Absent Father & His Daughter’s Love-Life

This post is about the possible effects of an emotionally absent father on a daughter’s adult love life. Many women see a connection between the difficulty they are having in their love lives and the fact of their own father’s absence when they were growing up. The state of ‘absence’ I am talking about includes both physical and emotional unavailability.

This post focuses on what a woman might experience with a father who is unavailable and how it might influence her adult love life. I’ve also organized our treatment of this topic into three parts: your (daughter) emotional need for your father, what you should learn from your father, and what parts of your father’s personality you might identify with.

Just as with a son, a daughter needs to experience the presence and love of a stable father growing up. A daughter’s attachment to her father is complicated by the fact of their opposite sex relationship. In a healthy father-daughter relationship, a daughter feels nurtured by her father, and acknowledged as on her way to becoming a woman.

So a father’s love will make up for deficiencies in a mother’s love, and will help prepare a daughter for maturity with a secure sense of herself as a person and as a desirable woman. When this need for love is not met by an available loving father two things will happen: grief and a search for her father’s love somewhere else.

To a considerable extent, this feeling of loss can be relieved by the presence of an emotionally mature and loving mother who can wear two hats, meaning function in the role of both mother and father while dismantling her daughter’s feelings of self-blame for her father’s absence. Other adult men in a young girl’s life become important as father figures when sanctioned by her mother. If her mother’s emotional health and maturity are inadequate to the task, chances are unresolved grief and self-blame will negatively influence her.

When this happens it is common for a daughter to look to boyfriends, lovers, and eventually husbands to provide the love that has been missing from her father. This need although active is usually buried in unawareness and sex can be bartered for affection and attention from men who are attracted to her. In many instances, these efforts to procure the love that was lost lead instead to disappointment, low self-esteem, and further feelings of loss.

A woman who makes it to adulthood with unresolved needs for her father’s love can act this out in a committed love relationship or marriage by expecting her lover or husband to make up for all the love she has lost. In many instances older needs for parenting love emerge somewhat later in a relationship, once the excitement and newness wear thin. The fact is, these ‘childhood/adolescent needs for love do not belong in her adult love relationship.

There is only one chronological childhood. An adult lover cannot give the love a father was supposed to give. The tragic part of this is the repetition that can take place looking for her father’s love in one love relationship after another until disappointment and unresolved grief build to the point of creating symptoms and the need for some kind of treatment.

Some women possess the personality required to “take care of men” in their love lives. The semi-conscious hope is that she will take care of a lover well enough that he will be able to return the favor at some point later on. In most instances this effort to ‘rehabilitate’ a man into someone who can satisfy childhood needs for a father’s love once again lead to disappointment, low self-esteem, and further feelings of loss.

When a father is absent from a daughter’s life he cannot teach his daughter about men. Once again, an emotionally mature mother who realizes her daughter’s need for information about men can compensate to a large extent for the father’s absence.  The lessons involve, understanding who men are, how they think, what they value, what they respect, and how they commit themselves in love when attracted to a woman.

These lessons prepare a daughter for the task of making better choices in her love life. They prepare her for the task of differentiating between men who truly love her and men that don’t. When these lessons were not provided by either her father or her mother as a backup a woman’s love life “standards” can be lower because of unresolved feelings of loss creating lower levels of self-esteem. When a woman’s self-esteem is low she is subject to greater mistreatment and abuse because her need for a lost father’s love is too compelling resulting in less discrimination in her love life.

When a father is unavailable physically and/or emotionally there is a greater possibility that he will influence his daughter’s personality in a negative way. It is very common for a child to identify with an absent parent as if the absence itself promotes the child’s psychological identification with that parent. Frustrated love will not ignore the person who frustrates. Frustrated love seeks a way to have that person psychologically if not physically.

Identifying with an unavailable father can occur in the form of picking unavailable lovers, or turning oneself into an unavailable lover or both. The point is unavailability or absence becomes part of the daughter’s love life. She is keeping unavailability alive in one form or another as an emotional tribute to her absent father and his influence on her. Unfortunately this kind of pattern can be passed on from generation to generation affecting many people’s personalities and love lives.

The worst part of all this is the misery it creates and re-creates largely due to the fact that the original feelings of grief were never resolved. You can save a child a lot of unhappiness when loss and the need to grieve that loss are taken seriously. Otherwise unresolved grief is acted-out as absence and unavailability in love relationships in some cases for a lifetime. It’s a wonderful experience to witness a woman’s journey from needing the love of an absent father to finally grieving and letting go of this early loss.

The implications for her feeling about herself as a person and her love life are always positive. Relationship patterns of emotional mistreatment or abuse are relinquished and higher standards for love and respect are established. Making the transformation from daughter to woman means she realizes that she possesses the “internal resources” necessary to let go of her frustrated needs for fathering and begin to accept the limited but satisfying love now available in adulthood. The accelerated psychological maturation is a joy and wonder to witness.

Comments? Welcome. Dr. T. Jordan

 

Dr. Jordan

Dr. Thomas Jordan is a clinical psychologist, certified interpersonal psychoanalyst, author, professor, and love life researcher.

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  1. Annon- on June 9, 2012 at 4:13 pm

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  2. B on November 21, 2012 at 1:05 am

    Would you recommend any books or steps that would help a women in her mid twenties resolve her issues with an absent father? I am not comfortable with therapy at this point in my life. However since recently I’ve admitted and discovered the significant damage my Fathers lack of love has done. To both my well being and to both romantic relationships and friendships, I am interested in healing those wounds.

    • admin on November 21, 2012 at 1:35 am

      Thank you for your comment B. and your interest in my blog. Therapy is only one way to work on love-life issues. The advantage is the obvious fact that you have another person to bounce stuff off and the support it provides while doing the work. If you choose to go it alone, you will find out how far you can take this emotional project before it becomes difficult. Some people can do quite a bit on their own. I don’t know of any books that do an effective job of highlighting the issues and steps involved in getting out from under the influence of an absent (emotionally and/or physically) father. Of course that doesn’t mean there aren’t any. I can offer you a few ideas you might find useful to bring with you on your journey. First off, if you’ve suffered the loss of a father’s love there is a good chance you’ll be trying to find it somewhere else. Beware. The part of you that is hurt and feels deprived will try to unconsciously find ‘Dad’s love’ in other relationships. In your love-life for example, looking for your father’s love will only have a disruptive effect on your love relationships. Here’s the idea, you can’t find what you didn’t get in childhood now in adult love relationships. The intensity of that frustrated need is just too strong. The ‘therapeutic’ alternative is to grieve the loss. This is not easy because it can be painful. Setting aside some time to grieve this kind of loss is a proactive way of dealing with this. Instead of waiting for difficult emotions to show up in your love-life, you take time out to understand and allow yourself to feel the loss. If it’s feels doable you proceed. If not, you know you’ll need someone to accompany you through the process. Once you’ve grieved the loss, you’ll understand your father’s limitations better, and be able to move beyond his influence on you. Then what happens is you get a chance to be in love without your father’s influence hanging over the relationship. One other thought, writing things down in a journal dedicated exclusively to your thoughts and feelings about your father will help you organize your understanding of his influence on you. Of course while your writing in your journal you want to keep it confidential and forget about grammar and spelling. The most important part is the feelings and getting them into words. At some point I’m going to do a workshop on this issue because of its popularity. For now if you’d like to shot me an email at some point in the future and let me know how you’re doing that would be great. I respect people like you who have the courage to reflect on stuff like this on their own. Good luck. Dr. J.

      • emma on February 23, 2015 at 7:14 pm

        Do you know of any workshops in Kent plz emmax

        • sarah on May 19, 2015 at 12:01 am

          Shannonethridge.com she does workshops on this subject.

    • Joanne Hatten McNaughton on February 18, 2017 at 1:45 pm

      I’m now 66 years old, & this article reflects much of what I experienced as the daughter of an emotionally (also physically)unavailable father. He was a serial cheater, which left our mother to raise 6 children basically alone; 5 sons & myself; she was a good woman, but emotionally fragile & suffered greatly as a result of our father’s adultery. I became sexually promiscuous at an early age, going from man to man, yet emotionally uninvolved; married 4 times, mostly very brief, until the final one that endured 21 years. He was unfaithful, eventually leaving me for another woman; I’ve been alone for over 11 years, and with the determination to search inwardly, while utilizing countless books & the internet, I have discovered that so many others have suffered shame just like me. For so long, I thought something was very wrong with me, & that I was such a bad person; struggled for years with alcohol and drug addiction. I’m far more at peace now, & content to live alone; no longer constantly seeking the love my father could not give. All 5 of my brothers were serial cheaters, & have had serious issues in their own marriages. It can never be overstated how critical a father’s love & acceptance are to his children; I’m living proof. Thank you for this article. Joanne

      • Dr. Jordan on February 18, 2017 at 4:37 pm

        Thank you Joanne for your heartfelt comment. As I was reading your comment I couldn’t help thinking about the way in which we “learn” things about love relationships growing up and “repeat” that learning by “replicating” the relationship experiences we’ve had. In your case growing up with a father who cheated “taught” your brothers the same behavior and “taught” you that husbands should be cut from the same “familiar” cloth. The problem with this is it is a very unfortunately common story of love life misery and hurt. I’ve had some personal experience “repeating” in my own love life (i.e. finding dependent depressed women like my mother over and over again before marrying a woman who was not after I became conscious enough to see the “learned” pattern). Working with the idea of “learned” behaviors has been particularly useful with our patients who have love life concerns (i.e. learning is a very “user-friendly” concept of human experience). The other thing I thought of as I was reading your comment was, you have loads of “spirit” and I can tell you are very intelligent, I would only hope that at 66 years of age your love life is not yet over. Adversity is a wonderful teacher with the right perspective. Suppose you sought love with another kind of man? A man different from your father? Thank you, DrJ.

    • L.S. on June 26, 2018 at 12:46 am

      Thank you for this very valuable and insightful blog, Dr. Jordan! The voice of your writings is very calm and clear. I will bookmark your blog for further reference.
      Warm regards, L.S.

  3. michellew39 on December 11, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    i cried all the way through this blog as i read it. Every single word is true for me and really hit home. I have just left my partner 0f 6 years, n i also have one failed marriage of 13 years behind me. Ive realized that my emotional illness is linked to my emotionally absent father, and have been constantly looking for his love,attention and affection since i was a child. As ive just turned 39, i am more than ready to address my issues with my fathers emotional absence, grieve and move on. Thank you!

    • Dr. Tom Jordan on December 11, 2012 at 10:51 pm

      Thank you Michelle for your heartfelt feedback. Your understanding of your personal emotions is truly humbling. I wish you the best in your journey of self-discovery and growth. I hope that my blog can continue to be useful to you again and again. Your feedback tells us we are on the right track and doing exactly what we wanted our blog to do, connect with sensitive insightful people like you. Thanks again, Dr. J.

