Fatherless Daughters: How Growing Up Without a Dad Affects Women
Ms. Meyers grew up with a dad who was physically present but emotionally absent. She numbed her pain with food and anti-depressants.
Growing Up Without a Dad Shapes Who You Are
It took six decades, but I can finally utter a huge truth that caused me tremendous shame and sadness: My father didn't love me. I never spoke that deep, dark secret, but it was always festering inside of me. It manifested itself in many ways throughout my life as I struggled with a food obsession, low self-esteem, social anxiety, and depression.
Whether a dad was present but rejecting like mine or walked away from his fatherly duties entirely, his absence leaves an indelible mark on a daughter's psyche as she grows into adulthood. What does the research say about woman who grew up with fathers who didn't love them—daughters who were never daddy's little girl?
Below, you'll find six ways a daughter may be affected by an uninvolved dad.
Fathers provide their daughters with a masculine example. They teach their children about respect and boundaries and help put daughters at ease with other men throughout their lives. [...] So if she didn't grow up with a proper example, she will have less insight and she'll be more likely to go for a man that will replicate the abandonment of her father.— Caitlin Marvaso, AMFT, a grief counselor and therapist in Oakland, CA
1. Fatherless Daughters Have Self-Esteem Issues
According to Deborah Moskovitch, an author and divorce consultant, kids often blame themselves when dad leaves the home and becomes less involved in their lives. When they aren't given an explanation about why dad left, they make up their own scenario and jump to the conclusion that it's their fault and that they're unlovable.
This is especially true for daughters. Countless studies have shown that fatherlessness has an extremely negative impact on daughters' self esteem. Her confidence in her own abilities and value as a human being can be greatly diminished if her father isn't there. Academically, personally, professionally, physically, socially, and romantically, a woman's self esteem is diminished in every setting if she did not form a healthy relationship with her father.
As a child, I watched television shows like The Brady Bunch and Happy Days in which the fathers showered their daughters with tremendous amounts of attention and affection. Because I never got that from my dad, I convinced myself it was because I wasn't cute enough. I thought if I had blond hair and talked with a lisp like Cindy Brady I would then have my dad's devotion. I hated the way I looked because I thought it caused my father's disinterest in me. As I got older, my self-esteem plummeted and I was sure no man would ever find me attractive.
2. Daughters With Absent Fathers Struggle to Build and Maintain Relationships
According to Pamela Thomas, author of Fatherless Daughters (a book that examines how women cope with the loss of a father via death or divorce), women who grew up with absent dads find it difficult to form lasting relationships. Because they were scarred by their dad's rejection of them, they don't want to risk getting hurt again. Consciously or unconsciously, they avoid getting close to people. They may form superficial relationships in which they reveal little of themselves and put very little effort into getting to know others. They may become promiscuous as a way of getting male attention without becoming too emotionally involved.
Ever since childhood, I've built walls around myself. I didn't open up to people. I didn't ask questions about their families, jobs, or hobbies. I kept my life private, and I remained socially isolated. These were all self-protective measures so I wouldn't experience rejection like I did with my dad. Knowing this intellectually did nothing to help me change my behavior because my fear of rejection was more powerful than my desire to make connections.
3. Women With Absent Fathers Are More Likely to Have Eating Disorders
In their book The Parent's Guide to Eating Disorders, the authors Marcia Herrin and Nancy Matsumoto write eloquently about the fact that girls with physically or emotionally absent fathers are at greater risk of developing eating disorders. Anorexia nervosa, bulimia, binge-eating, body dysmorphia, unhealthy preoccupations with food or body weight, and other eating disorders are all more likely if a girl does not have a father figure as she's growing up. Daughters without dads are also twice as likely to be obese. Because her longing to have a close relationship with her dad is denied, she may develop what Margo Maine (author of Father Hunger: Fathers, Daughters, & Food) calls “father hunger,” a deep emptiness and a profound insecurity. Daughters are left wondering: What's so wrong with me that my own father doesn't love me? If I looked different—if I was thin—would I earn daddy's love?
I've struggled with "father hunger" throughout my life—stuffing my face to fill the void, dieting to get model-thin, and always obsessing about food. My days have been filled with thoughts of eating—either doing it or struggling mightily not to. When I accepted that my dad didn't love me and that he was an unhappy man with deep-rooted problems, I finally started eating normally and began maintaining a healthy weight. I began treating myself in a loving way by exercising, gardening, reading, walking in the woods, and spending time with family. For the first time in my life, I only thought about food when I was truly hungry. This freed me to enjoy my life in so many wonderful ways.
4. Daughters of Absent Fathers Are More Prone to Depression
Not surprisingly, girls who grew up with dads who were emotionally or physically absent are more likely to struggle with depression as adults. Because they fear abandonment and rejection, these women often isolate themselves emotionally. They avoid healthy romantic relationships because they don't feel deserving and fear getting hurt, but they might jump into unhealthy relationships that ultimately lead to heartbreak. In either scenario, the women are in emotional peril and frequently become depressed. If they don't deal with the cause of their sadness—an absent dad—they may never be able to develop healthy relationships with men.
To top it all off, data suggests that children without fathers are more than twice as likely to commit suicide.
According to Denna Babul and Karin Louise, authors of The Fatherless Daughter Project, it's helpful to simply realize that we're not alone. In fact, one in three women see themselves as fatherless and struggle with feelings of abandonment. Knowing this fact helps us see that there's a whole sisterhood out there who share a common pain and a need to connect. When we open up and share our journey, we help both ourselves and each other. Whether we feel the loss of a dad through death, divorce, drug addiction, estrangement, or emotional neglect, we must grieve in order to move forward. Read Five Steps to Heal Her Pain: How a Fatherless Daughter Can Move On From Her Dad's Rejection for ideas on how to avoid falling into depression. A gifted therapist can be key to helping us do just that and becoming happier people.
5. Dadless Daughters Are More Likely to Become Sexually Active Earlier
Studies have shown the many benefits that come from a strong father-daughter bond. Most notably, girls who are close to their dads are less likely to get pregnant as teens. They delay engaging in sexual relationships, wait longer to get married and have children, and when they do find a husband, their marriages are more emotionally satisfying, stable, and long-lasting.
Countless studies also show that women who have unstable or absent paternal relationships are more likely to start having sex earlier and engage risky sexual behaviors. Daughters are four times more likely to get pregnant as a teen if dad isn't in the picture. Studies show that more than 70% of unplanned teenage pregnancies occur in homes where there is no father.
My older sister (who, like me, did not have a relationship with our father) met her future husband when she was just 18 and married him when she turned 22, straight out of college. He was the only guy she ever dated. Without a doubt, she was looking for the love and validation she never got from our dad. She was looking for an alternative to a man who never said "I love you" or "you're pretty" and never gave the unconditional acceptance one craves from a parent. Although she is still married, her union has been a difficult one, and she discourages her own daughters from marrying young.
6. Abandoned Daughters Are Susceptible to Addiction
As with depression, eating disorders, and low self esteem, the absence of a father can trap a daughter in a negative repetitive pattern she can't easily break out of and turn to drugs to self-medicate and help numb the pain. She is more likely to find herself trapped in a cycle of substance abuse, for example. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, fatherless children are at a dramatically greater risk of drug and alcohol abuse. Not only are kids in father-absent households about four times more likely to be poor (which can trigger many negative cycles), fatherless adolescents were found to be 69% more likely to use drugs and 76% more likely to commit crimes.
Can a Daughter Survive Without a Father?
Try as I might, I was never been able to get any traction, always making a mess of this or that and never able to form long-lasting friendships. I rejected happiness because I never felt worthy of it. I did so much to sabotage my life and make myself miserable.
Then last year my older sister revealed to me that she, too, had felt unloved by him. I immediately felt enormous relief and then great euphoria. I realized it had never been about me—that I was bad, ugly, stupid and undeserving. It had always been about him—his unhappy childhood, his cold mother, his negative nature, and his dissatisfaction with being a husband and father. It had never been about me...never.
I could finally shout: “You were a piece of crap and now I'm done with you! I'm not your prisoner any more!"
According to Caitlin Marvaso, AMFT, a grief counselor and therapist, to recover from a father's abandonment, a woman "must learn how to father herself, hold herself, and receive the type of love a father provides. It is a lifelong process, but with the proper support, tools, and patience, it is totally possible. That being said, the grief and pain never goes away, it just changes."
A daughter whose father abandoned her can grow, thrive, learn, excel, succeed, love and be loved, and live a wonderful life when she realizes that the problem isn't her, it's him. This is the first step toward healing.
Self-mutilation comes in the form of promiscuity and [...] it's violence against yourself. I never thought of it that way before!— Oprah Winfrey
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Fatherless Daughter Syndrome?
"Fatherless Daughter Syndrome" (colloquially known as "daddy issues") is an emotional disorder that stems from issues with trust and lack of self esteem that leads to a cycle of repeated dysfunctional decisions in relationships with men. It can last a woman's entire lifetime if the symptoms go unacknowledged and ignored.
Does the Reason Affect the Result of Fatherlessness?
Half of the daughters in the US self-identify as having no father in their lives, but the reasons for that fatherlessness vary. Approximately 28% lost their connection to their dads via divorce or separation, while 26% cite emotional absence as the reason for the estrangement. 19% lost their fathers to death, 13% to abandonment, 13% to addiction, 12% to abuse, and 4% to incarceration. 6% say they never met their father.
Certainly, a daughter whose loving dad passed away when she was 15 will be affected differently than a daughter whose father abandoned her when she was born. Unfortunately, many studies do not account for the reasons for fatherlessness.
The effects of fatherlessness can be mitigated by many factors. Daughters who were brought up in households with two moms, a loving and very-involved step parent, or participating grandparents or other extended family members will probably not experience the same lasting wounds and negative impact of a father's abandonment.
What about you?
What kind of absent father do you have?
What Are the Emotional Effects of Being Abandoned by a Father?
Compared to those with healthy paternal relationships, fatherless women report...
- feeling less happiness and lower levels of well-being,
- higher levels of frustration, anger, and anger-related depression,
- difficulty navigating the emotions of intimate relationships, and
- overwhelming fears of abandonment.
What Are the Psychological Effects of an Absent Father?
To summarize, depression, suicide, eating disorders, obesity (and its effects), early sexual activity, addiction-formation, and difficulty building and holding on to loving relationships are all side-effects of an absent father.
This is the book I recommend to those of us who identify as fatherless daughters and are eager to heal and move forward. No book will help us change until we have the motivation to do so, are willing to look at our painful past, and put in the hard work to eliminate our destructive thought patterns and behaviors. There's no doubt about it; this is a painful book for us fatherless daughters to read. It will surely make you cry as old wounds get opened up. If you're like I was, you'll have to put it down and walk away many times before finishing. I wrote in my journal after almost every page because something got triggered from my childhood that I needed to think about and understand.
Ultimately, though, this book provides us fatherless daughters with comfort and hope. Dr. Rosenthal does a superb job of detailing the six types of unavailable dads and provides stories of women who grew up with them. It feels good to know we're not alone in the treatment we endured and the struggles it produced. It's encouraging to hear the stories of fatherless daughters who've broken free of victim-hood and are now thriving. If you're ready to take the next step, please read this book.
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
My father was a good man who struggled with depression and alcoholism (so he was emotionally unavailable). How can I address my emotional issues without putting the blame on him?
I'm so impressed with you based on your question. It shows great insight, compassion, and desire to move forward with your life. So many of us (myself included) get stuck in the blame game, keep recycling our past, and don't enjoy the here-and-now. Since you already understand your dad was emotionally absent and why, you're doing great and are ready for the next step to jump-start a happy future.
My 80-year-old mother was recently reminiscing about her mom who died from alcoholism and said, “She chose booze over me.” I was immediately struck my how tragic (and untrue) that comment was and how my mom had no understanding of addiction and depression. I knew this ill-conceived belief of hers had negatively shaped her life and the lives of my siblings and me. I wished she had attended Al-Anon meetings, read books about alcoholism, and gone to therapy before getting married and having children. It would have saved us all a lot of heartache.
I hope you will avail yourself of the resources my mother didn't. By putting in the effort now, you'll have a happier life in the future. By talking with others, you'll realize you're not alone, find camaraderie in your shared pain, and learn how others have moved forward. There are so many of us women who identify as fatherless (I in 3), and 10 percent of U.S. adults say they grew up with an alcohol-abusing parent. Janet Woititz wrote Adult Children of Alcoholics, an excellent book in which she discusses the common traits that people with alcoholic parents share.
I found a lot of relief, support, and peace of mind by being vulnerable and sharing my experiences as a fatherless daughter. When you open up and reveal your pain, you meet so many people who will do the same, and an instant connection is formed. For too long, I lived a life where I seemed strong and put together. In reality, though, I was numbing my emotions by taking anti-depressants. The seven years I remained on those were the worst of my life, “my lost years,” because I lived like a zombie. While I felt no pain and never cried, I also felt no joy. My doctor did me a great disservice by prescribing drugs to me instead of urging me to do the hard work needed to get better. I do that now: meditating, writing in a journal, focusing on gratitude, spending time in nature, exercising, eating healthy foods and, most importantly, dealing with my feelings instead of stuffing them.
I wish you the very best as you move forward. I think you will have a lot to offer those who are on a similar journey.Helpful 53
How can one heal from growing up without a dad?
That's the $10,000 question, isn't it? I don't think any of us fatherless daughters ever completely heal from the loss. We'll always feel sad about it from time to time, and that's normal. We'd have to be stoned out of our minds or numbed with anti-depressants (like I once was) to not feel some anguish, but we need to put it in perspective, move forward, and enjoy our lives in the here-and-now. As I've gotten older, this has become much easier to do because I don't want to spend my time feeling bad about my yesterdays (when I didn't have much control) instead of enjoying my todays (when I have all the control).
When I taught preschool, I loved watching dads pick up their daughters from class and sweep them off the floor in a big loving embrace. At the same time, though, I'd feel pain that I never experienced anything like that with my own father. I'd acknowledge my feelings and then think of a mantra to help me work through it. Some of my favorites were: “I know for sure what we dwell on is who we become” (Oprah), “failure is dictated by a focus on yesterday,” and “I'd rather be better than bitter.”
I've healed a lot by sharing my journey with others—by writing this article but also talking with friends and acquaintances. When you open up and become vulnerable, others will do the same. One in three of us identify as fatherless so there's a lot of women to whom we can relate and form an instant bond.
I've also found a lot of healing in taking better care of myself: exercising, eating healthy foods, making time for reading and relaxing. For much of my life, I was my own worst enemy, and it was really starting to catch up with me as I became obese and sedentary. I've also started to speak up more, sharing my experiences, my opinions, and my knowledge. My dad often shushed me as a kid, and now it feels great to reclaim my voice.Helpful 39
My dad is a deadbeat. How do I emotionally get through all the years of tossing thoughts of only having my mother? I have neglected to recognize how truly alone I really am. How do I get through this?
I believe deep misplaced feelings of shame are at the center of a fatherless daughter's life. The paternal archetype—loving, protecting, advising—has a strong presence in all cultures throughout the world. Fathers portrayed on television risk their lives to save their children, are infinitely patient and giving, and are always warm and kind. When we don't have a dad like that, we blame ourselves when we're kids and even when we're adults.
I grew up watching Pa Ingalls on the “Little House on the Prairie” series. His devotion to his daughters was infinite. At the same time, though, I was a girl with a workaholic father who was rarely at home and, when he was, would call me names and berate my appearance. How does a kid wrap her brain around these disparate fatherly images? She blames herself and feels deep shame for her failures as a daughter. She thinks that if I were cuter, smarter, thinner, more charming, more petite, more athletic, and more talented, my Dad would love me.
Looking back now on my life, I see how it was molded by my feelings of shame, worthlessness, and never feeling good enough. These emotions resulted in my addiction to food, my low self-esteem, my neglect of my appearance and health, my inability to put myself out there to make friends, my willingness to settle for jobs that were below my abilities, and my reliance on anti-depressants. When I finally opened up to my sister about our dad, she confessed that she, too, felt unloved and unaccepted by him. Her admission lifted the weight of shame that I had been carrying on my shoulders, and I experienced a lightness I had never known.
I want you to experience this lightness as well. When you open up to other women about being a fatherless daughter, you'll feel so much better. Since 1 out of 3 of us identifies as such, you won't have a problem finding those who say, “I understand... I feel your pain... You're not alone...I went through the same thing.”
I'm the happiest I've ever been since I let go of the shame, and I never want to be bogged down by it again. Connecting with other women who've had a similar journey is the key.Helpful 37
My dad usually only in the summer, but he hasn't since 2015. I just can’t take it anymore. Does he not have any interest in me?
I'm sorry your dad is being neglectful and uncaring. No matter what's going on in his life (a new wife or girlfriend, deadlines at work, duties at home), he has a parental responsibility to see you regularly so a loving bond can be created and maintained. Unfortunately, some fathers are too self-involved to comprehend the hurt they cause their kids. My dad called me degrading names such as “Buffalo Butt” and “Rhino Rump” when I was a girl, damaging my self-esteem and causing me tremendous embarrassment. Now, as an adult and mother, I see how incredibly immature that was of him and I've let go of the misplaced shame I felt. But it took many years.
Your mother probably has some insight that would be helpful about your father's poor character. Perhaps, she hasn't wanted to disparage him in your eyes, but you need to know the truth. His behavior reflects badly on him, not you, and you need to know his past so you can understand why he's acting this way in the present.
If he doesn't see you in person, he should be staying in contact via phone, e-mail, or Skype. If he's not, you and your mom should set up a regular day and time for him to communicate with you. If he doesn't follow through with that, you have a tough decision to make. Do you want to stay connected with him even though it's sporadic, unpredictable, and only on his terms or do you want to take control, limit contact, or possibly even terminate the relationship? Talking with a counselor at school would be beneficial before making such a big decision.
In the meantime, focus on the positive things in your life. Keep a gratitude journal and write down five things you are thankful for each day (Oprah does this). Open up to your friends and family about your dad and get the love and support you need. Set goals for yourself and work hard to achieve them. Develop a rich spiritual life by meditating and spending time in nature. Be good to yourself by eating nutritious foods and exercising. Don't define yourself by your father's neglectful behavior. You are so much more than that.
I wish you the best. I know how painful it is to be shunned by a dad and have so little control over the situation. I'm glad you're reaching out. Please continue to do so. Many girls and women can relate to what you're feeling and experiencing, and we truly do care.Helpful 22
My dad had depression and decided to leave us as he couldn't handle it. Meanwhile, my mom was working in another country. I can't say I am facing troubles or I miss him or something. For sure I had depression, anxiety, and problems connecting with people. The older I get, the harder it becomes. As a young girl, I used to live life to the fullest. Now I'm becoming more and more distant. How can I know that all of this is due to my dad's absence and how can I overcome it?
