Dear Mr. Knightley,
I’m turning to you because I need the advice and perspective of a man. You see, my father and I have never had a very pleasant relationship. He just seemed to be unable to connect emotionally. However, that has never stopped me from attempting to make some kind of connection. I thought I had finally found something. Chess. He loves playing it. And so do I. I’ve actually been playing a lot with my roommate since I moved away. So here’s the problem. My father and I started playing and everything was fine. But then, whenever he’d win, he’d give sarcastic recommendations and go on and on about how he’d wished he has passed some of his intelligence to at least one of his daughters. But then, when I win, he gets angry and upset and won’t talk to me for days after. I’m getting fed up with his childish ways. I’m trying to be nice. I don’t have to drive out to his apartment and waste four or five hours getting criticized or yelled at. I’m doing this to be nice. So what do I do? Either way it seems that nothing is ever good enough for him.
Dear Miss Patricide,
You are very gracious to go to so much trouble to show your father your appreciation and love for him. And many times fathers can be cold and distant and not easy to relate to. However, your efforts have been commendable and his ungracious manner completely deplorable. Many a lesser child would simply have given up by now.
Regarding the best method though, you do have several options. One thing you may want to try is attempt to do something with your father that is not competitive. This is often a trait that men, especially older gentlemen, have so solidly that they cannot stand to lose at anything, especially to a woman. Another method may be to do something that involves more people, not just you and your father alone together. This may help to spread his malice among the group rather than directing it all at you. And of course you could always ask him what he would rather do, thereby making it impossible to blame you if he does not enjoy the activity.
However, it should be said that there are also many people who would tell you that a relationship should be a two way street and that your father ought to make more effort to spend time with you. And while I agree with the sentiment, I also know that there are rarely ever any relationship truly as balanced as that. What I can tell you is this, relationships are only maintained by at least one person building a bridge to cross the gap between the two. And it is often the stronger person, the one who doesn’t need the bridge, who has to build it for the sake of the one who cannot build it and who needs it the most.