  4. Shelby on January 30, 2013 at 9:40 pm

    My father has never been around, and I’ve never had a father figure other than my mom as you stated earlier there are something’s she cant fix. My dad has never lived more than 2 or 3 hours from me, I never see him or hear from him. I have probably about 6 or 7 brothers and sisters I know nothing about. I’m 22 yrs old, I’ve never had a boyfriend. Guy’s like me, they think im pretty, nice shape, caring, funny, but it’s like I’m not enough to be the girlfriend. It hurts I’ve been in probably 2 at least 5 year (friends with benefits ships)not relationships because it always seems like im the secret or the other girl. One of those (friend with benefits)im still involved with. I know im better than that, but it’s easier said then done. I don’t have any friends, a few people I associate with but I don’t trust any of them. You could say I dress provocatively, its comfortable to me..Im kind of at a stand still in my life, I have my associates and I currently in school now to get my bachelors. My dad never came to any of my graduations, games, anything. My choice in guys has been all wrong but I love them unconditionally, I love too quickly but it’s real and i’m very emotional about everything, what do I do?

    • Dr. Tom Jordan on February 1, 2013 at 1:45 am

      Thank you Shelby for your e-mail and visiting the Love-Life Learning Center. I think you are on a path toward a stronger and stronger ‘self-esteem.’ I know not having your father in your life the way you needed him has felt like a handicap and has left you, for now, with unresolved needs for love from guys. Sometimes, when a parent (in this case your father) is not there the way you needed him to be, a young woman can look for the love that’s missing from the men she meets and selects. This is often frustrating because it is very difficult to find what’s missing from potential lovers. The ultimate solution is to strengthen and develop your self-esteem by continuing to educate yourself, accomplish things, and make good friends that help you feel good about yourself (like you said:”I know I’m better than that..”). Being 22, you have lots of time to work on this. As you grow stronger, you will be able to resolve the absence of your father by grieving this loss, feel less like something is missing in you, and realize that you can find the love you need in yourself and in your adult relationships going forward. You could choose a short-term psychotherapy specifically focused on your parents and understanding their influences upon you, or you could work on this on your own as many people do. Good luck with your Bachelors Degree, look at this accomplishment as an introduction to a lot of better and better opportunities to grow. Thanks again Shelby for coming to the Love-Life Learning Center. I hope that you continue to find my website useful. Dr.J.

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  5. Natasha on February 3, 2013 at 2:24 pm

    Dear Dr. J,

    My father’s never been involved in my life at all ever since I was a kid and on many instances, we have got into fights about this.He gets angry to hear that I’m more attached to my mom. My parents finally divorced a couple of years ago after being in an unhappy relationship for many years. Recently I found out that my dad’s been in a relationship with another woman and that they have married without telling any of us. I have always been a tough cookie when it comes to problems like this but now I find myself struggling to cope.I’m 22 and still single. Neither have I been approached by any guy. All my friends have boyfriends,I’m the only one who doesnt. I have been rejected a few times, which doesnt help either. I believe that because of what my dad did and what my family is going through because of him, I will never be able to have a relationship. It pains me no end. What should I do?

    • Dr. Jordan on February 5, 2013 at 1:16 pm

      Thank you Natasha for your comment and visiting my blog. First and foremost, I would reconsider your ‘belief’ that you “will never be able to have a relationship.” I have seen plenty of women over the years who have had absent fathers and managed to find a satisfying adult love relationship. I bring this up first because I think what we ‘believe’ sets the stage for how things end up. Expectations are pretty powerful over time. However, I do know you are in pain. So it makes sense that you would be feeling doubtful. You are also 22. So you are young and aware of this difficulty. That means you can get a head start on making sure the ‘aftereffects’ of what happened in your family of origin do not predict and control your future love-life. It’s also important to understand that your father’s behavior in your family (noninvolvement with you, keeping secrets from you, etc) is not your fault. You were just a kid needing love. Your father’s inability to love you the way you needed him to says things about him not you. It is very common for us to blame ourselves for the intimacy problems and confusion of our parents. Now, if any of what I have said so far is true about you, it is probable that your self-esteem was negatively affected by these events in your earlier life. When our self-esteem is a little low we tend to ‘unconsciously’ keep people away from and/or send out negative signals to people. Usually because of feelings like not deserving love, or feeling like there is something wrong with you, or feeling damaged in some way because of your father’s difficulty giving you the love you needed. To begin the ‘repair,’ I think your self-esteem is a good place to start. I think you should devote some time to making yourself feel better about you. Like doing healthy constructive stuff that makes you feel stronger, better, more focused, happier, whatever it is. The other thing is, I would focus on developing friendships. Deepen the ones you have now and make a few more. Think about ‘growing yourself.’ That might sound weird at first glance, but I think it’s the way to start. At some point in the future, as part of your self-development you might consider a short-term counseling situation. Something private, just for you, with someone you feel you can talk comfortably with. Focus on talking about your family and their emotional effects on you. Just so you can decide what influences you want to keep and which you want to let go of. You’ve got plenty of time. Remember, our love lives get better automatically when we feel better about ourselves. I’ve seen this happen so often I think of it as a general love-life ‘rule of thumb.’ I hope this has been useful to you. Thanks again Natasha for your comment. Take care, Dr.J.

  6. Scott on February 8, 2013 at 12:49 pm

    Enjoyed the article. As a man that grew up with a physically absent father and an emotionally absent (and selfish, vindictive) mother, it took me to age 35 (will be 37 in March) to finally get past that missing love and accept my own love. I’m now far more happier in life, more able to give unconditionally, and have changed my life. This article touched me on an emotional level and I will expand in the next paragraph.

    I’ve been dating a sweet, highly educated, goal-oriented woman for a few weeks now. She’s opened up to me and shared her past, we’ve spent lots of time together, crossed the intimacy boundary early, and she has reached out to me asking what’s wrong with her and what should she do. There are signs of a long-term depression from childhood and past relationships. She’s unmotivated in general, has crying outbursts during idle times, emotional mood swings (today happy, tomorrow irritated/sad), anxiety/panic attacks before/during/after intimate acts, love/hate relationship with her work, and overwhelmed with long work hours, school, and social life including spending time with me. This reached a boiling point this past Tuesday when she snapped on, told me to back off, and claimed she’s not worth the wait or effort. Yet she’s initiated daily contact with me since and once again reached out by mentioning how unmotivated she is.

    It appears to me she has a massive self-esteem or self-concept dilemma most likely related to her father and depression. While laptop shopping last weekend, she called her father but didn’t get the response she coveted, and she mentioned how he again didn’t help. She seemed to blame herself for trying.

    I’m also unsure where our relationship stands at the moment but I will not turn my back on her. Having lived in a depression state for years I know what she’s going through. I know she needs help, I believe she wants help by telling me her feelings – do I take the “father role” and lead her to a professional? If so, how do I proceed to direct/encourage her without further pushing her away?

    • Dr. Jordan on February 10, 2013 at 4:07 pm

      Thank you Scott for your e-mail. I think instead of thinking of yourself as in the ‘father role,’ I would suggest a ‘best friend’ would be a better role and much less complicated. She needs a wise best friend at the moment. Someone who is aware of her needs and resistance to getting help. I have known people in your position who have gone as far as doing a little research for a loved one on where he or she might get the best professional helper. Supporting her in her efforts to take care of herself is really the only thing you can do to help her, other than love her as she is right now. Her moods will change and you will feel the painful effects of her low self-esteem. However, your love for her will help you weather the feelings you’ll have. Sometimes, as love grows in a relationship, what that lover says takes on greater and greater importance. Perhaps this will happen in your case. As she discovers that your love for her is real, and she can’t get rid of you so easily (because she feels undeserving), trust will grow and she may be more willing in time to take your wise advice and support, and seek professional help. By the way, if you’ve had positive experiences with psychotherapy yourself, you might find a way to tell her about them. She may be defensive, but you may be able to tell her a few things that will help her understand not to fear treatment. I hope she has not had her own negative psychotherapy experience(s) because that obviously will make this harder but not impossible. Hope this has been useful to you. And I hope you will continue to find value in my blog. Dr.J.

      If you are interested in getting a little more help figuring this out, I do telephone consultations. You can register for one at my website. Here’s the link: https://lovelifelearningcenter.com/personal-consultation/.

  7. S.D. on March 15, 2013 at 4:57 am

    Hi. I only recently realised that the main influence in my love-life is probably my dad’s rejection of me and his not actually behaving like a dad, rather than the fact that I lost my mother when I was in my early teens. I am on the verge of a divorce now. I’ve finally realised that I’m probably looking for my dad’s love in the guys I interact with and that I’m probably attracted to attributes in them that were typical of my dad. It was when I realised this that I started looking up this phenomenon and came across your blog. Thank you for writing this article. It has been very insightful.

    I am leaving my husband because I think that I married him, chose him based on the phenomenon I described above. As a result, I ended up marrying someone who didn’t love me. I really was very blind. I want to start afresh and avoid making the same mistakes again. I think that I can do this by understanding the effect of the lack of my dad’s acceptance and love, and the lack of a proper father on my behaviour towards men. But I’m just not sure how to go about that. I don’t know how to navigate this. I don’t think that I should get into another serious relationship unless I’ve figured this out.

    I give too much of myself into my relationships. I’m not saying this as a positive thing because I think that I take it a bit too far to the extent that I don’t see what I need or I’m not getting from that relationship. I immediately feel motherly towards guys who are emotionally, well, not okay. I want to help them out of it. And I think that in the bargain I mistake the whole relationship for a real love relationship when it is actually one-sided. Does this make any sense to you? I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. I’m not one of those girls who make guys run after them, I’m very interested in contributing to the relationship, I know I am fairly attractive, I’m intelligent, I speak well, dress well. Yet I keep picking up the wrong guys or never find any guys at all. Why is that? Is there something I can do to get myself out of this pattern?

    • Dr. Jordan on March 27, 2013 at 1:06 pm

      Thank you SD for your heartfelt comment. The fact that you recognize that your father is in your love life, so to speak, is very important. The awareness is always the difficult first step. You also realize that you cannot get what your father could not give you in a husband. What this means is, you lost or never got something you feel you needed. When this happens we have two choices: 1. look for it until we find it, and; 2. let it go. You have been taking option #1. You now realize it is negatively affecting your love life. Option #2 means that you will consciously accept that you cannot have what you lost. The acceptance of this means you let yourself have your sadness and grief about it for a time. If you are OK with doing that, the feelings will pass a little faster, you have to be patient. During this time you also have to be able to catch yourself sneaking back to option #1, and gently move yourself back to option #2. The good news is, once you’ve worked your way through these feelings of loss (and they may linger for a long while on a very low level, let them have their space in your mind) you will then be able to have a relationship with someone who is not replicating something about your father. This healthier love relationship will be between you and a man who has something to give to the relationship (no more mothering). Often, women who are struggling with feelings of loss find men they try to ‘rehabilitate’ into partners who can give them love back (usually the love they feel they lost from a parent). It really never succeeds. This lopsided kind of relationship usually breeds resentment and frustration over time. By the way, sometimes it’s a good idea to take a bit of a break between relationships to do some of what I talked about here (not for 100 years) but for a little bit to clear the heart and work on the individual emotional stuff inside. Taking breaks like this can help with the next relationship. Hope this was useful to you. Thanks for visiting my blog. Hope you continue to visit. I appreciate your honesty and openness. Thanks, Dr.J.

