A father came clean about his early regrets to his college-bound son who was struggling to make a decision about maintaining a long distance relationship.
Redditor "Clear_Chest" had faced a similar dilemma when he had exciting academic opportunities but ultimately stayed local and married his high school sweetheart.
While he remained married, he had his regrets and wished for his son not to repeat the same "mistake" in making an emotionally informed life decision.
The Original Poster (OP) asked AITA (Am I the A**hole) for possibly encouraging his son to break up with his girlfriend and admitting his regrets about marrying his wife.
"My son will be starting college this fall. He will be attending a school out of state while his girlfriend stays home to attend college."
"Because of the distance, they have been discussing whether or not they will try to make things work, and they have struggled to make a decision."
"He asked his mom and me what we thought he should do, and for a long time I refused to advise him other than to make some very high level comments and generalizations."
"His mother/my wife, on the other hand, has encouraged him to stay with his girlfriend, even though I asked her to remain impartial."
"My son continued to ask me for my opinion, and because his mom weighed in I felt like he needed to hear my perspective. This is because my wife has used us as an example to show him that high school sweethearts can last."
Beverly Hills 90210 Love GIF by CBS All AccessGiphy
While the OP believed that to be true, he thought it was time to delve deeper with his response.
"She is not wrong, but she has only given one side of our story to our son and I felt he needed to know my perspective, which I have not shared with our kids until now."
"To make a long story short, we were high school sweethearts, but in many ways I regret choosing to make a commitment to my wife when we were so young."
"We had a similar issue. I applied to graduate schools and ended up getting offers from schools in NY and LA which I really liked. I would have probably attended one, but my wife did not want to move to either place, which forced me to choose."
His early sacrifice led to many unanswered questions.
"I have always wondered how my life would have gone had I chosen a different path."
"I told my son all of this and advised him to think about if he wants that hanging over him while he is away at school. To be tied down like this during the best years of his life is going to give him a very different college experience and probably limit him in many ways."
"I did not tell him he should break up, but I did strongly urge him to consider if he is prepared to make that sacrifice and end up like me wondering what he missed out on."
It turns out there was another set of ears during the private conversation.
"Apparently my daughter overheard this conversation and relayed it to my wife. My wife has taken this very hard (and so have my daughters), but I don't think what I said was wrong."
"I don't think I am wrong for wanting our son to avoid the same. He has many plans which are not compatible with what his girlfriend wants (she is a local girl like my wife and probably will never want to leave our town or explore the world), so either he is going to end up fighting her over this and feeling bad because he wants to experience life or things will ultimately not work out."
"If the latter is the case, it is better to end it now so that at least he can enjoy college."
Redditors weighed in on whether to declare if the OP was either of the following:
- NTA - Not The A**hole
- YTA - You're The A**hole
- ESH - Everyone Sucks Here
- NAH - No A**holes Here
Some felt that the son didn't need to hear the truth.
Also, a father who pines for another life could potentially diminish their children's sense of self-worth.
"YTA, not for giving your son advice but for telling him about your own relationship dissatisfaction. He doesn't need to know that."
"You shouldn't have expected him to keep it secret from his mother. Now you need to have an honest talk with your wife." – SoftVampiric
"I honestly hate when parents talk about their regrets in life when those regrets directly relate to the existence of the children."
"OPs children wouldn't exist if he hadn't stayed with his wife. Imagine hearing from your dad that he regrets staying with your mum and thinks about how his life could've need different if he broke up with her."
"To any kid that sounds like 'I sometimes wish you didn't exist' like why would you say that to your child?" – silke_worm
"Parents are also criticizing their own child when they criticize their spouse or ex since the identity of even an adult child is enmeshed with both their parents (my family class)."
"The other problem is that a young adult is typically not equipped to be the best buddy or therapist a parent can tell all their secrets to." – FirmCartographer3
This Redditor was indifferent.
"Huh. My mom bitches about my dad all the time and how much she regrets marrying him but never took it as a reflection on criticizing my sisters and I."
"Guess that's a new thing for me to dwell over in my anxiety, yay!" – cutepiku
In response to all the comments slamming the OP for admitting his regrets, this person believes he is entitled to wonder about a different life without undermining his love for his wife and family.
"It isn't the same thing. You can regret things happening but be glad for the outcome."
"I made some mistakes that ended up with me practically being forces to drop out of the education I had wanted since I was a child. It was a huge blow, and I struggled with massive amounts of stress, shame and guilt after."
"But ultimately it lead me to where I am now, a place where I am getting a very different sort of education for a completely different type of job."
"But where my base salary will be significantly higher, I have a girlfriend that I love and would have never met if my life didn't turn out how it is now."
"In short I am in a far better place then I likely would have been. I do still regret some pf the choices that lead me here but I'm very happy that I am here. The idea that so many in these comments seem to have where it is somehow stupid to say that you at times regret certain choices isn't right."
"OP can regret never knowing how life might have been while still loving his wife and children."
"The fact that nobody seems able to see that distinction is stupid. Also it is obvious that OP's wife gave the opposite side of things and that OP only wanted to give an alternative view to allow his son to make a more informed decision." – Enrichmentx
"My mom has mentioned to me that she hasn't been the happiest with my dad and that she too wishes she made different choices. But I am with you, I never took it as a reflection on me."
"I know how much my parents love me and that me and my brother make my mom not regret anything, but she still looks back at her choices and wonders."
"Even our best choices in life will leave us with some bad things." – SplodeyCat
"Surprise! Your parents are also normal people who are allowed to feel frustration, regret, etc. over life and open up about it."
"If you have any delusions that you are the best thing in the life of your SO, parents, etc, it is just your inflated sense of self. No one is that awesome." – ThrowRAqwertyui
Still, the conversation can be scarring for a child to hear.
"My Dad and I were having an adult like conversation when i was around 12, talking about the state of the world etc, (i was a mature teenager) and he says of the blue, 'don't take this the wrong way, but I really wish I never had kids."
"Ummmm yeah sure, hard not to take that personally. TBH myself and 3 siblings spent a lot of time wishing he never had kids either, he wasn't a great Dad. Mum was/is a magnificent mother, Dad, not so much." – Ishouldbeinbed73
"Agreed, my dad once told me 'I should've never married your mom', and even though I completely agreed with that sentiment (she's a pathological liar, alcoholic, and cheater), it still bothered me, because there was the unspoken 'I should've never had you.'"
"I know that's not what he meant — he's told me that the happiest day of his life was when I was born, I know he loves me — but it hurt to hear."
"And it still hurts to think that I'm the reason he got tied down in an unpleasant marriage for so long. (My mom's first big lies didn't come to light until after she got pregnant with me.)"
"So...yeah. I'm sure OP didn't mean to make his kids upset (and obviously didn't intend for the daughter to hear), but I feel bad for them, and I'm sure it's not easy for a spouse to hear that either." – spencerdyke
The OP's love for his children is evident in his concern for the son's future, but does it mean the father shouldn't be allowed to confide in his son about the outcome of different decisions?