Heartbreak

How To Deal With Daddy Issues By Healing Your 'Father Wound'

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A girl stands a better chance of becoming a self-confident woman if she has a close and healthy connection with her father.

A dad's presence (or lack thereof) in his daughter's life will affect how she relates to all men who come after him.

I understand this firsthand because I had a close bond with my father before my parents' divorce, but our relationship suffered drastically after he remarried when I was eight years old. Fortunately, I was able to reconnect with him as a young adult and heal our relationship.

The good news is that it’s usually not too late for anyone to heal what’s colloquially referred to as "daddy issues" (which aren't just a phenomenon among children of divorce, of course).

It is also essential to establish that "daddy issues," also called one's 'father wound,' can affect those of any gender, regardless of their parents' marital status.

As in every case, however, you can heal your "daddy issues" and learn to trust again upon healing your 'father wound.'

What are "daddy issues"?

Girls need loving, dependable parental figures to establish a positive identity as a female and cultivate feelings of self-worth.

Having an unhealthy relationship, or total disconnection, with their father, can create difficulty trusting others, insecurity, attachment issues, and "risky sexual behavior" (as noted by researchers in a study published in 2013).

RELATED: 5 Ways Your Dad Affects Your Relationships With Men —​ For Better Or For Worse

In his book, Emerging from the Daddy Issue: A Phenomenological Study of the Impact of the Lived Experiences of Men Who Experienced Fatherlessness on Their Approach to Fathering Sons, researcher D. Inniss describes "daddy issues" as the lack of emotional and psychological balance and disruption in cognitive performance "associated with the experience of fatherlessness, the abuse of a paternal relationship, or paternal undependability."

Clinical hypnotherapist Keya Murthy asserts, "Children grow up seeking the approval of both their parents, the ‘responsible’ one and the ‘fun’ one. Now if one of the parents is missing in the child’s life while growing up, whether physically or emotionally or both, they create an ideal in their mind of what it must be like to have that parent, and in [cases regarding 'daddy issues'], their dad."

In situations where the parents are divorced, there are many ways that a father-daughter relationship can suffer.

In her book, Between Fathers and Daughters: Enriching and Rebuilding Your Adult Relationship, researcher Linda Nielsen explains that after a divorce only 10 to 15 percent of fathers and daughters get to enjoy the benefits of shared parenting.

Fathers who remarry may become preoccupied with their new lives or may lack the financial resources to support two families.

Mothers may not always understand the importance of the father-daughter bond or might not encourage it.

Based on my own research, if your father fits the description of a distant, unavailable or absent dad, you are likely to suffer from some degree of "Daddy Hunger."

One type of distant father is passive — he seems to lack confidence in parenting and avoids conflicts at all costs. On the other hand, some absent dads lack the maturity, interest or ability to nurture a relationship with a daughter who may put demands on them.

RELATED: How To Recognize If Your Childhood Trauma Is Affecting You As An Adult (& How To Heal)

What causes "daddy issues"?

As children develop and grow into adulthood, Murthy explains, "This is where they begin looking for that missing parent, in this case, their dad in every place they show up. If their mother was the 'fun' parent they look for the 'responsible' parent in all older male faces they meet. If the mother was the 'responsible' parent they look for the 'fun' parent in any father figure they can find."

Many children with "daddy issues" have trust and abandonment issues that surface as they emerge into young adulthood. Attachment wounds and styles are also prevalent among children who have 'father wounds.'

Hopefully, your feelings of mistrust will lessen if you find ways to mend it, such as extending trust to partners who show you in word and deed that they are trustworthy.

A father is his daughter's first love, so of course, that relationship will affect how she interacts with other men.

According to author Meg Meeker, MD, the love a father gives his daughter is a starting point for other relationships. After all, a daughter's relationship with her father is the first one that teaches her how she should be treated by a man.

Girls are particularly vulnerable to the loss of an intact family. Daughters tend to define themselves through relationships and identify with their mothers, so they might have a hard time coping if they perceive rejection from their fathers.

Murthy points out that "Men with abusive bosses are a clear example of a boy who never had a daddy who loved him and now he allows other men in places of power to hurt them. Women who attract older men so they can relive their daddy-girl relationships have deeper wounds as well."

Murthy advises: "If you want to enjoy healthy lives with older men, then healing must happen at the personal level. Chronologically you are not a little girl or boy anymore and you need to acknowledge your personal power in your womanhood and manhood respectively.

