So you grew up with a dad who didn’t know how to express love? Here’s how it could be affecting you today (part 2)

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For her healthy physical, mental, emotional and spiritual development, a girl needs a father who loves, accepts and respects her.

In fact, as parenting expert Steve Biddulph explains in his new book, Raising Girls, daughters get their self-esteem – no less – from their fathers.

Reading this reminded me of the words of James Delingpole in his June 2012 Telegraph article, “Rejoice, all you embarrassing dads: you’re doing a brilliant job”. In it, he humourously summed up what a healthy father-daughter relationship looks like, and why:

“Every dad I know really does believe his daughter is a superior cross between Helen of Troy, Athena (goddess of wisdom) and the young Shirley Temple. And while this may tend to mean the world ends up being filled with an awful lot of spoilt princesses, it also – with luck – means that those princesses will have a sufficiently well-developed inner core of self-esteem to protect them from the emotional bruisings they’re inevitably going to have from all those men out there who won’t love them quite so unreservedly as their fathers do.”

But some fathers have no idea how to consistently demonstrate this love to their daughters – nor that it is essential they do this.

The inner core of self-esteem to which Delingpole refers is built when a father consistently conveys in the way he interacts with his daughter that he sees, accepts, values and loves her.

From birth to around the age of six, children automatically “download” all their parents’ words, thoughts and deeds into their unconscious minds. There is no filter. “Good” or “bad”; intentional or unintentional – whatever the child is exposed to is absorbed into their unconscious, and anything that is repeatedly placed there becomes part of the very fabric of it.

And for many years after age six, children’s brains and nervous systems continue to be wired – in large part by way in which their primary care-givers interact with them.

If her father doesn’t relate to her with love, a girl assumes she must be unloveable, and she grows up without the all-important core of self-esteem.

This infiltrates every area of life: the way she sees herself, every relationship, every interaction, the career choices she makes, how she spends her time, how she treats her body.

For example, a woman (or girl) lacking self-esteem may attempt to escape from her feelings of fear and unworthiness by abusing food, alcohol or drugs.

Or she may starve herself, thinking that if she is thin enough, maybe then she will get from society the approval she never got from her father. The world is full of girls who started doing this at 8 – and women who are still doing it at 68.

A daughter with low self-esteem is also a lot more likely to suffer from depression and/or anxiety – and to suffer longer and harder – than her friends who grew up with their self-esteem intact.

Today’s generation of fathers – those who are raising daughters now – are a lot more likely to be aware of their important role in their daughters’ emotional development than the dads of yesteryear.

But there needs to be more awareness still.

Cruel words can be as damaging and traumatic to a child as physical violence (and many of us endured both from our fathers).

How children are parented affects not only their self-esteem and other aspects of their mental/emotional health.

As Robin Karr-Morse wrote in her book Scared Sick: The role of childhood trauma in adult disease, it is also a leading hidden root cause of (physical) ill health in adult life.

This is because chronic fear and stress in childhood profoundly dysregulate the nervous system, which in turn affects every other system of the body.

I wrote an earlier article about the father daughter relationship last year, and the response to it has shocked me.

In addition to the comments and stories shared underneath the article, I’ve received more private emails about this article than any other I’ve written, and it is still showing in my top five most viewed articles most days.

Copying from my search stats, here are a few examples of things people are keying into Google when they land on part one of this article:

“when a father doesn’t love his daughter”

“distant father effect on daughter”

“did not get father’s approval growing up”

“psychological effects of poor father daughter relationship”

“how to heal from an emotionally absent father”

“disapproving father affects daughter’s self-esteem”

“when a girl doesn’t feel love from her father”

“how to heal from ptsd [post-traumatic stress disorder] from daddy rejecting daughter”

Heartbreaking, isn’t it?

To share with you just a few short excerpts from the article’s comments section – excerpts which speak to some of the most common themes – Alessan wrote: “I can probably count on one hand the number of times my father has ever said I love you to me”.

Charlotte wrote, “My father doesn’t seem to notice that I exist and when he speaks to me all I get is negative words about everything I do.”

Anna wrote: “This article makes so much sense to me because it’s totally what I went through. I always needed my father’s approval but I only ever got disappointment. I gave up trying and just became a very naughty teenager. I didn’t try at school, I developed a drug problem and also attracted very bad men. Not only that, but I became very sick with chronic fatigue and had severe depression from all of the stress.”

