Let’s talk Daddy Issues. For a while now, I’ve wanted to post a photo of my parents and title the blog post “A Photo of Everyone I’ve Ever Dated.” I’m not sure about that exact approach, but I’m definitely going to write a post about dating versions of our parents soon because it’s one of those things where once you make the connection, your life changes. You stop negative patterns right in their tracks because you immediately know better.
A few months ago, I was talking to my friend, David Kessler. I was telling him that I couldn’t believe how a particular person in my life knew exactly what buttons to push that would drive me over the edge. “How do they know exactly how to get under my skin and push my buttons?” I asked him.
“It’s not who pushes your buttons, it’s who programmed you,” he replied.
Since it’s Father’s Day today, this whole week I’ve been thinking about my own daddy issues, how they’ve affected me, why they’ve haunted me for so long, and really… why the I even had such deep daddy issues in the first place. I have a Dad who was consistently present growing up. He was never abusive and we have incredible memories together.
Daddy issues aren’t something that’s only reserved for women with absentee, abusive (emotionally or physically), narcissistic or disloyal fathers.
Daddy issues are just as prevalent in women who have a Dad that was and is present.
Why? Let’s find out.
First off, what are Daddy Issues?
When it comes to girls with daddy issues…
You subconsciously attract (and are attracted to) men that highlight any unresolved issues that you have in both the relationship and/or lack thereof, with your Father or a significant male figure from your childhood. This can quickly become an addictive pattern. It creates an illusory feeling of comfort due to the familiarity but also, it creates a perpetual underlying feeling of dis-ease in your relationships.
You never feel like it’s the “right” relationship unless you’re feeling insecure and like you have something to “chase after” and “prove.” You gravitate toward relationships that “keep you on your toes,” instead of relationships that are mutual, meaningful, and genuinely connected.
15 signs that you may have Daddy Issues
(I’ve had/embodied every one of these at one time or another in my life)
- Your self-esteem is low, you don’t love yourself and you can’t ever seem to implement boundaries because you always feel guilty for doing so. If the relationship that you have with yourself sucks, your dating life can best be described as a trailer for a self-help workshop, and if you continue to have “bad luck” with men… chances are it started with the relationship (or lack of relationship) with Dad or a significant male figure from your childhood.
- You have a really hard time trusting any guy that you’re with. You have to “screen” them. You don’t trust because you subconsciously trusted Dad and he hurt you/didn’t meet your expectations/didn’t accept you/didn’t validate you/loved you conditionally/abandoned you/emotionally starved you, etc. This also happens if you feel like Dad didn’t protect you.
- You need validation from men. If you’re dating someone, you have this thing where you need to make it known to your boyfriend that you’re “in demand.” You even seek the validation of other men when you’re with a good guy (which never lasts). You’re a validation junkie and can never get enough.
- Breakups aren’t just devastating for you, they’re catastrophic. They cause a ton of collateral damage and you find yourself needing to seek validation from your ex like you need to breathe oxygen. This can result in continuing to go back to your ex (emotionally, physically or both), sleeping with your ex, continuing to feel like you have a say in what and who he does, etc. You feel like you “own” him even after the relationship has ended. It’s like losing a family member and a lover all in one.
- You like eliciting jealousy and any other reactions that display the effect that you have on men.
- In your relationships, you’re jealous and over-protective.
- You need unreasonable levels of reassurance that “everything is alright” that you’re “good enough,” “hot enough,” and the list goes on.
- It’s hard for you to remain single.
- You’re a serial monogamist and always act like you know it all.
- You prefer to date older men. And no, that doesn’t mean you’re hitting up the local retirement home but you do like men who are older.
- You’re more comfortable in seeking validation from an emotionally unavailable man than you are being with a “good guy” who validates you. Good guys bore you.
- In one way or another, you were emotionally orphaned as a kid by Dad or by a significant male figure in your childhood. And you’ve been on an emotional driftwood ever since. I didn’t acknowledge or realize this until I was well into my adulthood.
- Your Dad was around, but never really “present.” You never felt “good enough” for or truly connected to Dad.
- You have abandonment issues due to emotional or physical abandonment from Dad.