You'll probably never know how much these issues are directly connected to your dad's absence or if other factors are to blame. You experienced a lot of loss at an early age with both parents being gone. You missed out on the love and attention they could have provided. Now, you may not know how to give those to yourself.
Many fatherless daughters are terrible at nurturing themselves. Their lack of self-care can have horrible consequences if they don't reverse course. You also have a family history of depression. These are all factors that can make you feel sad, hopeless, and numb.
I suggest you go to therapy to talk about these issues and get in touch with your feelings. It sounds like you've shut them down as I did. By doing that, I caused myself great damage, both physically and psychologically, and led a zombie-like existence for many years. I was prescribed anti-depressants that made me flat and did nothing to address the root cause of my grief.
When I gradually weaned myself off the drugs after many years, I was back to square one. If it is recommended that you take anti-depressants, please do so for a limited period of time. While on them, work with a professional to address the source of your sadness and how to move forward from it. Looking backward is valuable but looking forward is better!
To get well, I needed to stop running from my feelings and embrace them. Since I wanted to build connections with other people, I needed to show my vulnerability and let them get closer to the real me. I had been hiding for far too long. I had to stop being afraid of getting hurt and being rejected. I had to take risks.
As fatherless daughters, many of us didn't have our inner-world tended to as kids. It was largely ignored. Now, as adults, we need to make it a priority, realizing it's what makes us who we are and what makes our lives worth living.
Please get the help and support you need so you're happier, and your relationships are richer. Best to you!
My father was physically abusive to me, I swore (at age 14) that I would never love a man like my mam loved my dad because I saw how badly he treated her and she stayed with him! What harm did I do to myself? How can I repair it?
You need to give yourself a break and tell yourself a different story. You didn't harm yourself. You had harm done to you. You were physically abused by your father and further abused by a mother who didn't protect you. You were betrayed by the two people in your life who should have taken care of you. That is a huge mountain to climb, and you should congratulate yourself for having survived it.
How about re-framing your narrative? It could be something such as: I survived a terrible and traumatic childhood and so I naturally wanted to protect myself from more pain. Now, though, I want to open myself up to the possibility of love. Unlike other women who re-live their past and try to fix it by picking a guy like their abusive fathers, I know that a man like my dad is the last thing I want in my life. I'm healthy enough to see that.
I recommend you work with a therapist (cognitive therapists are goal oriented and strive to get results in a reasonable amount of time). It will probably be very scary for you (rightfully so) to move into romantic relationships. It may be a slow process for you to trust someone and be vulnerable. In the meantime, take good care of yourself. Find meaning and joy in your work, with your hobbies, and through your friends. Don't make finding a partner the sole focus of your existence because it may be extremely hard to do.
I'm so sorry you had to endure such a damaging childhood. What happened to you should never befall a kid. I wish you peace and joy as you move forward. I hope you'll be kinder, gentler, and more admiring of yourself.
My family got separated in 2016. My family doesn't let me meet my dad or talk to him. They don't understand the importance of him in my life. What do I do?
You need to sit down with your family and have an open, honest conversation about your dad. They might be keeping him away to protect you. However, if that's the case, you deserve to know why. Is he a felon, a drug abuser, an alcoholic, mentally unstable, physically abusive, or irresponsible? You need to know the truth in order to effectively cope with this situation.
Sadly, many families hide the truth from children in an attempt to shelter them from harsh realities. It can backfire, though. Because youngsters are naturally egocentric, they fill the void with negative messages about themselves: “I was too much of a bother. He didn't love me. I cost too much.” Without adequate information, they blame themselves for their parent's absence.
If this is too much for you to handle on your own, please talk to a counselor at school, a teacher, or other trusted adult. Ask that person to help you communicate with your family about your desire to see your dad. Sometimes it takes an objective person to mediate these disputes. Perhaps, this individual can help establish guidelines for you to contact your father, whether it's through texts, e-mails, phone calls, etc. and set up a regular schedule to do so.
If you read my article along with its questions and comments, you know that being a fatherless daughter can leave a long and lasting negative impact on a woman's life. It's a hurt I wouldn't wish on anyone. If your dad isn't destructive, you deserve to have him in your life. Please find someone who can help you advocate for that.
My dad stopped contacting me when he married his wife. He now has another two sons and one other daughter. He barely speaks of his sons but often about the daughter. “Daddy’s girl” she’s 19 I’m 30. He stopped seeing me from age 7-22, where he wants to be present in my own children’s lives. But I don’t know how to deal with the other daughter. The resentment/ anger I feel that I wasn’t good enough to treat like his daughter? I feel like he’s never wanted me or loved me.
Your father has earned the resentment and anger you feel toward him. He abandoned his responsibilities as a dad and gutted you emotionally. He left you thinking you weren't good enough, you weren't lovable, and you weren't wanted. You can't trust him with your heart but, yet, you still have him in your life and the lives of your children. You must ask yourself: why?
Sometimes we need to love ourselves enough to let go. It's time you seize control of the situation and decide what's best for you and your family. Does your dad add joy to your life or is he just a reminder of a painful past that keeps you from enjoying the present? Has he ever apologized for his actions and tried to repair the damage?
The spiritual life coach and author, Iyanla Vanzant, says: “You don't get to tell people how to love you or how to love. You get to choose whether or not to participate in the way they love you.” You have the option to pass on this relationship with your dad if it's not serving you. You're not the helpless little girl any more whose daddy left her. You're the mature adult who has all the power. The fact that your father often speaks of his other daughter shows that he's either clueless or insensitive to the hurt he's inflicted upon you.
Whether you decide to keep your dad around or not is not nearly as important as how you treat yourself. It's time to heal. Give yourself and your children what your father didn't give you: love, commitment, constancy, and self-confidence. Nurture yourself and your kids in ways your dad didn't nurture you. Enjoy your kids and don't let anything distract from the family you've created.
I have never met my dad at all. I constantly make my boyfriend beg me for my love and show anger at him for no reason. Do I have issues because of my father?
I can't definitively say these problems stem from being a fatherless daughter, but it's a good bet they do. It seems like you're testing your boyfriend to see if he'll abandon you like your dad did. This is a dangerous game to play because, even if he's a good and loyal guy, he'll probably get fed up with it and eventually leave. Then, you might say: “I knew he was going to go. All men do.” In reality, though, your actions will have pushed him away.
You may want to consider why you have chosen a man who puts up with this kind of behavior from you. Does he feel safe to you? Do you feel in control because he's weak? Why are you both in a relationship that's unhealthy and unbalanced?
Anger is a tricky emotion, especially for us females who are taught that it's unladylike and unattractive. It's good that you're able to express your rage but unfair to place it on your boyfriend who's not the cause of it. It's important to discover why you're so angry. Studies show that feelings of powerlessness are a major cause of women's fury. We fatherless daughters had no control over our dad's abandonment of us, and that can lead to our ire.
For years, I ran away from the anger I felt at being a fatherless daughter. Unlike you, I couldn't express it and, therefore, I fell into a deep despair followed by years of taking anti-depressants. It was only when I started dealing with my angry (and sad) feelings about my dad's emotional neglect that I experienced relief. I had to let those emotions out that I had bottled up for decades.
I suggest you go into therapy to discuss your father's abandonment and how it affects you today. You'll learn a lot about what motivates you to act the way you do. It will help you avoid unhealthy patterns that can sabotage your relationships and make your life miserable. If you value what you have with your boyfriend and want to make it work for the long haul, you need to explore these issues for your sake and his. Your therapist may invite him into the sessions as well.
I was in a relationship with a man my dad's age and when we broke up, it was catastrophic. I feel like I'm missing a huge part of me. Can I get over this? How do I learn to stop self-sabotaging?
I'm so sorry you're in despair over your breakup. Please slow down, take care of yourself, and mourn the loss of that relationship. Yes, you'll get over it, but it takes time and effort. That's normal. Rushing back to an ex-boyfriend is not the solution. You can be alone and be okay. You aren't defined by who you're with; you're so much more than that, but you need to prove it to yourself!
Since my article is about fatherless daughters, I assume you identify as such and are tracing current problems back to having an absent dad. Certainly, dating a man your father's age would be connected to that. You may have been trying to fix the relationship with your dad through that man. When the relationship failed, you felt that you failed...with both your romantic partner and your father. You may have felt rejected yet again.
When we jump from one relationship to another, we don't take the time to examine ourselves and the patterns that control our lives. The drama of our relationships consume our days and distract us from asking the bigger questions: What are my long-range goals for relationships, family, career? What's my life all about and what makes it meaningful? Where do I want to be in five years/ten years/20 years? How am I bringing spirituality into my daily existence? What am I doing to help others?
It's easy for us fatherless daughters to become prisoners of our dad's early rejection without knowing it. As I look back on my life, I see how his absence led to my self-destructive behaviors: bottling up my emotions, over-eating, becoming socially isolated, and falling into depression. Now, I lead my life for myself and never want a man to define my destiny. A good therapist could help you see the patterns in your life and help you stop the self-sabotage and set goals for the future. Working with someone would be a positive step forward and a wonderful gift to yourself.
I wish you the best during this hard time. Please take things slowly. Focus on yourself, spend time in nature, talk with friends, write in a journal, exercise, pray, and meditate. The pain you feel now is just something you must endure. There's no quick fix...with an old boyfriend, a new boyfriend, or any guy at all. You'll get through it. Take care!
I started knowing my father at age eleven. I thought he would be excited to have us as part of his life, but he has phases. We don't talk much, and we only do so when I initiate the conversation. He claims that he cares about us, but he barely does anything for me, my brother, or my mother. Am I pushing too hard?
If you want your father in your life, you must accept him in “as is” condition. He's who he is and isn't going to change. That means you make a choice. Do you want to keep him, realizing his limitations and enjoying the little bit he has to offer, or would you instead let him go because his indifference is causing you too much hurt? Only you can decide what's right for you.
I'd stop pushing and focus on other areas of your life: friendships, education, career, hobbies, volunteer opportunities, exercise, and nature. It's easy for us fatherless daughters to become obsessed with what we don't have—our dad's love and attention—and not enjoy all the marvelous things we do have. It's ironic that in their absence our fathers' presence can loom so large in our lives. Our longing for them can blind us to the abundance of love, beauty, and opportunity in the world.
Most importantly, build a strong relationship with yourself and enjoy your own company. Don't think anyone—your dad, a boyfriend, a child—is necessary to make you happy and complete. When you're ready to have a romantic partner, you don't want to repeat the pattern you're now experiencing with your dad: pursuing a reluctant guy. If you feel confident and happy in your skin, you'll attract a partner who can give and receive love wholeheartedly and not be stingy like your father. Investing in yourself now will pay off in the future with healthy, balanced relationships.
Don't think your dad's behavior makes you unlovable. That's certainly not the case. He has demons from his past that keep him from being a caring and involved father today. A person can't give away what they don't have, and it seems your father doesn't have much love to spare.
Focus on yourself and all that you have, not what you lack. Value yourself and all you have to offer.
My father raised me and was in my life for twenty years, then my parents divorced. Year by year he becomes more distant. Now at twenty-nine, he is completely out my life and not interested in coming back. I feel my issue is opposite of most, but I'm starting to feel unloved because of it. How can I handle this?
The phenomenon of fathers distancing themselves (or disconnecting completely) from their adult children most definitely deserves an article of its own. Not much has been written on this topic, but many of us know someone in our circle who's experienced this painful situation. While knowing the cause of the estrangement may help us make sense of it cognitively, it doesn't stop the pain from this perceived rejection. You may want to deal with your feelings in therapy, so they don't hold you back from enjoying your life and forming relationships with other men. Here are three key reasons why dads distance themselves from their adult kids:
1. His new wife or girlfriend is setting the social calendar.
When a man pairs up with a new woman, he typically lets her handle their social calendar as a couple. She makes plans for them: where they'll travel, how they'll spend the holidays, and with whom they'll spend their time. Naturally, she'll put her own children, relatives, and friends ahead of his. Feeling threatened by his previous marriage, she may intentionally marginalize his first family. Wanting to keep her happy since they share a bed, he goes along with her decisions.
This happened in my own family when my 65-year-old grandfather married a wealthy and well-connected woman. Even though my mother was his only child, he distanced himself from her and us four grandchildren throughout his marriage. He got swept up in his new wife's social world with her rich friends and their exotic adventures. It hurt my mother terribly, but nothing she said made him change his ways. He didn't connect with us again until his wife died but, by then, the damage was already done.
2. He saw his role as a father in a very narrow way--as a provider and little more.
Sadly, many dads even today see their parental role as merely to provide for their children financially. When they're done fulfilling that obligation, they no longer feel needed and move on with their own lives. They don't recognize the important emotional role they should play in their adult children's lives: listening, guiding, empathizing, and providing the unconditional love that only a parent can.
My father was a workaholic and didn't know how to relate to my siblings and me on an emotional level. When we were adults, he didn't see a role for himself in our lives and the lives of our children. He was too stiff, serious, and formal to enjoy being silly and playful with his grand-kids.
3. They see their divorce as a failure and are ashamed by it.
Some men are ashamed by their divorce and see it as a failing on their part, especially when it was instigated by their wives. They choose to disconnect because their adult children remind them of this failure and of that difficult period in their lives. They'd rather forget the past and move forward.
Many men feel incompetent and powerless when their marriages falter. They blame themselves for not being able to fix the problem. Because they're solution-oriented, they feel frustrated that they couldn't do something to prevent a divorce.
I'm so sorry your dad has chosen to disconnect from you. Please see a therapist if you feel stuck in your suffering.
I have always looked and found older men to be with. Is it due to my dad’s death when I was a 12-year-old girl?
I can't say for sure, but it sounds like a safe bet. When we step back and look at the patterns in our lives, we learn so much and gain tremendous insight. If your pattern is seeking out older men as romantic partners, it's time to examine that and whether or not you want to make a change. There's nothing about it that's right or wrong, good or bad, but just a matter of what you want to have in your life.
There's no doubt losing your dad at 12 had a huge impact. You may have felt insecure about your situation and worried whether you and your mom would be okay. Because they have more life experiences and are financially stable, older men represent security and safety—something you would find highly attractive after losing your father. Older men are more confident and that, too, would be appealing to a fatherless daughter. Older men might shower you with attention, affection, and gifts, making you feel important and valued. You didn't get that from a man after your dad died so it's understandable you would crave it now.
Understanding your motivation for being with older men may or may not help you make a change. Do these older men treat you well? Do you enjoy their company? If the answer is yes, I see no problem with you being with them. If the answer is no, however, you may want to see a therapist to help you stop this destructive pattern and move in another direction. Dr. Robin Smith said: “Adulthood is to finish the unfinished business of childhood.” You may have been doing just that but are now ready to move away from it.
My father has hardly ever participated in the lives of me and my sisters. He missed major events in our lives such as high school graduation. How can I stop crying whenever I think of him?
From my personal history as a fatherless daughter, I would never tell you to stop crying, to bottle up your emotions, or to “just move on” from this painful situation. In fact, I recommend just the opposite. You have every reason in the world to feel sad about your dad's neglect of you and your sisters. Crying is a healthy way to release your tension, express your emotions, and grieve your loss. Showing your feelings is a beautiful thing: human, vulnerable, and raw.
My biggest mistake as a fatherless daughter was not dealing with my emotions but stuffing them with food and anti-depressants. I felt such shame, thinking I was too ugly, dumb, unlovable, and unworthy of my dad's time and attention. I lived in the shadows and didn't talk about my hurt. I became very closed off from others because I was wounded and couldn't trust.
I wasted many years numbing myself because I couldn't face my anguish. At a young age, I began putting on a suit of armor each morning before entering a world that I saw as cold and indifferent. I eschewed friendships and romantic relationships because I didn't want to get hurt again. I avoided heartache but missed out on love, happiness, and fun times.
You're lucky to have sisters, so you aren't going through this experience alone and isolated. You know not to take your dad's rejection personally because he did the same nonsense to them. Share your emotions rather than suffer in silence. When you're feeling weak, let them be strong for you; when they're weak, be strong for them. Champion one another as you build your lives and take risks with your hearts. Help each other avoid falling into a victim mindset.
Echart Tolle, the spiritual teacher and author, wrote: “The main cause of stress and anxiety is wanting things to be different than they currently are. When you bring acceptance to all situations, despite your expectations, you instantly remove the need for stress and worry.” As a fatherless daughter, I find so much comfort in these words.
For many years (and even decades), I longed for my dad to be somebody he wasn't. Even after he died, I blamed my unhappiness on not having had an involved father. It was a ready excuse for not creating my own peace and joy. Tolle's words helped me realize how much power I was handing over to someone who didn't matter and discounting those who did: my husband, my sons, and my friends.
Please find comfort and support from your sisters and other fatherless daughters. Make a blissful life for yourself. Yes, be sad about your dad and grieve that loss, but push yourself forward and live in the here-and-now. Take good care of yourself!
My father left me when I was 2 years old and I've never met him which led me to getting all of the symptoms above. How can I let go of it and stop blaming my father?
So many of us fatherless daughters have this same question, hoping there's a magic pill, an aha moment, or some spiritual revelation that will wash away the hurt, allow us to forgive our dads, and finally grant us peace. I've searched for this fix by going to therapy, taking anti-depressants, and reading lots of self-help books, but they didn't stop the ache. It was only after my father was long gone and buried (but still tormenting me) that I got fed up and finally became determined to build a meaningful life.
It's my wish for you and all fatherless daughters that you can get to this place much sooner than I did. Our time on earth is so damn precious and weren't not going to get it back. Imagine yourself as a little old lady about to take your last breath. Do you want to curse yourself for all the hours you wasted on this man who was nothing more than a sperm donor? Do you want to regret how you turned over so much power to him when he wasn't even decent enough to fulfill his parental obligations?
Stop waiting for that magical moment to come because it won't. Instead make a choice every single day to move forward, do the hard work, and become a better a person. Realize that blaming our dads keeps us frozen in despair and serves as a ready excuse for not doing more with our lives. It's so easy to play the blame game and so much harder to take responsibility for ourselves. When we finally do, though, we experience profound liberation.