You can read the full comments here.

Looking for one-on-one assistance or advice on this issue? Go here to find out how I can help

51 Comments

  • Hello, my girlfriend falls into this category of having a distant father who was also verbally abusive. She has anger issues and has trouble trusting men and having healthy relationships in general. I have the feeling she can never be happy unless the issues with her father are resolved. What I’m looking for is directing her to information that will help her resolve the issues. This site provides a great diagnosis and backround for this problem, so now we are fully aware of the problem and how it is impacting her life, what can she do to recover from this and start having healthy relationships with men again? And what can I do to support her?

    Any suggestions would be much appreciated, William

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      • My husband our daughter never saw eye to eye even today while She is a freshman in college. Father was a strong disciplinarian and daughter was stubborn. Now they don’t have a relationship and can’t forget the past. How does one heal. Father is tired and fedup with the tension daughter brings to the house and him on weekends. She comes home every weekend.

        I would appreciate any suggestions, thoughts you can share.

        Sincerely
        Angela

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        • I’m sorry to hear that, Angela. It is sadly very common. Stay tuned – I will be writing more on this topic soon, including some suggestions for healing the dynamic you’ve outlined. Warm regards, Sarah

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      • I am in the same boat as William. My wife had a very distant father in early childhood and he became very verbally abusive throughout life (including on our wedding day). I need help with what I can do to help her move on and change because he will not.

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      • Hello Sarah. your article is a masterpiece.I have been facing the above mentioned problem everyday, of a very very low self esteem. I am an introvert, and hate myself. I do not know how to accept myself which often makes me feel depressed. i have this tendency to feel lonely many a times, I could so much relate to ypur article. I am really trying to figure out someway to get rid of a life like this. I request ypu to please suggest me something to get out of this web and be happy in life.

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  • Such an important topic to talk about it – well done for bringing the attention to it that it deserves.

    There are millions of women who suffer each day and the sadness and pain that they have, that never leaves them.

    It’s obvious that it completely consumes people who come from childhoods like this. Feeling unloved by the very person that is responsible for their protection is heartbreaking and not enough people admit that they have done this to their kids, or even do anything to try to repair it.

    I came from a childhood like this and I have to say that unless the father really wants to make up for the errors, the only way I have seen to heal and move on is to accept that it won’t change and to start and give yourself the love that you missed out on.

    Waiting for people to change is often like waiting till the day you see that pigs fly.

    This kind of parenting is an absolute epidemic proportions and so many women that become addicted to drugs, alcohol, or have abusive relationships, can pinpoint it directly to their childhoods.

    I used to self-harm because I was in so much pain. I didn’t feel like anyone loved me, so my body copped a lot of abuse.

    I am now 35 almost and I have accepted that I can’t have my childhood back or to have the relationship with my dad I wished I would have had, but the most powerful thing in my life right now is that I actually like myself and don’t worry about what anyone thinks.

    Thats not to say that life is smooth for me. It’s so much better yes, but I am NOT an easy person for my husband to be with. He’s put up with a lot over the years, and even now I don’t actually know how to love him the way that I should. I guess, how can I, when I haven’t had a male authority figure show me the right way!

    These articles are great, please keep doing more!

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  • I am in tears. I was this little girl…absent father in prison slew of disgusting step fathers and now my daughter, 5 yrs old, is experiencing the same thing…minus the slew of stepfathers. And my heart breaks and i feel so deeply sad for what she will never have and guilt for what my own issues ie remaining in a bad relationship are going to cause her. History does…in fact repeat itself.

    How can i save her from my fate?

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  • I really have enjoyed reading this. I am a father of two wonderful girls. One is 17 and the other is 10. I am very dissapointed in myself for the way that I have been with them. I want to have a close and loving relationship, but I am having problems doing so. I feel like unwanted and like I am not needed by them and I hate it. My girls love being around their mother but it seem like it doesn’t matter if they spend quality time with me. I am not trying to be selfish or throw a pity party. I just want to have a strong relationship with my girls. Not having one really bothers me.

