Why Healing Your Relationship With Your Father Leads to Healing Your Relationship With Men
And how can you make the first steps towards accepting your father for who he is
When my mother passed away in a tragic train accident I wasn’t really able to comprehend and realize how my life would turn around from that point onwards.
I was eight.
My relationship with dad was quite rocky and dramatic since I can remember.
At times we weren’t speaking for days in a row. That was a form of punishment my dad used to discipline my sister and I for wrongdoings.
And when we were speaking, it was a constant battle and it was always ending up in a fight and punishments.
We couldn’t hear each other. We couldn’t stand each other. Couldn’t see each other as people.
I was never good enough.
These traumatic events have dramatically escalated when my dad remarried and it all went downhill from there.
I was 14.
And when I left for college, my father would have been the last person I wanted to talk to, ask for help or take advice from.
I couldn’t forgive him for how he had allowed his wife to treat us.
I couldn’t forgive the betrayal, the injustice and the constant attacks on my individuality and my freedom. Physical and emotional abuse was constantly present in our household.
A year before I went to college after another violent fight, I packed my two suitcases and left to live with my aunt.
I was 18.
And I was an emotional wreck. My hands were shaking, my mind was unstable. I was afraid to open the fridge and eat what I wanted to eat. I was cautious about speaking the truth. I was wary of asking for what I wanted and needed. At times, when state exams were on my mind, I didn’t know where to sleep at night, and I was on the verge of quitting high-school.
Fast-forward to 2015.
I am 26.
A grown-up woman with a marketing career working for Mindvalley and living a pretty amazing expat life in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
(Maybe my dad has done something right after all?!)
I decide to invite my him for a three-week trip to Asia…
Then, in 2017 I invite he visits my fiancee and I in Brazil where allegedly he gave his blessing for us to get married later that year…
And in 2019 he travels all the way to Australia to come visit his granddaughter and attend her first birthday party…
Why would I inflict emotional, financial and physical distress on myself and spend all this time, money and energy on reconnecting with someone who has caused me so much pain, despite the fact that he is my dad?
Did my father understand his mistakes and reach out to apologize?
Sadly, that didn’t happen.
Did he read a few parenting and psychology books and realized how wrong his parenting was on so many different levels?
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.
Did he have regrets and wanted to mend the lost relationship with his rebel “bad” daughter?
Perhaps but he wouldn’t admit it.
It was all me.
I’ve done the work and I’ve reached out to him first despite all the trauma and the blame and the guilt…
Because after years of doing personal growth and diving deep into relationships, I intuitively knew that my relationship with dad is the key to fixing my relationship with men.
And because I understood that our fathers are the parents we don’t even get to know properly.
Our fathers are also our first and most important encounters with the other species.
First encounters with men.
From dads we learn and form beliefs about who men are, how they behave and how relationships look like. We learn what men want, how they treat women and see masculinity for what it is in Him.
And we interpret how we should be treated as women through him as well.
(Of course, we learn a whole lot from our mothers as well, but that’s a whole other dynamic that deserves a separate post.)
We also see what love is.
And what love is not.
We learn how to trust men and whether they deserve to be trusted at all.
And then we mimic and mirror that behavior in our relationships.
Lots of things to unpack and discover in that “daddy, please love me” bag of beliefs we take on into our adult life as women.
Looking for love
I had desperately wanted men to love me and was doing anything I can to earn that love. Good grades, coming home on time, making daddy proud, and being a “good girl” all translated into trying to be less dramatic, easy and free, not cause too much trouble, look sexy and appear to be happy with my life….
If we want to attract a mature masculine man, we have to get our “daddy issues” sorted before we meet him. We have to realize that men won’t fix, replace or erase those dynamics and they will never replace our fathers. These are two separate (important) roles that need to be engaged with differently.
My first trip with dad has started unraveling and pulling all the threads out of this messy ball of my own “daddy issues” yarn.
It has uncovered many nuanced layers that I didn’t even know were there and has catapulted my transformation into the woman I am today.
I have released and let go.
I‘m not sure I had forgiven him.
I don’t feel it’s my place to forgive because I know he has done everything he could at that point in time.
And that he didn’t know any better.
I just SAW him as a human.
It doesn’t mean I agree with everything he has done but I simply realized that he couldn’t do anything more…
That he has used all the resources available at that time and that those resources, unfortunately, didn’t match what I needed at the time.
Because he didn’t know how and because he didn’t have that capacity for healthy parenting.
Our parents can’t give us what they don’t have.
And my father simply didn’t know how to love me in the way that I desperately wanted to be loved.
Because he didn’t know what love was…
His childhood story was quite traumatic. Worse than mine.
When he was a little boy, his brother was stolen and taken overseas to live with his father. Then, my dad was woken up one morning and told to dress up and go to live with his father too.
There he was in an unknown country living with his dad who was a complete stranger and an even more stranger step-mother.
He was six.
He hasn’t seen his own mother for 20 years after that event.
That was before the internet and even before mobile phones.
He had spent his time living with an emotionally unavailable father whose only way to discipline children, teach them right from wrong and show love was physical abuse.
And so that’s what he knew.
That’s all he knew.
During university years he didn’t have anyone to ask for help or get advice from, let alone support and accept him unconditionally.
So knowing that story, how can I demand that he loves me unconditionally and gives me what I needed?
When I was able to distance myself and simply see what he went through in his own life and how he was simply incapable of loving me how I needed to be loved, everything came together.
A letting go.
A mending of the heard.
I held him.
And all that happened while I have spent quality time with him.
Dropping the blame and dropping the guilt.
Every one of his trips revealed something different about him, about ME and about us as a family.
Was it easy and blissful?
There were drama and tears every single trip.
But every one of these events has further tied us together and blended us into what we are and will always be: father and daughter.
And I truly believe that doing the first step and healing my relationship with dad is what led me to meeting my masculine man, marrying him and creating a family.
Making the first step
So if your relationship with men is less than desirable and your relationship with dad is quite rocky, there is a connection there.
Ask yourself these questions:
- How is your relationship with your father? Positive, negative or neutral?
- What are the hidden and not so hidden dynamics?
- What are the constrictions there?
- What are you still holding within and can’t let go of?
- What do you want to say but have never given yourself permission to?
- What is the memory that keeps stirring your heart every time you think of it?
- And, most importantly, how is all this affecting your relationship with men?
I urge you to pick up the phone and CALL HIM (your dad, that is.)
Set up a monthly date with your dad where all you talk about is him. Get curious about who he really is beneath all the layers of being “your dad.” Get curious about his life as a little boy, a young adult and then the husband of your mother.
Put on the hat of a journalist or a memoir-ist and write it down with an intention of telling this story to someone else. Because when you have that intention you’re able to distance yourself from taking it all personally and seeing everything for what it is: here is a man and here is his life.
And drop that hat of the blaming daughter who just can’t get over the fact that he was emotionally unavailable. Because when you do that, you also release all the emotionally unavailable men in your life.
It all starts with you.
And while absorbing all this information think about how was this affecting you and the woman you are today. And, most importantly, how is all this information affecting your relationships with men.
Don’t do it for him.
Do it for you.
Your dad (and your man) will thank you later.
Resonate? Would love to hear your stories about your dates with dad.
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