Albert Einstein said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” That's why seeing a good cognitive therapist can be so incredibly beneficial, helping us see things through a whole new prism. In a short amount of time, our narrow, distorted thoughts can be replaced with positive ones that open up new possibilities and give us hope. Whether you utilize therapy or not, though, it all comes down to you making a choice to live in the moment and make the most of every day. Best to you!
How can a guy help his girlfriend who didn't grow up with a father? How does he show love to her so she doesn't make a mistake of marrying young?
It's very sweet and noble that you want to help your girlfriend who's a fatherless daughter. But, let me give you a word of caution that I also give to my teenage sons: “When you rescue a damsel in distress, all you end up with is a distressed damsel.” Some men (kindhearted but foolish) fall into the trap of choosing a woman who needs to be “fixed.” That, however, is an impossible task. The only one who can fix her is herself. She must be highly motivated to change and willing to do the hard work—possibly with the help of a good therapist. Sometimes a fatherless daughter wants to stay in her victimhood and let it define her. It will be her identity throughout her entire life so please proceed with caution!
With that being said, you can encourage your girlfriend to do things that will build her self-esteem. With a healthier self-image, she won't be wallowing in the pain of being a fatherless daughter or wanting to fill the hole in her heart by getting married at a young age. Building her self-esteem is not some airy-fairy notion but involves taking concrete steps. You and she, for example, could tackle some goals together that involve getting in shape and learning new physical skills: training for a marathon, taking ballroom dancing classes, hiking to the top of a mountain, learning to ice skate, or pumping iron. You and she can tackle some ways to improve your mental well-being and career prospects by taking college classes together, joining a book club, or attending events at your local library. You and she can look outside yourselves and help others by volunteering at a homeless shelter, the SPCA, or a local elementary school. You and she can find peace through meditation, praying, attending religious services, and being in nature. By pushing herself and achieving goals, she will become stronger in body, mind, and spirit.
You sound like a caring boyfriend, and I wish you much luck in your relationship. Since one in three women identifies as a fatherless daughter, there are a lot of us damaged souls out there. If your girlfriend is motivated to move forward in her life, I think the two of you will be just fine. If she keeps slipping back into the hurts of the past, then that's a serious issue. You may need to end the relationship and ask yourself why you're attracted to a woman who needs fixing. You don't want it to become a pattern.Helpful 19
How can my child's father go years without seeing his kids? I just don’t understand how a parent can go that long without their kids and be fine.
A father who goes that long without seeing his kids is not fine, and suffers from profound flaws in his character. He may be staying away because he thinks his children are better off without him. He could be drinking, abusing drugs, gambling, womanizing, overworking, or overspending. He may be staying away because he's suffering from mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. He could be staying away because he's a narcissist who's focusing on his own needs and not those of anyone else.
There's a popular adage that goes: “ You can't keep birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.” As fatherless daughters, we need to stop focusing on why our fathers abandoned us and start focusing on our lives in the here-and-now. We will never get an adequate explanation that relinquishes our dads of their parental responsibilities or absolves them for all the pain they've caused us.
Unfortunately, having a child doesn't automatically turn people into warm and loving parents. It doesn't erase the lives they had before a baby came—a time when they may have been abused, neglected, or made to feel worthless. Those early years may have left them without the foundation necessary to be competent and caring parents. Most certainly, not everyone has it in them to be a mom or dad. Parenting is a job that requires tremendous selflessness and sacrifice, and not everyone is up to the task.
When we weren't given the straight scoop as to why our dads were absent during our childhoods, we filled in the gaps with horrible stories in which we blamed ourselves: I was unlovable... I was too much trouble...I got on his nerves...As adults, we may make the stories even worse: I wasn't even worth a visit once a month...He found time for fishing, but he never found time for me...I must have been so disgusting to him that he wouldn't even introduce me to his new wife.
We grow up with a false narrative running through our heads, creating tremendous shame and sadness. We think our dad rejected us because we were flawed when, in fact, he was the deeply flawed one who couldn't handle his responsibilities and was incapable of being a loving parent. We can get stuck, ruminating about why our dads weren't with there for us. When we do this, though, we don't enjoy the beautiful folks in our lives now who deserve more of our time, energy, and appreciation than that guy who left. As adults, it's our opportunity to write a new story for our lives, and we have the power to make it a positive one.
I feel your pain in the question you asked. I certainly identify with it as do so many other women. Take good care of yourself. I wish you much peace and joy.Helpful 12
How can I heal from growing up without my dad?
As a fellow fatherless daughter, I hope you can learn from my many failed attempts to heal from having an absent dad. I've been in therapy. I've taken anti-depressants, and I've worked on my inner-child. What I've learned from all that is I'll never completely mend from my hurt. There will never be a magical moment when I say, “Hurrah! It's all behind me and I'm perfectly fine. I'm cured.” It's just not going to happen. You just need to take one day at a time, be grateful for all you have, and look to the future, not the past. Every day is an opportunity to be good to yourself by exercising, eating healthy foods, being in nature, meditating, praying, writing in a journal, and being open with friends.
It's only when I reached my 50's that I became sick and tired of spending so much time and energy on the heartache I felt as a fatherless daughter. My dad was long gone, but I still ruminated about him every day and blamed him for everything that went wrong in my life. I made the conscious choice at that time to not waste one more precious minute thinking about him and wishing things had been different. My mantra became: “You will never have peace until you accept reality.”
What helped me is discovering the term “fatherless daughter” and realizing it wasn't used just for girls whose dads had died. It also included girls like I was whose dads were present in our homes but emotionally detached for various reasons: alcoholism, drug use, mental illness, marital affairs, or being a workaholic. Claiming this term, I no longer felt so alone, and I became more comfortable opening up about my situation to other women.
I had felt so much shame because my dad had called me degrading names when I was a kid, and I was convinced nobody else had ever experienced that. But I was wrong. Quite a number of women I met had the same experience as I did, and we bonded over that pain and comforted one another. One woman, who's now a good friend of mine, said to me, “No child ever deserves to be called names,” and with those words, my shame was lifted. I had always known that was true in my heart of hearts, but someone else saying it with such conviction made all the difference in the world.
While it's unrealistic to think you'll completely heal from having an absent father, you have the power today to change your life forever. Oprah Winfrey said, “I know for sure what we dwell on is who we become” so focus on the positives in your life. Don't let being a fatherless daughter become your identity. Make the world a better place by volunteering to help people or animals. When you start helping others, you'll feel a lot better. I know I did.
Take good care of yourself and open up to others. You'll be amazed by how many wonderful fatherless daughters you'll meet that way.Helpful 12
What can I do to cope with knowing my father abandoned me?
You need to acknowledge the hurt his abandonment caused you and grieve the loss of a father. If you don't deal with your sadness, anger, and resentment now, you will regret it down the road. Bottling up our feelings can lead to serious health issues such as obesity, depression, anxiety, headaches, stress, and heart disease. Running from your pain can lead you to make bad choices with men as you try to repair your past with your dad. It can also cause you to numb yourself with drugs or alcohol. Take time to deal with your emotions now, so you don't spend the rest of your life as the wounded little girl whose daddy left her.
Grieve by writing in a journal, writing letters to your father (but not sending them), and talking with women who can empathize with your situation. Our mothers are often the worst people to talk to about this matter. Because they're defensive about picking the wrong guy, they can trivialize our anguish. They might tell us to “buck up” and appreciate all the good people in our lives and not focus on the one who's not there. Minimizing our suffering can make us feel even worse.
You also need to accept that your father was a broken man and forgive him. Right now he has way too much power over your life--this weak guy who ran away from his responsibilities as a parent. By doing so, he took away much of your innocence and hope. Forgive him and don't let him take any more from you. Albert Einstein said there is one essential question we must all ask ourselves: “Do I live in a friendly or hostile universe?”
Don't let your dad's bad behavior blind to all the beauty around you. Don't let it make you hard and bitter. Keep your heart open, stay soft, and remain vulnerable. Dr. Brene Brown says vulnerability is our greatest strength and “the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love.” Too many of us fatherless daughters (myself included) close ourselves off so we won't get hurt again. We miss out on so many opportunities for love, joy, and adventure because we're protecting our hearts.
Resolve at this very moment that you will create a fabulous life for yourself, not defined by your dad's absence. Embrace nature. Embrace spirituality. Embrace your feelings. Embrace quiet times. Embrace your future!Helpful 11
My father didn’t want me when my mother told him that she was pregnant. He left her and instead created a family with another woman. He has four other beautiful daughters. How do I get past the pain of feeling ignored and not wanted? How do I trust people without having the fear of one day they will leave me as well?
We fatherless daughters never totally get over the pain of our dad's neglect, and we must be conscious not to make it our identity. We don't need to marinate in the hurt of that early rejection and become victims of it. We can choose to move away from our suffering and find peace. We can decide to be open, loving, and vulnerable instead of wearing a suit of armor, so we don't get wounded again.
Many of us (myself included) have tried to numb the hurt with alcohol, illegal drugs, or prescription medication but discovered those solutions were self-destructive and temporary. Acknowledging our agony and dealing with it in constructive ways (writing about it, talking about it, getting angry about it) is the path to healing. Some of us have also confronted the deep (but undeserved) shame we felt from having a dad who didn't love us. That was certainly true in my case.
You're doing a wonderful job of acknowledging your sad feelings, identifying the source of them, and putting them in perspective. This awareness is a valuable asset as you maneuver life and relationships. You have that internal voice that can talk you through difficult situations with cognitive insight: “I'm feeling insecure on this date. I know it's because of my history as a fatherless daughter. That, however, doesn't define who I am. I'm going to enjoy this time and be fully present in the moment. I'm banishing my dad from this date!”
You'll begin to trust others when you build up trust in yourself. When you experience life fully and don't hide from its hardships, you'll inevitably have friendships and romantic relationships that end. You'll discover that you can handle the heartache, and you won't fall apart into a million little pieces. Yes, you'll suffer like we all do, but you'll survive. You'll get over it eventually and be ready to try again. Dr. Brene Brown says this about those of us who risk getting hurt: “The brokenhearted are the bravest among us because they dared to love somebody.”
By getting through these tough times, you'll develop an abiding trust in yourself. You won't be so fearful of what the other person will do because you can handle whatever comes your way. There's a saying that goes “you can't give away what you don't have.” You won't be able to trust others until you've learned to trust yourself.
I know you're on your way to a wonderful life. You'll definitely encounter people who won't deserve your trust as we all do. But, when you trust yourself, you'll be able to cope. Take care!Helpful 10
The last time I saw my dad was when I was two. I now have a step-dad, but he's never home and he acts like everything is fine. He and my mom are on the verge of a divorce. He is absent almost entirely and he always has been this way. I'm struggling with trusting any guy and I don't know what a good man is like. How do I get past this and be able to determine good men from bad men?
It's fabulous that you're thinking about this now before you get stuck in a life-long pattern of picking the wrong guy and being miserable. These decisions don't exist in a vacuum; they're influenced by our personal histories, fears, and inadequacies. We're drawn to what we've known from childhood. Sometimes we want to fix our past and sometimes we simply want what's familiar, no matter how awful. That's why children of alcoholics may marry a drunk or drug user. That's why we fatherless daughters might marry men who withhold love and affection.
My 80-year-old mother has been in a relationship with a man for the past 18 years. It's uncanny how she picked the exact same model as my deceased dad: emotionally unavailable, critical, and self-centered. Instead of examining her previous bad decisions and re-calibrating, she chose once again what she knew. She never took the time to heal, get stronger, learn about herself, and weigh what what she truly wanted in a guy. It sounds like your mother may have a habit of picking the wrong men as well. Congratulations for being resolute about changing this in your own life!
Like all of us fatherless daughters, you were damaged from the experience and you need to heal. Don't focus on finding a romantic partner but concentrate on yourself. Take the time to grieve the loss of the father you never knew and the stepdad who was largely absent. Forgive them and resolve to build a good life for yourself. Read, study, and learn. Plan for the future. Set goals and work hard to achieve them. Develop a spiritual practice. Exercise, spend time in nature, and cultivate meaningful friendships. Most of all, develop your self-worth by doing challenging things and impressing yourself.
When you become an accomplished person, you'll no longer be that damaged little girl looking for a daddy. You'll no longer be looking for a man to heal your hurt from childhood. You'll be a confident adult women looking for a suitable match—someone who can give and receive love, someone who's trustworthy and responsible, someone who will be there for you and your kids--both physically and emotionally.
So...put looking for a guy on hold and work on yourself. Have a myriad of life experiences and get to know men as friends, teachers, colleagues, and mentors. You'll start to see that there are so many fantastic ones out there, and your vision will be forever expanded from the narrow, jaded one you had as a kid. You'll gain a mature perspective and be ready to choose a partner as an adult woman, not a wounded girl.
Be patient. Believe me, your day will come!Helpful 9
My father left my mother and me when I was a baby. We tried to develop a relationship when I was around thirteen, but that ended very badly (due to both sides, not just his) and that was the last I heard from him until now. I am a twenty-five-year-old woman, and we have been texting a lot the last few weeks. I'm confused. I don't think he has a conscious desire to hurt me. What do I say or how do I act at this point?
It's perfectly natural that you don't know what to say or how to act because you and your dad never established a parent-child bond. He's 100 percent responsible for this lack of connection since he abandoned you as a baby. That was completely irresponsible of him, and now he must live with the consequences.
He's a stranger to you with no shared memories, no shared experiences of good times and bad, and no emotional link. You'll never develop a parent-child bond because it's too late for that. If you're interested, you could form another kind of bond. That's entirely up to you. You don't owe him anything. It's not your job to make him feel okay about the mistakes he's made.
At 25 you want to be looking ahead in your expansive windshield, not behind you in a tiny rear-view mirror. You have your whole life ahead of you—full of possibilities, adventures, and loving, meaningful relationships. Your dad has already proven again and again that he's not a good bet for a significant relationship and you'll probably get hurt again. Do you want to continue this pattern of him coming in and out of your life or do you want to end it? Do you want to be fifty-years-old and still lamenting his flakiness? If you have children of your own, do you trust him to contribute something of value to their lives as a grandfather? Only you can decide.
Please understand that you weren't responsible for the relationship ending badly when you were 13. Again, that's entirely on your dad. He was not there for you during the early years, and no parent-child bond was established. Most daughters are difficult at thirteen. We have our periods and get hormonal and emotional. Good fathers understand this, brace themselves, and are man enough to take what comes.
Your dad ran away from his responsibilities once again and left you feeling like you were to blame in some way. You were not. You were just a kid. Do not shoulder that burden. If you become a mother one day, you will understand that a decent parent stands by their child through it all—even the roller-coaster teen years! It's all part of being a parent.
You have some big decisions to make. It's a good time to talk to your mom, your friends, and other people in your circle whom you respect.Helpful 8
How can I improve? I know in my mind that my father doesn't hate me; he just never connected with me. And ever since mom died, there has been no effort to. He never told me he was going to propose to my stepmother. I found out after. It's like I've never been a part of his life, especially since then. He's involved in my stepmom's family. I'm tired of being around, hoping for a relationship.
Sometimes we fatherless daughters need to get so thoroughly sick and tired of the situation before we're motivated to make a change. Sometimes that takes years and, sadly, sometimes it takes decades. In your question, you have all the answers you need and show real insight. Now you just need the courage to make some real concrete changes in your life. You need the determination to make the best possible future for yourself instead of wallowing in the past.
“He just never connected with me.” That's exactly right. Through no fault of yours, he didn't take the time and make an effort to form a parent-child bond with you. When that isn't established in the early years, it's nearly impossible to construct it later. The feelings aren't there. He may be dealing with so much shame and guilt from the bad choices he's made that he just wants to forget it all, including you. You are a reminder of how he's failed.
“He's involved in my stepmom's family.” This is a common phenomenon. For the most part, women set up the social life of the couple, and the men go along with it. Your dad is loyal to the woman he shares a bed with and, if she puts her family first, he's fine with it. He gets sex from her, so he's not about to make waves. He's content with the situation. He's not longing to be with you like you're longing to be with him. That's the cold, hard reality staring you in the face. In situations like this, I'm helped by the mantra: “If you don't accept reality, you'll never have peace.”
When I was a kid, my grandfather got remarried in his 60's. He'd been involved in our lives marginally but, once he was with this new woman, we rarely saw him (only on major holidays). He was totally caught up in his new wife's world: her daughter, her grandchildren, her friends, and her interests. My siblings and I didn't care, but my mother was devastated by the rejection and was constantly complaining about it. Instead of enjoying what she had, she obsessed about what she didn't. When my grandfather's wife eventually died, he came back into my mom's life. Then she constantly complained about how thoroughly annoying he was!
The moral of that story is we often want what we can't have. Then, when we get it, we realize it wasn't so great after all. I think there's a good chance you would discover that about your father if you were able to spend a lot of time with him. The idea of him is much more desirable than the reality.
“I get nothing.” That tells you all you need to know. It's time to focus on the future. Make new friends. Start new relationships. Pursue a new hobby. Take classes at the local community college. Learn a new sport. Adopt a pet. Develop a deep spiritual life. Volunteer in your community. Make a difference in the life of a child. You have so much to offer the world. Don't waste any more of your life on your dad. Make a plan and take concrete steps to move forward. Best to you!Helpful 8
How do I learn to love the child within that my father never did?
For fatherless daughters like you and me, not treating ourselves well is a common problem that can plague our lives and bring great misery. The unwarranted shame we feel from our dad's rejection often makes us feel unworthy of having fun times, supportive friendships, and loving relationships. The mere fact that you're aware of that and want to change it is huge. Otherwise, you might spend decades engaging in self-destructive behaviors like I did without knowing why.
When we truly accept that our dad's rejection had everything to do with him and nothing to do with us, we can move forward with our lives. There will probably never be a magical moment when we say, “Hey, I love myself and I'm going to start treating myself better.” Instead, we need to just do it, engaging in specific behaviors each and every day and never putting ourselves on the back-burner again. These behaviors, in turn, will generate feelings of self-worth and well-being that become addictive, and we'll want to do more.
Make a list of 50 things that bring you pleasure and peace. When I did this several years ago, I could only think of one: eating. I knew at that moment my life was out of balance and needed a total overhaul. Food had become my answer for dealing with everything—providing relaxation, relieving stress, alleviating boredom and, most of all, numbing my feelings about my dad.
Today, my list includes walking my dog, reading novels, gardening, visiting nurseries, drinking tea, writing in my journal, calling a friend, running on the treadmill, and painting with watercolors. Each day I make a point of doing three things on my list, which is prominently displayed by my work desk. I now start my day by sipping a cup of tea and then meeting a friend for a walk around the neighborhood with our dogs. I have these things to look forward to each day instead of just trudging through my life like I once did.