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    • Several dads I’ve communicated with about this have expressed similar feelings. Usually the cause is that no one ever told or showed them what a healthy father-daughter relationship looks like. But it’s wonderful that you have realised you’d like to make your relationship with your daughters stronger, and that you’ve realised that while they’re still young.

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  • i want my daughter to have a healthy relationship with her father. my daughter has some hate with her father that every time i ask her she wont answer me. is it jealousy because he was away with us for a couple of years and she is used to it being only me and her – at that time her father lived in another country. now that we are under one roof she is not used to being with him.

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  • Both Part I and II are both good articles, and in fact hit home. I have 3 daughters and 2 step daughters, I recently married so this will help me not make the mistakes with my step daughters as I done with my 3 oldest daughters. I am glad I came accross this article and am planning to move forward and make my relationship with all 5 daughters the BEST!!!!!

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  • Hi Sarah,

    Thank you so much for writing this article, it makes me feel like I’m not alone. I want to get over these feelings of inadequacy and let people into my life, and learn how to develop strong, trusting, loving relationships with men. Any thoughts or suggestions you have to overcome this would be so greatly appreciated.

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  • HI Sarah

    So emotional reading these by everyone. I have only this evening nearly ruined myself.

    My mother talked to me and never helps. She says I let myself down because I dont let anybody close. If I do, I push them away. I am my dads daughter and he died of cancer 10 years ago. He didnt let anyone in and I dont want to do the same.

    He didnt communicate, was quiet and I believe I dont express myself enough and then I blame everyone else because Im too afraid of rejection. My dad never said he loved me, I was at boarding school at such a young age and went home 3 times a year and my dad came to my school once.

    I have to move on and believe a man can love me. My boyfriend does but I cant push him away and think he will abandon me.

    I need your advice on how to do this if possible as I want an open heart and to believe there is good out there.

    Thank you so much. I know I am nearly there on believing just hope a little belief and advice from someone not in my family will help me see persepctive.

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  • Hi Sarah,

    I came across your article after googling about lack of love from father growing up. To be clear it wasn’t because he wasn’t a great father and loved me dearly it was because firstly my parents divorced and I saw less of him and then a few years later he was killed. This means that ever since then I feel I have been searching for his love that I cherished so much and was taken away from me prematurely. Its meant years of unhealthy relationships with guys because I both fear to be loved in the way I should as subconsciously I don’t trust that love will stay but I still constantly search for that love that my father showed me. It is a tough struggle but one I am working through. I am now trying to figure out how to fully accept my fathers death/ absence and be able to feel satisfied in healthy relationships. Relating to men in a healthy way is generally hard for me and when I feel a strong connection it makes it VERY hard for me

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  • Hi Sarah! I need some advice! When I was a kid my father was absent the whole time, working, reading the paper or watching TV. But if my brother would do something wrong, even to me, my father would hit him, not to death but enough to traumatize us. We were afraid of our father. He never said to me “I love you”. I remember that once, when I was 4 or 5 I thought “who is this man in the couch?”, and again when I was 9 and I was away from home I noticed I didn’t miss my dad at all. I think he used to, maybe he stills see me as threat, and I know that I used to see him like that too. When a kid I was happy when my father was away, and once he was traveling and that time was the best of my life just me, my mom and my brother.

    When I was 3 I saw my father naked, and I think it traumatized me, because I still have the picture in my mind. Because my mother and father used to fight a lot, he would scream at her, so, when I was a kid I thought my father was not treating well my mom, and she was everything for me. I never gave him a card or a draw or a gift that I felt like I wanted to give him. My grandmother used to tell me that my father was stupid, so that didn’t help… And my mother used to unburden, or tell me everything that was bordering her, and she spent her whole life saying that she’s going to get a divorce, but she never did it and when I was little I used to encourage her to do it, so I could have my mom for me and my brother. I am 22 and I have seen that my father is not a monster, he has a good heart and he tries to help and actually I think he has traumas too, but I still reject him and I still don’t trust him… Maybe I still didn’t forget him, if I have to do it, I don’t know… So hope you can help me because I wanted to solve this out. As you said in your article, the guy I like I usually think that he would never like me because I am too inferior, or just because I’m not enough for him…

    What can I do?

    Thank you very much in advance! Greetings from Portugal!

