, like I knew he would.

    About a week later I went out to dinner with dad, and he remarked somewhat smugly that Boy seemed irritated that I’d called my dad to come help, that he suspected that Boy would have preferred to be my first call. Dad didn’t seem too displeased with the situation…

  • I feel like it is important to be conscious that our partners do not replace our parents in matters where experience and wisdom is needed. If that was the case, we’d all be marrying folks as old as our parents. Our parents come with wisdom our partners do not necessarily have simply because they’ve been on this earth longer. Therefore prioritizing who comes first in our lives might change, but who you go to for advice and counsel probably won’t. By forming a new family of creation, we are adding to our lives, not swapping.

    I’ve always been super close to my dad and I do lean on him a lot. He still leans on me. That’s part of the bond. But the fact that I can lean on my partner and he can lean on me only enriches my life and gives me more people to help me make my own decisions.

    • MEI

      This is exactly what I was feeling but couldn’t put into words. The line “we are adding to our lives, not swapping.” Perfect expression of how I feel.

    • It probably depends a lot on what the parent-child relationship looked like in the first place. If you have been using your parent(s) in roles that are more appropriate for a spouse, then once you’re married that’ll have to change (at whatever pace is right for you and your families). That doesn’t mean you’re “swapping,” necessarily, but some roles are singular and can’t just be added to, in my opinion. Also, not all of us have two parents who come with wisdom and advice, so maybe we’ve always sought counsel elsewhere.

      I suppose it’s just one of those things that is very different for everyone; context matters a great deal.

      • MEI

        Could you clarify what you mean by “roles that are more appropriate for a spouse, then once you’re married that’ll have to change”? I get where you’re coming from on the your mileage may vary depending on context/your prior relationship aspect, but I’m not sure what will have to change after marriage. That sounds very “You’ll see….” to me, so I’m trying to get where you’re coming from on that part. I think this conversation is so interesting because I feel like one of the dominant experiences of APW commenters is you can do all those things you used to do before you were married and your husband is not (or doesn’t have to be) your best friend. Which I’m down with even though my husband is my best friend by choice. And yet here it seems like people are saying your relationship with your parents has to change because of the fact of marriage. My husband and I are both very very close to our families. We just moved to a new city because I got a new job. He interviewed around and received an offer of employment. I cheerleaded him on, but when it came down to whether to accept the offer, he called his mom for advice. Because that’s what we both do on big life choices: call our families. This seems natural to us. It may not seem natural to you, but I don’t really get why it has to change due to our marriage. Obviously if it’s a problem for your partner (as it seems like it is for Brytani), you need to communicate with them about it. And obviously our relationships with our parents will change over time, as they have our whole lives. As our relationships with our friends change and will continue to change. As babies change things and yet don’t have to change certain things if you don’t want them to. So I’m wondering what things have to change after marriage vis-a-vis one’s parents?

        • Mei,

          I don’t think I have a one-size-fits-all answer for you about what I think should, shouldn’t, or must change in regards to the parent-child relationship once the child is married. As I mentioned above, I think a lot of that depends on what all the relevant relationships looked like in the first place.

          When I said that some roles are more appropriate for a spouse, and would therefore require transition with marriage if they’re being filled by a parent, I suppose I would categorize those roles as relating to (1) major emotional support and (2) major life decisions. For example, I wouldn’t turn to either parent to comfort me in a troublesome time without also turning to my husband; in fact, I would personally probably turn only to my husband, but I don’t think that is necessarily better. I similarly wouldn’t make a decision about a job by consulting only (or even primarily) my parent(s). Because my husband and I have decided to be each other’s primary partner and begin a new family together, I think that each of us should have more decision-making weight (when decisions affect our family) than any member of either of our families of origin.

          Hope that made sense! Again, not trying to be judge-y of anyone whose situation is different – just trying to articulate my own experience for the conversation.

