While growing up, the author's father lived in their home but remained emotionally detached. As a result, she struggled with depression.
5 Ways a Daughter Can Heal From an Absent or Rejecting Father
- Look at the situation objectively, not emotionally.
- Examine how fatherlessness impacted her life.
- Learn how to reclaim her power.
- Allow herself to feel all her feelings.
- Surround herself with positive people.
(Each of these solutions is described fully below.)
Did You Know?
- One in three women identifies herself as fatherless because of her dad's death, his emotional neglect, or his physical absence.
- Many fatherless daughters blame themselves for their dad's abandonment.
- These women are more likely to have low self-esteem, struggle with eating disorders, and suffer from depression.
- Those whose fathers died are actually better off psychologically because they didn't endure their dads' rejection.
Iyanla Vanzant, author and inspirational speaker, says that when a dad leaves, he takes a piece of his daughter's soul with him. As a result, she can experience an intense lacking. She may try to fill this void with food, drugs, alcohol, or a series of unsuitable men.
The good news is that these pitfalls aren't inevitable. If a fatherless daughter is made aware of these potential dangers, she can work hard to steer clear of them. Moreover, when she sees her father clearly, with all his limitations, she can make a conscious choice to not let his absence define her. She can recover from his rejection and lead a self-directed life.
1. Look at It Objectively, Not Emotionally
Fatherless daughters can be so immersed in their own pain that they don't step back to look at their situation clearly. If they did, though, they'd see the big picture and realize that their father's neglect had nothing to do with them. They could appreciate that their dads had lives long before they were born, and many were of them were deeply troubled. When they do a little detective work, they can find the signs indicating that he would become a lousy parent.
My father, for instance, was born to German immigrant farmers who were stoic, stern, no-nonsense people who worked hard and showed little emotion. I never saw my dad have a loving exchange with his parents nor his sister. He grew up believing that a father's only role was to provide financially for his family. Getting a handle on his history made me realize that his coldness was a byproduct of his upbringing. Most significantly, I understood that I wasn't unlovable; he was simply incapable of loving.
2. Examine How It Impacted Her Life
As a result of being fatherless, a woman can have a tape running in her head that continually voices negative messages. It has the power to quash her self-esteem. When feeling especially vulnerable, she hears words that are loud, distorted, and hateful: You're unworthy of being loved...You don't deserve anyone's time or attention...You don't have what it takes to keep a man. Even your own father lost interest in you.
I struggled with low self-esteem for decades until I connected it to my father's emotional neglect. Once I did that, I became hyper-vigilant to the noxious messages that entered my brain and shut them down as fast as possible. My mantra became: You are not your thoughts; you are the awareness of your thoughts. As soon as a negative idea entered my head, I thought of something I had done recently that showed strength and courage: running a half-marathon, asking for a raise, or completing a tough assignment at work. I resented how much real estate my father was taking up in my brain and decided to evict him at long last.
3. Reclaim Her Power
We're largely at the mercy of our parents when we're kids. Their reactions to us—positive or negative—shape how we feel about ourselves. A dad's absence can leave a girl feeling insecure and there's little she can do about it. But when she becomes an adult, she has the opportunity to reclaim her power.
It's imperative that fatherless daughters take charge of their relationships as adults and not allow a past with an absent dad to contaminate them. Kati Morton, a licensed therapist, says women too often bring the unhealthy lessons that they learned about men from childhood into the present. Unaware, they continue to apply old patterns to new relationships for the rest of their lives and make themselves miserable in the process.
Dr. Shefali Tsabary is a clinical psychologist and the author of A Radical Awakening: Turn Pain into Power, Embrace Your Truth, Live Free. She says that we don't live a life; we live a pattern. Sadly, most of us do this unconsciously, and fatherless daughters are no exception. If we don't wake up, we can reach our eighties or nineties still making the same mistakes, with no awareness of what we're doing.