    Inês

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  • Hi Sarah,

    Since I healed myself from the negative relationship that I had with my father throughout my formative years; it gave me a sense of strength that I could achieve so much without his love and attention. ‘What doesn’t break you makes you stronger’, right?

    My father was absent in our up-bringing, critical and not emotionally involved with us and verbally aggressive towards my mother. He moved his girlfriend into our family home and the separation was bitter.

    I protected my Mum, grew-up fast, suffered with my own identity and relationships, sought approval through sexual gratification only to find myself feeling further de-based….I didn’t speak to him for several years in my twenties but began to feel that I needed to resolve the issues as i was displaying all the classic symptomsof having daddy issues and I thought I had done so by seeking to understand his side of the story and talking to him which I did. So I thought I had dealt with my issues.

    However, what I hadn’t realised was that due to all the issues that tormented my childhood and teenage years, I developed a deep-seated mechanism for dealing with stress which leads me into hyper-activity.

    Further to post-traumatic stress induced by the circumstances of the birth of my twins, I resorted to coping using the mechanisms I developed as a child and they let me down. I’ve basically burnt myself out by trying too hard. So how do I heal this more deeply and find better coping strategies, ensure I don’t subconsciously hurt my husband and finally get over my Dad?

    It was much easier when I thought I could just ‘achieve’ my way out of my past!

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  • I found this page when searching “why does my daughter gravitate towards being friends with naughty boys”
    She is 5 & i have always noticed this tendency,the older she gets the more worrying it is. Im so worried my daughter might end up with “daddy issues” after reading this! my father & i are very close & my parents have been together 25yrs. Her dad can be a huge jerk (bad upbringing)we have recently separated (& get along allot better, we used to argue a lot) so I feel as if i dont even know what it would be like to not have a great dad… I hope that having a loving & involved grandad helps her.

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  • Hi,
    I would like to know what is the right to heal from wounds caused through relationship with father.
    I grew up always needing to feel loved and accepted by my father who was rather distant and rejected me when I needed affection.
    Also find it difficult relating to men – which is also affecting me with my husband.
    Low-self esteem and have some anger towards men.
    Any suggestions as to how to heal?
    thank you!

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  • Hello Sarah. your article is a masterpiece. I have been facing the above mentioned problem every day, of a very very low self esteem. I am an introvert, and hate myself. I do not know how to accept myself which often makes me feel depressed. i have this tendency to feel lonely many a times, I could so much relate to your article. I am really trying to figure out someway to get rid of a life like this. I request you to please suggest me something to get out of this web and be happy in life.

    View Comment
  • I had an affair due to being unhappy in my marriage of 22 years. I have a 19 year old son and 16 year old daughter. My son and I seem to be ok in our relationship the best I can tell. He and I talk he lives with me and I encourage him to spend time with his mother. My daughter however moved in with her mother and our relationship which use tone good and close is distant. She hates me for the affair, destroying the family and doesn’t spend much time with me other than when she wants money or something. I have moved the woman in with me that I had the affair with because she is what I have been looming for in a relationship for quite some time and financially it helps both of us. My daughter won’t come over because she can’t stand her and my son tells me my daughter blames me, hates me and will never forgive me. I have to find a way to mend this relationship with my daughter, I love her and miss her and its tearing me up that I can’t get past this. U know its only been a year since the divorce but I’m trying to seek direction on what to do. It seems as though sometimes she is willing to try but then when it gets down to the time we have scheduled something she will back out. I would appreciate any direction on how I start to mend this relationship.

