Ch.53 Pat Calls Me “Dad” and that Feels OK
Pat has been calling me “dad” fairly often over the last few weeks. She does that most frequently, I believe, when she is feeling scared and unsafe. Since we’re in the midst of the Corona Virus pandemic right now, it’s understandable that she gets anxious. So do I, for that matter.
At first, I was uncomfortable with “dad.” I was afraid Pat was becoming more symptomatic and that she thought I was her real father, Stan, who died many years ago. But when I asked, Pat assured me she knew the difference. I wasn’t Stan in her mind, but I was a father figure sometimes.
I do regularly play the role of a father in my relationship with Pat. I comfort her when Pat feels anxious; I make our meals; I handle Pat’s medications; I try to explain what is happening around us when she becomes confused; and, most important currently, I have to take major responsibility to ensure our safety by doing things such as ordering paper products and groceries online as we hunker down to wait out the state of Wisconsin’s “stay in your home and keep away from others” mandate. Considering all these activities I guess Pat calling me her dad isn’t a huge stretch.
I have tried to “correct” Pat from time to time, always when I felt uncomfortable with being her father figure. I wanted Ron to be her husband and equal partner much more than to be her dad. I still want that. But when I’ve tried to intervene, nothing good happened, only increased tension and useless arguments.
But then last week something amazing occurred over a space of a few days. I gradually began to feel at first accepting and then actually good when Pat said “dad” to me. I no longer felt defensive. My heart rate quit rising when I heard that label. I had no need anymore to try to convince Pat that she was mistaken. The key change happened when I realized I could be both her husband and her dad. After all, the two roles overlap a lot anyhow. I also recognized that sometimes Pat acts as my “mom,” especially when I become overwhelmed with anxiety, an all too common occurrence. That makes Pat both my wife and mother.
What do you think Sigmund Freud would say about this conversation?
Pat’s comments on Pat Calls Me “Dad” and that Feels OK.
I think Sigmund Freud would say this is a pretty normal marriage. I don’t think I call Ron “dad” mostly when I’m feeling scared and unsafe. I do it when he’s acting like a dad, like telling me what to do and how to do it. Sometimes I call Ron “dad” just because it’s a nice thing to do even though I know he’s my husband, not my father. It’s like being mom and dad. Ron can call me “mom” sometimes.