For over a decade, I dated men who were workaholics like my dad. When with them, I walked around on eggshells like I had as a child. I tried to keep things calm, quiet, and stress-free so my boyfriends wouldn't explode with anger and frustration like my father had when I was a kid. When I recognized that pattern, I was able to break free from it and eventually marry a man who maintained a healthy work-play balance.
Isn't it pathetic how we waste so much time on certain people and in the end they prove that they weren't even worth a second of it?
4. Feel All Her Feelings
The Fatherless Daughter Project: Understanding Our Losses and Reclaiming Our Lives helped me see that I wasn't alone in the ways I was affected by my dad's absence. According to author Denna Babul, my longtime habit of bottling up my emotions is common among women who grew up without fathers. Sadly, we keep our feelings below the surface, which can harm us both physically and mentally. When out of touch with our inner world, we can struggle to know ourselves, which leads to disastrous results in our romantic relationships, friendships, and careers.
Therapist Dr. Karin Luise, the book's co-author, says that some fatherless daughters begin suppressing their emotions during childhood. Many had single moms who were overwhelmed and, therefore, leaned on their daughters for emotional support. While tending to their mothers, these girls neglected their own feelings.
As an adult, a fatherless daughter needs to nurture the wounded little girl she once was and embrace her emotions. The profound words of Fred Rogers would have helped her immensely when she was a kid but can still be taken to heart now: "Anything that's human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be manageable. When we talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary."
5. Surround Herself With Positive People
Because one in three women identifies herself as fatherless, we have many role models around us who've dealt with a dad's rejection but are thriving.These are the women we need to connect with, learn from, and be inspired by. Surrounding ourselves with women who use drugs or alcohol or are perpetually dysfunctional and depressed will only keep us stuck.
Fatherless daughters are often passive about choosing friends because of their low self-esteem. They let others pick them instead of doing the picking. By not taking charge, they can wind up with pals who don't serve them well and keep them from achieving their goals.
The billionaire businessman and philanthropist Warren Buffet advises people to choose carefully, because friends form whom we become. Fatherless daughters didn't get to select their dads when they were born. As adults, though, they have all the power in the world to select companions who will enrich their lives and help them become better human beings.
Women Shouldering a Father's Rejection
A shocking one in three women identifies herself as fatherless and...
- Abandoned. Some see themselves this way because their dad left and was never heard from again.
- Forgotten. Others claim this status because they saw their dad infrequently after their parents divorced.
- Ignored. Still others describe themselves as such because their dad lived in the home but remained aloof.
Whatever their particular circumstance, these women identify as fatherless because they felt rejected by their dads. Moreover, some blamed themselves for his emotional or physical distance, causing even more damage to their young psyches. To understand the scope of how a father's absence can affect a woman throughout life, read Fatherless Daughters: How Growing Up Without a Dad Affects Women.
A Daughter Blames Herself
Because kids are naturally egocentric, a fatherless daughter may grow up believing that she was the source of her father's indifference. She may have thought: If only I were cuter, smarter, prettier, nicer, more athletic, Dad would have loved me and stayed. The adults around her may never have explained that her father was damaged and his absence wasn't caused by anything she had done. Nobody told her the one piece of information that she so desperately needed to hear: his desertion had everything to do with him and nothing to do with her. To learn about mistakes a fatherless woman makes in life, read Common Mistakes That Fatherless Daughters Make and How to Prevent Them.
Trying to Fill the Void of an Absent Dad
As a result of my dad's detachment, I battled father hunger as a teen and young adult. My craving for a loving and involved paternal figure led to yo-yo dieting, an eating disorder, obesity, and obsessive-compulsive behaviors centered around food. I lived a tortured existence, preoccupied with thoughts of eating while battling mightily not to eat. When I finally understood that I was trying to fill up the emptiness in my heart created by my dad's absence, I was able to free myself from my food fixation.