I finally got sick and tired of how much my father's absence had taken from me—how many hours I spent longing for it to be different and wanting to fix it. Now I don't want to waste any more precious minutes of my life going over it in my head. I want to move forward and enjoy a beautiful existence. The spiritual teacher and author, Eckhart Tolle, says the main cause of stress and anxiety in our lives is caused by wanting things to be different than they are. When I accepted that my dad was not a good dad, I finally had peace, stopped living in the past, and began living in the here-and-now.
Best of everything to you on your journey forward. Every kind thing you do for yourself now will help heal that inner child. She wants you to be happy and so do I!
My father died when I was a baby. My stepdad does not want me. He told me to get out. Was I not good enough for either of them? Will I always feel this pain? I am fourteen-years-old. I really want a father, but he does not want me.
Feeling rejected is one of the most difficult things we humans must endure, and I'm sorry you're going through this. However, please realize that your father's death, while a massive loss in your life, was in no way a rejection of you. You'll always feel the sadness from his absence and wonder what your life would be like if he had lived, but you should never feel unloved by him. What you say to yourself—how you frame your life story—is so incredibly important. Please don't say your father rejected you when he most definitely did not.
As for your stepfather, I don't know the circumstances there. I hope you have a loving mother who's standing by you. As a parent myself, I know how much responsibility it takes to care for children and some people, unfortunately, aren't up to the task. They're too immature, too lazy, too needy, or too irresponsible to handle it. They may be dealing with addiction problems, financial issues, depression, or a midlife crisis. Again, this is not a reflection on you but on your stepdad. You're only 14 so don't take on the burden for the choices adults in your life make.
It would be extremely beneficial for you to talk to a counselor at school. When we talk about heavy issues such as rejection, it lightens our load, and we don't feel so alone and afraid. We get a new and healthier perspective. Reaching out for help is a way to make yourself a priority. You have your whole life ahead of you with so many things to learn and adventures to have. You don't want to stay trapped in this emotional state where you feel unworthy. Take care!
What are some steps for healing when a father was forced out of a child’s life by mother?
Since your mother forced your father to be an absent dad, you have a lot of healing to do and may want to consult a therapist. That's a lot of pain to confront on your own, and a professional can guide you through this rough terrain. If you're angry with your mom for keeping you and your dad apart, you may be experiencing profound hurt as if you've lost both parents. If your mom is willing, you could invite her to join you in the therapy. Then the two of you can talk through things, see the other one's perspective, and move forward in your relationship.
The best case scenario would be that your mother forced your father out to protect you from him. Perhaps, he had a drug addiction, a drinking problem, run-ins with the law, or was simply a bad role model for you. If that's the case, you need to accept her decision and not hold it against her. She was acting out of love for you and was concerned about your best interest. She did what she believed was right at the time. Communicate with her and clear the air.
However, if she made your father an absent dad out of spite or revenge, it will be difficult to forgive her. She'll need to show true remorse and acknowledge the pain she's caused you. Otherwise, you may not want her in your life (at least temporarily) while you make sense of things and find peace of mind.
To begin healing, you'll need to forgive your mother—not for her sake but for your own. If you have bitter feelings toward her, they will corrupt all areas of your life. Holding a grudge against your mother will make you a prisoner of the past, preventing you from enjoying the present. You can't change history, but you can relish every day with the ones you love in the here-and-now. Forgiveness doesn't mean you need to keep her in your life. You'll need to make that decision based on the totality of your relationship, not just based on one thing.
Understanding your unique story and putting it in perspective will help you heal as well. When I looked at my family's past, I saw how my mom played a big role in my father's emotional detachment. Her father wasn't involved when she was growing up, so she had always seen dads as non-essential. As long as my father supported us financially, she was okay with it. My mom and dad made a deal that worked for them as a couple but proved extremely deleterious for their kids.
I think my father leaving has affected me more than I realized since most of these points are correct. But how do I move past it? How do I let it go and fix the issues I create for myself?
Having an awareness that you were negatively impacted by being a fatherless daughter is extremely important. A dad—an early and primal part of a child's life—was absent (for whatever reason) and this shaped the person you became. When you accept that reality, you realize how critical it is that you care for yourself. You must be mindful and avoid the destructive patterns that plague many fatherless daughters: developing eating disorders, marrying too young, suffering from depression, struggling with low self-esteem, dating unsuitable men in a futile attempt to “fix” the relationship with your dad, etc.
Some of the hardest women I've ever met are fatherless daughters who won't admit their dad's absence has hurt them. They have built up a tough exterior and showed no vulnerability, but they're fooling no one. It's a horrible way to go through life—so-self-protected and scared. If only they would open up, express their sadness, grieve their loss, connect with other fatherless daughters, and move forward, they could lead much happier lives. It was only when I accepted how much my dad's neglect had hurt me that I was finally able to lose weight, exercise regularly, go to the doctor and dentist, and take pride in my appearance. Before that, I just didn't care enough about myself to do those things.
We've all heard the expression “you need to mother yourself,” meaning to be kind, gentle, and nurturing. We fatherless daughters need to “father ourselves,” meaning we need to do things that build our self-discipline, strength, and self-esteem. If our dads had been involved in our lives, we probably would have grown up to be more confident women—taking risks, failing, getting up, and trying again. Since we didn't have involved dads, we need to do that for ourselves--pushing ourselves to try new things, experiencing successes, and increasing our self-confidence.
I recently started a self-defense class that helps me feel more powerful. I'm doing it for myself, developing the self-discipline and self-focus that I've never had. I set aside time each day to practice. I keep my uniform clean and ironed. I do mental exercises along with the physical ones. I set goals for myself and work hard to achieve them. I get distracted by other obligations--my kids, my husband, my job, and my 80-year-old mother—but this new discipline helps me stay in the moment. I feel in control and that's something fatherless daughters don't experience often.
Can later contact with an absentee father make up for the early years when the dad was absent?
If your father was absent during your early years, it's quite possible the two of you will never develop a close parent-child bond. You might enjoy a decent relationship but never see him as a paternal figure. This is quite normal and to be expected since he wasn't there during those crucial early years when you were incredibly vulnerable and dependent. He didn't establish himself as someone who could be trusted and relied upon when you needed him to provide security.
Since a warm, loving attachment wasn't formed in those early years, you may suffer the same negative consequences that other fatherless daughters do. This is true even though your dad eventually re-entered your life. It's important, therefore, that you're aware of these pitfalls and work hard to avoid them.
Since you asked this question, I assume you're struggling with some of the problems fatherless daughters face. Your awareness and insight can help you make healthier choices for your life. Because I grew up with my dad in our home, I never considered the possibility that my relationship with him (or lack, thereof) was the source of my struggles with low self-esteem, negative body image, depression, and anxiety.
It wasn't until I was in my forties and teaching kindergarten that I started to make that connection. I'd see fathers bringing their daughters to and from school: talking with them, hugging and kissing them, and showering them with attention and affection. While it was a beautiful thing to behold, it also made me terribly sad and even tear up at times. I hadn't experienced anything remotely like that with my father. I realized how much I had missed and how it had hurt me.
One in three women identities herself as a fatherless daughter. Some had dads who died. Others lost the connection with their fathers because of divorce, alcoholism, drug dependency, or mental illness. Other had emotionally absent dads as I did. We came to it in different ways but the effects are largely the same.Helpful 5
My dad was so nice to me. I don't know the reasons why my parents divorced. Sometimes I feel empty, have low self-esteem, and am depressed. Can you give me some advice or solutions?
It's not unusual to get depressed when you're in a situation where you feel powerless. This certainly could be the case with you as your parents divorced and you experienced a loss of control over your life. Your powerlessness increased by not receiving an explanation from your mom and dad about why the divorce even happened.
To lift your spirits, you need to take charge. It's important you sit your parents down and discuss why the divorce happened in the first place. While they don't need to reveal all the intimate details, they do need to explain the big picture of why their marriage crumbled. For you to feel optimistic about your future (falling in love, getting married, having children of your own), you need to know that these things don't just happen; there were concrete choices they made that led to the end of their union. They must take responsibility for their actions and how those actions impacted you.
In what other ways is life making you feel powerless? Are you bouncing back and forth between your mom and dad? Are your parents involved with new romantic partners and you must now reluctantly interact with these new folks? Are your grades suffering because you're upset about the divorce?
This would be an excellent time to speak with a counselor at school about your situation and how it's making you feel. Just talking about our sadness and confusion can make us feel better and lighten our load. Opening up to friends who also have divorced parents would help you feel connected and not so alone.
I have struggled with depression most of my life and the thing that helps me the most is exercise. If I don't move my body vigorously every day, I feel down. Eating a healthy diet and getting enough sleep are also key. I recently eliminated sugar and meat and felt much better.
Please take back some power in your life and talk to your parents about the divorce. They've probably been so caught up in their drama that they haven't fully realized its effect on you. Make yourself a priority during this difficult time by reading, meditating, and spending time in nature. It will get better, but you have to take control.Helpful 5
My father was never in my life. He immediately abandoned my mother when he discovered she was going to keep me. How do I productively address the scars he left me while not feeling guilty about having these emotions knowing my mother did the best she can to raise me right?
A wise person once said: “feelings are neither good nor bad; they just are.” Trying to ignore them, deny them, or bottle them up only makes us sick, both physically and emotionally. Acknowledging and accepting our emotions brings us peace, releases stress, and diminishes our worries.
We fatherless daughters can have all kinds of mixed-up emotions, especially when it comes to our mothers. Yes, our moms did their best and we owe them love and gratitude. Yet, we can also have some justified anger and resentment toward them for not making a proper nest with a decent partner before conceiving us.
Those feelings rose to the surface for me when I had children of my own. Fortunately, I had chosen a man who was a wonderful, loving, and involved father to our sons. Seeing him playing with them made me so happy. Yet, it also made me feel a twinge of ire at my mother for not having picked someone to be a good dad for my siblings and me.
These feelings are natural and don't mean we're unappreciative of all our moms have done and sacrificed. In all likelihood, our moms will never be okay with us talking about the pain we felt growing up without dads and the anguish we still feel today because of it. That would make them feel too guilty, too defensive, and too sad. For support and understanding, we need to look elsewhere.
That's why it's beneficial to talk with a therapist about what you're feeling. She could help you make peace with it and not be so conflicted. It's also beneficial to open up with other fatherless daughters and connect with them about shared experiences and emotions. Writing in a journal can also bring a lot of relief. My mantra is “you can't heal what you don't feel.”
Why doesn’t my father understand?
As fatherless daughters, we can spend a lot of time pondering these types of questions about our dads: Why doesn't he understand? Why doesn't he love me? Why doesn't he realize how much he's hurting me?
When we're children, our world is so small and our dad's importance in it gets magnified. We're completely dependent on the adults in our lives to meet our needs. If our father is physically or emotionally absent, we can become preoccupied with the void he's left. We're too young to understand the complex reasons why he's gone (alcoholism, drug addiction, mental illness, a new girlfriend, being a workaholic, being irresponsible, being self-centered) so we blame ourselves. We're apt to take on the identity of the wounded fatherless girl (i.e. the victim).
As we grow older, though, we need to change our focus, taking it off our dads and putting it on ourselves. I can't answer the question about why your dad doesn't understand and, even if I could, it wouldn't do you much good. Ultimately, you'd still have to take responsibility for your life and move forward with your own plans and dreams. Too often we get stuck ruminating about our fathers because that's a lot easier than putting in the hard work it takes to move on from that.
I know because it took me decades. Today, it still requires a lot of effort, and I often fall back into the same old trap of blaming my dad for anything and everything wrong in my life. Now, however, I'm cognizant of my thinking, understanding why those thoughts enter my brain at particular moments. I have the strength to chase them away and get back to living in the here-and-now.
When I became an adult (and especially when I became a mother), I realized what a small, self-centered man my father was. He was a workaholic because it satisfied his ego and gave him an easy out from his other responsibilities that weren't so heady: being an involved parent, being a loving spouse, being a compassionate son, and being a contributing member of the community. I was mad at myself for having given this egotistical, emotionally bankrupt man so much power over my life, my time, and my emotions. He certainly wasn't worth it!
If it seems your dad doesn't understand, it's probably because understanding is not a priority for him. He's busy with his own life. Let's face it; people put time and energy into the things they value. We fatherless daughters find this hard to accept because it's so incredibly painful. But, when we do, we find a whole lot of peace and can move forward building our own lives.
How do you win back a fatherless girlfriend's trust and love?
I conclude from your question that you betrayed your fatherless girlfriend's trust in some significant way: cheating on her, lying to her, hiding important information from her, etc. Depending on the severity of your betrayal, it may be impossible to win her back. Because you two were just dating (not engaged or married), she may have determined your behavior was too big of a risk to move forward. Since dating is the time to discover whether the two of you have similar values, she may have realized you don't and made the wise decision to end it. If that's the case, you should respect her decision, learn from your mistakes, and move forward.
If she's still willing to date you, then you have an opportunity to apologize for your behavior and prove you won't do it again. There's no speedy remedy for re-establishing trust and love in a relationship. This is especially true with a fatherless daughter who may have already suffered an enormous betrayal by her dad. She won't want to get hurt again and will be extremely self-protective like she's wearing a suit of armor. It will take a lot of time, patience, and good behavior to make her feel safe.
The biggest challenges I've faced as a fatherless daughter are revealing my emotions and being vulnerable. If I expressed sadness about my dad's absence when I was a girl, my mother immediately shot down that expression of grief and became defensive. I learned at a young age to keep everything bottled up inside of me. I stuffed my emotions with food as a kid and then numbed them with anti-depressants as an adult. I became convinced that my emotions were wrong and, if I revealed them as I had to my mom, they would be rejected. This false notion caused a lot of damage to my physical and mental well-being and damaged my friendships and romantic relationships.
If she lets down her guard, you can help your girlfriend express herself, so she feels safe, heard, and understood. If you want to have a successful relationship, you both need to open up to one another, be honest about your emotions, and re-establish the trust. Your fatherless girlfriend needs to be secure enough in the relationship to be vulnerable with you.
My dad was a substance abuser and left when I was baby. I saw him on and off as he spent a lot of time in jail. Over the past two years, we became closer than ever. He was clean and things were going well. Sadly, he was diagnosed with C last year and his recovery was rough. He started using again and was found dead. Since then, I have started to doubt my partner's (of fourteen years) loyalty and am convinced he is having a relationship at work. It's like my mind is playing tricks on me. Is this normal?
First, let me express my condolences on your father's death. That was an especially cruel blow to endure as the two of you were grower closer. As we go through the grieving process (combined with not sleeping well, not eating right, and not taking care of ourselves), it's not unusual for our thoughts to become negative and distorted. You're fortunate, though, because you're conscious of this happening and can, therefore, take action to correct it.
For us fatherless daughters, grieving our dads can be confusing as we experience a myriad of emotions. We feel sadness and hopelessness over the actual loss but also over the loss of what could have been. We may feel rage and resentment that our fathers were never the loving daddies we needed them to be. There's a finality to it as we're forced to accept we'll never have what we so desperately wanted.
Shortly after my father died, my son was diagnosed with autism. This double whammy sent me into a tailspin of despair. I still have the journal I kept during that period and, boy, were my thoughts off the wall! I wrote paragraph after paragraph about my husband (who is a wonderful man) plotting to destroy my life even though nothing of the sort was happening.
Like you, though, I knew something wasn't right about my thinking so I had the presence of mind to see a counselor. That was the best decision I ever made for my mental and emotional well-being and for the sake of my family. My counselor proved to be a huge advocate for me, pushing me to take better care of myself. We fatherless daughters are notorious for neglecting ourselves, and that was certainly true in my case and always had been.
My husband and I started to spend more time together and our communication greatly improved. We initiated a weekly date night and regular trips to the gym (exercise was a huge help). My counselor helped me structure my days, so I was helping my son but wasn't doing so much that I was becoming dark and despairing.
I don't think my marriage would have survived this stressful period if I hadn't seen a counselor. While I had some good friends to lean on, there was nobody who had the time, focus, and expertise that I required. It sounds like this is the time for you to see a professional. When our thoughts get off course, we just need a little help to start seeing things clearly again.
What do I do if I blame myself for his not being there because I cut him out of my life after he abused me? What can I do to forgive myself?
You don't need to forgive yourself because you did nothing wrong. You need to pat yourself on the back for doing the right thing and getting away from an abuser. Some women aren't strong enough to do that, but you were. Congratulate yourself for having the courage and for sticking to it.
All of our choices, whether healthy or not, have consequences. You made a decision, and now you're living with the profound sadness of not having a daddy. That longing is so intense that a part of you wants to accept an abusive dad rather than no dad at all. The intelligent part of you, though, knows that's not a good move to make and not in your best interest.
We humans have a strong desire to return to the familiar, even when we know it's not good for us. Why do grown men and women marry alcoholics when they experienced great trauma growing up with moms and dads who drank too much? It's what they know, so they're comfortable with it. It's also a way to try to fix the past but rarely succeeds.
Instead of looking in the rear-view mirror, look forward to all the positive relationships in your life or all the possible ones you can form. If you're like me, you'll always feel sadness about not having a dad, but it lessens over time as we let others enter our lives. Enjoy the here-and-now and don't dwell on the past.
Be proud of yourself. You did something very hard to do. Grieve for the warm and loving father you never had. Celebrate that you didn't stay around for more abuse.
I'm wondering if you have some misguided folks in your family or among your friends who are making you doubt your decision. If that's the case, they may have their agendas or personal issues that are causing them to give you bad advice and make you feel guilty. Ask yourself: Why would anyone encourage me to stay with an abuser?
I wish you strength as you move forward. Best to you!
My daughter's dad left her when she was three for no real reason. She is six now, and although she doesn’t ask much and claims to not remember him very well, she still gets really upset sometimes. I grew up with my dad, and I don’t know where to start with it. Do you have any advice?
I'm sorry your daughter is struggling with being a fatherless daughter as so many of us have. When girls aren't given adequate explanations about why their dads are absent from their lives, they're apt to blame themselves. Because kids are egocentric, they put themselves at the center of the situation even when it's not warranted: I made him leave because I was too much trouble...I was crying too much...I cost too much...He wanted a son, not a daughter.
As her mother, you have the power to stop her self-blaming, giving her some much-needed relief. This will require you to think about her father in a deeper, more realistic way—something you may have been avoiding or just haven't had time to do. It isn't true that he left for “no real reason.” Abandoning one's child is a huge, life-altering decision with long-term consequences for all involved. Everything that happened in his life up to that point turned him into a man that would opt for that drastic, irresponsible choice. Such dramatic action is done within a context; it's not random. She needs your knowledge, wisdom, and insight to understand that.