    thanks

    KP

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  • Sarah, thank you for this article. My daughter was 5 and a half when I deployed for a year. The first years were so precious, but I reflect on the time leading up to my departure and regret not recognizing how the stress must have weighed on her emotions. Skype was infrequent, as were phone calls; she didn’t take too well to talking over the line and the nine hour time zone difference made planning difficult. As such, calls were on-the-go… likely when I was free, but when my wife and daughter were trying to make the best of the void. I returned from the year-long deployment and relocated with the family to my home country. It had been 14 years since I lived there and I felt like a stranger there myself – my wife and daughter were even moreso affected. We made the best of things and travelled, but I had an image of my daughter frozen in time; a year before I deployed. This conflicted with how she acted and reacted in the then-present day and my disciplinarian approach took root, much to my regret. My wife and I had a son, eight years younger than our daughter and the family dynamic changed dramatically. I was an only child with a single parent, my wife was the eldest of two sisters from a full family and we had accepted being a single-child family; but our boy delightfully surprised us. It is sometimes difficult to ensure equal attention is shared between both children, but I do recognize it must be a priority. Our relationship is suffering: I feel she often disregards my authority as a parent and I expect she feels I disregard her validity as a maturing young lady; an independent soul in her own right. Until recently, my mind was locked into a punishment-as-consequence-based approach to discipline. Papers my wife has recently shared with me are reshaping my understanding of disciplining children; changing from forcing change to fostering change. We’re doing better, but I still have hiccups and am often at a loss on how to regain control of matters when my daughter lashes out (due to my direct and authoritative approach when an activity needs to come to an end, e.g. nighttime reading.) Do you have any words of advice for father’s in similar situations as mine who cannot gain control… or more importantly, gain the wisdom to share control of our relationship with my daughter in this stage of her mental and emotional development?

    Many thanks for the research you have offered.

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  • So what to do now? My beautiful and talented daughter who is now 23 years old feels that her father (my husband, since we are still married) has never really liked her, although she supposes that he feels parental love out of obligation. He has always been emotionally distant and critical, and sometimes has an explosive temper (verbally). She now feels no connection to him and it makes me so sad for her. She has suffered greatly from this, experiencing depression, failed relationships with men, a debilitating eating disorder, etc. He will NOT acknowledge that he has been anything but “supportive” towards her. He thinks that monetary support is enough, evidently. He has never been affectionate with her, never expressed joy in being with her, never showed that he was proud of her, etc. Instead, he criticizes and tells her that her opinions are wrong. Since he won’t even admit any responsibility for their damaged relationship (he thinks it is all her, just being “too sensitive” and “not a rational person.” Those are his words.), then how can she heal on her own? Do you have any suggestions?

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  • This is an amazing article, and, for those like myself, oddly comforting, mostly in knowing us girls are not alone. Throughout my life, I often tried to get close with my father. I would try what he was interested in, but then his interest would wane, and I was left alone, holding the fragments of my attempt, and feeling to blame. I turned to food for comfort, and am now dealing with the ramifications. But I stopped trying with my father. His pride in me often felt contrived, and I knew it was one of his many masks he puts on for everyone else. This has left me with no trust in men, something I just can’t bring myself to overcome. It’s as if I have nothing left for them after trying so hard for the first 16 years of my life. So, now ten years later, nothing has changed with my father. I want to be a mother, so I’m going to become a single mother by choice, and I know my brother will be an amazing rather figure for my child. As difficult as my life will be with these decisions, I somehow feel freer in letting it go and just moving on, because, honestly? The more I try, the less self esteem I have left, and so I’m taking what I’ve got left and building my life, a good, healthy life, surrounded by people I love and who love me in return.

    All the best,
    Sarah M.

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    • Thank you so much for sharing that, Sarah.

      I think you’re both very wise, and very brave, to have made this decision – and that you’ll have saved yourself a lot of pain and heartache.

      Usually, the blocks and unresolved issues that stopped a father from meeting his daughter’s basic emotional needs throughout childhood and teenage years haven’t gone anywhere – they are still there.

      I love that you’ve let go and moved on, and that you’re putting your energy into building your life.

      Sarah x

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  • Hi,
    Reading all of the comments after the brilliant article, I’m compelled to mention Family Constellations to help heal these wounds and relationship with our father.
    I recently did a FC workshop , this time, to heal mother-daughter wounds and it was life changing and the wound is healing. I’m considering now, revisiting the remarkable Family Constellations weekend for father issues that have been preventing my happiness with a partner.
    Sarah, what are your thoughts on FC?