  8. Teresa on March 26, 2013 at 5:59 pm

    Through understanding myself identifying problem I finaly found out that my situation can be cured and that the are ppl who are affected by this problem, in my case if God did not intervine I don’t know what could have become , he has been my mentor and my missing puzzle and he is the one who made me to Identify my problem and he helps me every day to solve it and today as i was going through my reseach and I came across Dr Js love life page its not a mistake , everything happens for a reason, just by reading wat others have gone throgh I just saw myself and just started crying

    • Dr. Jordan on March 28, 2013 at 1:52 am

      Thank you for your comment Teresa. Yes, Teresa you are not alone. One reason I write on this blog is to bring people together in common understanding and feeling to learn from each other. I am so glad my blog has done that for you. Dr.J.

  9. Tahra L. Clifford on April 1, 2013 at 10:38 pm

    I could completely relate to your spoken words and I was touched by how true everything you said. I have been looking for my father for many years, relentlessly for the last 3 yrs. I finally found him 2 days ago…deceased. Ironically,he passed away 2 days before (his 60th birthday)I was to give up searching for him. I am extremely saddened and confused. So many unanswered questions. He originally went out for pizza before I was 2 yrs. old and subsequently never returned. I feel like he has abandoned me all over again. I,too,have looked for his love in my relationships. I have always gravitated toward elderly gentlemen. Furthermore, I was married for 13 yrs. to a man 47 yrs. my senior. He was 67, I was 20 yrs. old. Since the passing of my husband and the passing of my father(within 8 mos. of one another), I not only “need’ psychotherapy, I am “ready” for psychotherapy. Would you be able to provide me with some resources regarding this endeavor? Please and Thank-you. Gratefully, Tahra Clifford

    • Dr. Jordan on April 10, 2013 at 1:44 am

      Thank you Tahra for your post. the fact that you are aware of this issue in your life is 50% of the cure. The rest is to get a little help grieving the loss of your father instead of wasting valuable time looking for him in your love relationships. A psychotherapy relationship with someone you trust and you feel comfortable with will be a support for you to do this emotional work. Be specific and work on the grief issue from the start. If you want to work on other issues you can generalize from there. It is good to have goals in psychotherapy and to make our therapist aware of them. As far as resources go, you will probably have to find those resources close to home. The internet is a very big place. Personal referrals from people you trust who may have been seen by a particular therapist is always a good way to find someone. I suggest meeting once with a couple or three therapists and choose the once you feel freer and more relaxed with. How comfortable it is to talk and perhaps cry would be a good sign. Good luck Tahra. Give us an update. Thanks for using my blog, hope you continue to find it useful. Dr.J.

  10. Gillian on July 11, 2013 at 11:02 pm

    I really enjoyed reading through your post Dr. Jordan. Thank you for opening up so many more ideas to us on how our fathers absence relates to us later in life.
    When I was 13 and just making the transition into high school, my father had decided to leave our family. This was very hard for me because up until that point we had a very close relationship. At the time of his depature my father was heavily drinking, not providing for our family financially, and cheating on my mother. (Which another man, he came out to us when he left). What really pains me was how even after the fact when I had told him I accepted him for his sexuality, that I would help him get sober(setting up doctors appointments, liver function tests, group counselling sessions between the two of us) he still never came around after the divorce. He drove past my house every day for work, forgot birthdays, and made up excuses whenever we had plans. Probably secondary to this situation came an eating disorder and low self esteem throughout high school, as well as depression. Today I am a 21year old adult who had been out of a 3 year relationship for 1 year now.. and I am still having trouble moving on and letting go. We still have occasion sex. For myself I think its making love, and for him its probably just sex. This man is the wrong person for me and I know that (he has no drive, smokes drugs and alcohol daily, no ambition). But I can’t seem to accept that its over and move on. I’m an intelligent university student, a world traveller and volunteer with lots going for me, but I just can’t seen to accept rejection. Maybe because we did have great times today when his habits were different, and I always feel as though I can change him. I also think it could be because once again this second major male relationship in my life has chosen addiction over being in a caring, healthy, relationship with me.
    Apologies for the long response!! I’m just wondering your take on the situation and if you can give me some suggestions.

    • Dr. Jordan on August 1, 2013 at 11:42 am

      Thank you Gillian for your heartfelt comment. Sorry for the summer delay in getting back to you. I can tell that you are an intelligent and insightful person. Your emotional task now at this time in your life is to outgrow the negative influence of your father’s behavior on yourself and your love life. Children of parents who are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol commonly assume codependent relationships. This basically means there is a strong possibility you will find a drug addicted and/or alcoholic to take care of or try to change. This is a formula for misery. You cannot change a substance abuser. He or she is the one who must change him or herself. This is a difficult lesson to learn because your codependent behavior is misinterpreted as ‘giving love and an effort to get love.’ Trying to change an alcoholic only interferes with the possibility of recovery. Most people I know in your position want the love they did not get and semi-consciously assume that trying to fix the alcoholic father or alcoholic husband or alcoholic boyfriend will finally get them the love they did not get. This is a painful wish to let go of. Grieving the loss of what you did not get and trying to stop your love life from becoming a ‘replay’ of your relationship with your abandoning alcoholic father is your emotional task to accomplish. I believe that this is a great time for you to do a little work on your psychological ‘insides.’ You are in the university, you are learning and changing, you are asking questions about yourself, what a wonderful time to get a little help to grow beyond and out from under these difficulties. I know that university students don’t have a lot of money (usually) but I think you could find a way to get some low-cost counseling or psychotherapy for a little while to talk about your feelings and emotional struggles. Doing something like this does not mean you are weak or sick. It only means you are taking care of your mind as you would your body when in need. I wish you the best of luck with this, and somehow I get the sense that you will accomplish this task given your strengths. Thank you Gillian for visiting my blog. Check out a few more of my posts. I think you will find them useful. Dr. J.

  11. Dr. Jordan on September 5, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    Hi,

    I’ve been a big fan of your blog and wesbite and it’s helped me on my journey in building a better relationship with myself and questioning my relationships in general.

    Now I ask… I have been in a relationship with an older man who is a flirt for two years. It came off the back of my leaving a toxic marriage. I’ve felt very hurt by his behaviour at times but it’s also been very good and healing at times. Last night we were having a conversation about an attractive friend of his who is a friend of mine too. He was talking about how men find her really attractive, and always comment to him about her when they go out. He kept bringing it up (he has done before) and finally I said I know, you’ve brought it up three times. He then lashed out at me, saying that I’m all edgy and basically stormed off to bed. This is a pattern. I am not perfect either. But it hurts me and it’s a pattern and I’ve been in therapy and working on my choices and self esteem and now I can’t understand why I feel so compelled to stay with someone who hurts me so much. I take responsibility for my jealousy at times with his flirtatiousness (in the past I was very suspicious and have let that go) and have worked on that, but sometimes I feel his reactions to me are over the top and I feel afraid to bring it up at times because I fear he’ll rare up at me again and terminate the relationship (it’s been on and off again). I had a distant father, and an emotionally unwell mother. I’ve had a string of abusive relationships and I am reminded of this poem:

    I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost. I am helpless. It isn’t my fault. It takes forever to find a way out.

    I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in again. I can’t believe I am in this same place. But it isn’t my fault. It still takes a long time to get out.

    I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there. I fall in…it’s a habit…but my eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.

    I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.

    I walk down a different street.

    I am not saying this guy is abusive, but I seem to feel hurt a lot. How do I walk down a different street?

    Thanks for any advice you can give me, Anonymous

    • Dr. Jordan on September 5, 2013 at 2:38 pm

      Hi Anonymous, Sorry for summer time delay getting back to you. Thank you for your kind words regarding my blog. It is good to know people such as yourself find it useful. Without knowing more details about your situation, I’ll share my thoughts. When you said that the current relationship “came off the back of my leaving a toxic marriage” I thought, is she over the “toxic” marriage. Sometimes we can get into a ‘rebound’ situation where we try to work out some of the hurtful issues we had with a previous relationship in the rebounded next relationship. It usually indicates that the previous “toxic” relationship has not been fully grieved, resolved, and flushed out of the emotional system. Food for thought.

      Next, if you are “afraid” to communicate your thoughts and feelings to the person you love, there is a problem. Keeping strong feelings like jealousy, hurt, anger etc. to yourself will only lead to more and more difficulty and resentment later on. If he is going to leave you because of what you feel, better sooner than later because the alternative (keeping it to yourself) will deteriorate the health of your relationship anyway. Honest communication (not fighting) is one of the things that helps keep a relationship healthy.

      When you said you had a “distant father” I thought, is that past experience affecting your feelings in your current relationship? I wrote a blog article entitled the Absent Father & His Daughter’s Love Life, you might check that out. Distant father’s like absent fathers are not really responding to the emotional needs of their daughters. As a consequence, when the daughters grow up they can have unmet needs for paternal love still active inside. When those unmet needs show up in an adult love relationship they usually cause trouble. Past hurts get piled on top of current issues and the whole thing gets super intensified. You might be going through something like that. People who have absent or distance fathers usually have to grieve the loss, so they can let that go, and start working with the realization that they have what it takes inside of them to now live comfortably with the limits of adult love.

      The hard part about having unresolved feelings about a distant father, is the probability of picking ‘distant’ lovers. It’s almost as if the hurting heart gets involved in picking lovers so that the ‘familiar’ hurting distance can be recreated again. Maybe the heart is secretly trying to resolve the conflict? Maybe, but in my experience it’s better to keep that stuff out of an adult love relationship. By the way, if you do discover you’ve found a carbon copy of your father and you end up feeling unwell in the relationship like your mother because you’ve recreated their marriage, you may need to realize and confirm the problem, sacrifice the relationship if it goes bad, and make sure the next one is devoid of this difficulty. Having this kind of stuff consciously in mind when finding partners helps a lot.

      Hope this has been helpful. By the way, I enjoyed reading your heartfelt comment, I would like to delete the identifying names and use your comment anonymously on my blog to help other people going through this kind of stuff. If you respond with an OK I’ll use it. If not I won’t, that’s alright. Thanks Sally for using my blog. Good luck. Dr. J.

      • Anonymous on September 5, 2013 at 2:42 pm

        Thanks so much for your reply.

        When you say grieve the loss and that adult love is limited – what do you mean? Do you mean like crying over what happened to get over it? I asked my therapist this and he said if we grow up in abusive families we miss out on ‘food’ of love and will always search for it and I think he said we can get that love in numerous nurturing relationships. I don’t agree. I like what you say that we need to give that love to ourselves and be self sufficient. What do you think?

        My mother oscillated between warmth and wrath. Abusive, controlling and manipulative interspersed with warmth. Dad was an alcoholic and then absent, only home on weekends. Their marriage was awful and after 50 years they have finally separated. My mum also used me for her emotional needs and spent my whole life relying on me to prop her up. She also thwarted attempts for me to get close to Dad by saying how awful he was, how he wasn’t to be trusted and his family were mud. This was from a very young age. It also appears any grown ups I liked – grandmother, neighbour she would say how much she hated my grandmother, told me the things she did to me and then when I made friends with an elderly neighbour she said she didn’t trust her and even intimated once she poisoned our cats! The good thing is I’ve stopped cow towing to my mother and now I am starting to build a relationship with my father who I like as a person and who is more like me (mum used to use it as an insult – you’re just like your father. He says I should be with someone who loves me unconditionally and is nurturing.