Your daughter needs you to get real about the bad, irresponsible decisions her father has made—both before and after she was born. While you may think you're helping by protecting her from the harsh realities of the world, you're not. Kids do a lot better in life when they're armed with the truth. They need information that's age-appropriate and provided by a caring adult.
Your daughter at six can handle basic concepts about her dad such as he acted selfishly, immaturely, and irresponsibly. You can explain to her that this is not the way good dads behave--that his bad choices have nothing to do with her. Instead, it all had to do with him: he was too young to take on the enormous job of parenting, was too lazy to put in the hard work it takes, was addicted to drugs or alcohol, was dealing with mental health issues, was wanting to just have fun and have his freedom, or whatever the case was. She needs to know it was about him and his weaknesses, not her.
The hardest part for you will be apologizing to your daughter for picking such a man to be her biological dad. You can explain the mistakes you made and the warning signs you missed. This will go a long way toward making your daughter feel empowered. She'll have hope that in the future she'll have the ability to pick a good partner who will be a decent father to her children. She'll respect your candor, honesty, and personal insight.
Hopefully, she has men in her life now who are constant, steady, loving, and committed. Teach her to be grateful for these people who make an effort (you, family members, teachers, friends), focusing on the good people she has and not the dad she lacks. Oprah writes down five things for which she's thankful for each day in a gratitude journal. That would be a wonderful habit to start with your daughter. Research shows an attitude of gratitude greatly increases our sense of well-being. It would be a marvelous gift for your daughter, better than anything you could buy!
Going to family counseling with your daughter is always a good way to bring about important discussions with a skilled facilitator. You and your daughter could get to understand one another much better and become closer because of it. It would be well worth the time and effort now to prevent problems in the future.
My father was never there for me, and that's all I ever wanted. Why couldn't he have been there for me? Did he not care? Why did he not apologize? Everyone around, including my mom, says that I need to learn to move on but I can't. I wish he were here for me. How can I learn to forgive him?
I'm so sorry you're struggling with your father's rejection and what can seem like a lack of empathy and support from your mom and others. It's very hard when people close to us don't see and acknowledge our suffering or try to minimize it. Unfortunately, being a fatherless daughter in today's world has become so increasingly common that some people don't even recognize how truly devastating it can be.
If you read through the comments and questions at the end of the article, you'll realize that many women are still troubled by being fatherless well into middle age and beyond. The last thing I want for you is that, and I'm certain your mom feels the same way. I urge you to talk with her about seeing a therapist. Discussing your feelings with a professional would be extremely beneficial. While everyone around you is saying “just move on,” you don't have the skills to do that. A good therapist, though, can give those to you. You'll still need to do the hard work, but she can be your trusted guide.
While you're probably accustomed to turning to your mother for counsel and support, this is one area where she may not be the right person. When you open up about missing a dad, it might make her feel guilty and defensive for not picking a better man to be your father. She'd like you to forgive, “just move on,” and be okay, so she's not confronted with the mistakes she's made and their long-lasting impact on the daughter she loves. It may also be hurtful to her that you're focusing on the parent who wasn't there rather than being grateful for her, the parent who was always there. For these reasons, seeing a therapist, an objective third-party, would be a great decision.
I wish you the best. The sooner you get started working on these issues, the better chance you have of appreciating what you have instead of lamenting what you don't.
Out of all my dad's children, I’m the one he spent the least amount of time with. I was always a last resort. Why was this?
Of course, I can't speak to the intricacies of your family situation, your father's personal history, or your relationship with him. I can say, in general, it's a mistake for us fatherless daughters to think we're the reason for our dad's neglect or abandonment. It's not true and can make us feel ashamed and depressed.
We fall into that trap as children because we're egocentric. We might have blamed ourselves when our parents got angry, frustrated, or sad because we didn't see the big picture; we only saw what related to us. It's crucial, for example, that moms and dads be honest with their kids when they divorce, explaining why they're ending the marriage. If they don't, youngsters will often feel responsible for the demise of the marriage, even though nothing could be further from the truth. This is a heavy and unnecessary burden for a child to carry.
You're not responsible for how your father behaved and the choices he made. You are responsible, though, for how you choose to live your life today. You can decide to concentrate on a hurtful past or savor the present. If you find yourself ruminating about the past, please see a therapist to get unstuck. It's so worth your time and effort.
Sometimes we get bogged down by a false belief (e.g., I was the only one my dad didn't love and didn't spend time with). It can define who we are and limit our potential. But you can get control of your thoughts with a little help from a professional. Allan Lokos, a teacher and author with a Buddhist perspective, says: “Don't believe everything you think. Thoughts are just that—thoughts.”
My girlfriend grew up without her father. I love her unconditionally. Now I understand how this can be a long difficult road. She means the world to me and this is a fragile situation. How can I help my girlfriend get over this lifelong pain?
You're a sweet, caring boyfriend. However, your girlfriend must be motivated to change; you can't do it for her. Sometimes we get stuck in our own suffering. It becomes our identity and we don't want to give it up. Iyanla Vanzant, the spiritual coach and author, sums it up perfectly: “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.”
Because you said this is a fragile situation, the best thing you can do is encourage your girlfriend to get therapy. You can have the best intentions in the world and offer great suggestions, but advice means so much more when it comes from an objective professional. The therapist can give your girlfriends concrete tools for healing her pain and moving forward in life.
If she balks at getting help, please consider whether you want to stay in a relationship with her, especially if you're wanting someone to marry one day and start a family. She needs to deal with her feelings about her dad before she's emotionally healthy to have children of her own. Remember: If you try to rescue a damsel in distress, all you wind up with is a distressed damsel!
In the meantime, do activities together that will lift her spirits and keep her healthy: exercising, being in nature, helping others, doing yoga, practicing meditation, writing in journals, and developing a rich spiritual life.
My father died 3 years ago. I am 17 and I think I am looking for qualities of my dad in my boyfriend as I have been speaking about my dad a lot to him but I never speak about my dad and how he was to anyone. Do you know what may be causing me to talk with my boyfriend and no one else?
It sounds like a couple of very positive things are happening here: 1) You're coming to grips with your dad's death and can now talk about it in a coherent way and 2) You trust your boyfriend enough to be vulnerable with him and open up about your feelings.
Releasing your emotions is an important step in the grieving process and a very healthy thing to do. It's when we run from our painful feelings--numbing them with food, illegal drugs, alcohol, or prescription medication--that we cause ourselves unnecessary suffering. Talking about your dad is a wonderful way to heal from your hurt.
It's beautiful that you feel safe with your boyfriend and can share your thoughts and feelings regarding your father. If he's a kind and compassionate listener, you are fortunate because those people are rare in our lives. Although you're just 17, you've probably already experienced your share of self-absorbed folks who just don't have what it takes to be empathetic. They interrupt, try to one-up you (“You think you have it bad. Let me tell you what happened to me!”), minimize your pain (“Aren't you over that yet? It's time to move on!”) and always bring the conversation back around to themselves. For some people, the opposite of talking is not listening; it's waiting to talk!
Now that you've established a solid connection with your boyfriend, you should consider opening up with some other trustworthy folks. Have you talked with your mom or other close relatives? Have you spoken with a counselor at school? Losing your dad at such a young age has had a profound impact on your life and will continue to do so. It would be useful to have a professional's input.
Dr. Brene Brown says vulnerability is our greatest strength. Don't be afraid to ask for help as you deal with your dad's death and the aftermath.
My father abandoned me when I was nine. How do I overcome a decade-long hatred of him and his “new daughter?"
It's quite understandable to have anger and pain over this situation, and I'm sorry you're going through this. It's healthy for you to feel that rage, talk about it with others, and let it out in constructive ways (intense exercise, writing, dancing, listening to music, painting, martial arts). Bottling up your fury can lead to physical and psychological problems so be sure to let it out on a regular basis for your well-being.
When I went to see a therapist after being overwhelmed with sadness, she told me that depression is anger turned inward. I didn't know how to deal with my hostile feelings about my dad, so I directed the hurt at myself. I suffered for many years because I didn't understand the source of my pain. You're fortunate to have more insight than I did. With that understanding, you can propel yourself forward.
Have you talked with your father directly, explaining your hurt over his rejection? This is an important step to take, irrespective of how he responds. Most people don't take it well when they're accused of something. They get defensive and often turn it around and blame the victim. It's still important, though, that you let your voice be heard using “I messages.” Give him an opportunity to explain his perspective and get a healthy dialogue going.
While your anger is understandable, after 9-10 years of feeling this hatred, it's time to say “enough!” You don't want to get stuck here. You want your fury to mobilize you to build relationships, have adventures, learn more, do more, volunteer to help others, and develop a deep spiritual life with meditation, prayer, and time spent in nature. You need to appreciate your value as a human being and not see your dad's choices as a reflection of your worth.
My father has long since died, but I had given him way too much power over my life. I let his emotional absence affect the way I saw myself and how I interacted in the world. Now, I look back all these years later and wonder why my dad loomed so large when, in reality, he was a very flawed and damaged person who didn't have much to offer me or anyone else.
It's said that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it. Don't focus on what's outside of your control; focus on you. Make a conscious effort to let the anger and hatred go and let peace and love into your life. Don't let your dad be in charge of your emotions. You take charge.
I am constantly afraid that there are some fields in life in which I am bad at compared to others because I am fatherless. What might I be better at than girls from "normal" families? Could I be stronger in handling emotional issues for being a fatherless daughter?
Your question reveals what many of us fatherless daughters (myself included) have struggled with mightily through the years: not knowing ourselves. So many of us don't perceive our strengths and weaknesses, acknowledge our likes and dislikes, and understand what we're passionate about and what leaves us cold. Because our dads were either physically or emotionally absent, they didn't act as mirrors for us, reflecting back who we were.
A child with an involved mom and dad has two loving parents who act as mirrors, helping her build a positive self-image. They are attuned to her inner life, knowing when she's frustrated, angry, lonely, or depressed. They help her acknowledge and deal with these emotions. They give feedback on her school work, her relationships with friends, and her abilities in sports, clubs, and hobbies. They talk with her about areas in which she's sure-footed and those in which she needs to improve. They praise her talents and encourage her to persevere when facing challenges.
Dads are especially valuable when they support their daughters in taking risks and trying new things. These daughters are willing to do so, confident their fathers love them unconditionally even when they fail. Knowing this gives them incredible courage, security, and a powerful sense of self. Many of us fatherless daughters are lacking in those areas.
It sounds like you need to build up your self-esteem and get to know yourself better. Discover what you're good at and what you enjoy doing. Through trial and error, you'll find your place in the world and where you can contribute. As a fatherless daughter, you probably have a lot of empathy for others who struggle with feeling unlovable and unworthy. You probably connect with these people in a profound way, which is a marvelous skill to have.
As fatherless daughters, though, we must focus on ourselves, fill our own cups, and heal our past before we're able to help others. We cannot give away what we don't have. If we try to do so, we wind up being drained and diminished.
This is an exciting time to find out who you are. Take classes, read, and study. Try different jobs and internships. Volunteer. Explore the things that bring you joy. The author, Joseph Campbell, wrote, “The privilege of a lifetime is to be who you are.” So enjoy this journey to self-discovery!
Why does my father treat me like a little kid even though I am an adult?
Being treated like a child by our parents is not uncommon. No matter how old we get, our parents will always see us as being younger. I'm in my fifties and, when I complain about aches and pains or wrinkles and gray hair, my 80-year-old mother acts shocked and says she can't believe I suffer from those things. I would once get irritated by this, wondering why she couldn't see me for what I am—an aging woman. Then I decided to change my mindset. Instead of getting frustrated by it, I now see it as endearing. In her maternal eyes, I'll always be her little girl, and that's quite beautiful.
With that being said, the problem of being treated like a child by our parents can be improved. It may take time and mature choices on your part for your father to view you differently. A 32-year-old son, for example, who lives in his parent's basement and works part-time delivering pizzas cannot expect his mom and dad to see him as a competent adult. It takes behaviors—holding a job, having a place to live, paying bills, maintaining stable relationships, building a strong support system, being responsible for doctor's appointments, etc.-- for parents to see their kids as adults. It's not just a matter of age; it's a matter of actions.
Since the subject of my article was fatherless daughters, I'm assuming that your dad has not been a big part of your life. Because he doesn't know you well, you may have to prove to him over time what a mature and responsible young woman you are. Perhaps, he's treating you like you're younger because he's trying to make up for the times he wasn't there when you were a child.
As long as you're self-confident and handling life well, I wouldn't let it bother you. Use the mantra: “What other people think of me is none of my business.” We cannot control how others see us, but we can control how we lead our lives.
My mother died when I was born and I only met my dad when I was 14. He is physically there but not emotionally. When I try to talk to him, he doesn't answer. What should I do to cope with not actually having a father?
You've been dealt two big blows with your mom dying and your dad being emotionally absent. A parent-child bond is formed early on and, obviously, one did not develop between you and your dad because he wasn't there. He may think he's being heroic now by being physically present for you, not appreciating that it's only a small part of being a father.
He doesn't have emotional intelligence and love in his heart to do otherwise. It's so wonderful that you realize his limitations and won't be spending years (or even decades) trying to get water from a stone. Accepting people for who they are is a rare attribute, and I commend you for it. It will save you lots of heartache in the future. So many people are unhappy because they fight what is, causing them tremendous stress and anxiety.
With keen insight about your father's limitations, you can focus on your own life—setting goals, working hard to achieve them, building strong friendships, learning and studying, enjoying your hobbies, and developing a deep spiritual life. You'll need to develop a support system of family and friends to help you get through this life just as we all do. I hope you have involved grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, etc. who help you. Going to see a counselor would also be extremely beneficial because you've had a lot of loss.
My mother's mom died from cirrhosis of the liver (brought on by alcoholism) when she was just nine. My mom is now 80. I often wonder what our lives would have been like (hers, mine, and my siblings) if she had gone into therapy over her mom's death. In those days, though, it was a stigma to get such help. It would have done my mother a world of good. She would have learned about alcohol addiction and gained empathy for her mom. Instead, she felt unloved and rejected and closed herself off emotionally. It had negative repercussions for her children and her children's children.
If you dealt with these issues now, you'd have a much brighter future. It's a wonderful gift to give yourself. Anyone who hears your story will know how resilient you are and how you deserve a break. What you've had to carry fills me with awe. Take good care of yourself!
My father was very loving until I turned 12 years old. Out of the blue, he hated me, and he became my enemy. Why does he love my sisters, but does not love me? He always said I was the weakest and the stupidest. How can I heal that rejection?
I'm so sorry, but there is a big piece of the puzzle missing here so I can't be of much help. People don't change radically as you suggest your father did, suddenly turning from a loving dad to one who hates you without explanation. Unless someone is using illegal substances or has developed a brain tumor, we humans are pretty consistent in our personalities and behaviors.
It's true that some dads turn away from their daughters when they start puberty, develop breasts and curves, and take an interest in boys. These fathers don't know how to relate to their daughters when they start becoming women. They may feel guilty that they find their own daughter attractive and sexually appealing. They slowly drift away and leave the parenting to the moms. However, this doesn't seem to be the case with you because it sounds like your dad stayed close with your sisters.
Another possibility is that something about your personality triggers your dad. He sees something in you that reminds him of himself—something he doesn't like and feels needs to be changed. Unable to look inward, he chooses to distance himself from you.
If you still have a relationship with your father, it's time to open up to him about your feelings. Give him a chance to explain his side of the story. Talk with your sisters as well and get their perspective. If everyone is highly motivated, you can start family therapy with a professional who can facilitate effective communication among all of you.
I wish I could be more helpful, but I don't understand what happened that would make your dad change so suddenly and dramatically. A therapist could help you get to the root of the problem because there must be a lot more to the story. Best to you as you move forward in the healing process. My article entitled “5 Steps to Heal Her Pain: How a Fatherless Daughter Can Move on From a Dad's Rejection” may also be helpful.
What can I do for my wife who has these issues: Anxiety, depression, no deep down connection. But deep down, she wants love. She wants to feel it, but it's just not happening. It has been 13 years. How can I help her?
I can relate to your wife's situation because I struggled with emotional numbness for many years. After my son was diagnosed with autism, I fell into a deep sadness and was put on anti-depressants by my doctor. The drugs flattened out my emotions. While I no longer felt so blue, I also no longer felt joy, excitement, and hope. Even when I finally weaned myself off the anti-depressants, my emotions didn't return to where they were before I started using them. There were there but muted.
I came to realize that for most of my life as a fatherless daughter I'd been at war with my emotions, swinging back and forth between wanting to experience them deeply and not wanting to experience them at all. That early rejection from my dad left a deep wound that I tried to heal with drugs, alcohol, bad relationships, and my go-to salve: food. Overeating was my favorite way to sedate myself and keep me from feeling pain. Being overweight was the perfect excuse to hide away, avoiding life and the possibility of getting hurt again.
You sound like a loving and patient husband for wanting to help your wife. However, she must do most of the work on her own. She needs to have the motivation to change for herself but also for you. You deserve someone who can love you deeply and accept your love fully in return. You deserve someone who can be open and vulnerable to all kinds of emotions, good and bad, because that's what makes us human and alive.
In order to start feeling again, your wife needs to connect with her feelings and no longer avoid them. She should talk about them, write about them, and experience them in the moment. She should embrace new experiences that will challenge her and, thereby, illicit strong emotions: taking a dance class, training for a marathon, learning to scuba dive, or doing public speaking. She should also exercise on a daily basis, benefiting from the good feelings that come when endorphins get released. She could also work with a therapist who can help her reconnect with her inner world.
My dad physically, mentally and sexually abused me from a very young age, but to me, he was the center of my whole world. I have always had a strained relationship with my mother and he left me all alone when I was eleven. How do I move past this?
So many of us try to turn off the painful memories of the past by using alcohol, drugs, food, gambling, promiscuity, and other unhealthy behaviors. I took anti-depressants and wasted seven long years living like a zombie—emotionally flat, not feeling pain but not experiencing joy either. That's a terrible price to pay, and I wouldn't want that for anyone. We must embrace all our emotions, not run from them.
These external solutions offer only a quick, temporary escape from our grief. The only long-lasting remedy is found within ourselves and takes a lot of time and hard work. We have to acknowledge our hurt, move forward, and not let the wounds of the past define who we are. The philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, said: “To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.”