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    • Hi Jenny,
      Thank you so much for sharing that. I’ve heard and read only good things about the Family Constellations therapeutic model. I haven’t been to a workshop so can’t answer from personal experience, but a couple of people close to me have, and their feedback was similar to yours – i.e. that it was life-changing. As it worked well for you before, I’d say go for it – and I would be interested to know you get on.
      Sarah x

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  • Thank you for this article. I am 41 years old, and have had extremely low self-esteem all my life. Until a few years ago, I never felt good enough in anything, and Ive never made friends easily due to fear of being rejected. The times I have experienced rejection was devastating.
    My relationship with my father was very distant. I have very few memories with him. I remember only being hugged once, when I was 16, and only because he had left my mom and I, and was wanting to come back home. He made me feel ashamed when I got my ears pierced at age 12, when he thought I had too much makeup on at my HS graduation, and again when I enlisted in the military, telling me girls in the Navy were promiscuous. There were many other things he made me feel bad about too. I could never tell my parents that I was molested at age 8 because of fear of his disapproval of me. He still doesnt know. He never showed love and approval for anything I did. Ive been battling obesity from a young age. Now I think I see why, that and the self-esteem issue, and picking bad men throughout my life.
    Thank you for the article.

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  • Very interesting read that has gave me great understanding. I feel my father has ruined my self esteem on the other hand I have a beautiful gifted angel as a mother who tried her very best which I admire…but the man she choice to father her child (my dad) is another story.

    He became a drug addict throughout my childhood from 5 until I was 15 still living with us and causing hell in the family home. I’ve seen many things a child shouldn’t see and he affected my mother’s nerves really badly.

    To this day I believe I’m not good enough for any guy I get with, I doubt myself and I question myself and think I don’t deserve them. I don’t get on with my father at all and part of me wishes he had a drug overdose as he’s such a horrible person. He gives me abuse about my appearance yet everyone tells me how pretty I am, even strangers yet he’s the one with the ruined looks with drug abuse.

    I have a rubbish career, I don’t feel good enough or believe in myself. I have terrible body image, I believe this is why I’m single for so long my body confidence and I work out 4 times a week at the gym. I don’t have much confidence when I do regain some he will pull it down again. I found myself in my early 20s trying hard to please him, gain approval and love by buying him expensive gifts for birthdays Christmas and fathers day. Now finally in my middle 20s I have gave up and realised what I was trying to do for nothing in return. He shows me no love, no time, nothing. He just seems bitter and destroyed as a human being

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  • Thank you for this article. I have two beautiful daughters, they are adopted, and both of them came to my home at the age of 4. One has just turned 13 and the other will be 8 in less than a month.

    I started becoming very frustrated, as a father, when my oldest started growing up and wanting to wear make up, etc., in the past year. However, now, I just let it go, and let her be who she wants to be. I have found in the last two months that she is actually opening up to me and sharing her world. However, I am concerned that neither of them will ever fully trust me as a father, because both of them, came out of a VERY abusive situation before coming into my home. I have no idea how badly they were impacted by their early years, and hope there is some way that adoptive/step parents can overcome the damage that can occur in the 6 year old download you mention in your article.

    Both of these beautiful little girls are biologically the nieces of my wife, and the relationship between her and her brother was very bad. I am afraid this colors her relationship with the girls poorly, and it shows. I don’t want them to continue paying for something that they had no control over.

    I am glad you wrote these articles and I look forward to more. My biggest fear is for the future, I can already tell there is going to be a lot of bittersweet pain as my girls grow up and leave the home, that is going to be the hardest thing for me to deal with in the future, because I won’t be able to protect them anymore as adults.

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  • I have many failed relationships including one marriage. My poor self esteem is an issue. I tend to be attracted to men with commitment phobia or of other ethnic groups. My dad does everything for me but he never reveals who he is to me. He is always silent, quietly doing things for me. I never know what he is thinking and it so frustrates me.

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  • I’m the father of a twenty two year old daughter who is convinced that I’ve thought of her and treated her as being nothing more than an overweight waste of time and money. I don’t know if she actively hates me, but I’m definitely on her not favored person list as she has told me so to my face. She has moved out to live with her interracial boyfriend/fiance, and has been back home a few times to see her cat and her older sister and mom, but not me.

    I’ll admit that I haven’t been a perfect father, but wifey and I have been married for over 25 years and none of her friends can claim to have grown up in a non-broken home as she can. I have always put myself at the back of the line when allocating our limited family resources, because I’ve always believed the needs of my kids came first and have acted accordingly. My wife’s own father called her fat and useless while she was growing up and that is something I resolved NEVER to do with MY kids. And to the best of my knowledge, I haven’t either.