        The man I am with will go for periods where it’s good, then he gets abusive. Just recently I was feeling jealous, so rather than lash out at him, I said I know my feelings are irrational, but logically I know it’s not a problem but I felt like he was provoking me. He picked on me all afternoon, told me he ruined his day by ‘hassling him’ and then after something else happened he launched into an angry tirade. When I tried to confront him the next morning I copped another string of abuse, including being screamed at ‘I hate fucking jealousy’ repeatedly. His behaviour has gotten worse, he turned up to see band with me with a woman (floozy with boobs out) who’s attractive but who’s keen on him and who he’d spent the afternoon with. I felt too scared to confront him about that, even though I was hurt. And then last night, at dinner after he grilled me about why I was late then I admitted to having a cigarette (I said I was stopping) and he starts picking on me at dinner in front of his 16 yo daughter and wouldn’t let up so I left. She was appalled. He then sends me texts like “i thought you were in a good mood” “you’ve said for two years you’re giving up smoking, you brought it up and you were the one that kept texting instead of communicating remember that word Anyway I have a few days off I am out of here text soon”. I said back that I was ok until you started picking on me. Then another text “crap you were angry to begin with and angry the day before and the day before that”. I feel so wounded and confused. I used to think I deserved this kind of treatment because I know I have my own issues at times, but I don’t abuse people and have compassion. It’s happened time and time again, and in the past I used to act like the ‘good girl’ and try and patch things up. But the better I feel about myself, the more I think his behaviour is just plain wrong.

        What do you think? And maybe I need to see another therapist. I can’t keep putting up with this.
        Thanks in advance for any advice you can give me.

        Blessings, Anonymous

        • Dr. Jordan on September 5, 2013 at 3:12 pm

          Thanks Anonymous for your reply and permission to use your comments anonymously. A lot of people believe that we can get the love we didn’t get in childhood and adolescence now in adult love relationships. In my clinical and life experience this only creates misery in a person’s love life. The objective should be to “free” ourselves from past love life disappointments, especially those that took place when we were children. This task involves “grieving” the loss and/or disappointments in relationships that were supposed to be loving. When focused on this task, with a trained therapist that can support and validate the feelings, a person will go through the experience and eventually let those losses go. “Limited” adult love relationships means they cannot make up for past losses in love but they can be “intimate” and loving as long as they are reciprocal and open, meaning mutual. When an adult love relationship is a mutual give and receive situation and openly communicative (two people not afraid to talk honestly to each other) it is healthy and tends to endure. Of course we cannot control love or get a guarantee. But if we strive for a healthy love relationship it tends to last. Concerning your family relationships, I think it’s important for you to understand what kind of “unhealthy lessons” those relationships may have taught you that you would now have a tendency to replay in your own love relationships. It’s important to at some point forgive our parents for their ‘limitations’ and personality problems’ but that doesn’t mean we should recreate their love life struggles in our own lives. This kind of analysis can help differentiate who you are from who they are. Furthermore, following statement you made when describing your current relationship I thought was great and very important: “But the better I feel about myself, the more I think his behavior is just plain wrong.” I think it’s telling us that working on improving how you feel about yourself and not letting anyone abuse you any more is very important. In my own work, it is great to witness someone “set the limits” on verbal or emotional abuse they would usually accept. Lastly, keeping a therapist is totally up to a patient. What I mean is, if you are growing and changing you’ll know it, and I would suggest you stay in it. If you are not growing and changing, you’ll know that to, get another. From your comment I believe you are an intelligent and dynamic person. You just need to work on the relationship you have with yourself, set those limits, and differentiate yourself a little more emotionally from your parents, and your love life will naturally get better as a consequence of these changes. Thanks for using and supporting my blog. Take care, Dr. J.

        • Anonymous on October 5, 2013 at 5:15 pm

          A belated thank you for your advice.

          I ended the relationship and have made a conscious decision to remain single until I fully grieve all my past hurts (I normally go into the next one pretty quickly!), work out my relationship issues and mend my broken heart unintentionally caused by wayward parenting. And as for therapy, normally I suffer from depression and self medicate. After seeing my therapist for 12 months I feel sad about things but in my core, my soul, I feel good. It’s like I’ve awakened somehow. Like the Velveteen Rabbit that becomes real.

          Thanks again for your advice, I love your blog 🙂 Anonymous

          • Dr. Jordan on October 5, 2013 at 5:25 pm

            I’m so happy that I could be of help. Knowing there are insightful and sincere people like you using my blog makes me very happy. Thank you. Dr. J.



  12. Judith on November 17, 2013 at 7:04 am

    Dear Dr. J.

    I am 62 years old and have only recently discovered how my dad’s absence in my early life has affected my relationships with men. My dad was a workoholic–good provider, but left the parenting to mom. She was an unhappy woman saddled with extended family and mental health issues. My dad was the only man in a houseful of women. He avoided his own offspring to spend most available time with strangers or my young cousins–2 school aged girls who lived with us for 2 years and their mom—my mom’s sister. I thought this was normal. My older sister–12 yrs older than me, left home at 18 as he expressed a sexual interest in her to my mom. I won’t go on here–just setting the stage for what followed.

    I married my second boyfriend when I was 20—we had dated 3 years, so I didn’t have much experience with boys. I know now I was looking for my dad’s love but I chose the same emotionally distant busy man! I had 3 daughters to assuage my lonely feelings and as they grew tried to fill in for their dad because I thought he would have had more time for them as males. I left the marriage after 30 years for an affair with his close friend who “noticed” me and made me feel beautiful for the first time in my life—at fifty! I have struggled with on off relationships, friends with benefits, eversince. There have been breakdowns, depression and anxiety. I keep up the same pattern, choosing wrong men I want to help, fix, nuture and punish when I can’t by dumping them first. There’s an angry little girl inside me I know. I understand exactly what you and your respondents are saying. I want to let go of that anger and feel peace from within. I would love to meet the man for me—just as he is and be myself too—not something to please him or to make him notice me. It’s so good to see there are many like me. I’m hoping to try Christian counselling this time around—I have asked for His intervention. I have had a Christian church family for the past year and it has helped.

    Thank you for reading. I thought an older woman’s journey might be of interest to you and your readers. God bless you.

    Judith

  13. Denese on June 20, 2014 at 4:48 pm

    I can identify with most of the issues you mentioned. I grew up with a father who was emotionally distant. He never played with me, hugged me or told me that he loved me. I tried to get his attention as a little girl but he never noticed me.

    I am now and adult in my 40’s and still single. I have been in a few relationships but they didn’t work. I promised myself never to marry someone like my Dad. I find that I am caught in the ‘distant’ trap. I like guys who don’t like me back, or I don’t like the guys who like me.

    I struggle with confidence issues, even though I am university educated. I believe that has held me back in terms of career and social advancement.

    My father is now very sick. A series of events on Father’s Day this year made me realized how much I had missed out on my father’s love and I became very depressed and spent much of the day crying. It seems to late to get the kind of love I need from my father, but I know there’s much work to be done and I am committed to the task ahead.

    • Rachel on July 10, 2014 at 6:02 pm

      This sounds so similar to me, I am single at 45 and feel many things you are feeling. My Dad died when I was 36. I thinking what I will do is write him letters, and try to find a way to read them out. I am not in therapy but want to be, I hate finding the wrong therapist – the types who are there for their own issues

  14. Marylin on June 30, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    Hello, my parents died when i was 2 years old, i grew up with my grandparents. Now I’m 20 years old , I’ve never had a boyfriend, mainly t because of me , i’m scared of commitments ,getting hurt, rejaction, or the guy leaving me. Sometimes when a guy gets to close to me , physically speaking, i get scared. Also I’m very shy when it comes to men. A couple of months ago I started to like a guy at my work, I think he likes me too he hasn’t express it yet nor have I,but time has passed a little bit and I don’t know what’s happening , but i don’t have anymore interes to get to know him. Is there any problem with me ? Does this problem got to do with the fact of my fathers absence? If yes how do i solve it ?

    • Dr. Jordan on June 30, 2014 at 4:38 pm

      Hi Marylin, Thanks for your comment and visiting my blog. Sometimes when our parents die when we are young the result is fear of commitments and intimate involvements. Without knowing more about you, the fact that you were brought up by your grandparents and loss your parents very young, there may be emotional aftereffects to this loss. One such aftereffect is a fear of being abandoned in a love relationship. Another would be fear and worry about being rejected in love. If these fears are strong enough they create feelings of insecurity that can make love relationships difficult. I think finding someone to talk to about relationships and your fears and worries about them would be a good idea. Try to find a therapist who will be able to calmly and comfortably listen to your thoughts and feelings. The more conscious we become of our fears the better able we are to work out ways to cope and resolve them. Good luck, Marylin. Best, Dr.J.

  15. Rachel on July 10, 2014 at 5:59 pm

    Thank you for your blog. I wish I could find a way to meet other women like me who have experienced this so I can talk with them openly or meet men who might be right for me. I do carry this loneliness with me so much not knowing how to solve the self-critic in me at not being lovable. I wonder what your thoughts are.

  16. Lulu on July 27, 2014 at 10:05 am

    I missed out on love from my father and mother as a young child. My earliest memories of my father were of him being ill (later learnt he had severe psychiatric condition) and my mother being violent towards him and towards me. I was a loner as a child, spending much of my time wandering in nature and fantasising about rescued. My father died when I was 13 and my mother married again. My step father had no interest in me and again I felt very alone. A man who worked for my step father showed me the fatherly love and attention I craved and whilst doing this, he also gave me sexual attention in the form of touching me to arouse me and also penetration. This happened from age of 13 to 17 and although I knew it was wrong, I craved it and also took pleasure in the sexual arousal, but I hated touching him and hated penetration and felt disgust at men’s genitals. But I could not walk away and had to have this fix of fatherly attention and sexual arousal every day. This stopped when I started to have boyfriends and he became jealous. In relationships with men, I craved attention, to be cared for and for approval and initially sex felt good, but as soon as they wanted commitment, all I wanted was to receive sexual gratification and I couldn’t give to them and I felt disgust in men’s bodies. I have been married for 20 years now and I cannot give in the sexual relationship and I receive no pleasure from penetration, but still I crave arousal from being touched. I have worked with a man for the last 3 years through coaching style practices to self develop and learn more about myself, but have become attached to him with what seems to be deep transference issues. I am obsessed with him and desire him as a father and also desire him sexually. This is impacting me massively and I feel I cannot survive without him. I imagine I need to grieve my father and honour the lack of love and how hard it was as a child and indeed now. But I don’t know if I can do this and yet still I crave this guy every day and I feel caught up in a vicious circle of desperately needing fatherly attention from him. I crave him and feel terrible anxiety when I don’t know when I will next have contact from him and I think he is the only person who can provide me with the love and care and affection I did not get from my father and of course deep down I know he can never fulfil this role. Writing this saddens me, as I realise this is an incredibly complex and this posting is a desperate cry for help. Love to all who suffer issues around absent fathers.

