For better or worse, the relationship you had with your father (biological, or otherwise) can affect the way you view other relationships throughout the rest of life. I know, that sounds pretty heavy. But how he treated you, and the type of bond you had, really does have a way of sticking around.
And never is this more clear than when your father/child connection (or lack thereof) starts sabotaging your romantic relationships. If your dad was mean, distant, or absent, all that hurt can show up in unhealthy fights with your SO. You may feel clingy, or argumentative, or drawn to partners who are also mean, distant, or absent. It’s really a recipe for disaster, and can become quite the vicious cycle.
So why does it all go down this way? Well, it all has to do with how your dad set you up to view relationships. “[A father] is the first male role model and relationship that a woman will ever have,” says Nicole Martinez, Psy.D., LCPC, in an email to Bustle. “[A woman will try] to replicate it, whether it was a good model for her to see, or it was one where she was constantly seeking approval.”
It’s entirely subconscious, and yet it happens anyway until a woman is able to break the cycle (through therapy, usually). Read on for more signs that your dad has affected your relationships.
1. You Tend To Be Clingy
If you grew up with a dad who wasn’t present, or who didn’t offer up any attention, then you might find yourself always expecting the worst. You may fear abandonment, expect rejection, or constantly worry that your parter might leave you, according to therapist Sonja Keller on MindBodyGreen.com. With all that floating in your head, it’ll be damn near impossible to not feel clingy and co-dependent. Which, for obvious reasons, can lead to all sorts of problems in your relationship.
2. You Assume All Men Are The Same
If your dad was the worst, then it makes sense why you might expect all other men (or partners in general) to be horrible, too. Not surprisingly, this viewpoint can color your relationships with future partners, and may require a lot of brain “re-wiring” to move past. “The hard part is de-emphasizing your father’s influence over your impression of men to being just one example,” said Bob Alaburda on YourTango.com. “When you’re young, he is the example.” And that can make a lasting impression.
3. You Need Constant Reassurance
If you grew up in a bad environment without any trust or reassurance, it makes total sense that you wouldn’t expect anything different as an adult. Maybe you don’t trust your partner, and constantly check his or her phone for signs of cheating. Or maybe you ask them to prove their love, over and over again. “This can get exhausting, and eventually the neediness may push [them] away, which will confirm your greatest fear — you are unlovable and unwanted,” said Keller.
4. You Don’t Let People Get Too Close
Not getting your dad’s love hurts, a lot. And that hurt can follow you around for a while, making you less likely to search for a partner. “Having a poor relationship with your father may lead you to not letting other men get close to you emotionally,” Alaburda said. You may find yourself acting standoffish, or going into a shell. Either way, it can make dating pretty difficult.
5. You Don’t Confide In Anyone
While self-reliance is a pretty great trait to have, it can go a bit overboard to the point where you don’t trust anyone with your feelings. You might feel like you can’t confide in anyone, and thusly keep things bottled up, according to Charlotte Phillips on EliteDaily.com. Clearly, that’s not healthy — for you, or your relationship.
6. You Use Sex To Feel Reassured
Everyone feels a bit more loved after having sex with their partner. Chalk it up to the closeness, as well as all those hormones. But it can sometimes cross over into unhealthy territory. This is especially the case when your self-esteem is based on whether or not a man wants you sexually, according to Keller. Clearly, sex isn’t a healthy source of self-confidence, and will usually lead to problems down the road.
7. You Refuse To Date Anyone Like Your Dad
You may feel like you’re over your dad’s influence by choosing to date men who are his exact opposite. It’s a good plan, in theory. But allowing him to taint your choices is still a sign that he’s sabotaging your life. As Jennifer Kromberg, Ph.D., said on Psychology Today, “… a choice to go opposite is still a choice based on dad.” And that’s not always good.
8. You Hate Being Alone
Going along with that fear of abandonment is the fear of being alone. The thought is so terrible that you find yourself sticking around in unhealthy relationships, or bouncing from person to person. This is all due to reduced self-esteem, which will prevent you from moving forward into a healthy fulfilling relationship, according to Keller. It’s sort of a self-defeating cycle, and it can really suck.
9. You Have Trouble Committing
Your first relationship — the one with your dad — didn’t go well, so now you walk around expecting all other relationships to fail. This type of thinking can cause you to be a total commitment-phobe. “You’ve seen the fallout of bad relationships and you want no part of it. Whether it’s the way your father treated your mother, or your personal relationship with him, you just know what happens when things go badly,” Alaburda said. This mindset can clearly sabotage your relationship.
10. You Kinda Resent All Men
You’ve never witnessed a dude be nice or loving, so you’ve grown to harbor some pretty low expectations. (And may even say generalizing things, like “all men are the same.”) To justify your anger and resentment, you may find yourself picking fights, or creating conflict in your relationship, according to relationship coach Kelly J. It’s definitely something to watch out for.
11. You Go For Dudes Your Dad’s Age
In the classic example of “daddy issues,” you often find yourself going for much older men. There’s nothing wrong with that, if it’s your thing. But if it’s done for unhealthy reasons, this habit can definitely lead to some problems. According to Alaburda, you may seek out men reminiscent of your dad, and expect them to compensate for that deficit in your relationship with your father in some way. See how that can get out of hand?
If any of these signs sound familiar, there are things you can do. It may help to chat with a therapist and get things sorted in your head. Some positive affirmations may help, as well. Just be sure to figure things out so you can find yourself a happy, healthy relationship