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

We all know that our mothers had a major impact on how we turned out.

But there is a widespread misconception that how Dad was as a parent is less of an issue, especially for daughters.

The father-son relationship is universally seen as important – the world is aware that a boy needs a positive male role model as he grows into a man.

But many see a girl’s relationship with her father as secondary to her bond with her mother.

Here’s a little-known fact: for both boys and girls, the relationship with the opposite-sex parent has the profoundest of bearings on whether or not we grow up to be happy, serene, healthy, fulfilled individuals.

The way in which her father interacted with her as she was growing up is a major factor in how a woman’s nervous system is wired, which in turn impacts her physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health, her self-image, her view of the world, and the ease – or otherwise – with which she loves and trusts as a woman.

The first man every female bonds with is her father, and that imprints on her so strongly that any later relationships with men – including romantic ones – are filtered through that experience.

Daughters need to know that the first man in their life loved them unconditionally, as all her relationships with men will be patterned after that first love.

Most women subconsciously gravitate towards men who accord her the same level – or lack – of value and empathy our fathers did. So if your father neglected to let you know how special and valuable you are, you may attract similar relationships with men in your adult life, unaware that you deserve better.

Psychologist Dr Linda Nielsen has been studying the father-daughter relationship for over 15 years. Like researchers before her, she acknowledges that positive fathering produces well-adjusted, confident and successful daughters who relate well to the men in their lives.

“The quality of a daughter’s relationship with her father is always affecting her relationships with men – either in good ways or in bad ways,” writes Dr Nielsen. “When a woman doesn’t trust men, can’t maintain an ongoing relationship, doesn’t know how to communicate, or is co-dependent, this is probably because her relationship with her father lacked trust and/or communication.”

Nielsen also writes that a poorly fathered daughter may be, “too clingy, dependent and jealous. She smothers men and ruins the relationship. Or she is very distant, untrusting and emotionally cold and thus ruins her relationship. The list is endless.”

Indeed it is. And as a further illustration of the profound impact this relationship has on a daughter, not only are girls who have positive relationships with their fathers less likely to develop eating disorders, and vice versa. Research has also shown that such girls are likely to enter puberty later.

Likewise, when a father is absent, distant or the relationship is unsupportive, a daughter is much more likely to experience an early onset of menstruation. Why? Because when a girl is not getting the attention and affirmation she so desperately needs from her father, puberty is triggered prematurely in an unconscious – and heartbreaking – attempt to attract the attention of other men, instead.

And early onset of menstruation is an established risk factor for breast cancer later in life, with each year of delay decreasing the risk by 10-20%.

All children need their parents to mirror them back to themselves, with love. This is not a nice-to-have. It’s a necessity.

For her physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health, a girl needs to know that she is important and visible to her father, loved by him, and special to him. Where his manner of relating to her deviates from this is where the problems start.

Our childhood experiences – good or bad – literally hard-wire our brains, and much of the wiring takes place in our earliest years.

When a father is generally disapproving, distant and/or abusive (whether physically or verbally) towards his daughter, this is literally wired into her psyche.

In extreme cases, this can negatively impact – not only in girlhood, but in adulthood too – how her nervous system and all the other systems of her body function (stress will do that, as explained here), which will in turn affect how she feels in herself, and how she relates to others.

One of my coaching clients gave me permission to share her story. N is in her late 30s and enjoyed a privileged upbringing.

But her relationship with her father has been a source of great pain in her life.

He provided for the family and was always there for his children when needed, but his manner of relating to N alternated, for the most part, between emotionally distant, and harshly judgmental and disapproving.

For a highly sensitive child this was devastating, and the pattern continued through her teens, twenties and thirties.

Just one of several painful memories she’s recounted during our sessions: she was back on a short Easter break from university when a trivial argument broke out with her mother at the lunch table.

As usual, her father took her mother’s side and showed no interest in N’s feelings. But this time he also told her: “This family’s better off without you.”

Twenty years later, N knows those words were spoken in anger and not really meant – yet still they remain etched on her mind, along with other cruel things he said to her.

Starting in her teens, N has suffered on and off from anxiety, depression and disordered eating.

Again, our fathers literally helped to wire our brains during our earliest years of life, so if they were disapproving, distant, abusive or absent when we were growing up, their negativity towards us literally became a part of our psyche.

Small children essentially absorb their parents’ words, thoughts and deeds into their unconscious minds, and 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.

This is why girls will mistake their fathers’ issues for their own – if their father doesn’t relate to them with love, they’ll assume they must therefore not be loveable.

As women, they may come to understand intellectually that it was nothing to do with them. What was wired into the deepest part of the psyche can’t be quickly rationalised away, but still – this is a great start on the path back to wholeness.

I wrote this article for N and for all the other amazing women I know whose fathers have no idea who their daughters are, nor how special and remarkable they are.

And I wrote it for the fathers, too. Many men had no one to model for them how to play the huge and important and special role in a little girl’s life that only her daddy can play…nor how to relate to her as a grown woman, and possibly one who is by now hostile towards him.

None of us had the “perfect” upbringing and we’ve all experienced pain in our family relationships.

But it’s never too late to start – or continue – the healing process.

I’ll end this with some words from one of my all-time favourite books – A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles, by Marianne Williamson.

One of the most valuable core teachings of the Course is that everything anyone says or does is either “love or a call for love”.

“Who didn’t grow up in a dysfunctional home?” asks Williamson. “The world is dysfunctional! But there is nothing we have been through, or seen, or done, that cannot be used to make our lives more valuable now. We can grow from any experience, and we can transcend any experience.”