Letting Go of Brokenness
Healing only happened when I became motivated to change. For years, I had given lip service to the idea that I wanted to become healthier and happier, yet I wasn't ready to let go of my identity as a poor, pitiful fatherless girl. It was my ready excuse for why my romantic relationships ended badly, why I was floundering in my career, and why I wasn't living up to my potential. Iyanla Vanzant's words illustrate my internal dilemma at that time: "There is no greater battle in life than the battle between the parts of you that want to be helped and the parts of you that are comfortable and content remaining broken."
In this video, Iyanla Vanzant explains how a daughter is affected by her father's absence.
You either get bitter or you get better. It's that simple. You either take what has been dealt to you and allow it to make you a better person, or you allow it to tear you down. The choice does not belong to fate, it belongs to you.
In this video, Iyanla Vanzant says that a fatherless daughter should proclaim these two words in order to heal: "Daddy gone!"
Are you a fatherless daughter?
I am thankful for all those difficult people in my life. They have shown me who I do not want to be.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: How can a mother help a fatherless daughter?
Answer: That's such a beautiful and caring question for a mother to ask. Your willingness to help your fatherless daughter will be so incredibly beneficial to her. Being open, honest, and real is the most important thing. You have a lot of information she needs to fill in the gaps and better understand her dad. Without that information, she'll fill them in with negative messages about herself: I'm too fat, needy, ugly, stupid, unlovable for Dad to spend time with me.
My mother felt too guilty and defensive to admit that she picked the wrong man to be the father of her four children. She never explained to us why our dad was always working, stressed and angry. As kids are prone to do, we blamed ourselves and walked around on eggshells to keep him from exploding with rage. When my friends asked me why he didn't attend my softball games and piano recitals, I never had an answer and felt tremendous shame and confusion. If my mother had explained my father to me, I could have simply said, “he's a workaholic.” Being able to put a name to something is so empowering for kids. It lets them put the blame squarely where it belongs—on their parent, not themselves.
Saying you're sorry for picking the wrong guy to be her dad would also be incredibly helpful for your fatherless daughter. Owning your part would make her see that adults are responsible for the situation they created, not her. My mom picked a man who was closed off but a good provider. She was willing to give up emotional connection in exchange for financial security, but that trade-off had devastating consequences for us kids. She never apologized for her role in creating an unhappy home life until after my father had an affair. Then her eyes were finally opened to the mistakes she had made, but that was too late for my siblings and me!
Finally, going to family counseling would be extremely useful. This will show your fatherless daughter that she's not in it alone and not responsible for the situation. Instead, she'll see that it's a family dynamic that needs to be discussed and healed. She'll come to understand the mistakes that were made so she won't repeat them in her own life when dating, picking a partner, and having kids.
Thanks so much for the question and caring so much about your daughter. Much peace and love to both of you!
Question: Why do I still want to see my dad after his abandonment? I am twenty-four now. Before, I didn't care if I saw him or not, but why now do I want to see him? Why do I feel always there’s something missing?
Answer: When we get stuck in our thoughts, it's a good indication that it's time to see a professional to help us get unstuck. A good cognitive therapist could help you change the way you look at things in a relatively short amount of time. It's well worth your efforts now to invest in some counseling so you can get your life on track and stop focusing on your dad.
Otherwise, that negativity can grow and take over your life. There's a saying “As you think, so shall you be.” When you have help changing your thoughts, you can take control of your life and see things in a new, more empowered way.
You're at a crossroads now, deciding whether to seek the help you need or stay marinating in your sad thoughts. The spiritual coach, Iyanla Vanzant, said something so profound about our journey to get better: “There is no great battle in life than the battle between the parts of you that want to be helped and the parts of you that are comfortable and content remaining broken.”
Only you can take the steps necessary to improve your existence, but you have to want it for yourself. Thinking more about the situation with distorted thoughts will do you no good. Talking to friends and relatives might bring some comfort, but they're not objective professionals. Their input is not always useful, and they often say only what they think you want to hear.