"The typical archetype of a man is that of a provider. Well, now that you have grown older it is time to own yourself, be your own provider, and cut ties with the old paradigm."

In order to repair your relationship with your father and heal your "daddy issues," you need to examine your preexisting beliefs about him, as well as his ability to restore his connection with you.

When it comes to establishing a healthy level of trust with a partner, know that it is possible — but it takes time and effort.

RELATED: How The 4 Attachment Styles Affect Relationships — And How To Know Which Is Yours

Self-defeating beliefs that may be keeping you from healing your "daddy issues"

1. "My father isn't capable of changing."

What to do about it: It might be true that your dad is resistant or doesn't show much initiative, but maybe you haven't tried the right approach. Calling your father would give you more control than simply waiting for him to call you. He might respond in time. If not, Murthy suggests writing him a letter.

"Write down in every way that you needed him and how he avoided you. You could write this letter even if your father is around, without giving it to him. The most important thing in this healing is for you to find your peace, and not about him apologizing to you," she states.

2. "There's nothing my father can do to improve our relationship."

What to do about it: The first question should be: Have you identified what you want to change about your relationship?

Be specific and come up with a plan of action.

Murthy adds, "If you still have your father, you could talk to him and let him know that you are all grown up and forgive him for not being present in your life when you were growing up and needing him."

3. "I have negative or rigid thinking and it's part of who I am, so I can't change it."

What to do about it: An example of this might be the recurring thought, "If I try something different it might make things worse." For those with "daddy issues," the thought of trying something new, adapting to a new environment, and accepting change simply hurts too much and they would rather be numb than feel the pain of what they see as high-risk, and likely no possibility of reward.

But negative or rigid thinking isn't a personality trait — it's a behavior and perspective that can be reframed, starting with baby steps. For example, introduce a new type of cuisine to them that you think they might like, but they haven't yet tried it because they always order the same thing.

RELATED: Why You Have Trust Issues — And How To Start Putting Your Faith In Others

How to fix your "daddy issues" and feel connected again

Once you've examined your beliefs about your father's ability to change, you are ready to begin transforming your relationship with him.

1. Get honest with yourself.

Be realistic and emotionally honest about your relationship with your father.

2. Find forgiveness for your father.

Let go of self-blame and forgive your dad and yourself (for whatever you told yourself about your relationship with him).

3. Consider reconnecting.

Examine your relationship with your father and attempt to reconnect if there have been any wounds. He may be able to help you be your best self.​

4. Establish healthy relationships.

Look at ways you may have accepted an unhealthy romantic relationship to fill the void your dad left (dating unavailable men or ones who are all wrong for you). Try to break free of any patterns that have been holding you back in toxic relationships.

5. Stop idealizing your notion of what a father figure should be.

Give up your dream of a perfect connection with your father and accept that tension may exist and must be confronted. All relationships go through rough patches.

6. Be patient with yourself.

Expect resistance and be patient. It may take time to iron out the kinks in your relationship. Don't forget to be patient with yourself while working on your own obstacles along the way.

7. Explore your intentions and desires.

​​Counseling and talking to close friends can help you to come up with realistic goals.

8. Create healthy boundaries.

​It's not necessary to dredge up past hurt every time you meet with your father. Asking questions about the past can promote healing, but allow time for you and your dad time to reconnect before discussing the past. Developing boundaries gives you more control in situations that can be emotionally overwhelming and feel pervasive when it comes to your mental health. These boundaries are not selfish — they're for your self-preservation.

9. Express your thoughts, feelings, and wishes clearly and calmly.

​This could be verbally, a note, or a release (e.g., "I release you from not being more active in my life").

You may decide not to share your letter or release with your father, but this step can still be therapeutic — especially if your dad died before you were able to reconnect.

RELATED: 10 Things Emotionally Neglected Kids Grow Up Believing — That Are Simply Not True

It's possible to repair your wound with your father so that your past hurt doesn't have a negative impact on your present relationships.

You may want to seek professional help if your relationship with your father doesn't seem to be improving or if you need more guidance or support.

For the most part, I have noticed that, with work and patience, relationships between fathers and daughters can — and do — improve.

Analyzing your relationship with your father and practicing forgiveness will allow you to create a new story for your life, even if it doesn't include him.

RELATED: I'm A Woman With Daddy Issues Who Falls For Unavailable Men

Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW, is a licensed clinical social worker and regular contributor to The Gottman Institute Relationship Blog, The GoodMenProject.com, Huffington Post Divorce, The ThoughtCatalog.com, marriage.com, and others.

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