For me, meaning from suffering is found by being a compassionate person who volunteers at an inner-city kindergarten. My heart goes out to these kids who are expected to sound out words, write sentences, and add numbers when they're experiencing tremendous emotional pain. Their thoughts aren't on their school work but on the drive-by shooting that happened in their neighborhood the night before, or their older brother who's using drugs, or their mom who can't find a job. They need that one-on-one caring connection with an adult who will listen. I'm honored to be that person, and it gives my life purpose.
It sounds like you'd benefit greatly from therapy since you experienced so much mistreatment as a child. You have strong conflicting feelings about your father that need sorting out with the help of a professional. If she witnessed your dad abusing you and didn't step in to stop it, you would naturally have a lot of resentment towards your mother. The two people in your life who were supposed to love and protect you failed miserably. That's a lot to take in, and you should have support while coming to terms with it.
Take the steps now to move forward and live wholeheartedly. Don't let your past immobilize you. I find it tragic when people today say “I'm broken!” Our thoughts and words are so powerful, and this puts them in the victim role. We have it within us to rise above our suffering. I wish you well.
How do you deal with a father who has been in and out of your life since you were two-years-old?
You seize control of the situation because you are no longer at the mercy of your irresponsible father. You choose whether you want him to be a part of your life in this erratic manner or whether you want it to stop. You decide whether he contributes something to your world or simply disrupts it. You have the power. You have a say. If this arrangement is causing you too much hurt, you end it.
Just because he donated sperm at conception doesn't mean he has the right to put you on an emotional roller-coaster and cause you disappointment and heartache. You need to look out for your own well-being. Standing up for yourself now will serve you well the rest of your life and people will respect you more. In relationships, you get to say what's acceptable or what's not.
It's important you speak about your feelings with someone you trust: your mother, a counselor, a friend, or a relative. Talk about how your dad entering and exiting your life has impacted you over the years. Discuss whether the good times with him have outweighed the bad. Since one in three women identifies as a fatherless daughter, there are plenty of us out there who can empathize with your situation and offer support.
Don't ever think your dad's flaky behavior is a reflection on you. You are in no way responsible for his actions, only he is. Don't spend years of your life wondering why he didn't love you and blaming yourself as I did. I so regret those wasted years.
Get on with your life and build a beautiful future for yourself. Be ambitious and set goals. Don't be afraid to dream big and don't be afraid to fail. Learn from your dad how not to be a parent and do better by your own kids if you become a mom. Make sure your children have a dad who's dependable, kind, and loving.
When we feel powerless in a situation, we can get depressed. I like these words about the value of walking away from a damaging situation:
“A lot of walking away
will do your life good.
Walk away from arguments that lead
you to anger and nowhere. Walk away
from people who deliberately put you
down. Walk away from the practice of
pleasing people who choose to never see
your worth. Walk away from any
thought that undermines your peace of
mind. Walk away from judgmental
people, they do not know the struggle
you are facing and what you have been
through. Walk away from your mistakes
and fear, they do not determine your
fate. The more you walk away from
things that poison your soul, the
healthier your life will be.”
Whether you keep your dad in your life or not, you need to feel you're in control and have a voice. I wish you much peace and joy in your life.
For most of my life, I did not know my father. I finally met him after he got out of jail for drugs, but he was emotionally distant from me. My mom kicked him out, and she claimed that I told her that I wanted him gone. Because of this, I haven't seen him in years. I can't help but feel I'm to blame for his absence. Now, since I'm not an adult yet, my mom won't let me see him because she just doesn't like him. How do I get through this?
You're dealing with a lot of complex emotions. I hope you can open up to your mom or other trusted adults to talk about them. You'll feel much better when you do. Bottling up your feelings, worries, and frustrations can lead to serious physical and psychological health problems in the future. Since one in three women identifies as fatherless, there are many souls out there who can empathize with what you're going through and give you advice and encouragement. You're certainly not alone in feeling abandoned by a dad.
Please get it out of your head that you're to blame for your dad's absence. A child is never at fault for a father being an irresponsible parent. When we're young, we often think the world centers around us, but it doesn't. Your dad had a whole life before you were even born when he struggled, picked up bad habits, and developed unhealthy coping mechanisms. He had his own demons that prevented him from being emotionally available, loving, and kind. He's hurt himself more than anyone else.
It sounds like your mother has kept things about your dad to herself, wanting to shelter you from the harsh realities. It's time you two sat down and discussed the matter in depth. You need to fill in the gaps and stop blaming yourself. You need to ask questions and get answers. Your mom needs to take responsibility for the bad choices she made that negatively impacted your life (namely, having a baby with a man who wasn't capable of being a dad). I think you'll find that your mom has always had your best interest at heart and has wanted to protect you but may struggle to examine her own role in the drama.
Instead of getting stuck in ruminating about your absent dad like so many of us fatherless daughters do, please focus on yourself. Set goals and work hard to achieve them. Make plans for the future in which you'll make better choices than your dad. Put healthy daily practices in place: exercise, meditation, prayer, writing in a journal, and communicating with friends and family. You have a bright future ahead of you. Don't let something you have no control over (your dad's behavior) affect the here-and-now. Life is too precious for that. Seize control of your life and squeeze every bit of joy out of it. You are so much more than a fatherless daughter.
I was abused and raped by men. Is this because a father is absent from my life?
That would be a huge leap to make. It's safe to say from the research, though, that fatherless daughters are more apt to put themselves in risky situations. As it says in the article, they are more likely to get pregnant as teens, engage in sex at earlier ages, and get married younger. Studies show that more than 70% of unplanned teenage pregnancies occur in homes where there is no father.
An involved and loving dad sets the standard for men his daughter will date and marry. She wants someone who is kind, responsible, and loyal like her father. She sees Dad treat her mother well and wants the same. She wants Dad's stamp of approval for the guy she chooses. Dad will let her know when he thinks someone isn't good enough for his baby girl.
Fatherless daughters sometimes settle for any guy who will fill the hole they have in their hearts left by an absent dad. Their standards are often very low. They try to get self-worth from a guy, and that's usually a recipe for disaster.
It sounds like you could benefit from therapy if you haven't already gotten some. There are so many good men out there and it would be a shame if you didn't get to know them and feel comfortable around them. I'm in awe of all you've been through, and I hope you have peace in your life today.
My father abandoned me and my brothers three months ago. We can’t contact him because he blocked us. What can I do?
I'm so sorry your father is acting irresponsibly and childishly. I hope you have a loving mother and other caring adults in your life who can help you get through this painful period. Please talk about your feelings with them rather than bottling them up because that can lead to serious emotional and physical problems.
This would be a good time for you, your mom, and your brothers to attend family counseling together. You can discuss what you're feeling about your father's abandonment and how you can work as a team to move forward from it. It's essential that you and your siblings don't blame yourselves for your dad's bad behavior.
I imagine this is not the only time your father has acted selfishly and has shunned his parental obligations. You've probably been damaged from his behaviors in the past, and it would be helpful to discuss these incidents with a professional. If and when your father decides to re-establish communication, it would be beneficial for him to join your family in the counseling sessions. He's broken trust, and it will take time and effort for him to gain it back.
Please don't let your dad's actions make you bitter and resentful. Stay open, loving, and vulnerable. Be prepared to forgive him and let him back in your life, but know he's not dependable.
No experience in life is wasted. The author, Carlos Castenada, said: “We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.”
I'm 26, and I'm working with a girl at my church who is 14. She has a step dad who is marrying her mother next year, but I feel there are signs that she looks to me as somewhat of a father figure. Her stepdad is great, but he's been through some hard times himself and is very busy, so I'm not sure he has the time or emotional intelligence to be there for her at this point. I'm hoping that changes when they are married. What can I do to support her in the meantime?
First, I want to commend you for being sensitive to this girl's emotional needs and her longing for a father figure. It would be wonderful if you could start a support group at the church for fatherless daughters. There are so many of them who suffer in silence and would benefit greatly from getting together, talking about their feelings, and realizing they're not alone. You could also include women from the church who've grown up without dads to share their experiences and wisdom.
Because you're at a religious institution, you have the benefit of bringing God into the discussion. The girls can hear the comforting message that, while their earthly dads neglect them, their Heavenly Father is always here for them and will never forsake them. This can help them at difficult times throughout their lives and give them hope.
From my own experience, I know that fatherless daughters can't always turn to their mothers for support regarding their dads' neglect of them. Some mothers feel guilty about choosing the wrong guys and can't face the anguish they've created for their daughters. Other mothers are so caught up in their own dramas and don't have the time, energy, or insight to realize their daughters feel hurt and alone. When I was a girl, it would have meant the world to me to have a place where I could talk about my situation and the pain it was causing.
Girls these days are under enormous pressure to be strong. Books, commercials, print ads, and TV shows encourage them to be powerful and high-achieving. Many of them interpret this to mean they must shut off their emotions and become hard and cold. This is especially true for fatherless daughters.
This is the last thing we want girls to do, though, because it can lead to devastating consequences for them, physically and psychologically. Having a safe and supportive place to discuss their feelings and be soft and vulnerable is one of the greatest gifts you could give fatherless daughters.
Thanks for being such a caring guy!
I’m young and my father is in and out of my life. How do I tell someone how I’m feeling?
Expressing your feelings about your dad is so incredibly important, and I'm glad you're motivated to do it. Opening up and sharing emotions is so critical for our physical and mental well-being and is part of the human experience. Bottling up our feelings leads to sickness, isolation, and depression.
We're now dealing with an alarming increase in rates of depression and anxiety among teens and even children. This is due, in large part, to young people not communicating with others face-to-face. Instead, they're living in a virtual world of screens where everything is superficial and fake. Young people (and adults) are longing for real connection and communication: face-to-face with eye contact, body language, caresses, and hugs.
Since one in three of us identifies as fatherless, there are many girls and women out there who can empathize with your feelings. Talk to your friends and classmates. Open up to a counselor, a teacher, a female relative or a neighbor. Be honest about your experiences with your father-- how they've impacted your life and how they've made you feel about yourself. If the person can't relate, find someone who can. Don't give up!
Have you tried talking with your mom? She probably has insight into your dad's flaky character and bad behavior. Moms in these situations, however, often get defensive about the role they played in making an irresponsible man a dad. They often feel guilty and aren't always forthcoming with information.
Have you expressed your feelings to your dad? Telling him what you're experiencing and how it makes you feel is valuable for your soul. However, be prepared that it may not change his behavior. He may alter his ways temporarily and then return to his usual patterns. Not all parents are loving, kind, and unselfish. They're only human and can be self-centered, stingy, and driven by their own needs and wants.
When you talk to your father, be clear and honest. Use I messages: I feel frustrated when ...I feel sad because...I feel confused due to...Avoid using statements that will make him defensive, causing him to shut down and stop listening: You always......You don't …You make me...
Unfortunately, some people are not empathetic and can't connect well with another person's feelings. Instead of understanding your emotions, they get frustrated by them. My dad was like that. His rejection of my feelings felt like a rejection of me. As a teen and young adult, I stuffed my feelings with food. In my forties, I numbed them with anti-depressants. Hopefully, your dad will take the time to listen and absorb what you have to say. You can't change another person, but you can seize control of your own life.
I like the saying: “Don't hog your journey. It's not just for you.” By expressing your feelings and opening up, you can get the support you need but also help others. So many of us are wounded from poor relationships with our dads. By talking about it—bringing it out of the shadows—we can help one another. There's so much emphasis these days on girls and women being strong, but I think that's overdone. Being soft and vulnerable and full of emotion is beautiful. We shouldn't be walking around in suits of armor.
My father was a great man when he was still together with my mom. Although I have an older brother, my dad and I were the closest. We did everything together. When he left seven years ago, I tried not to think about it or show any emotion. This affected my brother's performance in school, and he has been in and out of rehab. Today I still have this heavy burden around, but I feel like my mom emotionally relies entirely on me, so I ignore this whole thing. Will I be able to get through this someday?
Yes, you're going to get through this. Please, though, let this fellow fatherless daughter give you some advice based on the mistakes I made. Hopefully, you can learn from them and not suffer through decades of misery as I did.
First, you need to express your emotions, not keep them bottled up inside of you. Our feelings are a reflection of who we are, and we need to readily access them. If you can't, you might face serious health issues in the future: physically, emotionally, and psychologically. You may try to numb yourself with drugs, alcohol, food, or sexual relationships. You may bury your feelings and then become severely depressed as I did.
If your mother is emotionally unavailable, find someone else to whom you can open up and be honest. Since one in three women identifies as fatherless, they are many of us who can empathize, offer support, and give advice. Talk to friends, a teacher, a relative, a neighbor, or a counselor. Make it a daily habit to write about your emotions in a journal. Don't deny your feelings but deal with them in healthy ways: by talking, by exercising, by writing, by meditating, and by spending time in nature.
Second, be aware that your mother is doing something detrimental to you that my mom did for me. It's called parentification. It occurs when there's a role reversal in the relationship--the child becomes the parent, and the parent becomes the child. When my mother was struggling in her marriage, she turned me into her personal therapist. She'd talk to me for hours about her problems with my dad and, even though I was an inexperienced teenager, I did my best to offer advice, give comfort, and be supportive. Years later, though, the effects of parentification hit me hard. I became depressed and felt like I had missed out on being a carefree teenager. I felt my mom had used me and I was bitter because of it.
Some therapists consider parentification a form of child abuse. Your mother should not be relying on you so heavily for emotional support. She needs to develop her own set of friends and, perhaps, see a counselor. If you're always there for her, she won't have the motivation to do this. It's important for both you and her that you step away from being her sole support. You need to be with friends your age, setting goals for the future and being optimistic about life. Don't let her rob you of that by burdening you with her problems. Her role is to be there for you, not the other way around.
Please take good care of yourself. Express your feelings and enjoy being young!
My son got involved with a woman who's pregnant by someone else. Baby comes, he fills the dad role, the whole family supports all of them. Mom decides to split after 4 years and gets involved in a lesbian relationship. Out of nowhere, she tells my son he’s not the dad anymore. Removes all of us from child (girl). Been almost 6 weeks no contact after near daily contact. What impact is this having on this 4 year old girl? Considering legal action-de facto parenting rights and grandparent right. Thoughts?
My biological dad passed way before I was born. My mom didn’t want me to be fatherless. Therefore, she married a guy she knew for only a short time. He was an alcoholic. After that, I got a step-dad. He has his own kids so he never actually cares about me. I think I am in need of daddy’s love. Therefore, I feel like being a little girl to those other fathers. What else can I do to get over these daddy-lack-of-love issues?
It sounds like your mother was desperate to find a husband for herself and a father figure for you. In the process, she made some crucial mistakes that have left you feeling hurt and vulnerable. It would have been far better for you psychologically if she had not remarried, focused solely on you, and found surrogate dads in your grandfathers, your uncles, and family friends. Because your father was absent because of death and not abandonment, you wouldn't have felt rejected but now you do.
A father figure should not be seen as merely someone who's married to your mother. At this point, you need to broaden your definition to include anyone (male or female, young or old, familiar or famous) who embodies the qualities of a good dad: strong, protective, nurturing, encouraging, empowering, and wise. A father's primary goal is to bring out the best in his children so they develop solid characters and can lead meaningful lives. Surround yourself with people who can do that.
At this point, you probably won't find one person to fulfill the role of dad. You can, though, gather bits and pieces from many people: friends, family members, teachers, mentors, religious leaders, and role models from literature, politics, show business, and sports. Don't hesitate to reach out to men (and women) in your life and ask them for their support and guidance. Most will feel flattered, not burdened.
While it's extremely difficult to recover from a father's absence, it can be done. You're way ahead of the game because you understand your situation and the pain it's caused. Most importantly, you're motivated to move forward and not stay stuck in the past. Going to therapy would be a wonderful way for you to make sense of what's happened in your life and to understand how your mother's choices have negatively impacted you. It would be valuable to have an objective ear. Best to you!
I don't know my father, but I want to know him. My stepdad has been there since I was three as a friend to my mother and they got married when I was 7. They want me to call him dad, but I don't feel comfortable. Is that normal?
My dad left when I was a toddler and married a woman who wished he never had previous children. He has gone on to be (I think) a good father to two children by her. I have no real contact with any of them. I remained in good contact with my dad's parents, and my grandmother has just died - days ago. I guess it is no wonder that all this is coming back. How do I process these feelings I have?
First, let me express my condolences on the death of your grandmother. You're exactly right; her passing is releasing a flood of emotions and memories, and you're naturally feeling overwhelmed by it all. At times like this, we often think about what could have been—how our families could have functioned better, supported one another, and shared the love. Why couldn't your dad have been stronger, remaining steadfast in his parental duties? Why couldn't his new wife have been less selfish and insecure, encouraging him to do the right thing by you?
Unfortunately, your fatherless daughter story is not uncommon. Too many men marry new women and abandon their children (emotionally, physically, or both) from their first marriage. This kind of rejection is hard for children to get over and can establish a negative pattern for the rest of their lives if they're not conscious of it. In adulthood, they often choose flawed partners to recreate the dynamic with their rejecting parent in a futile attempt to fix that past relationship.
I'm glad your grandparents did the right thing and stayed in your life. This is a good time to focus on the wonderful people who've been there for you and not those who weren't. Love is an action word, not a mere sentiment.
I wish you the best during this difficult time. Please take time for yourself to write in a journal, spend time in nature, meditate, and exercise.
My father is a jerk. We never had a good relationship, but I always held onto the hope we would, but he is leaving us in a week. What should I expect out of our relationship? Should I give up on us? I'm so hurt and confused.
You're already doing great by understanding your dad is the jerk and not blaming yourself for his actions. Too often daughters believe it's their fault when dad leaves, thinking they weren't lovable enough for him to stick around. In reality, though, it has nothing to do with them but everything to do with their father's weakness, whether that's low character, addiction, irresponsibility, financial instability, dissatisfaction with life or all of the above.
As he takes his leave, it's important to take good care of yourself: pray, meditate, write in a journal, take long walks, talk to trusted friends, listen to music, do whatever is necessary to express your pain and disappointment and get the support you need. People can't help if you don't open up to them. There are so many of us women who've felt the rejection of a father, know how much it hurts, and can share how we survived it.
Now is your opportunity to take control of the situation and determine what works best for your mental and emotional health. Wait and see how much effort your dad makes to contact you and stay connected. When he does connect, be mindful of how it makes you feel. Does it enrich your life or make you miserable for days? Cutting a parent out of your life is an extreme decision but is necessary (and beneficial) in certain instances. You need to give it time and see how it develops.