  17. CARELIEN VENTER on October 22, 2014 at 7:13 am

    I AM SERIOUSLY WORRIED ABOUT MY FUTURE REGARDING THIS EXACT ISSUE. MY MOM TOOK ME AWAY FROM MY FATHER VERY SOON AFTER I WAS BORN AND THAT DAMAGED BOTH ME AND HIM, HE LIVES VERY FAR AWAY NOW AND I VERY RARELY GET TO SEE HIM. I LOVE HIM SO MUCH BUT I BASICALLY DONT KNOW THE MAN. I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN AWARE OF MY EARLY ONSET PROMISCUITY WITH BOYS AND CONTRIBUTED IT TO THE FACT OF HIS ABSENCE. THE PROBLEM IS, I NEED TO START LOOKING AT SETTLING DOWN, SEEING AS FATHER TIME LIKES RUNNING AT FULL SPEED. IN THE PAST I WOULD LOOK FOR ACCEPTANCE IN SEX AND EMOTIONALLY CUT MYSELF OFF AFTERWARDS BECAUSE IT ONLY LEFT ME WITH GUILT, DISGUST, EMPTINESS AND SO MUCH PAIN. EVERY. TIME. LATELY IM JUST ALWAYS EMOTIONALLY CUT OFF AND I FIND MYSELF MORE ATTRACTED TO OLDER AND OLDER MEN WHO HAVE AN AUTHORITATIVE ROLE IN MY LIFE AND THIS IS DAMAGING. I HAVE NO IDEA HOW TO GET PAST THIS. THERE ARE SO MANY WONDERFUL MEN IN MY LIFE WHO DO A LOT FOR ME BUT THERES NO ATTRACTION THERE AS SOON AS SOMEONE IS INTERESTED IN ME? THE WANT WHAT YOU CANT HAVE IDEA… AND THEN AS SOON AS I GET WHAT I WANT, ITS ON TO THE NEXT. GAME OVER. IS THIS INSECURITY? A POSSIBLE BELIEF IN FAILURE AND TRYING TO AVOID THAT? THIS CANNOT GO ON FOREVER, AND SEEING AS I GREW UP IN PSYCHOLOGISTS’ OFFICES, WITH THIS OUTCOME, THATS NOT REALLY AN OPTION. THANKS FOR THE ARTICLE DOCTOR:)

    • Tatiana on September 18, 2015 at 11:52 am

      I am 25 and struggling with this exact issue. Please email me, I’d like to chat with you if it’s not too much of a burden. Thank you

  18. Heather on November 7, 2014 at 11:48 am

    I guess I knew all this from 10 years of therapy, but I had never really completely healed from it. My father has a hopeless alcoholic. My parents divorced when I was a toddler, and I didn’t really see him much until I was maybe 7 or 8 and he moved back to our town. But even when I did see him, everything was mostly about him. He never really saw me as my own person, I was just a daughter to fawn over him as “daddy.” Then my mother died when I was 16, so loss has been a potent emotion in my life.

    All my life (I am now 44) I have been attracted to emotionally unavailable men. I have almost always done the chasing. And now it has all come to a head again with my latest relationship. Even though he loved/loves me, he is emotionally immature and basically broke things off by default last month by basically cutting off all contact with me. He is going through a lot in his life right now with family issues (his mother is dying, which is ANOTHER trigger for me, obviously). But that is no excuse for treating me like this after three years. It has forced me to take a hard look at myself and my continued feelings of low self-esteem. The difficult thing is I attracted this man at a time when I was feeling strong and whole, but I gradually made him the center of my life. Now I am paying the price for that. It’s very hard. I know I need to work on myself first if I have any chance of changing things.

  19. Pam on December 17, 2014 at 1:40 am

    Dr. Jordan, thank you for this blog I am 46 years old and have been searching for the emotional and nurturing needs from healthy relationships with men. I have not been successful due yo me being unavailable or the other partner One relationship was based on drug use and I mother a child. As a single mother in active addiction I was unfit towards the end when my life was controlled by my using. I became less emotionally available to my daughter. This cycle had a tendency to be vicious, repetitive Thanks to getting clean and being honest things got better amost 11 years. Today her father is absent still using drugs. And Encourage her it is not her fault for bs addiction. He is powerless over drugs gone too far past the line. And I put positive in her the best ii possibly can.thr evidence of the nurturing parenting and most important God had jas been wonderful. A 20year old junior iin college.i choose Men whom weren’t good candidates My dad is deceased and I hold on to hearing him ask me in his death bed,” you thought I never loved you,”.and somewhere in cersatiom I believe I heard I love you. I need heeling to build self love and self esteem to become to know what healthy is and what it is not. Through therapy I believe I will get the tools

  20. Luna on January 26, 2015 at 3:09 am

    Hello, I’m a 27 year old woman. I just went through a seperation after being in a terribly abusive relationship with a narcissist for over 6 years. I have for the first time in my life come to the realization that I have very severe daddy issues. All the men I have ever fallen in love with either left me, cheated on me, or abused me & looking back I realize none of them ever made me feel loved. I’m aways told I’m very attractive. I’m a nice person, I have been patient in my relationships, I try HARD to please, I give WITHOUT getting much in return. Even when I relationship was bad I have never had the ability to walk away. Even if a man treats me horribly. ..When he leaves I feel tremendous pain…Over the years as the same cycle keeps repeating, my pain becomes more intense. I always feel insignificant, unlovable, never good enough. When I love a man my dream is to become the woman of his dreams & I tend to lose myself. I have had suicidal thoughts since the age of 12 without knowing the reason. I just always had this nagging feeling that my life would be only suffering and I wanted to save myself from suffering.
    my parents divorced when I was 3 and my father has not been in my life since. I have no memory of him at all. He lived in the same town but refused to have a relationship. It’s like he died before I even knew him…or he’s a ghost, or I’m a ghost. I want badly to heal & I don’t know how. I have now become AFRAID of love and relationships as I don’t want to experience the trauma of being abandoned again. I’ve felt the pain too many times and it only intensifies.
    How can I heal myself…how can I stop fearing love and how an I stop falling for men who treat me like I’m invisible?

  21. Confused Gentleman on January 30, 2015 at 1:58 pm

    Doctor, please help me out on this one. I am a very loving and caring man who is in a relationship with a lady who I know has never had a father figure in her life. It is so stressing and confusing, but because I love her so much I have managed to endure through all this, but I know if this continues I don’t know if i’ll be able to hold on. First of all to express her intimate feelings its really a problem, so it ends up being one sided from my side which is very depressing. She has unending emotional outbursts towards me sometimes for no credible reason. She hates intimacy, being intimate as a couple I think it’s the last thing on her mind. She literally told me she cant think of marriage. I have to constantly remind her that I love her which I honestly do, but every time she tells me she doesn’t believe that, that she’s scared about me. And no one can convince her that a man can love her, that she knows all men just want sex. I feel so depressed to continue be in this relationship.

  22. La-vel on February 18, 2015 at 4:26 pm

    Reading through this blog, I didn’t cry because I was at work at the time, but it is true word for word…I am 27 years old and it hit me today that I have a lot of emotional issues…I am a very beautiful girl yet feel unloved and the men that I do usually pick are unavailable. Hopefully after reading this I can let go and move on.

  23. Hugh on February 28, 2015 at 7:23 pm

    Dr Jordan

    How can you possibly put all of these various problems down to an absent Father? I love my daughter and helped her through an abortion situation when she was 15. I did not bully her I supported her and told her she must make her own decision about marrying the boy or whatever. She decide on abortion herself I arranged everything for her at a well respected hospital. She left home at 18 after 2 years at college. She is now 50 and she has travelled the world but never married. She always manages to get men to move from their roots and travel with her but always insists that it is their choice. She is now telling me that I never loved her and I was “invisible” to her. I have only seen her for a matter of days in three visits over thirty years. During those thirty years I have helped her in many ways (advising on jobs and checking out organisations etc before she set of again on her world travels). She is home for a short stay and last week she accused her mother of never loving her. As a father I feel that we are too quickly blamed for the problems a daughter has with coping with life and it’s complexities. Are we not all responsible for what we feel and what we do about it without always looking for a fall guy? (or Gal)

  24. F on March 11, 2015 at 7:18 pm

    I’d been told about how my father’s absence in life influenced my love life but in a way I couldn’t really believe it, but after reading this article and people’s comments I could finally realise that it is true and I do not want to look for his love in anyone else, neither look for unavailable men anymore!

  25. KIMBERLY HEIN on April 30, 2015 at 11:30 am

    This Article along with my other research on absent Fathers has changed my life and opened my eyes. I have experienced a lot of trauma because of my absent father for the majority of my past life. I have destroyed my God given wonderful first marriage and I have gotten into another marriage, where my spouse is mentally unavailable with ADDHD . I am thankful that God has came into my life a year ago and opened my eyes to the pain I have caused others and has helped me understand why the whole in my heart craves unconditional love and attention. I have started to become self reliant and am working to being a whole adult .I am researching healthy relationships and learning what a husband’s love looks like. I have hopes that God someday will give me again the partner he intended me to have and I will be better at being an adult wife.

  26. Jackie on June 24, 2015 at 9:03 pm

    This article has given me a little hope. My dad is around but only for financial purposes he knows nothing about me really and he lives 20 minutes from me. I never thought I’d have a problem like this but I’ve learned to push a side feelings but it’s become more evident in my adult like and relationships. I’ve been in a rocky relationship for 4 years that involved cheating on my boyfriends part. I then lashed out or tried to get back by sleeping with other men but Im starting to realize I was using sex to replace the love I would be losing from my boyfriend. He only turned this all on me and I can’t explain my actions sometimes to him but I know I shouldn’t be sleeping around but I always end up in the same situation, finding no pleasure from any of it which is what really confusing me. Why am I doing something i know I shouldn’t and don’t enjoy? That’s when I started thinking something could be wrong from underlying issues with my dad. What should I do and how do I explain this to the ones I love without using it as an excuse?

  27. Dorah on July 26, 2015 at 9:11 am

    I am happy that at last i have somewhere to share my experience of an absentee father.

  28. Dorah on July 26, 2015 at 9:28 am

    MY parents separated when i just 9years and my dad left me and my two siblings with my mother,when he was leaving,he left with all the furniture,beds,utensils and other things.we sat on the floor to eat and sleep until my mom managed to buy a bed after months of saving.Mom was a subordinate staff in a mission hospital and from the little salary she could feed us,pay our school fees atleast we dint luck our basic needs.She did her best to her capacity.She later lost her job.life bece very she could go to the posho mill later every evening and request the owner of the maize miller if she could sweep and gather the floor that by chance spell on the floor so that she could cook for us.
    We continued with life without a father,it was very difficult to cope and to accept the fact that he had left.The biggest challenge was going through school.After my high school i joined voluntary work because there was no money to continue to college.The little money i earned i saved and tried to support my siblings who were still in school.When they finished high school i joined College where i pursued a diploma in Computer science.I got a job with a NGO in kenya.My second challenge was my love life.With the African set up people believe that when you grow with a single mother then you cant make a wife.I broke up with in two relationships because of my family background.Since then it has been difficult for me to date and am now 27.please help.Thank you Dr Jordan

  29. Madi on August 9, 2015 at 10:05 pm

    I know this was posted a while ago. But I am a teenager whom has recently lost her father. I never met him. I am now in a relationship where I am starting to feel dependent on the other. I feel like I need him to be with me to make me happy and its just not working out. My friends and mom want me to end this relationship because there is always a reason that I am not happy but I can’t seem to find it in my heart to do it. Yes, there is more to it, but I feel like I’m in a one-sided relationship. I want to be happy again but I don’t want to lose another person in my life or lose that comfort. Please, do you have any advice?