          • MEI

            Thank you, I think that helped me understand your perspective. I think I balked a little at the number of times I read (and maybe I read into things too much?) that things have to change. I think even though negotiating our close relationships as we go through life is relatively universal, how that comes down is so deeply personal depending on circumstance. It hit me that a salient fact relevant to my story about the husband’s employment decision above is that I would be able to support us both on my salary (yes, this is such a blessing and a privilege), so it really was the husband’s decision whether he wanted to take the job. So maybe it wasn’t a “major life decision” by definition? If our circumstances were different, I might feel differently about him going to his mom first. But maybe not. Again, our families are really our primary point people. And we tell each other if something’s important to us and we want to discuss it, but also know that we’ve each gone to our parents on “big ticket items” our whole lives and they’re pretty f’ing smart people who have given us good counsel. So that works for us. “Things change” is very universal, and I think Brytani’s post very beautifully speaks to that universality. “X, Y, and Z are going to change after your marriage” is well … the kind of thing I expect to hear on non-APW sites. ;)

        • Things change with your parents as you grow up. For me, they evolved slowly over time, so that when I got married there was not a drastic change. Those roles had reconciled themselves over the course of my college career, living independently, and a 6 year relationship with my now husband. Had I gotten married earlier, I guess it would have forced some of those roles to change a whole lot faster and more abruptly. I’m glad I waited until those roles evolved on their own before I got married, but of course my path isn’t the right one for everyone.

  • K

    The dynamic is enhanced I think when you are an only child, also. I’ve been living away from my parents for almost ten years now, but I can’t ever forget the way it used to feel when I did… It was always the three of us. We always did things together, and they always included me in everything. It’s hard to describe to my husband, who has a brother very close in age. Although they were a close family too, there seems to be, in my observation, something that a sibling brings to the equation that distinctly sets you apart from your parents at an early age and in subtle ways…maybe an “us and them” sort of thing. I still sometimes worry that now that I’m gone and living far away that my parents feel left out. Funny that our parents spend so much of our lives protecting us, and then when we grow up, we feel like we have to protect them, as if they didn’t have lives or interests or goals before us.

    • I don’t think it’s necessarily an only-child thing. I’m an only child and my family never really had the dynamic you describe.

  • I never really had a dad growing up, so I can’t relate to the father-daughter dynamic of this post, but I do want to chime in and add that as part of my childhood-to-adulthood journey (which this is maybe about more than daughter-to-wife?), I am absolutely tickled by the fact that the tables are slowly turning in terms of my relationship with my mom. My early 20s was full of me calling her with questions on how to do all sorts of things. Specifically, how does SHE do x, y, z? Now as my husband and I create a home and a baby family the opposite is happening. She’ll call to ask whether a springform pan needs to be greased or what the etiquette is in a certain situation. I don’t think the marriage itself is what changed this, since I was already 31 by the time we got married. But I do believe that parent-child relationships adapt and change as everyone ages, and that marriage/being out on your own is a chance for YOU to decide how things are done for yourself and your young family. It’s been nice to take ownership of everything from choosing a rental home based on LOTS of research to deciding that we will make our meatballs with turkey instead of beef.

    • RJ

      I’ve never married, although I have lived briefly with a boyfriend. I think the transitions between children and parents happen gradually by and large, but there are some key points or key moments where the shift is more obvious. Marriage seems to be one, but others are the product of events.

      The shift from them being the authority to me being an authority started in small ways – booking travel for them when I was in London, finding stuff on the computer – because I’m quicker – trouble-shooting the computer.

      I’d still not rather buy a car without my Dad- although most recently he found me several optoins, and when I’d worked out the model I wanted I did manage to finish the process on my own. Given the choice, even though I am a grown up senior lawyer and feminist, I would still rather my Dad sorted my car maintenance out for me! And I can’t imagine a time when I wouldn’t want to tell my Dad about my latest warrant of fitness or car servicing – even if my husband were a mechanic. He likes to know that the car I’m in is safe, and it’s nice to feel the love and concern.

