In Defense Of “Daddy Issues”

“You’re gonna have daddy issues.” Laughter ensued.

What’s that supposed to mean?

“It must be a joke,” I thought. Though then, age 12, I didn’t fully understand. I didn’t have any issues with my dad. While yes, my parents were recently divorced, my relationship with my dad had a normal father-daughter dynamic.

Unsure by what my friend had meant, upon returning home from school that day, I earnestly Googled “daddy issues” only to find that being labeled as the girl with daddy issues wasn’t a good thing.

The more I read, the more I was convinced that I would begin to show the symptoms of a girl with “daddy issues.”

Emotionally detached, check. Low self-confidence, check. Turbulent love life, check. Falls for older, unavailable men, check. And the media’s vision of the girl with “daddy issues” didn’t help to convince me otherwise. Everywhere I looked, I saw images of what I was fated to become: over-sexualized, emotionally stunted, troubled versions of myself  played out in movies and TV-shows, showering me with narratives that seemed to affirm my destiny.

As a result, I began to act in precisely this way as I watched my relationship with my father fall to pieces. As he struggled financially, he began his battle with alcoholism and I began my battle with him. His presence in my life slowly disappeared as I entered high school and he moved to another state. Despite the geographical distance, even when we managed to find time to speak on the phone it was strained and absent of any real connection.

If couldn’t trust him to be there when I needed him, could I trust any man to be?

Consequently, I became highly aware of my constant need for male attention and companionship; a piece was missing and I felt the need to fill the void, and frankly, who could blame me for wanting to feel loved?  However in spite of my near consistent male companionship, I was never able to establish a foundation for emotional attachment or commitment. It seemed to me that every relationship crashed and burned without reason – but perhaps the reason was me.

Maybe my friend’s prediction had been right all along – maybe, I had grown to develop daddy issues. My fathers issues had become my own, just as he had abandoned me in many ways, I began to abandon relationships at the first sign of a future characterized by commitment.

It wasn’t until recently that I realized that this toxic pattern that defined my romantic relationships could only continue for so long until it destroyed all potential for healthy relationships in the future. The security that I sought in relationships could not solve my daddy issues, nor fill the void that my father’s absence left. I was the solution to whatever “issues” had arisen from my experience.

Having loved and lost one too many times, I now find myself seeking authenticity and connection in relationships, rather than companionship. I began to speak my mind, as I recognized that the only way to establish the kind of authenticity and connection I needed was to express my feelings of disappointment that I had never shared with my dad. I dispensed with the idea that I needed to keep my cards close to me and learned how to allow for myself to feel honestly in the process.

I stopped settling for the first man to pay attention to me, began to demand respect when necessary and most importantly, began to forgive my dad for all that he had missed.

As soon as I realized that I didn’t need a male figure in my life in order to have security in my self, I put my “daddy issues” to rest. I have simply out-grown them. Rather than let my strained relationship with my father damage my approach to my relationships, I learned to admit to the truth of the stereotype of that girl with “daddy issues” as the grounds for a lesson in loyalty, self-respect and love.

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