  30. Mercedez on August 20, 2015 at 4:03 am

    Dear Dr J,

    I am 20 years old and I have recently come to realize that what I was missing in my love life that has always caused me problems was the lack of love my dad rarely gives me. As a kid I ALWAYS tried to get my dad to notice anything about me or the accomplishments I achieved or even simply take part in wanting to hear about me and take interest, for years I tried but simply just get saddened when he never pays attention to when I talk and am exited he simply continues to watch tv and either he will say “that’s good” or just ignore that I’m there. My relationships had always taken downward spirals since when I’m in one I always want them to notice things about me, or always prove their love to me, I always fear now of getting hurt and had always wanted a guy to pay attention to me. It clicked today actually that my dad isn’t showing his love but he grew up with an abusive father and he doesn’t know how to show it, he’s basically self involved. I still live with my parents and it just still affects me how my dad won’t notice. After reading this article I started to cry and it helped me realize that i need to fix this empty side of me who has been craving affection from other men and go help fix my self esteem by resolving this before it’s too late. Please help!!

  31. D. on August 29, 2015 at 8:10 pm

    Hi,
    I’ve recently been thinking about my love situations of the past and current and have like many others commenting realized that my absent father has made me a very damaged person. I cried while reading because it isn’t fair and nobody will ever understand what it feels like to have a parent choose to shut you out of their lives. I’m 18, I have never had a long term boyfriend and am also a virgin. All the men I choose to hook up with, or even talk to, however, are emotionally distant and cold. I fall in love very hard and quickly without being able to show it or move onto the next “step.” Furthermore, I struggle with my self esteem and am quick to cut men cut of my life. I’m hardened and bitter and a hopeless romantic at heart. I dot think any of the boys I’ve liked know how much I have cried over them because I simply cannot show my emotion unless I drink. I usually get to thinking about these things while I drink and am then able to let my emotions out. The only way I can explain my pain is like having a constant hole in the place of a heart. I feel like an unsteady rock slide when it comes to love. I’m too worried about how my mom would feel if I told her I want therapy… She is always saying to be independent and that i don’t need a man. But I do. And I feel guilty for bringing my emotions up to her. What can I do to try and heal?

  32. Mike on September 21, 2015 at 11:42 pm

    What do you recommend for very concerned fathers of young adult daughters who are having self-described issues around seeking unavailable men?

  33. H.K. on October 23, 2015 at 6:43 pm

    Emotional deprivation, depression, or just being themselves? My question is for anyone who says they missed their father’s love, and this contributing to their future misery -would you be placated by a million dollars? Is love a need like food, water, and shelter? Is love a conditioned emotion, or state of mind? What if that very person who didn’t give you what you needed, is not capable of showing certain emotions? I wonder what we mean by love anymore. Self-love seems to be the ultimate altar of which we assume all worship. Babies are self-preoccupied. I postulate that one’s need and lack of love has to do with one’s misconstrued perceptions of human behavior and personality. It may also have to do with one’s general sense of loneliness, and sensing that it is a rather uncomfortable feeling. Perhaps we were in actuality spoiled with love in early childhood, that we came to feel entitled to being the center of attention even as adults. We’ve lost our license to be annoying and stupid. It may have to do with jealousy in grade school; how certain “bright” and “talented” kids seemed to fare better in their studies. I think it is fair enough to say everyone is as free to indulge in their fantasies of tragedy and despair as they want. This too may just be a residue of having a remarkably unremarkable childhood, and thereafter feeling defective as an adult. Why aren’t our lives like some Jane Eyre novel? Whether we can admit it or not, the relationship itself becomes a personified illusion of supreme bliss and the compensation for earlier injustices. We project our own inconsistencies onto others, and then feel free to chase a dream with inevitably disappointing results. When is my knight coming to rescue me? It’s strange but in our celebrity-saturated media, we ourselves feel the need to be commentators of our own otherwise boring lives. It is as if we need to gossip about the craziness of other people to justify our own dissatisfaction. We need to “shame” them and so redeem our own sins. It’s the bias toward the self that is most pernicious -I’m right, you’re wrong. I’m good, you’re bad. If we could see love as something on a spectrum, with hate on one end -we would understand that our own perceptions are entirely unloving and unforgiving. As if we wrote the script before we were born, and everyone is screwing it up for the main actor, and you can’t even replace them, namely your parents. Perhaps it has to do with our belief in our goodness, and therefore if we suffer, we be saints, martyrs, and deserving some feedback or reward. The school system too having kicked out common sense has made us more or less stuck in this cycle. Our need for instant gratification of most of our daily needs…instead of watching the organic process of life itself, has made us extremely vapid and vain. Although I did happen to look for this topic and find this page, as I was grieving my late father (whom I did adore and kind of identified with all my life) I wanted to write in a kind of post-mortem reflection on life. How meditations on the griefs of life can drive us to a self-crippling vision, and keep us stuck as though we were watching a re-run of the evening news, only its own lives.

  34. Michelle McGuire on December 13, 2015 at 5:49 pm

    Hi,

    I realize this article is from a few years ago, but I identify with it immensely. I just turned 18. When it came to applying to colleges, I chose schools as far away from home as possible. I ended up moving from California to Atlanta, Georgia. Since moving, I have realized more and more that I have intimacy issues. I refuse to get close to anyone. I have built up walls that are virtually impossible to tear down.

    Prior to moving, I was in a two-year long distance relationship with a man a few years older than me. I was 16 and he was 20 when we first started talking. The relationship was beautiful. He was the only person I truly trusted and felt safe with. I confided in him, grew with him spiritually and emotionally, and we were very intimate. Once my mom discovered I was in a long distance relationship and that he was older than me (about one year ago), she lost it. She verbally and emotionally abused me, telling me I was crazy and that he never loved me. She took away all of my electronics and threatened to call the police to report him without ever asking me any details of the relationship. Although she took away me personal forms of communication, I found ways to talk, text, and communicate with him in various forms, but it resulted in a strained relationship that was unhealthy. Once I was given my electronics back, we were able to communicate more frequently, but there was a lot of emotional damage he built up walls that I still haven’t been able to tear down. Currently, we are friends, but it’s so painful. I haven’t been able to be interested in other people and I fear I’m incapable of moving on at all. The level of love, commitment, and safeness I felt with him was something that I had never felt with anyone in my life. He was also the only person I’ve felt comfortable expressing intimacy and sexuality with. We frequently experienced our own level of a sexual relationship, which only made us closer.

    Relevance of this story? I have a bi-polar, absent father and an alcoholic mother. Growing up, my mother had full custody of me, but there were constant custody battles in family court and back-and-forth manipulation that I experienced. I grew up going to various psychologists from age ten until I moved out. I realize that I did not have an ideal family situation growing up and I hold a lot of resentment towards both of my parents. I also realize that many of my intimacy issues stem from this. I am extremely inexperienced sexually. I have never done anything more than make out with a person, with the exception of one hookup that I forced upon myself when I moved out. I am highly uncomfortable and do not reach any level of intimacy with sex. I do not see the connection and it has forced me to build many walls around myself. I realize that most of this has to do with the emotional neglect I received as a child and teen, but I don’t know where to go with this. What are the next steps, how can I grow to enjoy intimacy, learn to trust others, and ultimately love?

  35. Sagittarius60 on December 26, 2015 at 11:16 pm

    Dr. T Jordan, I met a woman in social media who just turnout exactly 30 y/o this month, she works in medical field. I am at my 60s, we didn’t personally met yet maybe in coming weeks as we are 1000 KM away each other in between ocean but in the same country. She has all her pretty pictures given to me, She always calls me Tatay, Dad, Daddy, since I am not comfortable by this I asked her to just call me by my name, but she insisted and later, I found out and told me she didn’t have her father since childhood, my heart melt. What shall I do more to help her, she said she is sexually very attracted to me. I need your opinion and help. Thank you.

  36. Sarah on December 28, 2015 at 1:45 am

    I am 37 years old and my father left when I was 5 my mum immediately moved my stepfather in (same day) and he is still with my mum now. He treats my older brother and sister well but outwardly dislikes me and shows that at any given opportunity, the latest being Christmas Day. This has made a massive impact on my live life (which I basically stopped about 4years ago) as I can’t handle the disappointment anymore. It has also affected my relationship with my entire family and they all think I am nuts and angry for no reason. I am a single mum with a very strong work ethic and high morals I would do anything I can to help friends/family willingly I just really want some advice as I am running out of options and love.

  37. laura on January 9, 2016 at 12:55 am

    I am 32 years old and have just realised that i grew up with emotionally unavailable parents. After 2 failed long term relationships 3 children and a lot more distructive relarionships. I always thought i had a lovely perfect childhood which monetary wise i did. However and still now my parents try to just fix my problems or just sweep them under the carpet. I lie alot to them because i feel judged all the time which leads to further problems. I stumbled across this emotional neglect as i fear i am doing the same to my children. I feel like i am turning into my dad. Dismissing them and their thoughts and feelings although i am trying so hard not to do this it just comes so naturally. Coupled with the fact that i am a single parent so i cant give my children the nice comfortable lifestyle i had i feel like a complete failure. I feel as though i still rely on my parents heavily for financial support and thinking about it this is their way of showing love to me and eachother. I know they love me and i know that they would be devistated to realise that they have emotionally neglected me. Do i tell them what i need from them now or is it too late? I still feel dismissed now. I feel like i try to please them.alot. sometimes this is praised others i get told off so to speak. I cannot be myself around them because i feel permanently on edge like i am going to say something wrong. My mum is only happy when im talking about really minor things like the weather. If i try to talk about anything in depth for example i told her recently that i was suffering from depression.and anxiety and her response was to give me.a cuddle and tell me that it will be ok. Her response to everything. Is that it will be ok or work its self out. I feel as though by writing this i am betraying them in.some way. I know tbis was the upbringing they had and how they live now. If there is a problem it is dealt with by dad. Sometimes i think my mum lives in cuckoo land. My dad is the problem solver in control.and she is happy with that. Over time i have shut down to them and i can feel us drifting apart more and more. Mainly where i have spoken to friends about their relationships with their parents i have realised how different mine is. I have been in emotional shut down up until now its only been the last year or so that i have opened up to people about my feelings. Until then the only feeling i have ever shown anyone is anger. I have outbursts for what looks like no apparent reason but i realise now that it is because i have never learnt or been taught to talk about any feelings ao they stay in my head until it all becomes too much. I am going to go back to phsychotherapy. I have been before but i wasnt honest and i dont think they delved deep enough into my childhood. Had they done this i probably would have recognised what was going on 13 years ago. This was a classic scenario where i attempted suicide and although my dad found me a therapist it was never discussed with me by either mum or dad. If they ever ask me how i am my answer is fine. If they ever ask me why i did something or said something i say because i did. These answers are acceptable to them even though they know that i have a history of mental heath issues. I guess they think it is me now that doesnt want to talk to them or spend any significant amount of time with them even though it is the complete opposite. I would love ao much to have a loving and open relationship with them both and maybe one day i will. I just need to accept the way that they are and stop looking for what i lacked in in my childhood in men.

