Dads and Daughters
Dr. Phil talks to Annette about her relationship with her father.

"I've always tried to be daddy's little girl, but it just never happened," says Annette, who is tired of being last on her father's priority list. "On the top of my dad's totem pole would be Link, his dog, and then my older brother, then my dad's wife, then my daughter, and then me. I can't imagine loving my dog more than loving my daughter," she says tearfully.

 

Annette was 5 when her father left, and says her parents' divorce was difficult. "I remember sitting with my older brother. My mom took our hands and she told us to pray to bring my dad back," she recalls. "I felt like I had a hole in my heart. Like there was something
missing."

 

Her father, Art, doesn't see it Annette's way. "I tried my best to be a good father," he says. "I think I kick myself for not trying to put a little more effort into it. Because I was a police officer almost 15 years, my training may not have allowed me to open up to my daughter."

 

Still, Annette doesn't feel respected by Art. "I feel like my dad loves me on some level, but not the level that I wish he would. I have never told my dad how much it's hurt me that he has not been there," she admits. "Dr. Phil, please help me become closer to my dad."

"Why have you never said, 'Here's how I feel. Here's what I need'?" Dr. Phil asks Annette.


"I'm not a confrontational person," she replies.


"Does it have to be you getting in his face saying, 'You're a bad person. You're a bad man. You abandoned me; you abandoned my mother'? Does it have to be that way or is there another way to go about it?" Dr. Phil presses.


"It's confrontation whether it's strongly or not, to me," Annette says.


Dr. Phil questions how Annette will go about closing the gap with her father since she is reluctant to tell him how she really feels. "Do you want him to just know this by osmosis or do you just want to continue hurting? What do you want to do?" he asks.


"Come on the Dr. Phil show and find out," she replies.

"One of my laws of life that I really believe governs what happens is that there is no reality, only perception," Dr. Phil explains. "Your dad has a point of view and he looks at things through a certain filter and he may think, 'You know, I've done pretty well. I'm not perfect, but I've done pretty well.' And you may be looking at the same history, and say, 'It was horrible, disastrous and cold, and I don't like that.' He can't read your mind about this ... There's a point in time where you have to say, 'I'm going to stop complaining. I'm going to stop living in the past and I'm going to ask for what I want.'"

 

When Dr. Phil asks Annette what she wants from her father, she responds, "I would just like honesty from my dad." She also wants him to take better care of himself and to make her a priority.

 

"You said first you want honesty. But yet you haven't been honest with him," Dr. Phil points out.

 

"I think he knows," she answers.

 

"That wasn't the question," Dr. Phil interjects. "You want him to respect you but you said, 'I don't respect him.' I'm not taking his side, but it seems to me that you, as an adult living in the here and now, have to be willing to step up and take care of your end of this relationship."

Art joins his daughter and Dr. Phil on stage.

 

"You're really surprised that she feels like there is distance between you guys," Dr. Phil points out.

 

Art agrees. "I think a few times I've noticed that she was unhappy ... but nothing to this level."

 

When asked how he feels about Annette, Art responds, "I love my daughter with all my heart. She's my child. I've come to be very fond of her." Still, Annette doesn't think he respects her.

 

"Do you believe that he loves you or not?" Dr. Phil probes.

 

"I do," she says.

 

"Do you think that's kind of a dutiful love or do you think he really, really loves you and has passion toward you as a child?"

 

"A dutiful love," she replies.

Turning Annette to face her father, Dr. Phil prompts, "Tell him what you want that you're not getting."

 

Crying, Annette says, "I want to know why you and Mom got divorced, and I want the honest truth. I want to know if it was because of someone else."

 

"The truth is, I love you. I am so very sorry that this is the way you feel. I was in love with another besides your mother, and it was the badge," Art says, referring to his 15 years as a police officer.

 

"Tell him what you want for your relationship going forward," Dr. Phil says.

 

"I just want us to be honest and to be truthful and to be closer," she says.

 

"You have to be willing to live in the present," Dr. Phil tells her, pointing out that anger and bitterness is an indication of unfinished emotional business with her father. "At some point you've got to make a decision: 'You know what, he was not a perfect father and I was not a perfect daughter. But we're here now and forgiveness is a choice.' ... Does that make any sense to you?"

 

"Yes," Annette answers.

Dr. Phil asks Annette how she wants to proceed in her relationship with her father. "Do you want to continue to be mad at him? Do you want to forgive him? Do you want to start a relationship today?" he asks. "Look at your dad and tell him, 'Here's what we need to do, Dad. If you love me and want to help me, here's what we need to do.'"


"I think we definitely need to make some changes between you and I," Annette tells Art.


"I'm yours. What you want to do, I will do it," he replies.


Dr. Phil gives Annette a homework assignment from Relationship Rescue, his Partner Awareness Quiz. Although the exercise may be used for mates, it also applies to fathers and daughters. "There are some very specific assignments that have to do with what you need to know to discover your father," he says. "It's all the things you can explore about this man, and I'm betting there's a lot you don't know." He also tells Art to complete the assignment with his daughter. "And I suspect that when you do that, you will have no unfinished emotional business, because you will have come to know each other in a different way."