I Refuse to Ignore My Daddy Issues
My fears of abandonment and rejection have caused problems in my relationships, so I’m facing them head-on.
My dad moved to a different continent when I was 11 years old. I didn’t really understand why. I thought it was a temporary situation.
I remember feeling embarrassed at school whenever the topic of fathers came around: Father’s Day, parent-teacher meetings, random conversations with classmates. I couldn't explain why my father wasn’t around. Although I did keep in touch with my dad (mostly through email and the odd phone call on special occasions), I never dared to ask him directly. I knew there was a financial reason, that he left to be able to better provide for me and my siblings, but I never confronted him.
I never even admitted to myself that I felt hurt. It was my first heartbreak, but I worked hard to convince myself that I was strong and capable of handling it. It wasn't such a big deal. Plenty of people go through similar experiences, and much worse.
Therapy Is Helping Me Heal Scars From the Past
Now, in my 30s, after spending a great deal of money and time on therapy, I realize just how much this event has shaped me as a person. I never thought of myself as having daddy issues at all. I was shy, centered, responsible, a good student, never partied hard or even dated much throughout school and university. But I can now identify patterns that link to this and to growing up with a repressed fear of abandonment and rejection.
I became extremely good at communicating using written words but not so great at expressing myself in person. I learned to hide many aspects of myself and my life that I was ashamed of, and I didn’t want people to jump to conclusions about me from the way I grew up. I wanted to prove to the world that I didn't have daddy issues.
I don’t even know what daddy issues were supposed to be, but in my younger self’s brain, the image that came up was an insecure, needy girl who dated older men. Someone who was looking for a man who was a sort of messed-up partner and father figure to fill in the void her dad left. Or someone who didn’t have a lot of self-love and would settle for less than ideal relationships because she didn’t grow up with a dad who would protect and remind her of her own value.
Because of my fears of showing daddy issues symptoms, I overcorrected to the opposite extreme. I was acting the role of the strong, independent woman who didn’t really need a man. If I dated, it was only because I wanted to, not because I was looking for someone to fill in my dad’s shoes. Ironically, running away from these imaginary daddy issues may have led me to actually developing unhealthy behaviors.
My longest relationship was a long-distance one, perhaps because I felt most comfortable with an ocean in between, imitating the relationship I had grown used to with my dad. Recently, my psychologist pointed out a series of similarities between my latest serious partner and my dad. I freaked out and broke up with him. I was determined not to date someone similar to my dad, even though I was unconsciously attracted to people who reminded me of him.
I am still single and have trust issues. I tend to find ways of messing up potentially good relationships, maybe because I feel safer ending it myself rather than waiting for someone to leave me again. My fear of abandonment often makes me lose out on opportunities, as I sometimes reject someone from the start for no good reason.
Through psychoanalysis, I am becoming increasingly conscious of patterns in my behavior and why I react the way I do. If the first step is self-awareness, then I am at least making progress in this direction. I still have a long way to go in terms of working through the buried pain from my childhood, but I am grateful that my dad is still around, even if it is only by text or phone.
As an adult, Father’s Day is no longer embarrassing or sad. I never really acknowledged it before because I didn’t feel I could wish him a happy Father’s Day in our circumstances, but it no longer causes any internal discomfort. I have come to terms with my past and am determined not to let it sour my present.
Having a Feminist Dad Isn’t All That Common
Despite living abroad, my dad has always been my number one cheerleader. He has supported me in every way possible to study and pursue my dreams and has encouraged me to become a financially independent woman. I had the same opportunities as my brothers and never felt any difference between them and me. I grew up thinking I could achieve anything I wanted; I just had to figure out the way to get it.
Obviously, technology has evolved and made instant communication much easier. My dad still acts as a sounding board when I get one of my crazy ideas and tells it to me straight, even if it is not what I want to hear. He challenges me and makes a point out of acting the devil’s advocate role, which means we often disagree and fight, but I always appreciate the different point of view.
When I reflect about how far I have come, how much I have achieved and how proud I feel of myself, I can’t help but notice that none of it would have been possible without my dad. Even at a distance, his unconditional support granted me privileges to explore a range of experiences that ultimately allowed me to find a job I am passionate about. I have been able to travel, build up some savings and move to a different country to reinvent myself.
My daddy issues never held me back in terms of setting goals and trying to live a life I am excited about. But it has held me back when it comes to the way I relate to the opposite sex. This is something I can’t ignore anymore, but at least I am no longer denying that I have them.