Absent father: wounded but not broken
As adults, we are never too far away from feelings that originate from our childhood. These feelings can stem from unmet needs during childhood derived from an absent father. Do you feel emotionally empty? Are you always giving your time to others, yet never getting anything back? Do you feel misunderstood? A child who has felt emotionally neglected, unsupported or loved is an adult who often feels lonely, emotionally detached or needy. The feeling that, no matter how much someone provides love and support, it’s never enough. Attachment theory suggests that our early childhood relationships and their security, or lack thereof, influence how we interact in relationships in the future.
Growing up without a father is a loss, a loss of what could have been. Growing up without a father can be one of the most painful and traumatic experiences, as often the individual can struggle with feelings of low self-esteem, unworthiness, identity issues and self-love.
However, the trauma begins if a dad leaves and the individual feels not only a deep sense of loss, but also an overwhelming sense of abandonment. The individual lacks that healthy relationship model and often seeks to fill that void a variety of ways. This leads to the child often blaming themselves if dad left due to divorce, feelings of bitterness, stress, emotional pain, emotional disconnection, anxiety, fear, feeling betrayed, unwanted and unloved.
The little child within the adult is longing to be loved and to feel connected. Emotional deprivation is the part that craves that which the child never knew, or had a chance to fully experience. The adult may find it hard to accept affection from their partner or close relationships and have an inability to socialise.
The first relationship a woman has with a man is usually with her father; this relationship becomes a template of those to follow. It is said that a daughter is attracted to, or will marry someone just like her father. It appears that this might indeed be the case, or at least a factor, in how a daughter chooses a romantic partner. The relationship with a father, or lack of relationship, teaches young women how a man should treat a woman and this serves as a replica for the rest of the individual’s life. Generally, future relationships will be determined by that first experience with the individual’s father.
An absent father can be emotionally damaging as the individual can lose a sense of self, lack trust in others and be emotionally distant. The negative impact that an absent father has on his child can be seen as a wound that never seems to heal. You may find yourself unable to maintain intimate or relationships, a desire for closeness but might be afraid of rejection and be uncomfortable with emotional closeness.
It is never easy deciding to confront such overwhelming and powerful feelings, counselling provides a space to examine and explore patterns of relating with others and self. An opportunity to unearth insight, to become a step closer to the person you would like to be. The journey of self-discovery is one which has many bumps and turnings, yet it can equally lead to something truly rewarding.
Related articles from our experts
Cate Campbell MA, MBACP (Accred), MCOSRT (Accred), MAFT23rd March, 2017
- Reactive and responsive relationships
Graeme Armstrong MBACP21st March, 2017
- How psychodynamic therapy helps to break the cycle of unhealthy relationships
Margery Parsons, d.c.t.p., UKCP reg.20th March, 2017
Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.