From time to time, I still long for the loving daddy I never had. Realizing that one in three women identify themselves as fatherless has brought me comfort, knowing I'm not alone. There are so many great people out there in the world who want to be a part of our lives so we shouldn't focus on that one—our father—who doesn't. We shouldn't give him that much power over our destiny.
I certainly understand why this is a hard and confusing time for you. People disappoint us, but we can get through it and become stronger, more compassionate people.
I've never met my dad before, and I thought he was dead (because my mum said he was) up until I was 13. I was so mad at her for lying and this made our relationship even worse because she didn’t treat me well as a little kid. I keep having dreams about meeting him and I really want to get to know him, but I’m so scared that he doesn’t want me as he never came to visit. How can I stop having dreams about him?
Does your father even know you exist? If your mother lied about him being dead, she may have never let him know she was pregnant. I think you need to have a long, hard conversation with your mom and find out all you can about your dad. Perhaps, she told you he was deceased to protect you from him. Was he a felon, a child molester, a drug dealer? Why did she feel it necessary to lie?
If you're an adult, you can hire a private detective to find your dad. You may also be able to do it yourself by searching online. I'm sure there are plenty of resources that explain how to do just that.
Before undertaking such a project, though, you must be emotionally ready to handle whatever comes your way. You can't have the standard fantasy that your dad will be a kindhearted millionaire who welcomes you with open arms and showers you with love and affection. The reality will certainly be less fabulous than that. What if he refuses to meet you? What if he's really dead now? What if he's an alcoholic? What if he's mentally ill? These are all possibilities that you must consider and for which you must be mentally prepared to handle. If you're not ready for these outcomes, don't look for your dad.
I've known a half dozen people through the years who searched for their birth moms or dads and found them. None of them remain in touch with that biological parent today. Meeting with them satisfied a curiosity but, when in came to continuing a relationship, they all realized there was no emotional connection there. They came to realize that a parent-child bond wasn't about DNA; it was about an adult who cared for them when they were sick, helped them with homework when they were struggling, and read to them each night before they went to bed.
If you're not yet an adult, you need to focus on dreams besides finding your dad. Before you go to sleep, think about what you wish to do with your life and how you'll achieve it. Do you want to travel in Europe? Do you want to become a teacher, a doctor, or a scientist? Do you want to run marathons or do ballroom dance? These positive thoughts before bed will put you in a good frame of mind and, hopefully, lead to pleasant dreams of ambition and hope. They'll make you feel in charge of your destiny. You have the power to make your life wonderful so don't go off track by focusing on someone you don't know.
I am working on my first relationship. Ever since he wanted to be intimate with me, I clam up because all I can think about is my dad. How do I overcome this?
I'm assuming when you say “intimate” you mean having sex. However, intimacy and intercourse are two very different things and shouldn't be confused. Having sex before building intimacy with your partner may be the source of your problem more so than having thoughts of your dad. It's certainly something to consider.
Thinking of your dad may be a way of mentally escaping a situation you're not ready for yet. To have a positive sexual experience, you need to be present at the moment—enjoying the physical sensations and your partner's responses to them. If he knew you were thinking of your dad during sex, he'd probably find it quite hurtful as well as incredibly creepy. Both of you deserve better!
A lot of women (myself included) need a deep emotional connection with our partners before engaging in sex. We're different from men, many of whom can enjoy sex as just a physical act. If you haven't developed a strong bond with your guy—talking about your feelings, discussing your past, being vulnerable and open, hugging, kissing, touching, being playful, and spending lots of time together—you may not be ready to give yourself fully: body, mind, and soul.
Since this is your first relationship, you're probably feeling very nervous. The more time the two of you spend together, the more you'll feel comfortable with him and let down your guard. You need to build trust with him, and that takes time and involves sharing a variety of experiences.
I know this relationship is important to you but keep an eye on the bigger picture. Do you need to visit a therapist and discuss the unresolved issues with your dad? If so, do it now! Don't let your father rob you of one more enjoyable moment. Don't let him invade your relationship and ruin it? Don't let your romantic relationship become a way to “fix” the past with your dad. Find a way to move forward and not be held back by your father.
It's fantastic you're motivated to work on this. If you take care of it now, your future will be a lot brighter.
After some bad stories that my mother has told me, I started to doubt my father's honesty. I already know he wasn't the loyal type, but now I am feeling insecure about his honesty, and I found myself also being a bit afraid of him. What is the best thing to do that won't have some bad effect on me?
My father was psychologically and verbally abusive. I have had a very rocky history with men and feel deep down that there is something wrong with me, that I am not actually lovable. My eating disorder continues, although I am at a healthy weight. Is it possible to internalize a feeling of worthiness, or is it only possible to learn skills and insight into dealing with these issues?
Like you and many other fatherless daughters, I struggled with feeling unworthy and unlovable most of my life. My dad was verbally abusive like yours and made me feel unwelcome and unwanted in our home. Recent scientific evidence shows that growing up in a hostile household as we did affects us not only emotionally but physically and mentally as well. It even has the potential to change our brain structure.
That's why it's an uphill battle for fatherless daughters to internalize feelings of worthiness. We have to undo the negative messages we received during our childhoods that left a powerful and long-lasting impression. I believe it can be done, though, but concrete actions need to happen before the feelings change. When we treat ourselves better, the feelings of self-esteem begin to build.
We need to take good care of ourselves each day in a loving and nurturing way: eating right, exercising, praying, meditating, being in nature, writing in a journal, reading, learning, getting enough sleep, and developing a daily spiritual practice. We need to change our self-talk, speaking to ourselves in a kind, gentle, and encouraging way. When the negative self-talk enters our minds, we need to chase it away with fierce determination. We need to say to our dads, whether they're dead or alive, that they were wrong for treating us that way, but we forgive them. We're no longer going to let them control our lives because we're now in charge. We're going to say goodbye to relationships that aren't reciprocal and leave us feeling drained and depleted.
You and I were made to feel unlovable by our fathers, and that was a horrible way for us to begin our lives. It wasn't fair, and we've suffered enough because of it. Now you and I deserve to be happy and make the most of our precious time here on earth.
I urge you to get professional help for your eating disorder. When I finally got my eating under control, my life improved immensely. I'm now free of my obsession with food, giving me the time and energy to have all kinds of new adventures. I was trying to fill the hole in my heart by stuffing my face. Now I fill the hole by doing things that are good for me.
You are worthy. You are lovable, and you are deserving of happiness. The storyteller, Joseph Campbell, said: “The privilege of a lifetime is to be who you are.” I'm sorry your dad treated you horribly. But don't let him keep you down. Get the support you need and build a beautiful life. I'm rooting for you!
My mom left my dad when I was four and he never tried to reconnect with us until thirteen years later. Now it's really hard to even hold a conversation with him. He feels like a stranger. Is this normal?
Yes. This is entirely normal and to be expected since you two didn't have a father-daughter relationship when you were growing up, and an emotional bond wasn't formed. You led separate lives, and he didn't take on the responsibility of being a dad: tucking you into bed at night, attending your dance recitals and ball games, helping you with homework, and making you feel like a loved and cherished child. You don't have shared memories of good times and bad so, yes, you two are strangers to one another.
You can still build a strong relationship now if both of you are willing to put in the time and effort. You, however, are now facing adulthood and have many new and interesting possibilities in front of you. At this point in your life, you may not have a strong desire to reconnect with your dad because friends, college, career, travel, and romantic possibilities are all in front of you. You may not want to reach back in the past but rather look forward.
The choice is entirely yours. You have no obligation towards your father. It was he who had obligations to you that were left unfulfilled. You have no responsibility to make him feel better and less guilty about the mistakes he made. He must deal with those on his own.
You may be having a hard time conversing with him because you're avoiding the tough questions. It's best to be straightforward and honest with him about what you're thinking and feeling. Have you asked him to explain why he didn't get in contact with you all those years? Did he pay child support, and if not, why not? What was he doing during that time? What does he want from the relationship now? Why should you trust him now when he dropped out of your life? If you can't have big conversations like these, you won't get closer.
You may want to see a counselor for a short period to work through your relationship with your dad. You don't want to take the issues you've had with him into future relationships with men. I also have another article that hopefully will be helpful called “5 Steps to Heal Her Pain: How a Fatherless Daughter Can Move on From a Dad's Rejection.”
My father abandoned us after he got an annulment from my mom. After that, I never saw him. Up until now, I didn't care about seeing him. Now I want to see him and ask him "why?" Why do I feel this way?
It's natural to be curious about your father's abandonment of you. You might be fantasizing of a scenario where he would say: “I was such a jerk to have left and I'm so incredibly sorry. I was battling an addiction to drugs and I was so ashamed.”
Yet, the truth of the matter is, moms and dads who leave their kids rarely are honest about the reasons why, don't have a lot of insight into their own actions, and probably don't have any kind of answer that will make you feel one bit better. Whatever the excuse is that he offers will most likely sound like BS to you.
You don't mention how old you are, but I'm wondering if you're in your late teens or early twenties. I say this because that's when young people need to be looking forward but often make the mistake of looking backward. It's an age when people have a lot of insecurities about what they're going to do with their lives: college, job training, career plans, housing arrangements, friendships, and romantic relationships. It can be scary and overwhelming. Looking to the past often feels safer and makes it so they don't need to take action. But, ultimately, it's extremely damaging to their futures.
The father who abandoned you is not worthy of your time and attention. You have people in your life who have loved and supported you and they're the ones you should focus on and cherish. There's a saying: “As you think, so shall you be.” Put your thoughts on positive people, goals for the future, and plans for making your life how you wish it to be. The spiritual coach, Iyanla Vanzant, says: “When life removes something from you, it's not helpful to go chase it down and get it back.”
Don't let thoughts of your dad keep you from moving forward. Don't give him power over your life that he doesn't deserve. I wish you the best.
You may want to read my article entitled “5 Steps to Heal Her Pain: How a Fatherless Daughter Can Move on From a Dad's Rejection.”
My kids were young when I left their father. They have little communication with him. I did remarry and they have a stepfather. He is good to them but a little strict. I feel my youngest daughter has issues of being abandoned by her father. What do you suggest I do about my daughter's feelings of abandonment?
I commend you for seeing that your daughter is struggling and wanting to help. Hopefully, by being proactive now, you'll prevent serious issues in the future that can plague fatherless daughters such as low self-esteem, promiscuity, and eating disorders. Apologize to her for picking a man to be her father who wasn't a good choice. Be open to any complaints she may have about her stepfather. Keep in mind that you had all the power to choose both men while she had no say. When we have no control over our situation in life, we can get depressed.
It would help immensely if you were honest with your daughter about why her dad isn't involved in her life, whether it's an addiction, selfishness, immaturity, irresponsibility, or low character. Too often parents try to shelter their kids from these harsh realities. However, this is a critical mistake because, without truthful answers, youngsters fill the void with reasons that put the blame on themselves: I was too much trouble. I was unlovable. I wasn't good enough.
It would also help if your daughter stayed focused on school and extracurricular activities. Studies show that teen girls who play sports feel more confident and empowered. They're less likely to get pregnant and more likely to remains virgins. Since fatherless daughters often look for male approval during high school, sports is a great way to counteract that.
Lastly, I recommend all of you attend family counseling together. This is not your daughter's issue but a family issue. Since her stepfather is strict with her, your daughter may be building up a lot of resentment toward him. The therapist may recommend that you handle the discipline, not him. All these group dynamics can be discussed with a professional and your daughter can have a voice in how the family operates so she feels heard, validated, and empowered.
Thanks for being such a caring mom. I wish you and your daughter well.
How do I deal with a father who wasn't there, leaving me with a mother who often told me she wished I was dead and finally gave me to my grandparents? Now they're both in their 60s and they need me. I am an only child. How can I have a relationship with them now?
This is a dilemma that more adult children are facing today as their parent's age but may still live for several more decades. Some are now caring for their parents longer than their parents cared for them! This is difficult enough but made even more challenging when these adult children weren't lovingly treated by their moms and dads while growing up as was the case with you.
You'll never have a close, loving bond with your mother or your father because they both abandoned their parental responsibilities. You don't have a lifetime of happy memories and goodwill built up from the times you shared together. You'll always be hurt and resentful about that, and those feelings are normal and justified.
It's up to you to decide how involved you want to become with them now. Most importantly, you don't want to sacrifice your current life by reaching back to the past and trying to reconstruct what you never had. That would be a big mistake. Iyanla Vanzant, the spiritual life coach, said: “When life removes something from you, it's not helpful to go chase it down and get it back.”
If you have a husband and kids, your first obligation is to them, not your parents. You also have an obligation to yourself—to enjoy your loved ones, your career, your hobbies, and your friends. You have a responsibility to take good care of yourself mentally, emotionally, physically, and financially. You don't want to sacrifice any of that for an attempt to reconstitute something with your parents.
Being in their 60's hardly makes your parents old and in need of care unless they've been negligent about their health or have a serious illness. They should be able to live independently for years and even decades to come. If you want to be a part of their lives, do it slowly and cautiously. They're probably the same people you knew as a kid—just older. If it gets tricky, please talk to a therapist and come up with a plan where you feel good about helping but aren't getting used and abused.
When I was 8, my father made a mistake and went to prison. This was 10 years ago, and I only went to visit him once. I know that he loved me but I still feel neglected because he isn't staying with me. I have a big brother who is 12 years older than me. Do you think that the love of my brother will help me escape from the negative influences of my father? Would it be wise for me to try to get into a relationship?
I'm sorry you missed out on having a dad during your crucial preteen and teen years. I'm glad, though, that you're now aware of the common problems that affect fatherless daughters such as depression, low self-esteem, insecurity, and fear of abandonment. As you maneuver your life as a young adult, you want to keep these in mind and work hard to become strong, confident, independent, and accomplished.
I'm concerned that you're asking about getting into a relationship before focusing on yourself. That's a trap that fatherless daughters easily fall into as they search for men to fill the hole that their dads left in their hearts. Too many of them become promiscuous because they don't yet love and respect themselves. They may become pregnant at an early age and have a child who will be fatherless just like they were. They continue the pattern that was so painful for them but feels safe because it's familiar.
This is the time to focus on yourself, knowing there's plenty of time ahead for relationships. You need to concentrate on college, job training, friendships, travel, adventures, and opportunities to prepare for a solid financial future. Don't look outside yourself to fix things; look inward. Push yourself to do challenging things so your self-confidence grows and you become impressed with yourself. Get to like yourself and be proud of yourself before getting involved with a guy. That way you'll partner up with someone of a much higher quality!
I hope your brother is a positive, loving influence in your life and encourages you to focus on yourself. Hopefully, he's a responsible man, a good role model, and a solid representation of how men should behave. If so, he can be the standard for what you look for in a guy when the time comes.
Now is an exciting time in your life with so much in front of you. It can be a little scary but also thrilling. Don't define yourself by the wounds of the past but by the triumphs of the future. I wish you all the best!
I have picked up attributes of being the protector/fixer of the family, but what if the family can't be fixed? It's just messed up entirely. I just want to walk away, but I have two children that I want to support and family love in their life. I don't want them to experience anything like what I have, and I've been told that I should write a book about my life (it's been that bad).
You need to step back and look at the situation objectively. On the one hand, your family members are dysfunctional, can't be fixed, and created a terrible environment for you as a child. On the other hand, you're saying these same people can give your children love and support. Is that even possible? Are they providing that now?
Perhaps, you're still trying to fix everything and still trying to get what you missed out on as a kid. This may have a lot more to do with you still craving the love and support you wanted as a youngster than it does with your children. It's very difficult to walk away from a dysfunctional family when you've played the role of the fixer. While it's frustrating at times, it can also make you feel powerful, superior, and very much needed. You may be using your kids as an excuse to stay connected when it's you who doesn't want to give up that role.
If you don't want to be so enmeshed with your family but also don't want to break away, it would be wise to distance yourself. I think you've realized (perhaps, at long last) that you can't change other people; you can only change yourself. Therefore, make a plan that works for you: I'll only talk to Mom on the phone for 15 minutes a week. I'll just see the family on major holidays and limit it to a maximum of three hours. If someone in the family is telling me their problems, I'll say, “I'm not qualified to help you with that. You need to see a therapist.”
I've had to do all that with my own family, and it's been the best thing for my physical and emotional well-being. Once I felt empowered in those familial relationships (especially with my mother), I felt liberated. I actually lost a great deal of weight because I no longer felt so put upon, helpless, and used.
Writing a book or keeping a journal would be extremely useful. Putting pen to paper is a wonderful way to make sense of things, keep track of your life, and identify destructive patterns.
He didn't want me. I don't want him. It's simple. We are now both adults. Will I really be able to choose my family moving forward?
Yes! Your question shows a tremendous desire to create something different than what you've known. With that motivation, you can move forward and build the life you want. This is your second chance to have a family, but this time you're in control. That should feel empowering but a bit scary.
A desire to do things differently, though, is often not enough for us fatherless daughters. As much as we wish to make the right choices, we often fail to do so because we didn't have good role models to show us how. Our dads' neglect of us can cause us to feel unworthy, leading us to pick partners who are unstable, unloving, and unsuitable father material for our future kids. We can unwittingly choose men who will do the same thing to our children that our dads did to us. Sadly, the cycle continues. Our moms are often not much help, either, because they picked the wrong guys to marry and with whom to have kids.
Before starting a family of your own, it's important to get your ducks in a row and build your self-confidence. Get an education, keep learning, grow in your career, develop strong relationships, become financially stable, and create a deep spiritual life. When you're more secure in yourself, you'll be ready to look for a high-quality life partner. While you may have an overwhelming desire to have a family soon, it's much wiser to put in the work now on yourself.
Unlike many of us fatherless daughters, you have a serious advantage. It seems as if you've accepted the lack of relationship with your dad and are at peace with it. That frees you up emotionally to work on the here-and-now and not try to capture something elusive from the past. I can't begin to tell you the hours I wasted pining for a dad who didn't want to be one.
How do I accept love? I don’t feel worthy of love.
Feelings of unworthiness are something we fatherless daughters must fight with all our might. They can be so potent, preventing us from not only accepting love from others but from taking good care of ourselves. No doubt, these two are very much intertwined.
Starting at a young age (in my early teens), I found it difficult to look out for myself: eat right, exercise, get enough sleep, and make time for fun and relaxation. I studied all the time, did little with friends, and felt undeserving of happiness. I hated myself, and this was largely due to my dad's emotional neglect, name-calling, negativity, and hostility. My lack of self-care continued well into my adulthood, and I still struggle with it today in my fifties.