      Getting back to transition points – I realised there’d been a big shift a few months ago when my Mother became ill whilst on holiday, and I spent an hour on the phone arranging flights to bring them home, while my brother held the fort. My sisters also rallied round. Sitting on the bed talking to the airline I realised that the transition had happened – it was now us looking out for them rather than the other way around. So that was a key transition point.

  • Erin

    I wish I had a dad (or a parent at all) that I could go to in this way. Just remember, when you’re dealing with this issue (which I’m sure can be incredibly tricky to navigate without hurting anyone’s feelings), that you’re incredibly lucky to have such a great relationship with your father.

  • k

    Beautiful, Brytani. I’m also a new wife who is quite close to her Dad, but in sort of a mirror image way as I have 21 years on you, so my concern is not that I need my Dad, but that he needs me. My parents are in their early 80s and depend on me financially, to do house things they can’t/don’t do, to be an advocate for them in health care situations, etc. Fortunately that transition from them just being happy to see me to actually *needing* me occured a few years before I got married, but I know their needs are only going to increase as time goes on, and I’m still finding out how marriage is going to affect my ability to care for them.

    So I say enjoy needing your Dad; revel in it! Enjoy every minute you have with him because (and now boy do I ever sound old), it all goes so much faster than you think it will. Someday instead of you and your husband going to your dad together for help, you’ll be going together to offer help. Which is also a beautiful thing.

  • Anonymous

    I had to stop reading this post a few paragraphs in because I was crying too much…i.e., it’s a great post. Eventually I’ll read the rest.

  • Brytani, thank you for such an honest and heartfelt post. It looks like it’s touching a lot of readers in meaningful ways.

    My experience has been quite different than yours. I would have always described myself as having a healthy, close, significant relationship my father (not napping-at-the-same-time close, exactly, but close as a result of an ugly divorce that left him raising us), but the transition to marriage has thus far felt a little different for me.

    However, I don’t really feel like I have had to shift my main go-to advice person from my father to my husband; which, I suspect, is because my father wasn’t really that person for me anymore anyway. I think that I transitioned from going to my father for frequent advice before, and unrelated to, my relationship with my then-boyfriend. I felt fairly independent and self-sufficient by the time we got together (and have remained both of those things within my marriage!) and therefore that role within my life wasn’t exactly being encroached upon. Of course, I do call my dad for a random question once in a while, but when it comes to basic life direction, major decisions, emotional support, and even some miscellaneous queries, my husband is a pretty singular source of advice for me. And that seems comfortable and understandable on my dad’s end, too, which I’m sure is partially because he respects and likes my husband.

    Maybe others have had an experience like mine, even those who are close with their parent(s)? Or maybe my dad just isn’t very handy or useful, so not great for advice anyway? ;) Haha.

    ALSO! I mean this in no way to disrespect or disregard the story of the author or other commenters, but simply to throw out a distinct experience for discussion. Just in case that disclaimer was necessary :)

  • Jessica

    A beautifully-written piece! I feel like this, but with my mom. She and I are tight. Very close. I’m her only daughter, her only child at all. I knew the day I got married would be hard on her. Although I’ve lived out of town since I was 18, I still came home for long weekends, Christmas, summers in college, etc. and stayed at her house. The day I got engaged she was genuinely happy for me, for us, but also sad.

    She cried pretty much all day on our wedding day. She was, like I said, truly happy. She loves my husband. She loves that I am happy. But she feels like she’s losing me. Even though I call her frequently still, I can tell our relationship has changed a bit. When we go to our hometown, we stay with my in-laws because they have space for us. I don’t see her as often. Holidays will now be split with another family. So I totally get it. It was sad for me too when I realized things would change.

    But things don’t have to change for the worse. Change is hard, but change can just be….different. A new kind of normal. I’m a newlywed, and I’m just waiting for things to even out, to settle into a new kind of normal with my family. Life has its phases, and this is one. Still, it’s hard.