Please see a therapist so you can move forward. I wish you the very best with this.
Question: How do I have a healthy relationship with anyone if I fear they will hurt me?
Answer: You can't. We fatherless daughters are not alone in having this fear; it's universal. So many people miss out on love because they wake up every morning and put on a suit of armor to face the world. They protect their hearts, but they miss out on romance, joy, and passion. If you want to be open to love, you must also be open to getting hurt. If you want to be open to succeeding at school or in your career, you must also be open to failing. If you want to be open to new friendships, you must also be open to rejection. That's true for all of us--fatherless daughters and every other soul on the face of this planet.
Dr. Brene Brown is a researcher who has studied vulnerability extensively. She worries that our society is facing a crisis because so many of us are frightened of being vulnerable. We see it as weakness, but Dr. Brown sees it as courageous and the key to happiness. She says, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of joy, of love, of belonging, of faith.”
Imagine the worst possible scenario if you were in a romance and got dumped. Yes, you'd feel awful, but you could survive it, right? It wouldn't be terminal. You'd still have a wonderful life with friends, family, your career, your pets, and your hobbies, right? You'd have the ability to work through the hurt and try again, right?
If that's not the case, then you need to back off from trying to find someone and concentrate on becoming a stronger person. You may need to focus on other areas of your life—taking classes to get ahead at your job, training for a marathon or other athletic event, going back to school to earn a degree, or learning a new skill such as ballroom dancing, martial arts, Chinese cooking, or watercolor painting. Once you become a more confident and accomplished person, you'll probably be ready to face the dating scene.
Don't let the pain of being a fatherless daughter stop you from enjoying every aspect of life. It's time to push yourself forward and not use your dad as an excuse.
Question: How do I stop myself from feeling suicidal?
Answer: If you're feeling suicidal, please go see a doctor or call the suicide prevention line. They have the resources you need to feel better. When we get that depressed, we can't get out of it by ourselves. We can't “just pull ourselves up by the bootstraps.” Our thoughts are too distorted. We need help. We may need to go on anti-depressants for a limited period.
I've been there. When I was in my late thirties, I hadn't dealt with the tremendous hurt I felt as a fatherless daughter. I hadn't grieved that loss. In fact, I didn't even know that term could be applied to me because my dad had been in the home—albeit emotionally distant. At that point in my life, I had a wonderful husband and two great kids but felt so sad, empty, and hopeless. Anti-depressants were the rope I needed to crawl out of my abyss of despair.
The biggest mistake I made, though, was not continuing with therapy and relying solely on anti-depressants. Then, seven years later when I finally went off the medicine, I was back at square one. That's when a decision was forced upon me: either go back on the anti-depressants and live like a zombie again or finally deal with the pain of being a fatherless daughter. I'm so glad I chose the second option, or I would not be in the beautiful spot I'm in today.
The sooner you call for help, the sooner you'll get better and the sooner you can move forward with your life. Feeling hopeless and wanting to give up can propel us to make changes. When we take control, our attitudes become more positive, and we can see the light again.
Please take the first step to get help. You won't feel this way forever, but you need to reach out. Write me back, so I know you took that first important step. I care!
Question: I haven't seen my dad for 6 years, and last time was when I visited. The logistics are complicated, but if you really want to see your kids, you'd make an effort, right? Does it "count" as an absent father if he's only now becoming more absent, well into his empty-nest years? But if he cared, he would try to be in touch and be present in my life more, so I guess he just doesn't care much?
Answer: I'm sorry this situation is causing you heartache but please know that you're not alone. I've spoken with dozens of women who've experienced the same thing. Many came to the conclusion that, if they wanted to keep a relationship with their dads, they had to make all the effort.