However, when I started to take better care of myself in my thirties, I began to like myself more. I stopped being so closed off, grew more vulnerable, and was more willing to put myself out there in the world. That's when I met the man who eventually became my husband. If I had waited until I felt worthy of love, I'd still be waiting today!
Don't wait for the feelings of worthiness to come before making yourself available for love. Otherwise, it may be too late. My 51-year-old brother has never been married or in a long-term relationship. He closed himself off emotionally at an early age. Even though many women expressed interest in him, he didn't respond. Now, he's ready for a romantic bond of some kind, but that's not easy to find at his age and having never been married. Women think there's something wrong with him.
Our early lack of connection with a dad can cause us fatherless daughters to be timid about life. We feel shame about his rejection and don't want to be hurt again. We don't want to face rejection. We must, though, if we want to experience life fully and to love wholeheartedly.
If you need to get therapy to help you feel better about yourself, please do it. Life is so precious and I want you to enjoy yours.
My dad knows about me, but doesn't take a role in my life. How can I get over him taking a role in my other sister's life, but not mine?
Have you communicated your desire to have a relationship with him? Have you explained how hurt you are from the lack of one? Have you asked him point blank why he's involved in your sister's life but not yours? If you haven't had a blunt discussion with him, you must do so to clear the air and get his perspective on things.
A lack of communication is the cause of so many problems in families, so much unnecessary pain, and so much wasted time. Sadly, our society has devalued dads so much that many of them don't realize how extremely important they are to their children, making them feel worthy and loved. Your dad needs to hear this.
If, through his words and actions, it's apparent he doesn't want to play a role in your life, then it's best to accept it and move forward. Focus on improving yourself, achieving your goals, and developing meaningful relationships. Don't let your DNA connection with this man mean more than it does. Celebrate the family members and friends who were there for you during good times and bad and don't disrespect them by being preoccupied with a guy who wasn't.
If he wasn't around when you were little, he didn't develop that early and all-important bond with you. There are a lot of people in the world who are stingy with their love, and he made be one of them. My dad and his entire side of the family was like that so, when dealing with them, I just kept in mind the quote: “Everybody isn't gonna love you. Most people don't even love themselves.” Those words brought me a lot of peace and helped me see that they were the problem, not me.
I'm turning 19. I have this raging anger sometimes and I feel lonely. I feel like only my ex-boyfriend understands me because he treats me the way I want to be treated. He offers me protection and acts as a shoulder to cry on. How do I let go of the attachment I have towards him?
I admire your desire to move forward from this relationship. It's not unusual for fatherless daughters to become overly attached to guys when they're young. A boyfriend is an easy diversion from doing the hard work of focusing on themselves, healing, getting stronger, and becoming independent.
These relationships typically turn out badly, though, because young women are trying to get the love and attention that daddy didn't provide. They want these guys to fill the emptiness inside of them, which is an impossible task. The guys inevitably get frustrated, accuse their girlfriends of having “daddy issues,” and the whole thing blows up. It's no one's fault but simply two people who need to mature and work on themselves before becoming a couple.
Once you obtain an education, get established in your career, become financially independent, and grow emotionally stronger, you'll meet many men who will treat you right. It takes time, effort, and determination, though, before you reach that point. Being a fatherless daughter is always a handy excuse for not striving but please don't use it. Seize control and don't give your dad any power over your life or your emotions.
While you may feel overwhelmed by your anger at times, it's actually healthy that you're not stuffing those feelings. When we do that, our fury can turn into depression. A therapist can provide some helpful tools on how to use your rage in constructive ways and not allow it to derail you.
Volunteering with those less fortunate was how I dealt with my consuming anger and resentment. When my son was diagnosed with autism, I was angry all the time and couldn't find relief (I discovered in therapy that much of it stemmed from being a fatherless daughter and not from my son's diagnosis). I started working at an inner-city kindergarten where students faced problems such as drive-by shootings, drug-addicted relatives, and domestic violence. Being with these little folks was completely absorbing and made me forget my woes. While I'm a big proponent of therapy,
I think volunteering can be just as beneficial if not more!
You have a wonderful future in front of you. Take actions now to build your self-esteem. Develop some deep friendships and save the romantic relationships for later. Don't let the wounds of the past determine your destiny. Good luck!
You may want to read my article entitled, “5 Steps to Heal Her Pain: How a Fatherless Daughter Can Move on From a Dad's Rejection.”
I am now 66 years old. My dad died 5 days after my 7th birthday. Not until I was an older adult and someone actually said to me that losing my dad so young had to affect me. Hm, I had never really thought about that. My mom did such a great job raising us, that I never thought life should have been any different. I have been married twice and had 3 or so unsuccessful relationships. Right now struggling to make ends meet, how did this affect me? What can I do? I am the last one left.
How can I cope without seeing my dad?
Learning to cope involves acceptance. Realize that you'll feel sad sometimes as a fatherless daughter and know that's perfectly normal. I've spoken to dozens of women in their 60's and 70's who still feel melancholy about it and will until the day they die.
The well-adjusted ones, though, acknowledge their sadness but don't succumb to it. They don't let their status as fatherless daughters define who they are, limit their potential, or give them an excuse for not becoming their best selves. They appreciate the family members and friends who are a part of their lives rather than obsessing over the one who wasn't.
The best way to cope with being a fatherless daughter is to develop an attitude of gratitude like Oprah Winfrey and many other successful people recommend. Instead of focusing on what you're lacking, concentrate on all your blessings. Oprah has made it a habit to write down three things she's thankful for each day. She has said, “I know for sure what we dwell on is who we become.”
You'll feel much better about your life when you seize control. You have no power over the situation with your dad, but you do over many other areas. Focus on learning more, getting physically and emotionally stronger, developing your spirituality, becoming a good friend, and being a contributing member of society. There's nothing like volunteering at a school, a homeless shelter, the humane society, a hospital, or a soup kitchen to get out of your despair, appreciate what you have, and experience the numerous benefits that come from helping others.
If you're struggling, take this opportunity to see a therapist. It's a wonderful investment in yourself and your future. The therapist will give you coping skills and help you look at things with a new, healthier perspective. Take care!
I was adopted by my grandparents. My granddad drank. I got married at 20 and it lasted 7 years. 2 boys later, we divorced . Now, I have a 2-year-old daughter with a narcissist who abandoned us a year ago and has no contact with my sweet little girl. Thankfully, my sons' father, my ex-husband, adores my daughter. He helps me and takes care of her as if she were his own. I'd like to think that this relationship will fill the void of her father. Am I doing the right thing?
I have two fathers. I live with my step-father who is only there to make fun of me and then move on. My biological father is never around and has no desire to get to know me. I feel like I’m stuck in a hole and I just feel empty, but I don’t know who I should try to fix my relationship with or if I should even bother. What should I do?
I'm sorry you're in this situation and feel so stuck. I grew up with a father who called me names, made fun of my weight and criticized my intelligence. I felt so trapped, too, living in that home and spent many hours alone in my bedroom. It felt like there would never be a day when I'd be free of that but, thank God, I am now.
Fortunately, I learned enough from that experience to pick a man who's a loving husband to me and a kind father to my sons. Even decades later, though, I still struggle with feelings of shame and unworthiness from growing up with that verbal abuse. I'm so glad you're aware of the situation and its negative impact on you. Talk to others about what you're feeling and experiencing. Open up to your mother. Write in a journal. Talk to a counselor. The worst thing you can do is keep your emotions bottled up, causing you harm both physically and psychologically.
Our lives are greatly affected by the men our mothers chose—in your case, both a father and a step-father. You had no say in the matter but must live with it nonetheless. Take mental notes and vow to make better decisions when it's your time to pick a partner. You don't want to repeat those mistakes as so many women do.
As for fixing the relationships, I don't know if that's within your control. Are either of these men interested in improving their interactions with you and becoming closer? If so, you, your mother, and your biological father or step-father should begin family counseling. You are not the problem in this situation; the problems dwells within the family dynamic. Everybody needs to work together to bring about change, but that only happens if everyone is on board.
If your bio-dad and step-dad aren't willing to make an effort, I urge you to focus on yourself. Work hard at school. Get involved in extracurricular activities. Create meaningful friendships and develop a deep spiritual life. Most of all, give yourself a lot of positive affirmations, telling yourself that you're lovable and worthy. Keep reminding yourself that you won't let your self-esteem suffer because of these two men your mother chose but you didn't.
Oprah Winfrey said: “I know for sure what we dwell on is who we become.” Don't dwell on the people who aren't there for you but focus all those who are. Dwell on all the blessings you have.
My dad left from the start. He didn't even sign the birth certificate. I'm dealing with depression, and I'm suicidal. What should I do?
Please call the suicide prevention hot-line and get the resources you need until you can see a therapist. You may need to take anti-depressants for a time to make it through this rough patch. Working with a therapist and following her recommendations, though, will be most therapeutic in the long-haul. When we get as low as you are now, we need professional help and can't go it alone.
Fatherless daughters (and sons) are twice as likely to commit suicide than those with involved dads. Thirty-nine percent of children growing up today are doing so without fathers. You're certainly not alone and, unfortunately, too many of us who can relate to your suffering. I've been there, and I still wrestle with some sadness today. I'm so grateful, though, to be here and to enjoy the beautiful life I have now with my husband and sons.
I'm sorry your dad was irresponsible and unloving. I'm sorry our culture devalues dads and makes them think they're unnecessary. None of the statistics bear that out, and neither do the comments and questions at the end of my article. If you read them, you'll see how so many of us women still hurt from our dad's rejection decades later.
The author and life coach, Vironika Tugaleva, wrote: “Emotional pain cannot kill you, but running from it can. Allow. Embrace. Let yourself feel. Let yourself heal.” That is my wish for you. Please start that process now by reaching out for help. Take care and let me know how you're doing.
How more likely are daughters to become suicidal without a father than normal people?
Alan Blankstein is an author and education leader who's extensively studied the connection between fatherless children and poor academic performance. According to his research, those of us who grew up without dads (both male and female) are more than twice as likely to commit suicide. While this fact is indeed devastating, it's not surprising since fatherless daughters are at a higher risk for low self-esteem, eating disorders, obesity, teen pregnancies, and depression.
I highly recommend you read an interview with Blankstein in nprEd called “Poverty, Dropouts, Pregnancy, Suicide: What The Numbers Say About Fatherless Kids.” Some of the highlights include:
--According to a U.S. Department of Education study, 39 percent of students in grades 1-12 are fatherless and the numbers are growing.
--While it doesn't get much attention, the issue of fatherless children represents one of the gravest issues for our students and schools according to Blankstein.
--Fatherless children are more likely to be poor. Countless studies show that poverty negatively impacts school performance.
--Fatherless children are twice as likely to become drop-outs.
Blankstein urges mothers to keep fathers involved and not minimize contact to only a weekend visit every two weeks. Even though they're no longer a couple, both mom and dad are vital for a youngster's emotional and mental well-being. Dad should make involvement in their children's education a priority.
I never met my father because my mother divorced him before I was born. He knew little English, and she had met him in another country. As a little kid, I didn't think much of it. I would get somewhat gloomy when it was Father's Day. Now that I think about it more, I was always shy. I'm also very sensitive and emotional. I feel like I always need someone there with me and I have difficulty with being alone and isolated. Could him being absent have an affect on my emotional state?
It sounds like you're feeling sad about not having a dad and need to grieve the loss of this man you never knew. If you don't, you may get stuck, feel depressed, and not move forward to create a beautiful life. Consider why this issue is affecting you now and if you're using it to avoid taking the next necessary steps in life. Iyanla Vanzant, the spiritual counselor, said something so powerful in regards to this that so many of us fatherless daughters need to hear: “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.”
Being a fatherless daughter has become so common in our society that many of its negative consequences get ignored or downplayed. There are countless studies, though, that reveals how damaging it can be to our overall emotional well-being. The father-daughter bond is one of the most significant relationships that a girl will ever have. It's the foundation for all future male-female interactions whether they're romantic, business, or social.
An involved, loving dad contributes immensely to his daughter's feelings of self-worth. His encouragement makes her more confident and willing to take risks. She can go out in the world--stumble, face rejection, and take some hits—but know full well that daddy will be there to offer comfort, support and push her to try again. This is extremely beneficial to a young woman, especially as she starts to date and forge a career path. Having grown up with a father, she understands how men express themselves emotionally and how it differs from women. Therefore, she feels comfortable and confident in the company of both genders.
Your shyness is a symptom of low self-esteem but can be remedied with time and effort. By going to therapy, you'll gain tools to make social interactions less stressful and more enjoyable. By putting yourself out there in the public arena, again and again, you'll eventually feel more at ease. We fatherless daughters face obstacles. Our awareness, though, gives us an opportunity to seek help and overcome them.
My dad left when I was six weeks old. I have made jokes about it all my life but it just recently started hitting me hard. I recently met my older brother and sister and my younger sister. They were his children and they know him. I feel like I am a problem that cannot be solved. I don't know why he chose them over me, or why he left at all. How do I deal with all this insecurity?
My dad has been in and out of jail since I was a little girl. Meaning I only remember him by little memories. I'm in my freshman year now and a few months ago, I recently found out that he has a family with daughters that aren't his. I feel betrayed and unloved as he lives in another state. How do I cope with this?
You have every reason in the world to feel that way, but you don't want to get stuck in your misery because of your dad. You don't want to tie your happiness to him. It sounds like he's made a lot of mistakes and being an irresponsible parent is just one of them. His bad behavior is in no way a reflection on you, and you don't want it to prevent you from developing your intellect, your talents, and more meaningful relationships.
He's doing what he wants to do and isn't making you a priority. You'll find peace if you accept this reality rather than wish it to be different. When I deal with apathetic people, I like to remember this quote: “Everybody isn't gonna love you. Most people don't even love themselves.”
It sounds like your dad does what suits his needs with little concern for how it impacts others. I'm sorry you don't have a better dad, but I hope your mom is loving and supportive. Sadly, though, some mothers of fatherless daughters aren't empathetic when we open up about feeling unloved and abandoned. They feel guilty for choosing bad men to have had sex with, leaving us with just sperm donors and not involved dads. This can make them defensive and unwilling to hear our pain.
If this is your situation, turn to someone else for guidance and support: a friend, an aunt, a school counselor, or a therapist. Get your feelings straightened out about your dad now so you can move forward and enjoy your life, not waste years questioning why he didn't love you and why he wasn't there. It seems my entire adult life has been about repairing my childhood and I don't want that for you.
Don't define yourself by the hurts of yesterday but focus on tomorrow. Bryon Katie, the author, and speaker, said: “To believe that you need what you don't have is the definition of insanity.” You don't need your father to build a wonderful life. You do, however, need a solid support system, of loving family and friends. Focus on cultivating that and watch it grow stronger and stronger. Take care!
My father was a good man in my younger years. Then suddenly after my parent's divorce, he stopped being in my life. Is there any logical reasoning for this?
I've received other questions from daughters about this phenomenon that causes them so much hurt and confusion. Here are some reasons this happens:
After the divorce, the father marries a new woman and becomes enmeshed with her side of the family.
A wife typically takes control of the couple's social calendar in a marriage. She plans the holidays, sets up dates for dinners and the theater, and makes arrangements with friends and family for get-togethers. Most men are more than happy to leave the social planning to their spouses and tend to just go with the flow. Naturally, the wife puts her friends and family first, and sometimes the husband's kids become an afterthought. In a worst-case scenario, the wife, acting out of jealousy and possessiveness, intentionally exclude her husband's kids.
After the divorce, the father feels terrible and wants to distance himself from what he considers a failure.
Most men aren't as free and open with expressing their feelings as women are. Many don't have a support system of friends to whom they can turn when they're emotionally wounded. They may bottle up their feelings and ignore their anguish. Some men feel like they failed when their marriages end and want to put it in the past and move forward. In the process, they're oblivious to how much they're hurting their kids.
He was unhappy in his marriage for a long time and, after the divorce, is eager to start a new life.
Sadly, some fathers feel their obligation is over once their children are grown. They saw their paternal role in a narrow way—to provide financially for the family—and don't understand the emotional impact they have on their adult kids. The adult kids are left feeling hurt and rejected, not realizing how long their dads were miserable.
Even if you're able to wrap your brain around the reason your dad is no longer involved in your life, you'll still be sad. Tell him how you feel (if you haven't already) and then take a step back. If he stays away, please don't take it personally (I know that's easier said than done). There's a lot going on with him that you don't understand. Move forward with your own life. Find new people to love and new challenges to conquer. Don't let this hold you back from a wonderful future!
My father was a lowlife who tried to take our lives on many occasions - he seemed to derive fun from it. He beat my Mom into a pool of blood every 2 days from when we were around 4 to 15 years old. When he eventually disappeared my Mom hated us, so we’ve never had the paternal love and it still eats me alive. I have a wonderful husband and 2 gorgeous little boys but cannot shake the feeling of worthlessness - and I’m 40 now! What can I do to get over this?
I wish I had an easy answer for you, but I'm older than you are and still struggle with feeling worthless and sad at times. Fortunately, I'm now better equipped to deal with those dark emotions when they come my way through exercising, meditating, writing in my journal, playing with my dog, and spending time in nature. I went the route of taking anti-depressants and, while they curbed my anguish, they also took away my joy, excitement, and motivation.
I'm afraid the only way to obliterate the pain we feel from our childhoods is to take drugs (prescription or otherwise) or drink alcohol to excess. With your husband and two boys, though, you certainly don't want to do that because you have a beautiful life to enjoy. You can power through each day, focusing on all your many blessings, or look into therapy if you feel your painful past is encroaching too heavily on your life now.
They did a study at Harvard Medical School using MRI that showed name-calling, yelling, taunting, and other forms of verbal abuse left a structural imprint on the developing brains of preteens and teens. These changes in brain structure can be long-lasting and lead to anxiety, depression, and hostility in adulthood. Any kind of attack during childhood (physical, emotional, or verbal) is kept in our brains for evolutionary reasons as a way to survive potential threats in the future.
While none of this is happy news, it does help us understand why it's so hard to shake the trauma of our past. There are definitely forces working against us. That's why, if you need some extra help, you shouldn't hesitate to go into therapy. You want to be the best mom you can for your boys—to be fully present for them-- so this might be the right time to address your negative thoughts and learn how to tame them. It won't make them miraculously disappear, but it can give you the needed tools to minimize them.
I'm in awe of all you've been through and all you've survived. I wish the best.
You may want to read my article entitled, “5 Steps to Heal Her Pain: How a Fatherless Daughter Can Move on From a Dad's Rejection.”
© 2018 McKenna Meyers
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