Is Being A Fatherless Daughter Affecting Your Love Life?
By Abiola Abrams
Love lesson: Healing from being a fatherless daughter.
Let’s talk about the impact that not having a father has on your health and well-being as an adult. According to Carey Casey, CEO of the National Center for Fathering, there are “more than 24 million children in America who don’t live with their fathers, and we know a large number of those kids rarely or never see their dads. What may be even more disheartening is that the 24 million doesn’t include the countless children who do live with their fathers, but whose dads are emotionally and relationally distant or absent.” Statistics show that not having a father may negatively affect every aspect of our lives from depression to educational prospects.
Clearly, this is a touchy subject. When I barely mentioned the topic to a couple of people I know and respect, who happen to have had absentee fathers, some immediately became defensive. One woman said, “Yes, my father wasn’t there but my life is better for it. My mother showed me how to be the woman and the man and now I am doing the same with my daughter.” Her daughter is also being raised in a fatherless home. Like her hardworking mom, she is making the best of a potentially painful and damaging situation by making sure her daughter has all she needs. She acknowledged a family pattern as her grandmother was also a single mother.
I started thinking about this topic a few months ago when Oprah Winfrey and Iyanla Vanzant created groundbreaking television by introducing the subject on the OWN “Daddyless Daughters” series.
Then this week I received the following letter from a daddyless daughter:
“Dear Abiola, My father has never played an active role in my life. When I was little, arrangements would be made for him to pick me up and he would always let me down. I often forgot I had a father because my mother made sure I never went without and always showered me with love and affection.
I seem to be attracted to guys who are emotionally unavailable and disconnected but I try to look past these faults. They all seem to have a good heart but not for me. I am 23 and in the past five/six years my father will text me every so often “hope you’re okay” and “we should meet up.” Recently he called saying that he knows he hasn’t been there and wants to meet up and talk but he is not going to force it and he will let me come to him. I felt hurt by this. Like if he really cared or I was worth having in his life he wouldn’t leave it up to me.
He has never been stable. He does construction so work is sometimes there sometimes not. Now apparently work is good and he’s got his own place but I don’t know if I’m ready. I want to heal from what his absence has caused in my life so it does not stifle my growth or future relationships. I used to believe his absence did not affect me but it is clear it does. What can I do to heal?”
First of all, kudos to the writer of this letter and anyone who is seeking to shed her own baggage. It’s not easy, but that’s okay. While you still have breath, you are able to rise to any life challenge and come out of the other end even better.
Here are six key elements to consider when healing your own abandonment issues if your father was absent:
1 – Accept your father for who he is.
Your father is not going to suddenly morph into a different person. Think about how hard it is to change yourself. You are certainly not going to change another person. The surest way to heartache is to keep expecting someone to be different than they really are.
Wanting your father to be different is like waiting for your cat to bark or your dog to meow. No matter how much your puppy loves you, he is not going to meow because it is not possible. It’s the same for your dad. He can only be the person he is. Whether you want a relationship with him or not is your decision alone. Either way, accept him for who he is right this moment, rather than the fantasy dad you yearn for.
2 – Give yourself closure.
You want your father to ride in on a white horse and say, I was a terrible person and I am sorry. Like the writer of the letter above, you may want your dad to fight for your affections just to prove that you matter. You may expect your father to make up for lost time and give you the closure you never had as a child.
Here’s the deal: you have to learn to give yourself closure. Closure is coming to terms with the situation and giving yourself permission to move forward. If you don’t give yourself closure you will remain emotionally stuck. I had a coaching client whose parents had a bitter relationship filled with mean letters and emails going back and forth and all kinds of disturbing allegations. Her mother has since passed and she now wants to have a relationship with her father. She didn’t realize that having folders of these hateful letters was getting in the way of her own closure and healing.
It is okay to let go of the past. You are not betraying yourself by letting go of the anger and the “evidence.”
3 – Forgive your dad.
Your father may be a deeply flawed human being but (like all of us) he was only doing what he knew how to do. What kind of trauma must he have experienced that his concept of parenting wound up being so flawed?
Release the hope that the past could have been any different. When you are unable to be forgiving toward the person who gave you life, you hold you both hostage. Forgiveness does not mean that your father is “off the hook” or gets to be in your life. Forgiveness is a gift of letting go that you give yourself. Forgive the man and the circumstances.
4 – Feel your feelings and express your emotions.
Parental abandonment takes many forms with those of us who experienced it having deep and longstanding wounds. Many of us shut down because being vulnerable and open to being hurt by anyone feels like weakness.
If you want to have healthy loving relationships, romantic and familial, you must learn to be vulnerable. being open in this way won’t feel good right away if it is outside of your comfort zone. In fact, it can be downright terrifying. However, this is the key to everything you want. You won’t be able to allow yourself to be loved if you can’t be vulnerable. You can’t be soft and tender if you can’t be vulnerable.
Feeling your feelings is a strength, not a weakness.
5. Get support.
You are not alone. We have no idea what went on in anyone else’s home. A friend’s life could look picture perfect and they still feel somehow abandoned or betrayed by a parent. If you feel that not having a father is affecting your relationships, be courageous enough to get the support you need.
Fatherlessness is an epidemic. That means that you don’t have to go through this alone. Get an amazing therapist, counselor, coach, or support group. Google “parental alienation” and “fathers and neglect” to see what others have to say on the topic. Websites like Fathers.com and The Fatherless Generation may have resources that could be of help. Talk about your feelings in an open and honest way. If you are raising another generation of fatherless children get support so that your kids can break these patterns.
6. Build up your own self-acceptance, self-love, and self-worth.
Realize that even if you had the most amazing mom in the world, you may have some healing to do. A father who is absent on purpose perpetrated a form of emotional child abuse on you and your family.
Whether or not your father ever acknowledges you, you are worthy and deserving of being loved. Congrats on taking the first step on your journey from abandonment to healing. Experiment with dating outside of your type if you always go for those who echo your abandonment. It may seem like a stretch at first but it will be worth it.
The more secure you become in your sense of self, the less you will be interested in anyone who disagrees with your worthiness.
Abiola Abrams is the author of The Sacred Bombshell Handbook of Self-Love and founder of , where she offers empowerment coaching.