The typical scenario involves parents who got divorced. The father then remarries and puts his new wife in charge of their social calendar. She, in turn, makes her own adult children, grandchildren, and friends the top priority. He goes along with it to keep peace in the marriage, largely oblivious to how much pain it creates.
Some women choose to put their wounded egos and hurt feelings aside to keep the relationship. They may be motivated to do this so their kids will have a grandfather. They develop thick skins, keenly aware of their dad's limitations. Others decide it's not worth the effort and choose to put their time and energies into people who are more loving, receptive, and engaged.
Sadly, not all fathers are capable of maintaining intimate relationships. While people like you and me long for connection, others actually run from it. Some are just stingy with their love, and they serve as a reminder that we want to be generous with ours.
I keep in mind the quote: “Everybody isn't gonna love you. Most people don't even love themselves.” It reminds me that there are damaged souls walking this earth. I think of the years I yearned for affection from my dad and that entire side of the family. I shake my head now at how futile that was, looking to quench my thirst from a well that was bone dry. I see it so clearly today but couldn't when I was younger.
In not seeing your dad for six years, you may have already made a decision without realizing it. Now, perhaps, you just need to make a conscious choice. I hope you find peace with whatever you decide and appreciate that his behavior is not a reflection of your worth.
Question: The father of my children was an addict. I left him when my daughter was 2. He was "Disney dad" and showered her with gifts but saw her only once a year. He passed 9 years ago. My daughter says her self-esteem came from her Dad. She has no confidence and no friends. She lives in constant fear of being left. How can I help my daughter's self esteem?
Answer: Your daughter’s thoughts are distorted and destructive. Until she changes her thinking, she’ll stay a victim and be miserable. Therefore, she’d benefit from working with a cognitive therapist who can help her recognize her faulty beliefs and replace them with constructive ones.
Thinking that her self-esteem came from her father, a man who saw her just once a year, is illogical. Our self-worth doesn’t come from another person. It comes from doing things that make us proud of ourselves. When we do hard things such as learning a second language, losing 10 pounds, training for a marathon, and taking college classes, we become more confident and accomplished. Until she accepts that she is responsible for building up her self-esteem, she’ll continue to struggle and blame others.
While cognitive therapy would help, she seems unmotivated to fully participate in it at this time. It offers no miracles but requires hard work, commitment, and a willingness to do the assignments that the therapist will recommend. It would be a waste of time and money if your daughter isn’t ready to put in the effort.
With that being said, I think your first step should be taking your daughter to her primary physician for a check-up and a discussion about depression. If she’s clinically depressed, she won’t have the energy and motivation to improve herself until that’s treated. The doctor may recommend that she see a therapist or take an antidepressant. In the meantime, please take good care of yourself and don’t let her drag you down with her.
Question: I'm lost in life. My mom died of drugs when I was 7 and my father abused me so I have neither in my life. I was adopted, though, when I was 14 but still feel sadness. I just want to be loved unconditionally. I want to feel that whatever happens I'll
still be loved because we're blood. I've been taught that blood is thicker than water so where does this leave me with my family now? Am I wrong for feeling this way?
Answer: If you truly wish to change your life, you can do it today by changing how you think. Adopt the mantra: “I am not my thoughts; I am the awareness of my thoughts.” When a silly notion such as “blood is thicker than water” pops into your head, ask yourself: Is this thought serving me or damaging me? Is it helping me move forward or is it keeping me immobilized? Does it enhance my well-being or create undue grief?
Eckhart Tolle, the spiritual teacher, advises: “Be the silent watcher of your thoughts and behavior. You are beneath the thinker. You are the stillness beneath the mental noise. You are the love and joy beneath the pain.”
The saying “blood is thicker than water” is patently false as many people experience the most profound love with their partners and spouses. Parents love adopted kids just as much as biological ones. Many folks find more love, support, and compassion with friends than family members. Conversely, some children never experience unconditional love from their biological parents. That’s why our big cities are inundated with homeless LGBTQ teens who were rejected by their moms and dads.