- You consistently involve yourself with emotionally unavailable and narcissistic men.
My parents got divorced when I was very young and the time that I was able to spend with my Father was subsequently minimized. So, every time I saw my Dad, he was just trying to make the most out of the day and as great as that was, it disallowed a certain realness and connectivity that would have been there if I was able to see him and live with him on a daily basis. Dad and I didn’t really get into the heavy stuff because we just wanted to enjoy our day.
As I got older, this led to me going after guys who were not only emotionally and physically fleeting but were also emotionally disconnected, empathetically bankrupt, and narcissistic. I had become emotionally unavailable myself and I still battle my reverse narcissism to this day. I made everyone’s bad and hurtful behavior about me not being good enough. And I failed to let people own their own behavior and decisions because I couldn’t own my own.
My consistent pattern of being involved with emotionally unavailable and narcissistic men came from patterns that were ingrained as a child. You don’t have to have an abusive or absentee father to have daddy issues. You could, like me, have a father who didn’t always express his emotions or you could have a father that you had to “work” to impress or notice you.
I am lucky enough to coach some of the most successful, well-known, and powerful people on this planet. And it never ceases to amaze me how quickly they regress back to their younger, eager, validation-seeking selves when Dad sends them a simple text after skating in and out of their lives (either emotionally, physically or both) for years and years.
Do I like having my Dad’s approval and validation? Of course. But whether or not I get it doesn’t make nearly as much of a difference as having my own approval.
If your Dad had a hard time expressing his emotions, accepting you or making you feel beautiful/cool/accepted/capable enough, he was most likely emotionally unavailable and unhappy with himself and his life at the time.
No one had the perfect parent and no one will be the perfect parent. My father is very far from perfect. We are all fighting our own battles. There comes a point though when we need to realize that if a pattern exists, it’s not Dad or our boyfriend hurting us, it’s us choosing to retraumatize ourselves because that’s all we know.
We don’t know what availability or connectivity looks/feels like and even though we may claim to want it more than anything, we’re much more comfortable in an environment of claiming to want it while being the victim of its absence.
If you’re wondering why you keep going after emotionally unavailable men, it’s because you’re chasing the familiar. Familiar is predictable. And predictable, especially to a traumatized heart, is safe.
You convince yourself that if you can do the one thing that no human will ever be able to do (make another person change out of being who they are), then that will invalidate Dad and de-pedestal him. It will deactivate the pain he caused, prove him to be wrong and your Happily Ever After can now begin. This never happens because empathy, emotional availability, compassion, loyalty, and responsibility are things that can never be bribed, bought or instilled in anyone.
As little girls, we want to impress our fathers and we want them to think we are as amazing as we think they are. Dad is the first man that we ever say “I love you” to and the man who we subconsciously compare every man to – good or bad, absent or present.
With dads who are emotionally unavailable, the daughter convinces herself that if she does/is good enough, she’ll get Dad to stay/validate/love her/notice her, etc. This then sets her up with a lifetime, VIP pass for riding the toxic relationship ferris wheel. It allows her to justify making excuses, ignoring red flags, and giving multiple chances to partners who did not deserve one. She convinces herself that he will change and scares herself into the submission of believing that if she lets him go, he’ll combust into the man of her dreams with another, “better” girl.
If you have a dad who is present, celebrate him today and if you don’t have a dad, father yourself by making the promise that you’re not going to be at the end of your life years from now saying “I see it all so clearly now and I can’t go back in time. Why did I waste so much time?”
You’re never going to be at the end of your life one day, wishing that you got hurt and devalued more.
You’re never going to wish that you kept putting yourself in the emotional line of fire.
You’re never going to regret getting off the toxic relationship ferris wheel and you’re never going to regret using your daddy issues to motivate you out of your dysfunction instead of keeping you immersed in the quicksand of your triggers.
Once you identify your daddy issues, you’ll be able to work toward making them a thing of the past. You’ll also be able to make sure that your future/current daughter knows that she’s enough.
If you don’t have or want kids, go find a photo of yourself as a kid and remind that little girl in the photo that she’s more than enough.
+ If you have daddy issues and need further and more personalized help with your relationships, please look into working with me here.