  38. Lou on January 24, 2016 at 4:23 am

    Hi,
    Do you know of any workshops in the UK? I am in the southwest area but any links in the UK would be helpful.
    Everything in your article has resonated. Having resolved issues with my father 5 years prior to his death 6 years ago, I believed I had moved on, however my recent romantic relationships have followed similar earlier patterns and I recognise there is grieving I need to process in order to improve my self esteem and make better choices.
    Thanks in advance,
    Lou

  39. Ana on January 26, 2016 at 12:42 pm

    I am 39 years old and I have been married for 6 years to a wonderful and patient man. I am starting to see now that I do have a lot of “father-daughter issues.” I always suspected did but I never addressed it properly because my father was actually around. I grew up in a 2-parent home and I think the mistake I made was thinking that because I did grow up with both my parents, that everything was fine. It wasn’t fine and it isn’t fine now either. My father’s neglectful, disrespectful, and dismissive attitude towards me and my brothers was no way to be loved. I still shake when I think about the way my father treated us and the way my mother allowed him to treat us. I think I am also mad at her, even though she says she stayed with him so we would not have to grow up without a father in the house. My father was emotionally unavailable and he was psychologically damaging to me. He would make comments about my weight, but he was the one that over-fed me as far back as I can remember. He never praised me when I was good, instead he was the most critical man I have ever met. The funny thing is my husband is extremely critical himself. The acknowledgement of this is what made me want to start the process of trying to heal this for myself. My father is an old man now, and none the wiser because he feels that his wrongs are ok so I will never get what I needed from him because he doesn’t have it to give. I have accepted that. But where it leaves me is incredibly sad, alone, and still abandoned. My poor husband. I have stretched him to unattainable and unimaginable limits. We actually separated for 3 months a few years ago, but reconciled because he was able to forgive me for my verbal and psychological abuse towards him. I have treated him badly. I have never trusted him. I have never allowed him to flourish in our marriage as a person because I think I fear that he will one day just leave. I am insecure and I live scared every day. I know I should get help but I am hesitant. I have a 5 year old daughter and a 1 year old son. I know I have hurt my daughter already by being somewhat absent emotionally. I know I could do a better job with showing her that I love her. The funny thing is that I actually do REALLY, really love her more than anything in the world. She is the best thing I have ever done. She makes my pathetic life seem important to me, because she is so perfect. But I know if I don’t change my pathology, she will model my behaviors and continue down my path, whether her father stays with us or not. What can you recommend?

  40. BB on February 29, 2016 at 4:31 pm

    Hi I read your blog about a absent father. I found it very helpful. I am hoping to see some one about my problems as I am struggling but I am on a waiting list and have already been waiting six months. So I started doing my own research to try and help myself. My dad left when I was a baby so I do not remember him, my mum had a abusive boy friend and drank a lot so I didn’t really have a stable mother either. When I was a kid and teenager I was never bothered by the fact that I didn’t have a dad! it never seemed to effect me. Even though I was in a relationship myself at 14 to 19 that was crazy (lots of tears). I am 27 now and in the past year have thought about my father a lot I cry and get mad when I think of him. I am in a relationship now have been for a year and I feel its going to end even though it seemed so magical in the beginning and I love him. I feel the disappointment you mention with even man and judge them! I don’t trust them! I even dreamed about my dad dying the other night and I was at his funeral, I woke up crying.

    I just wondered how I get over this as I already cry about him and wonder if he was sad the day he left me and how it felt, I wish and hope that his heart was breaking like mine is. Any advice you can give to help me get over him so I can be happy and in a loving relationship because I really want to be in love and be loved.

  41. Monica on March 15, 2016 at 4:19 pm

    Thank you for this blog about this important issue. I am the mother of an eight-year old girl with an emotionally unavailable father. She sees him weekly, but he rarely engages in conversation, play, or activity, and often sleeps through his parenting time. She professes deep, almost obsessive love for him and misses him between parenting time.

    My brothers live in Colorado and Hawaii and my father is not engaged in her life (also emotionally unavailable). I have not dated, and so she does not have a strong male role model. Because her father is physically present, others rarely notice this vacancy. Given the cyclical nature of abuse and neglect, I am guessing that I am not the only woman out there without a male family member capable of or ready to step in to fill that void.

    This is the first post I have seen that addresses how a mature and willing mother can help to mediate some of the damages, and I would be very interested in learning more about that topic.

  42. Kimberly on May 3, 2016 at 5:57 pm

    God is so amazing. Not sure what your beliefs are and it doesn’t even matter. Just wanted to say, Today I am, Free! Thank you Jesus. I am 45 years old, no children and have never been married. Yesterday, I had this emotional outburst with a male friend (once intimate partner). We are truly friends, its been over 10 years since our relationship. Never the less, I told him that I needed a break from our friendship after my outburst. I asked him to give me 30-days and I told him that i have issues that are way deeper than him. Today, I took off work just felling that I needed some rest and began to google various topics because in the past i have always attributed my lack of connection, emotional unavailability and random leaving relationships to an attachment disorder from infancy (my mom abandoning) leaving me to my grandmother to raise. My grandmother and grandfather divorced when I was young and to be honest I don’t remember him anyway. I had two uncles, that I know loved me dearly (no perversion) but both of them died when I was young adult, 18 and 26. But, when I read this article, The light bulb instantly went off. My friend is a provider and protector, a total a father figure, unconscious to me, until today. In our conversation, I said I knew the answer to something and he totally denounced what I said. And that triggered an emotion/reaction that if it would have been anyone else. I would have cared or even responded. I simply need to grief the loss of the father that I never knew, so that I will never place that unrealistic expectation on man. I will also share this information with him because has two daughter of his own and he needs to know how important his role in their lives. He is physically present, but not very emotional himself. But that’s another story. Truly Thankful and Grateful for this posting 🙂

  43. Ann Schroeder on May 16, 2016 at 12:06 am

    Do you know of any workshops in Minnesota or Iowa that would help with this? I have suffered for sometime from the absent father syndrome and have 3 failed marriages… I am very unavailable when it comes to my emotions I also have a daughter that has an absent father not as absent as mine but am trying to break the cycle.

  44. Anna on June 2, 2016 at 11:33 am

    Hi Dr J,

    You are so right about all this. There are a few people here in Brisbane – Australia, who would benefit greatly from
    some genuinely caring but professional assistance by a quality, experienced therapist.

    Can you recommend somebody please ?
    Or can you provide treatment yourself over the phone or skype perhaps ?

    Many thanks,
    Anna.

    • Dr. Jordan on June 3, 2016 at 2:36 pm

      Hi Anna, Thank you for reading and using my blog. Australia, wow. Love the idea that people in such faraway places are benefiting
      from my work. You know, I’m in New York City. Sorry, but I don’t know anyone in your part of the world to make a referral. Wish I did.
      I have done phone consultations, not Skype, just phone. Could you be a bit more specific about what you are looking to accomplish? Dr. Jordan

  45. Jo on June 5, 2016 at 11:01 am

    Thank you so much for your article.Ive done a lot of work on myself and attended counselling many times and although I was aware of the impact of my fathers alcoholism and distant demeanour on my life I still feel like im constantly searching and although hugely diminished that I feel angry and frustrated.I relate better to men now than I used to but dont have many male friends and no good friends who are men.I still feel awkward around them and I realise that I always project a need to fill the father gap onto every man I meet,not just in romantic relationships as i watch my friends socialise and relate easily with men and have been conscious of really wanting to improve at this and that it doesnt come naturally to me,more so than before thank God but the awkwardness is still there.I lost my dad to cancer aged 26 and im now 37.he had stopped drinking when I was 12 but was still distant and prone to bouts of anger..never physical but still scary.So I kept my distance from him to protect myself and was angry with him and shoved him away.My made our peace the year he was sick and even then I didnt get to know much about him.I have to stop blaming myself for the years I could have interacted with him but was too scared and angry to do so.he did try to make things up to the family at weekends but at that point he had become this scary monster to me whom I was afraid of so I pushed him away but I dont think he could connect properly with me even if I allowed him to.He just wasnt well in himself.I have come to realise a couple of years ago that he did love me in the only way he knew how.Now I need to consciously remember that all men I meet are not my dad and not to feel I have to achieve a great level of social interaction with them like my friends or hope that theyl fill the dad gap and give me the love and reassurance my dad couldnt.I didnt know I was unconsciously looking for this but now I need to consciously let it go.Its good to finally know what the frustration and feeling of constant want/searching are about.Thank you 🙂

  46. Ruby Ware on June 6, 2016 at 7:38 pm

    I absolutely love your blog l, I knew I had underlying issues but I never thought how they could affect so many areas of my life. My problem is both my mother and father were absent. They were young so I was raised by my grandmother. She did her best and I love her for it. I will say reading your blog and the other women’s comments helped me out so much. I’ve had three relationships that ended exactly the same. At first I thought it was them, but after I really thought about it. It was me. I used to use sex for love and that’s how I knew to express it, then I would be the one trying to be the “good one” meaning I was alway ready to help them! Not financial but small things like cooking whenever requested even if I was tired, but when it came to my wants I felt they were overlooked. I’m trying to find help but I pray it’s not too late, I’m in my early forties and want to love again. Honestly I don’t feel I’ve ever been truly in love. One of those relationships was with my husbands but then he cheated on me which made my mind and thinking even worse. I’m happy I stumbled upon your blog!!!!

  47. A on July 8, 2016 at 7:23 pm

    I feel this emptyness not having my father love me and i take it out on my boyfriend leading us to argue all the time what can i do?

  48. amelia on July 10, 2016 at 5:25 pm

    i have never met my dad, it has never really bothered me but i have always felt the need to have a boyfreind or a guy in my life. I have quite a lot of freinds and i talk to quite a lot of guys but i am constantly thinking that i wont be happy until i have a boyfreind is that in any way connected to me not knowing my dad or are they different

  49. Ila on July 31, 2016 at 9:15 am

    A lot of this rang true with me. This blog helped me. My mother is not mature enough to understand any of this. My sister though, tries to make up for both of them.My parents always think they have been perfect. My reaction to relationships has been terribly cautious, sometimes jealous and I resent this. But I never knew this was connected to my father problems.

  50. STHOKOZILE NGCOBO on August 6, 2016 at 6:20 am

    I LOVE YOUR BLOG AND ITS MY FIRST TIME ENTERING YOUR BLOG..WHAT YOU ARE SAYING IS SO TRUE. I ALSO GREW UP WITHOUT A FATHER. MY FATHER WAS PRESENT FOR THE FIRST TWO YEARS OF MY LIFE UNTIL MY MUM BROKE UP WITH HIM. AND HIS ABSENCE HAS A BIG INFLUENCE IN MY LIFE. I TEND TO DATE OLDER GUYS WITH A GAB OF 8 YEARS AND ABOVE.. NO MATTER HOW MUCH I TRY I JUST DO NOT FEEL ANY AFFECTION FOR A GUY WHO IS OF MY AGE. I THINK THIS IS BECAUSE I SEEEK FOR THAT FATHERLY LOVE THAT I HAVE NEVER RECEIVED. IF I LOVE A PERSON I GIVE MY ALL. I LOVE UNCONDITIONALLY WITH NO BOUNDARIES. EVEN IF THEY COULD CHEAT. IM SO RESISTANT TO HEART BREAK. I JUST FEAR LOSING A MAN THAT I LOVE.