Therefore, you must ask: What is the benefit of clinging to such a faulty belief? Are you using it as a crutch to avoid transitioning to the next stage of your life? After all, you’re at an age where life is getting very real. You’re no longer a child and need to set goals for yourself, be responsible for your decisions, and plan your future.
Sadly, many young women in your position opt for staying stuck in the past, ruminating about their unfortunate childhoods. They choose this because it’s far easier than going to college, taking difficult classes, preparing for a career, and becoming financially independent. They’d rather look to the past and blame it for their failings. They waste critical time when they should be building a meaningful life and contributing to society.
The life coach, Iyanla Vanzant, says it best: “There is no greater battle in life than the battle between the parts of you that want to be healed and the parts of you that are comfortable and content remaining broken.” If you can’t change your thinking by yourself, please contact a cognitive therapist (online or in person) for help. It all starts with you and your thoughts. You have the power and the responsibility, which can be both liberating and daunting. I wish you well.
Question: My Ph.D. advisor reminds me of my father. I'm kind of afraid of him because of that resemblance. Should I work with him?
Answer: In another situation, I'd tell you to deal with your fears and not run away from them. For example, what if the man in question was your new boss at your dream job or your potential new father-in-law? You wouldn't want to give up a fantastic career opportunity or a wonderful husband just because someone reminds you of your dad. If you went to cognitive therapy, this problem could be resolved in a relatively short amount of time by changing your thoughts.
However, in this particular situation, I think a change in advisors is a good idea. I imagine you're quite busy now with your studies and are dealing with a lot of stress. You don't have free time to deal with the issues surrounding your dad (although, hopefully, you will in the future). Since you're focusing on your education and paying for these academic services, you want the optimal experience. You'll be working closely with your advisor and want a comfortable rapport with him: asking questions, seeking counsel, and revealing your struggles. You don't want someone who makes you fearful, even if it isn't his fault.
Do you have another advisor in mind? Perhaps, there is someone who's a better fit for your educational needs. This is the time to be pragmatic. Tell this advisor the truth or simply say, “I found a better fit.” I'm sure he'll be professional about it and take no offense.
Question: Why do I always date man after man?
Answer: If it’s any comfort, you’re not alone in doing this. Many fatherless daughters are in one relationship after another, trying to prove that their dads were wrong and that they are indeed worthy of being loved. Always having a man boosts their self-esteem, which can often below because of their father’s neglect. They crave attention from a male partner because they didn’t get it from their dads when they were children.
Sadly, these romantic relationships are often superficial. The women may be scared of opening up and showing emotional vulnerability. They won’t risk getting hurt by a man after enduring their father’s rejection. They may have a pattern of developing relationships with guys who are cold and distant. With these men, they unconsciously seek to replicate the situation with their dads but hope to fix it.
Putting a pause on romantic entanglements for six months to a year is a powerful way for fatherless daughters to break this destructive habit. It gives them precious time to focus on themselves. They can step back and examine why they so desperately need to be with a man and why these relationships don’t last.
Moreover, it gives them the opportunity to build their self-esteem in ways other than having a guy. Some go back to college. Some start a business. Some train for a marathon. Some reconnect with friends and family. Then, when they’re ready to date again, they’re more confident and, therefore, attract a higher caliber of men.
You may want to read my article entitled: “Fatherless Daughters: How Growing Up Without a Dad Affects Women.” https://wehavekids.com/family-relationships/When-D... I wish you well.
Question: I never met my biological dad. Then I was abandoned at 11 by the man I grew up thinking was my father. What are the implications of this on my adult life?
Answer: I’ve written an article on this subject entitled, “Fatherless Daughters: How Growing Up Without a Dad Affects Women.” https://wehavekids.com/family-relationships/When-D...
None of these common problems, though, are inevitable. By knowing the pitfalls, you can certainly act preemptively to avoid them.