    I’ve had issues with anger and alcohol in the past, and started taking mood elevator meds years ago to even out my life so maybe the boozy anger seeped out at some point, yes. But in counter balance I’ve also spent many years eating my three daily meals at the plant while busting my tail off working industrial management jobs to provide for my family too.

    What have I got to show for it? A pacemaker and more cardiac surgical scars than a road-map of Spain, a beat-up old car and a daughter who thinks I, in fact, suck.

    I’m not sure if our father/daughter relationship can be repaired – and I’m not sure either one of us wants it to be at this point. So come on all you women, pile on and tell me what a dirt-bag I am. After all, it’s a well know fact fathers are made out of stainless steel, right?

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  • I came upon this article by googling “father and daughter conflict.” This so accurately describes the relationship between two of my three daughters and their dad. They are struggling with severe depression and anxiety. I am the mediator between them and my husband, just trying to keep everyone happy. I love them all so much. This has taken such a toll on all of us. The girls and I see a therapist, but my husband doesn’t want to. He is better than he used to be and has made a lot of changes but unfortunately you can’t change the past. I am eager to read more articles about how to help my family.

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    • Hi Tammy,

      I’m sorry to hear that. Even though your husband is resistant to changing, you say he is already better than he used to be, so there is hope. Especially as you see the problem clearly and are actively looking for solutions. I will be writing more on this and to ensure you get all articles as soon as they’re out, sign up for my (free) newsletter about this topic. You can do that here.

      Sarah x

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  • Reading this article i realized i don’t remember even one time i heard my dad tell me he loves me. Even though i know he does he was never able to say it i guess. Im aware of everything and i dont blame anymore i have no anger left but my problem still persists. My self esteem and over consciousness is still holding my life back from what it can be and from what it should be. Im trying and it feels like im fighting it but its just so hard and slow and sometimes it feels like theres no progress at all…just me knowing all of this.

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  • Thank-you so much for writing this article. I seem to be amongst many who feel like I’ve never been good enough for my dad. Without going in to the ins and outs he has caused me so many issues, I feel worthless and have very low self esteem. I have relationship problems with my husband and son and I feel so desperately in need of healing. How can I move on? My dad is in his 70’s and still as bitter as ever, unlikely to ever change so dealing with the issues with him is just not an option. He is stubbourn, opinionated and stuck in his ways, totally incapable of accepting any responsibility. I lost my mum as a child too so feel like I have never had anybody. I know this is all the reason I have so many emotional issues but I still can’t move on and heal. I’m worried it’s affecting my relationship and parenting of my sons. How can I move on?

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  • I can’t see how old this article is, I’ve read both in five minutes and they sum me up to a t. I’ve spent the last two years in therapy working on myself and my self esteem. It’s been going well but it’s like I keep coming up to a wall.
    My dad is an alcoholic. He’s said I love you once on the phone, almost by reflex so I don’t think he meant to. The only other time he’s shown affection is when I was sick and he was drunk. I’m 25 and have never had so much as a first date. Trust and abandonment are huge issues. How can anyone love and respect me unconditionally when my own father can’t? I don’t know what to do about this.

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  • My experience is similar to a few I read above: a working, present dad but incapable of expressing his love in words, physical contact, just through gifts. He wasn’t as bad as some I read about, but being very sensitive I feel it has ruined a lot of things in my life. Oh and he is the kind that shouts orders, I remember telling him many times he could ask for things on a sweeter tone. He didn’t have an easy childhood, his own self-esteem is low.

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    • Hi Erika,

      If I could only count how many women have told me more or less exactly what you did about their relationship with their father.

      I applaud you for being able to see that your dad’s behaviour towards you is/was down to his own painful childhood and low self-esteem.

      You mentioned your sensitivity too, and that’s a key distinction here.

      The more sensitive we are by nature, the more we suffer if we must grow up without expressions of love and appreciation from our dads, and the more work we must do as women in order to feel good and have fulfilling relationships.

      You’re receiving my email updates on this topic and those will be full of tried-and-tested tips and strategies.

      Anyone reading this who would like to get on the list to receive these (free) articles and guides: just enter your first name and email address here.