  • MWK

    A great post, thank you for sharing. I wonder if, as your are married longer and your husband gets closer to your family (not that he isn’t close now), if things might shift around a little to where your husband might start to seek some advice from your father as well? I say this only because it has started to happen in my life with my husband and I. It used to make D$ crazy that we’d have an issue before and he would give me his opinion…but I wouldn’t believe him or be convinced until one of my parents told me their opinion (which was usually the same as his). Now I find D$ seeking my parents’ advice fairly frequently. Case in point (and I’m sorry I’m mentioning the house thing a lot, it’s just on my mind): when we were figuring out if we were making the right decision there was a pause in our conversation, and then D$ said: I think we need to call your Dad. Then, when we went to the inspection, D$ asked my step-dad to come along for advice. Both things I would have wanted to do, but hesitated to bring up at first because I didn’t want to bring unwelcome parties into what was, really, a decision for the two of us to make together. I was really touched and glad that D$ wanted the advice of my fathers – it showed me just how much he views them as his family (and how much they view him as their family, since they both were thrilled to be of help). Maybe something like that (but whatever works for you) will happen with you three; where you can know you have the freedom to make your own little family decisions while incorporating the support of the other family as well.

  • Krista

    I’m late to the game here, but I definitely just brought my spouse into relying on my dad for such things too (ok, sometimes we call his dad too, but depends on the expertise needed). We just built a dining room table for thanksgiving (as you do) and as we’re getting ready to attach the table legs, my spouse starts getting nervous that the screws are too long. So I take a picture, email it to my dad, and get him on video chat (thank goodness for technology) to confirm our earlier decision (the screw was the perfect length, thankyouverymuch). But part of what we’re learning with our baby families is how to be that confirming voice for someone else – how to be the “dad” for someone else (perhaps our child, perhaps someone else’s, perhaps each other) in the future. But I’ve been learning that the more you can articulate what was going on in your heart and your head during those moment of stress between you and your spouse – even if it’s after the fact – how helpful that can be to strengthening a relationship.

  • Ceebee

    I’ve never been a daddy’s girl. In fact, I think dad was rather disappointed that he never got the boy he wanted. So naturally he was rather left out in a house of women (many, many of us).

    But seeing how much he wanted me to be happy, and how much he is taking to heart to change to be the better man to make me happy, I realize that we all need to marry that very, Very good amazing man to top that.

    Now I can’t wait for the morning of my wedding, when I would really wish to go for a run with him (we both run, but never together) as our coming full circle thing in our barely there father-daughter relationship.

  • This post is beautiful and I can relate completely!

    Calling my dad to fix things isn’t practical because we live 15 hours away from each other, but I call my mom a lot when I need to talk. My mom has always been my best friend, and I think she’s such an amazing person. But my need for her to tell me things are going to be alright when I’m upset has caused some stress for my baby family. My husband get frustrated when he soothes and talks and cuddles and tries to make me feel better, but then I phone my mom and in 5 minutes she has me calmed down and often has said all the same things he just said to me. He can’t understand why I respond to her sometimes better than I respond to him (especially when they’re saying the same thing.) And honestly, I don’t know if I understand either. But the longer that my husband and I are together the more I find what he says calming and the less I feel the need to call my mom. I don’t think it takes away from the relationship I have with my mom, but it certainly adds to the relationship I have with my husband.

  • Natalie

    I just read this entire thread, and I can’t stop crying. For me, the separation between me and my parents has been gradual already since I got engaged in June. Our wedding is 6 months from now, and I’m panicking about how I’m supposed to handle this transition, not really from a practical standpoint so much, but emotionally. I’m extremely close to both of my parents. I feel like I’m abandoning them, but the alternative is to live with them as a single or live alone forever, and I don’t want either of those situations long term. I want my own family ultimately, so the transition of getting married and making separations with my parents is necessary, but extremely difficult. Will anyone ever love me more than my own parents?

    I’m also seeing how easy it is to devote time to making mind numbing decisions about napkin rings and centerpieces for the wedding, instEad of reflecting on the emotions that these life transitions bring.