Most significantly, you should become aware of the destructive thoughts that you have and work to eradicate them. Fatherless daughters can be undone by recurring beliefs such as: I’m unlovable...My own dad didn’t want to spend time with me so why would anyone else...I’ll never find a man to love me...I’m broken.
I hope you paid attention to the poll at the bottom of the article where I asked readers: “How did you get over your dad’s rejection?” I listed options such as: getting counseling, focusing on healthy relationships, and praying/meditating. A whopping 62 percent of women, though, picked: “I don’t think I’ll ever get over it.”
That is so tragic because it’s a choice. Far too many women cling to their status as fatherless daughters, using it as an excuse for their failings and limitations. They make themselves victims, blaming the absence of their dads instead of working hard to create the lives that they desire. The author, Alice Walker, sums it up beautifully with these words: “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”
You’re on a good trajectory by planning ahead and being proactive. If you feel like you need help getting over certain mental hurdles, don’t hesitate to work with a cognitive therapist. Take care!
Question: What role does a stepfather play in lessening the negative impact on a child? The biological father left when my stepdaughter was a year old. I married her mom when she was 6 and subsequently adopted her. She's 17 now and exhibiting many of the issues mentioned in articles on father abandonment.
Answer: Seventeen is a critical age for fatherless daughters. They either move boldly forward with a solid plan for their lives or flounder while hanging out with friends and boyfriends who also lack direction. If your stepdaughter has low self-esteem like many teens who grew up without dads, she will surround herself with people who also feel bad about themselves. She'll avoid those who are striving and achieving.
Now that she is 17, your influence is not as potent as it once was. Hopefully, you've built a strong bond with her throughout the years, and she has known you as a loving parent figure and a man of honor. With a good paternal role model, she's less lucky to look for love and acceptance from a teenage boy or be eager to have a baby before she's ready.
Unfortunately, some stepdaughters never view their stepdad as an asset in their lives but only as an interloper. They see him as someone who robbed them of their mother's precious time and focus. If there are other siblings, the daughter may feel even less significant as her mom's attention gets sliced up into smaller pieces.
Now would be an opportune time for all of you to attend family counseling together. Instead of making it seem that your stepdaughter is a problem that needs to be fixed, everyone should admit to their shortcomings and make an effort to improve the family dynamic. If the therapist wants to work with your stepdaughter alone, she'll let you know.
It's always useful to get a professional's insight, especially when we can't see the interactions in our own family clearly. It could also help prevent more serious issues in the future.
Question: I'm visiting my absent father for the summer and he told me that I'm falling below his expectations. He constantly blames my mom for it. He makes me feel like there's something wrong with me. At this point, I don't know how to feel because I'm just ready to leave. What should I do?
Answer: This could be a life-changing summer as you (perhaps for the first time) clearly see your father's limitations. When he said that you're “falling below his expectations,” he's speaking from his own ego. When you perform well, he feels better about himself and, when you don't, he feels worse about himself. It's all about him. Perhaps, that's why your mother and he are no longer together.
Sadly, he's making a common critical mistake of divorced moms and dads: criticizing the other parent. That puts you in an awkward position because, of course, you want to remain loyal to your mom. After all, she's the one who's with you most of the time, putting in the time and effort. It's easy for your dad to criticize when he primarily remains on the sidelines.
The writer, Maya Angelou, said: “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” If your dad is making you believe that there's something wrong with you, he's not acting in your best interest. The time you two have together this summer is precious, and he should be using it to get to know you better, listen to you, and create special memories.
I'd talk to him about your feelings and tell him why you're thinking of leaving. Listen to what he says, notice if he apologizes, and watch if his behavior changes. He might see the error of his ways or he might not. But, at least, you will have spoken your truth and given him an opportunity to alter course.
If things stay the same, discuss it with your mom. You don't want to stay trapped in a bad situation. You want to take control. Best to you!