      Sarah x

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  • My dad is a great, loving man but he worked long hours during my childhood, so my male role model became my older brother. My brother was either criticizing or ignoring me while we were growing up. All I ever wanted was his love and approval, but I never got it. I can definitely see the link between the issues I’ve had as an adult (low self-esteem, not feeling good enough or lovable) and my childhood. Didn’t mean for this to sound like a pity party ‚Äì I’m really working on feelings of resentment, and I’m trying to turn the way I view myself around. I feel for you other ladies out there ‚Äì best wishes to you all.

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    • Thank you so much for sharing that, Rachel.

      That’s so positive that you’re working on those feelings and on changing the way you view yourself.

      Have you signed up for my free email newsletter on these very topics? It’s called The Father Daughter Factor, and you can subscribe here.

      Sarah xo

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  • I am a 35 year old woman, and my dad wasn’t abusive. He and my mother divorced when I was three. I saw him every other weekend and most holidays. To this day we go weeks and months without speaking. He doesn’t act like he cares at all….I have confronted him numerous times about not calling, visiting or inviting our family over….he apologizes and says there are no excuses for his behavior. I can tell my relationships suffer with other people because of our relationship. My heart breaks because he doesn’t get it….I just don’t understand why he doesn’t want a relationship with me or my children. I don’t feel like I should be the one constantly getting in touch with him….

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  • I’m 33 and it’s taking me all this time to finally realize that there are some things really hurting me concerning my dad. Recently, after getting off the phone with him and once again failing to draw approval, a connection, a laugh, anything from him, I finally couldn’t ignore how it was making me feel. I just stood there not breathing and my bf noticed and came to ask me what was wrong. I didn’t even feel it coming on and I was shocked as I burst out crying and said out loud for the first time, my dad doesn’t like me.

    I told my bf about how my dad rarely seems interested I what I say or think, and if he does it is usually critical in some way, that he talks over me, likes me better when I’m quiet, doesn’t praise me out loud like my bf’s parents do for him, doesn’t show support on the rare occasion that I feel inspired to accomplish something, he just stays silent. And I said, if he really ever wanted me than why did he forget me at daycare or not show up to pick me up for the weekends when I was little. I still remember how hard I would cry over that, but I thought I was over it a long time ago. But that day as I said it out loud I realised I wasn’t over it, and it seemed I was angry even.

    Please don’t misunderstand. My dad is NOT a bad person and I love and appreciate all he has provided for me. He stopped drinking and started spending time with me, or bringing me along for fishing and camping trips. I TREASURED that time and made sure I was always on perfect behavior, and I never whined about anything bc I wanted him to like me. And for a time things got better, he played with me, took me to movies, and I started to feel loved.

    But then I became a teenager and everything slowly started changing, I feel he pulled away but maybe it was something I did wrong. He often had images of women like playboy or other things around, and he appreciated sexy, beautiful women. Actually I saw much worse things than that on account of his friends bringing porn material around and that really messed up my head as a little girl. It made me sad and depressed and once I became a teen I began dressing very sexy, yet HATING every moment of it. I still don’t know why I did it. But I grew up feeling sad and empty, like my worth was only in my looks and even that wasn’t enough to make him truly proud. I felt being a girl in this world was a horrible punishment and burden on myself and my family. I never got into drugs but instead became extremely shy and reclusive.

    I feel angry that boys and men had been abusive to me from the time I was little and up through high school bc I had no one to stand up for me. My dad never asked me about school or my feelings even though some traumatising things had happened which he knew about. Eventually, when I would be assaulted by some boy or man I stopped telling anyone bc I thought it was my problem. I feel so guilty typing all of this he has been there to help raise me, he took me to Disney world and has spent a lot of money on me but I don’t want money I just want him to validate me and like me.

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  • I have been in therapy since my dad died almost three years ago. If I angered him the silent treatment was used against me to the point he would not acknowledge my presence. He told me he loved me once when I was having surgery. As a teenager I gave him a sentimental valentine. His response was to ridicule me. My therapist has explained I have protracted grief due to the repressed anger I have for my father. I am unable to cry, have anxiety, low self esteem and abandonment and rejection issues. Luckily my therapist who has been my psychiatrist for 17 years has assured me we will work on my anger to heal and he will not abandon me.

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