Auntie SparkNotes: My Dad Doesn't Trust Me
I'm a 19-year-old, straight A, well-behaved high school student. I have not been grounded since I was seven years old, and that was for lying about eating cookies (which were totally worth it). I have never dated, or even had guys over at my house.
But my dad doesn't trust me. He often bursts into my room, hoping to catch me off guard, to demand to know who I'm talking to on the internet. (Oh, you know dad, just some 46-year-old guy who wants to buy me tacos and take me out for a night of roller disco.) I often hear him telling my mom that he thinks I'm talking to "strangers" behind his back. If I even lean in the direction of the front door, he demands to know where I'm going. If I'm in the kitchen, he has to know what I'm eating. And if he see's me talking to a male friend of mine, he insists that said male is my boyfriend and that I'm just trying to keep it from him.
He also never believes my side of any story. Today he burst into my room without knocking, while I was changing, and demanded to know why someone told him that they saw my car at *insert intersection far away that I've never heard of.* After I told him again where I was, he said, "So that's the story you're sticking with, huh?", and then proceeded to ask me why on earth that person would lie to him. He didn't believe me even though I had solid proof of where I was (I was shopping, I had a time-stamped receipt and everything). And when I said that someone could have mistaken another car of the same make and model for mine, he stormed out of the room in a huff.
Auntie, what can I say or do to make him trust me more? He trusts my brother 100% and never questions him, even though my brother often talks back and has done things way worse than I have. Am I doing something wrong? Is my dad just paranoid, or am I? I need your advice before I stab someone with a dull spoon out of frustration.
In that case, you might want to step away from the silverware drawer before reading this next bit, Sparkler. Because here's the thing: I can validate your suspicions that the problem isn't you, and that your dad is acting like a lunatic. And not just an ordinary lunatic, but a balls-to-the-wall, howling-at-the-moon, tinfoil-hat-level lunatic. Considering that you're not only a good kid but also a full year into legal adulthood, the way he's hovering over your life like a psychotic watchdog is absolutely, utterly, out-of-control inappropriate.
But alas, I can't make any promises about getting him to stop treating you like his own personal parolee. The average overprotective parent can often be talked to about this stuff, but your dad doesn't sound like the average overprotective parent. He sounds unhinged, and not particularly likely to be responsive to reason. A person who doesn't see anything wrong with depriving his daughter of the most basic privacy, constantly bursting into her room in the hopes of catching her in the act of doing something untoward, is a person with serious control issues. Honestly, what you've described is so bizarre and troubling that I find myself with more questions than answers—like, where is your mom in all of this? Does she see anything wrong with your father's behavior, or are you living in a dadtatorship? Have things always been like this, or is his chokehold on your life getting tighter as you get older? And what is up with the crazy monitoring of your food intake, for crying out loud?
But since it sounds like you haven't actually addressed this problem yet, i.e., by going to your father with your concerns instead of being purely reactive to his various accusations, that's something you can certainly try. And the way to do it is to wait for a calm moment, approach your dad, and ask him (in a mature, measured tone; no whining or yelling) why he seems to be so thoroughly convinced that you're up to no good—particularly when you've never given him any reason not to trust you.
There is a chance, albeit a slim one, that your father will respond with an explanation that sheds some light on his bizarre behavior. (Maybe he's watched too many Lifetime Original Movies about teenage girls gone wild?) And there's a slimmer chance still that, after discussing this with you, he'll stop giving you the third degree about your whereabouts/internet surfing/eating habits/whatever, and start treating you like...well, a person.
For your sake, I hope that happens. But if it doesn't, then the time has officially come to stop asking "How can I get my father to trust me?" and to realize that his trust isn't worth the things you'd have to do to earn it. It already isn't. And you're old enough not only to accept that no person's approval is worth having to live under constant suspicion and scrutiny, but to start considering your best means of escape.
Or in other words, we'll all put our energies into the hope that your dad stops bullying you while you live under his roof—so that you can put yours into a plan for getting yourself out from under that roof and into a place of your own, even if it's just a college dorm room for nine months out of the year.
Do your parents act like weirdo wardens? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want more info about how this column works? Check out the Auntie SparkNotes FAQ.