© 2018 McKenna Meyers
McKenna Meyers (author) on May 31, 2020:
K, I empathize with your situation. When I taught kindergarten, I’d watch loving dads pick up their little girls after class. They’d call them “princesses” and have plans to take them to the park, to dance class, or to get an ice cream cone. I’d sometimes cry alone in my classroom because I never had that and it pained me so. I convinced myself that if I had a good dad, I’d be much happier, better adjusted, and more self-confident.
But the spiritual writer, Bryon Katie, says: “To believe that you need what you don’t have is the definition of insanity.” Once I took those words to heart and accepted that I never had a daddy and never would, I released myself of the anguish. I stopped thinking about what I didn’t have and started focusing on what I did have. That’s made all the difference in my life and it just involved me changing my own thoughts. I hope that helps. Take care!
K on May 30, 2020:
My father was not a nice person. I always hated him. It's been 8 years since My parents got divorced and Now I've been living with My mom. I don't Miss My father at all. But When i see My friends around their fathers and the fact that their fathers always have their back, i burst into tears and i always Ask God why i should have a Crazy father like him who never supported me. This feeling is really bothering me. These days i think about it a lot and cry every Night. What should i do? By the way I'm a 17 year old girl.
McKenna Meyers (author) on April 29, 2020:
It’s not unusual for fatherless daughters to struggle with being vulnerable. Our dad’s abandonment can leave us feeling helpless, mistrustful, and scared of being hurt again. This unhealed trauma from our childhood can seep into our daily lives and keep us from opening up to others. Because of this, we’re never seen, loved, and accepted for the person we truly are.
Working with a cognitive therapist is a valuable way to get in touch with our emotions regarding our dad’s rejection and put them in proper perspective. I also recommend you read Brene Brown’s powerful book entitled “The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings on Authenticity, Connection, and Courage.” She calls vulnerability “the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love” and says it’s our greatest strength. Take care!
Faith on April 28, 2020:
I have a very hard time being vulnerable with people (My husband included) I honestly can’t remember one time in my life where I gave someone a hug told them I loved them and said it genuinely not just as were getting off the phone, I feel like it’s impossible for me to genuinely be vulnerable with someone else including my mom, sisters and close friends I can say how I feel through text but in person I can’t bring myself to be vulnerable. My dad left when I was 4 and I was raised without him until I was 10-11 when my parents temporality remarried then they divorced again he only came around when he wanted to be with my mom and used me to get to her.
McKenna Meyers (author) on July 05, 2018:
Venkatachari, that makes me hurt for your wife. She had to deal with the rejection of a father, a mother, and an entire family. I don't know how someone ever recovers from that, but I'm glad she's doing well now. She's an inspiration to others. Thanks for sharing her story.
McKenna Meyers (author) on July 05, 2018:
I agree, Bill. It takes so long to get over the damage done to us in childhood and some of us never recover. I think these are far better days when people are more thoughtful and deliberate about whether they want to become parents or not and society doesn't judge harshly those who choose to remain childless. In fact, many of those folks are admired. If my dad were a young man in today's world, he would decide to have no children or, perhaps, just one. Having four children was stressful for him and he did not enjoy it.
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on July 05, 2018:
Oh, the damage some people do to their children. I know it's impossible, but some people should never be allowed to parent. Extreme, yes, but I think you understand the reason for it.
Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on July 05, 2018:
A very informative and educative post. You are right that one should come out of those depressive feelings of rejection and move on in life with positive thoughts in improving her career and life.
My wife was a fatherless daughter. He took his life on his own when she was in the womb. And, she got rejected or abused by all her family members including her mother who was indifferent towards this daughter. All of them cursed her that she was the cause of her father's death. So, my wife became a psychological victim and couldn't recover even after many years of marrying me. Only in her late forties, she was able to come out of it when her mother expired and she remained away from her siblings.