A Better Relationship In The Future Starts In The Past
8th October, 2010
A big part of figuring out why things aren't going right in your relationships NOW is to look back to the past. Specifically to your relationship with your parents. This article looks at dads and their daughters.
You watched how your parents negotiated, argued, avoided confrontation, tackled it head on...and it became your blueprint for relationships and how to handle conflict.
But, it's not just the relationship between your parents that has shaped your personality, it's also (and more importantly) your relationship with both your mother and father that has shaped you.
Let's look at our Dads first. The relationship we have with our dads is really significant for us daughters because he is, literally, the first man in our lives. There are 6 broad types of "Dad" and while most will use a couple of parenting styles, they'll have a core style. Let's take a look:
The Doting Dad
This sounds ideal, right? Surely everyone wants a relationship with their dad where he dotes on us. And, there's no arguing that you'll grow up with a good deal more self-confidence if you're adored by dad. But there is a point where this doting relationship turns into being spoiled.
How is this impacting you today? It's hard to truly grow up if your doting dad is always ready to ride to your rescue. It's also possible, in fact, highly likely that you'll have something of a fairy tale fantasy when it comes to men - expecting to be treated like a princess, or perhaps your life is hold while you wait to be rescued by prince charming.
The thing is, if you behave like a child, your boyfriend will automatically slot into the parent role. Not sexy. So if you know that you resort to child-like ways of responding in your relationship; sulking, throwing tantrums or nagging then stop. Ask yourself - what would an adult do?
The Dangerous Dad
This is the opposite to the doting dad. This dad is still quite child-like himself. They might seem glamorous and exciting but they often have a darker side: serial philandering, several ex-wives, maybe a hidden love child. Others are dangerous because of drinking - they'll have a Jackal and Hide style to their personalities. One thing is for sure, they are great at creating drama.
This dad may be great at being the centre of attention - at family gatherings, when your mates come round and it's possible that this is fueled by too much booze.
How is this impacting your relationships today? Do you have a pattern of dating unpredictable men...? Do you love, love, love the challenge of the bad boy? Going after these guys undermines your confidence in your judgment. It's got you frightened to make a commitment because experience has taught you that relationships are dangerous.
The Dictatorial Dad
This dad is the head of the household. He's strict and quite the taskmaster. Work comes before play and bedtimes, chores and homework can easily become hot button issues. It's not surprising that children of dictatorial dads grow up to be rebels. A strict dad wants the best for his children, but this form of tough love can come across as being deeply critical.
How is this impacting your relationships today? The long term effect tends to be that your relationships are charaterised by power struggles. Perhaps you're a perfectionist yourself and so no one meets those high-standards. Alternatively, you're frightened of being controlled in your relationship so you keep people at arm's length.
Next time you're faced with a decision ask yourself these 3 questions - First, what would my dad want me to do? Second, what would I do if I was rebelling (because just doing the opposite is not freedom either). Finally, ask yourself what you really want to do.
The Distant Dad
This dad might be emotionally distant, physically distant or both. Maybe he was around but always in the shed, out gardening, behind the newspaper, in his study. Maybe business kept him away from home for long stretches of time. Either way, this dad kept his emotions to himself and seems like an enigma to his children.
How is this impacting your relationships today? Daughters of distant dads are often drawn to men who either find it hard to commit or to men who keep their feelings to themselves. Although as an adult you might understand why your dad was distant, as a child it will have felt deeply personal, and this can leave you worried that nobody will ever truly love you.
The Destructive Dad
At the most extreme end of the spectrum, these dads might have outright abandoned their children. In the middle of the spectrum, they are not aware of how their comments can come across as thoughtless and damaging to your self-esteem. Off the cuff remarks about eating dessert, for instance. If your dad regularly made bumbling remarks like these, it can be crushing.
What's the relationship impact today? You're likely choosing unavailable men (like married ones) who will end up abandoning you...reconfirming your lack of self-worth. Experience has taught you that those closest to you are most likely to hurt you, leaving you with a toxic combination of fear of commitment and low self-esteem.
If any of these have resonated with you, it's OK. You're in excellent company. You know what...no one taught your parents how to do it better, so blame and resentment is not the way forward. Although it feels natural. Truly, forgiveness is the key to moving forward with your relationships in the present.
Related articles from our experts
Anna Jezuita (MBACP) Relationship Reconciliation,Counselling, MindfulnessApril 20th, 2017
Una Cavanagh MBACP (Accred)April 20th, 2017
Michael O'Rourke MBACP Counsellor/TherapistApril 17th, 2017
Andrea Harrn Psychotherapist and Author of The Mood CardsMay 13th, 2011
Imi Lo: Psychotherapist, Art Therapist, Supervisor (MMH,UKCP,HCPC,MBPsS)March 29th, 2015
Keeley Townsend BA (Hons), Ad.Dip.CP with Distinction, MNCS (Acc)December 14th, 2009
Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.