Let's Talk Daddy Issues
You may or may not relate to this, but my spirit has to release this for me to grow. My intention here is to revisit my story and the lessons along the way. To all the women before me that have endured daddy issues: I’m grateful for your testimonies and to those after me: it will be ok. Here’s a piece of my healing heart.
Daddy issues come in all shapes and sizes. Mines come from being raised with a disconnected father + a fucked up love model. In this lifetime, 29 years have gone by and there are still days where I’m hurt about the issues with my dad.
My father fucked me up emotionally; perhaps the first man to break my heart. I was raised by my maternal grandmother in a 2nd-floor apartment, while my parents lived just one flight up. Growing up my dad worked evenings; 2pm - 10 pm to be exact. And although, he lived in the same building as I, seeing him was a thing for the weekends. While I was already asleep to go to school the next morning, dad was just getting in from work. Weekends were the best time to physically see him and actually have a conversation with him.
Looking from the outside in, the relationship between my dad and my mother always seemed suspicious. He didn’t hug her, he didn’t tell her he loved her and that same behavior was played out with my sister Giselle and I. I didn’t see any romance between my parents, and yet I am romantic AF. A father-daughter relationship was not encouraged and never established. Everything for dad was a drag and getting him to do anything that involved family was like pulling teeth. During holiday dinners, he was known to arrive hours late. I often pondered on why he was so inconsiderate during such festive times. Around this time of year, my parents would put up a front. My mom would make my dad hold her hand and they would kiss each other on the cheeks.
His behavior was something that I never quite understood. He never remembered birthdays and showed me no support for the number of extracurricular activities that I participated in during the school year. When I attended my friends birthday parties, I would pay close attention to the father/daughter relationships. I’d see how my friends dads would behave and I would wish for the same. I even wished of being adopted by a more loving family. I remember the day of my high school graduation. Dad had to leave early because he had to go to work. This extremely painful event is something that has stuck as a vivid memory, one I still hold one to.
Thoughts frequently raced my mind. Does my father not love me? Does he not love my mom? What can I do to make things better? When will we have a family photo? When will we have a family trip? These were the questions and concerns that kept me up at night for years. At the time, I just thought that I was a normal young woman going through the motions of her dysfunctional family. I didn’t understand that these were the first signs of depression and these wounds festered inside of me for years.
Going away to college seemed like the perfect escape plan. All the things that I didn’t have at home pushed me to leave New York City as soon as I had a chance to. Syracuse University became my home for four years. Instead of healing or talking to someone about it, I hid my feelings in my academia. Personal feelings and personal problems were encouraged to stay at home. A mentality that proved to be detrimental for my soul.
After undergrad, still unaware, I covered my pain with work, relationships and a poppin’ social life. Over time, my estranged father became someone that I had no desire to talk to. There was no connection, no emotions, no talks about my goals. I would often feel blank when I’d bump into him on the street during my school breaks. Our relationship became small talk. Surface level shit.
The reality of my upbringing and the lack of my awareness led me to consistently care for emotionally unavailable men and thus stay in unhealthy relationships. My dating life felt like a telenovela series; from one situationship or relationship to the next. I grew terrified of male rejection because of all the rejection I had experienced with my father. The men I picked were as emotionally absent as my dad, but it kept me there hoping it would work. My self-esteem was also based on whether a man wanted me sexually.
In between the failed relationships and the men that didn’t want to commit to me, I took really small dating breaks. Within weeks I would go back into the ring. After college, I dated men much older than me. At the time, I felt that I was into mature men that matched my personal maturity. Years later, after heartbreak and inner sailing, I realized that I was looking for a father in some of the men I dated. This painful truth unlocked layers and layers of trauma that I had held within. My mind became filled with daily epiphanies and uncomfortable truths about my romantic situationships and the folks I had settled with temporarily. The love that I knew and how I loved destroyed me. What was even harder was not having a dad to talk to about my pain. Realizing so much truth took me to a dark space called depression.
It took me years of self-work to forgive myself for my decision. Through therapy, I learned that not wanting to be alone came from my abandonment issues. I had been abandoned by my parents at a young age and having a man in my life felt like the most natural way to fulfill this void. I ached for attention, approval and the kind of love that I never had. I sought for that love in all of the wrong places and in all of the wrong people. During my mid-twenties, I dated someone who was 16 years older than me on-and-off for 5 years. I was unconsciously looking for dad. Looking for a man to fill those shoes. During the course of our drama-filled relationship, he fathered me and I grew into a codependent woman. Now I understand that my subconscious craved a father to protect and adore me.
The day came where I felt so empty. I had felt that I had given love all that I had. On this day I realized that my parental pains ran deep; womb deep.It was mind-boggling to learn that I dated someone 16 years older than me because of daddy issues. Pouring out the pain that I held on to meant being with myself; thus my journey into celibacy for spirituality began. It took me years of self-work to forgive myself for decisions from my past. I had to open my heart to myself
What I Learned:
One night it came to me that the way dad treated Giselle and I is a reflection of how he has felt about my mom all along. I was proud of my mom when she finally walked away, but all of the damage that I saw growing up could never be repaired. It often makes me think of my own mother's values and her own self-love meter as well. Why do women stay with men who don’t love them?
I will say though that holding on to these memories or facts about our past only harm us. Knowing what I know now, I would have sought help years ago. I would have seen a therapist while I was still a dependent on my dad's health insurance. I’ve learned to choose to be happy and not let my past dictate my future. It’s frustrating sometimes to speak to people who didn’t have a similar experience with their dad and then I remember that this is my path and how it’s supposed to be. We can’t choose our parents but we can choose how we react to the issues with them.
I can’t do anything about what my dad did and didn’t do. Like Iyanla Vanzant say’s “Daddy is gone. Give up the story.” My work now remains in changing my perspective on dating and the men I’ve attracted to attract another kind of lover. I am learning how to tell myself another story, for what we think, persists. I am re-shaping my ideas on what makes a guy attractive and being 100% with myself. When a guy reminds me of my dad I run for the hills. I’m practicing my learned lessons every day and I hope to continue to grow into a much healthier human for myself. I’ve had to wash away what I knew as love and I learned how to breathe deeply as I rid myself of hurt and let downs. I had to learn what self-love meant because my parents just weren’t mentally capable of teaching me that. I haven’t loved a man in a long time. There are days that I’m like gosh, a partner would be awesome and then I remember that I’m not done healing and this solo chapter is much necessary for the evolution of myself.
And I’m learning a new love model for myself. Building boundaries for myself. Saying No. Saying yes to myself. I can boldly walk and say I overcame daddy issues.
Side Thought: And these internet memes that degrade women with daddy issues are not ok. It takes real courage to face the deepest parts of yourself and for other humans to undermine the pain that one goes through with our parents is insensitive.