Our fathers are our first male role models. For better or worse, our father’s presence, or lack thereof, is foundational in shaping our perception of men, the way they interact with women, and the types of men we’re drawn to romantically. If you ever wondered why your romantic relationships end up being sabotaged by the same tendencies, your relationship with your father may hold some pivotal insight into the way you view and interact with men now. Here are some signs to look for in your romantic life that may indicate that your relationship with your father is having an impact on your relationships.
You Might Have Had an Absent Father If…
Are you afraid of being single and finding yourself hopping from one relationship to the next? This behavior may be a residual response from an absentee father. Abandonment from a parent is one of the most painful experiences that a person can endure, leaving deep hurt and pain that can permeate future relationships, romantic and otherwise.
Women who have been abandoned by their father are often deeply afraid of abandonment and rejection in their romantic relationships and seek the love and affection from their boyfriend that they never received from their father. As a result, women tend to be “clingy,” for lack of a better term, and never want to be separated from their boyfriend. Oftentimes, women with an absentee father would rather remain in unhealthy relationships than be single, which can resemble feelings of abandonment, and often find themselves hopping from one unhealthy relationship to the next.
You Might Have Had an Emotionally Unavailable Father If…
Do you assume that all men are the same and that you can’t expect anything from them? Do you go into relationships assuming that it will fail? This may be a sign that your dad was emotionally unavailable. Having an emotionally unavailable dad, like the absentee father, can feel like another sort of abandonment. Your dad was never there for you when you needed him, whether it be to celebrate your victories or comfort you through the growing pains of becoming a woman, so why would you expect any more from men in a romantic relationship?
This negative generalization of men can be a coping mechanism to distance yourself from the possibility of future hurt.
If your dad wasn’t there for you, why should you expect your boyfriend to comfort you, encourage you, and be emotionally present? Oftentimes, this negative generalization of men is a coping mechanism to distance yourself from the possibility of future hurt, abandonment, or feelings of being unloved. Abandonment hurts, so why open up to the possibility of it happening again?
Another common tendency of women who had an emotionally unavailable father is to gravitate towards significantly older men, usually at least 15 years older. In these situations, the unfulfilled comfort and presence from a distant father is projected onto the older partner to fulfill. In other words, they turn to their older partner for the emotional presence that they never had from their father. This is not descriptive of all relationships with a significant age difference, but it could be a sign you’re seeking to fill in the gaps left by an emotionally unavailable dad.
You Might Have Had an Abusive Father If…
If your father was abusive, it’s likely that it’s difficult for you to trust men, even if you gravitate toward men who are the complete opposite of your father – compliant, doting, passive. No matter how amazing your boyfriend is, you assume that the same capacity for abuse that you experienced with your father is innate in all men, so your reaction is to end the relationship before he “inevitably” hurts you.
These are by no means a comprehensive or official diagnosis of how your family life relates to your love life. However, it can be helpful to see how negative trends in our romantic lives aren’t random, but are rather tied to a deeper issue relating to our family. Identifying this connection can be the first step in healing the deeper issues that give rise to self-sabotaging our love lives.
All women are deserving of love, respect, and dignity, and the first example of being treated in such a way by men comes from our fathers. When fathers don’t give their daughters the love, respect, and dignity they deserve, whether it be through absence, abuse, or neglect, it’s only natural to assume the worst of men. However, there are men who will treat you with the love, respect, and dignity that you deserve, and there is hope for healing from your past and tools to help you find a man who will love and cherish you.
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