  51. Peter on August 16, 2016 at 5:41 pm

    Hi dr J,
    I ‘ve read your article and i want to ask for your help. I was in a relationship with a girl for a few months. Everything was great, we felt very strong feelings adout each other until one day suddenly see texted me that she wanted to break up with me. I ‘ve tried a lot just to talk to her but she never let me. I know that her parents divorced when she was a child and I know that this has affected her because in the past she had low self esteem issues for wich she has visited a therapist that helped her a lot. The thing is that when I tried to tell her (with a message) that she might has some difficultnes with her relationships decause of the past she got mad at me. We are separate for 4 months now and I just want to find a safe way to approach her and explane to her what might be the problem.
    We live in different towns and I am afraid that if shes sees me unexpectedly will make things even worse.
    She is a great person and she means a lot to me.
    I look forward for your answer
    Thank you

    • Dr. Jordan on August 25, 2016 at 2:39 pm

      Peter thank you for your comment. It appears that she is not “ready” to accept the wisdom in your observation.People are often defensive and resist hearing the “truth” before they are ready to. She may need time, or additional therapy to “accept” the relationship between her past and her behavior. You are sincere and you truly care for this person, two qualities that may melt away her resistance over time. Try patience. Dr.J.

  52. Amy on August 28, 2016 at 3:51 pm

    I’m a grown woman now with a career and two degrees. I thought my issue would go away as I got older and more mature but it’s only getting worse. Ever since I can remember I cannot stand my Dad touching me. Be it a handshake or a touch on my shoulder or even an accidental brush walking by. I cringe if he accidentally touches me or has to great me. I run to the bathroom to wash the touch off. I don’t recall any sexual abuse. I have an older brother and a younger sister and he’s different with them and they don’t share the same feelings as I do. I don’t have an issue with other men. On the contrary, I crave to be touched and hugged. My dad has always been emotionally and physically detached from me but not my siblings. I resent him for the choices of men I have made in my life trying to look for a father figure. I sometimes cry myself to sleep at night craving the fatherly touch and tenderness but not from him. I hate him with passion and can hardly wait till he is gone cause it will release me from a lot of pain. I know it sounds harsh but I hate him. I don’t know why I just do. Please help me out. I have read a lot about this and I am afraid that I could be suppressing some memories. I am usually good at doing that as an adult I recently noticed. Don’t know what to think anymore.

  53. Amy on August 28, 2016 at 4:05 pm

    It’s me again. Pls help me out. It hurts like crazy. The pain I feel when I think about this is unexplainable. It’s as if there is a huge vacuum in my heart and I can’t breath properly. I just want to end this pain. I know I will never find a guy to compensate me in any way. I feel I’m giving up sometimes and it would be so much easier to just do so. Sometimes I wish I could walk up to a decent looking older guy and ask him to just hold me and hug me really tight until I fall asleep and never to let go…..I sound stupid I know but I can’t stand it anymore. It hurts it hurts

    • Muhammad Ahsan on March 18, 2018 at 7:35 pm

      Read book fatherless daughter project

  54. A South African Girl on September 29, 2016 at 3:08 pm

    Hi Dr Jordan
    I just came across your blog and everything written here hit home. I tracked down my father this year because I was looking for closure on my “daddy issues” and we eventually met for the first time a month ago when I visited him. I didn’t really get any answers as to why he cheated on his wife who he’s been married to for the past 25 years because he chose to lie to me and I wasn’t really in the mood for an argument so I let him be. His wife was really nice to me as they only have sons but he hasn’t contacted me since, although his sisters are trying hard to build a relationship with me. I don’t really know how to proceed with our “relationship” since he isn’t making an effort with me and I’m tired of putting myself out there only to be hurt. Also, I found out he might have 3 other children from extra-marital affairs so it’s a difficult time for me as someone who comes from a large family of children all born out of wedlock and with different fathers. As all my cousins and I have gone through this, I have vowed to never put my children (if I ever meet anyone) through the same thing.
    I’m an overachieving student in my 2nd year at Medschool (20 years old) and have come to realise that I might be over compensating for some of my insecurities but I’m also concerned about how this is affecting my relationships. I haven’t dated anyone thus far because of a fear of commitment and heart break. I’ve built up walls around my heart and don’t let people in but I know I can’t carry on like this. I just don’t know how to proceed and deal with my issues with abandonment, falling for unavailable men, trust issues and insecurities which are aggravated by acne which I’ve had since 13 despite going to doctors etc. I just feel like I’m too much for one person to handle but I’m also longing for that one person who will say it’s okay and accept me as I am. I know I’ve said a mouthful but please help!!! I don’t open up to people easily so this is easier than a physical consultation with a psychologist. I desperately want to move forward positively!!!

  55. heather on October 10, 2016 at 6:22 pm

    hi, i just found this blog and found it very interesting and helpful, also the personal experiences are so useful…
    i am 27 years old, my father passed away almost 4 years ago and after that i realized how stubborn i had been. he always provided for us although he had a difficult relationship with my mom with constant fighting from when i can remember. when i was 11 my mom asked for a divorce after finding out he had cheated on her but my father then got ill and my mom did not go through with the divorce to stand by him. with us kids he had a rather cold relationship, it was difficult to have an open conversation with him because of his strong views.. so it ended up being a rather superficial relationship.. i was grateful for him sending us to university and being there for us financially.. but i always felt i missed the affection and the warmth that i saw also my mom would not get (i think i saw them kiss twice in my whole life).. after his death i felt so angry with myself mostly for not have had the courage to change the situation when i could, to do the first moves. now i have been in an on off relationship for little more than two years and am going through what i hope is the last break up.. i remember more times being sad than being normal, there has almost from the beginning been fights, misunderstandings, trust issues and my gut tells me he’s not the right person for me but i have troubles going through with the break off and closing all contact. this night i thought about the fact that probably i have endured in this relationship because unconsciously if i would manage to make this work, manage to make a fighting difficult relationship into a happy one i could finally stop feeling this guilt of not having worked enough on the relationship.. i realize this might be the cause of all the “what ifs”.. the doubts that i might be closing off on a person that could be the right one, that i just need to work on it and make it good.. although rationally speaking i think if it would be the right person things should come easier without constant hassle..
    i would like to have some advice.. but i realize i have probably written a bit too much and it might be a waste of time to read.. but thank you anyway writing it down helps me to get thoughts into something concrete..
    how can one go through the grief by oneself? i just dont seem to get things straight i just feel constantly guilty and afraid i’m going to lose my mom too, i have irritating obsessive compulsive thoughts and stupid things i need to do or touch who knows how many times because somehow this magic thought tells me if i dont i will lose my mom and to keep her safe i must do silly repetitive things…
    thank you for your time sorry for having written so much
    thank you for you blog…

  56. Lara on October 14, 2016 at 3:44 pm

    This seems to have opened an untapped vein. I know there are millions of women (and men) who suffer as a result of neglectful parenting, by parents who didn’t know any better, who were from an era where the parenting ideal was the arms length rearing of small adults. It is only recently that this has changed, and I am afraid all those on this stream are paying the price for living through that necessary transition. If you can recognise the damage, the only thing you can do is see it as an historical travesty, and make certain it is not visited upon your own children, or any children in your life. I have an extremely distant father, and recognise that he in turn had one before me, and so on.
    Fathers seem to have a habit of turning their backs and ‘starting over again’ quite easily. Well that’s the impression they give. Of course I know that many fathers are heroes to their families (lucky families!). But I know many many families who have had to struggle with only a mother to sustain them. This is a massive burden to any person, male or female, to have to carry alone. Those absent fathers will have to answer for that in the next life. In this one, those children have to do their best to move on.
    Having been one of these, I know how difficult it can be, but please know that loneliness is felt by everyone, not just those with crap parents. It is part of being human and quite natural. There is nothing wrong with you. The trick is to make sure you know how to recognise a good thing when it comes along, and how to avoid a bad one. Are you certain that you know one from the other?
    Love those who deserve your love and keep them near, and move gently but firmly away from those that don’t. That is all you can do. Apart from laugh as much as you can. God bless.

    • Sad downunder on November 16, 2016 at 2:42 am

      Thanks for this blog and Laura and beautiful post. It helps knowing you’re not alone (and completely resonate with most here) but this is a world wide epidemic that I hope our society at large and governance will take damn seriously. We are moving in the right direction at least. I wonder who out there has healed from this, worked through their grief and come out the other end ok? Please can they share their experience? How many times!

  57. S on October 28, 2016 at 7:01 pm

    Thanks your this post, really got to me. And also has me thinking

  58. ReAnn Ring on January 31, 2018 at 7:09 pm

    Dr. Jordan I am thrilled to read this blog as it unravels the mystery and connects the dots with definitions of what and how and why of the absent father influence – even at 50 years of age, FINALLY, the reason for my grief, the loss of what a part time dad was to me and how it influenced me more than I ever dreamed as a thread that connected through myriads of experiences dealing with men, and not just in the dating arena. Leadership figures, male ministers in the church, males bosses (which I was blessed to have good ones to work for), but the disastrous issues I have had with men in my world of dating. I am the poster child of some of your descriptions above, and have been in the middle of intensive therapy due to sexual abuse for the very first time since I remembered it taking place very young, coupled with my parent’s divorce and it’s long long term effect on me. Being a highly productive passionate joy filled person, this area of my being, has felt like a huge hole in the middle of everything – like that missing piece that needed to be identified, explained, and healed. The anxiety and the fall out on my life after my parents split when I was seven meant only seeing my dad once a year in the summers due to location and the fact my mother had primary custody. But at this age? To finally see some things … having ANOTHER failed relationship that was doomed from the beginning, certainly there was a pattern steeped in a deep rut that I HAD to discover and tackle in order to be whole … for the very first time. Not being a big fan of marriage to begin with I would skip a decade before I would even attempt another option to meet someone, but always seemingly impossible men to connect with – yes, emotionally unavailable and the thought of a walking down the aisle for decades to me resembled meeting someone with a noose at the other end ready to strangle me with a prison of marriage. Yikes! Having seen the world of my father’s family and himself with a highly sexist attitude about women, all be it he has matured tremendously now that he has reached his 70s, there was no doubt that with a passive but loving mother, I would be imbalanced like a washer in the spin cycle with everything lumped to one side when it comes to men.

    This year, I finally said, NO MORE and decided I wanted to work through therapy to figure out what was truly plaguing me – hence my search for further material on-line that lead me to your blog. Not being one that runs from pain, I actually lean heavily into the learning curve as I want to know what wholeness is … I thought it was just the sexual abuse from extended family that set me up for trouble, instead of the fact it was the absent father dynamic that was equally as important to examine.

    I look SO forward to getting through this to the other side of a new me!

    • Dr. Jordan on January 31, 2018 at 8:39 pm

      Reann, I am thrilled to know that people with your level of spirit and passion are finding my blog useful.
      I wish you great speed in finding the wholeness you seek, and have absolutely no doubt in my mind that you will.
      Thank you for your reflections. Dr. Jordan

  59. K on September 24, 2018 at 11:22 pm

    Very interesting reading. I was in love with someone that I believe has absent father syndrome and it was heartbreaking to watch them looking for attention from other men when it was apparent that I couldn’t provide the impossible love she was chasing. Even after I tried to help by pointing it out it actually seemed to get worse. Hopefully one day she sees that her partner cannot provide all the love she lost as a child and she accepts the love they have to offer. A sad case all around actually. We also have 2 children together but they will always have their father’s love and attention to make sure the cycle stops.
    I hope all you ladies out there resolve these issues and find love (if that is what you are after). Good luck to all the partners who love these women as well. Maybe they can be stronger than me in dealing with it.

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