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


  • ‘For her physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health, a girl needs to know that she is important and visible to her father, loved by him, and special to him. Where his manner of relating to her deviates from this is where the problems start.’ << So true. All of it is but that part really jumped out at me, you hit the nail right on the head there.

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    • My so called father has never once said he loves me. Has never hugged me or said he is proud of me. He used to beat me and my brother as kids. I am scared of him. Now he is older I feel like I should have pity on him but I feel pain and hatred. I have no trust in men and no male figure I can rely on. I envy people who have a loving dad and hate feeling this way. My dad has not been called dad for a long time

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    • I know you published this years ago. But so timely. I’ve kind of known this. But the degree that the pattern of bonding has affected my relationship with men and ability to let go of emotionally inconsistent behaviors has just hit me with greater awareness. In the same evening, my dad can critique my choice of jobs, moralize my struggles to find myself as having a lack of faith in God and therefore lack of wisdom, then when I get visibly upset, state he has said nothing offensive, and then hug me and tell me loves me warmly.

      If he was just truly emotionally unavailable or distant, at least I could just wall myself off. But the inconsistency and his outward warmness and moments of sweetness make it very hard to know where the boundaries should start and end. It mirrored a situation with a man I ended because of his emotional inconsistency a month ago… telling me he didn’t want a relationship but drawing me in and showing me emotional warmness and kindness just when I was ready to move on. What now?

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      • Hi Emma, I am sorry you went through this. I guess that it is fine to hate the father -hate is the valuable emotion, the true emotion to the way this person has treated you. He was not a good father. Actually, he was not father, at all (at least, I would love to hear it, to be validated in my own horror-experience).

        I would try to learn about self-compassion as a second step.

        I also have an abusive father….verbally and emotionally, financially, socially. He contributed to the abuse being done on me by mother figures. He left when I was 5. I guess it has saved my life. One abuser less. Nevertheless, the abuse contributed to a deep injury in form of PTSD and physical sickness at a young age, not talking about my relationship with men (I met abusers everywhere: romantic relationships, doctors, psychotherapists, educators).

        I literally hide myself from any men, I cannot come in closer contact with anyone…as I tend to attract only abusers and I cannot recognize them until it is too late. I am not sure whether I will get out of it ever (as I also suffer from the maternal abuse), but I hope….through these articles to see what a good father means and what I was missing.

        I am scared of men. I want to thrive in my life and I am scared that when I meet any more abusers I will not survive it anymore. (after the abuse in psychotherapy followed by 4 year romantic relationship with a mental, emotional abuser where I luckily escaped from, I fell sick … body just could not hold all the hyper-criticism, shaming, blaming me, attacking my being, forcing me to jump through hoops for them, the love bombing, the gaslight, the discard…..the rejection, and again the love bombing.).

        What is written in this article is like a text from another planet: where are these fathers, such men? I never met any men who validated me (mentally, emotionally, socially) (my father is borderline I guess, his father was sociopath), who knew who I was (I don´t know it myself). I try to be on no contact (but the abusers try to get to me, but it does not do me well to be with them). Hate is the true emotion I have towards the father. Disgust as well.

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        • Hi Sandy,
          It seems this man is giving you the hot and cold treatment. I experienced it in the therapy being applied on me by the two male therapist, consciously.
          I also experienced it from narc mother, but I guess also from the father (who was absent most of my life while living geographically very close). People of “borderline type”, “narcissist” and similar people do it, probably as a form of love bombing and subsequent discard. When he is emotionally unavailable and you pull back, he feels it (I remember my father doing it in my adult age when I was trying to get known him), he is afraid to lose you and tries to love bomb again. It is an ongoing struggle. Promise of emotional warmth, love, validation -all the child and every human being craves for. However, these people are not capable to keep it going on for a long time, and in my own experience I believe that they don´t wont: I was simply not interesting, not giving to them anything enough to give to me (love bomb me)….but they need to string me along.
          It is an emotional torture.
          All my 20 years of experience with my father who did this to me when I wanted to be contact him and figure out who he was, is the same. No change. The best time for me was no contact (until he loved bombed me again….through guilting me, through keeping me hostage through the death of my grandfather -he did not tell me about him…)…..I believe that it is a conscious behavior of men: they plan the hot and cold treatment. Only they might not feel how it hurts the daughter (or any other women)…because they just don´t care for her.

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    • I should probably have signed up. I’m from Ireland and my ex moved back to Brazil when she found she was pregnant. She told me the day she left on plane. I supported her, she had Agatha, I wasn’t there for her birth, I asked for DNA proof. She was 3 months old when I saw her in Brazil in February, 6 mths old in June, 9 months now and nearly ready to walk. She is growing up too fast. She has such sad eyes sometimes. 3 times a year I plan to see her while I finish a college degree.

      I was polluted by my fathers bitterness and anger with the way he was treated by his distant father, my grandfather whose parents died when he was 16 and had to look after the homestead. My father was the only son with 5 sisters, he was spoilt but he is a very needy man and was tyrannically suppressive as we all grew up. I remember he turned the bed over on mam and we had to lift it off her. I remember her locking us all in the bedroom as he tried to knock down the door. Pulled my sister up the hall by the hair and smacked her across the other side of her bed. Luckily she got the door closed.

      Too much discipline, but involvement all the same. I’m not having enough involvement in Agatha’s life. Her mother’s parents split up when she was 8, her father was an alcoholic but only verbally abused his mother, her and her father are close now.

      We got the belt and the sally rod and silent treatment and manipulative blackmail and being played off against each other. Me and the brothers reckoned we were only born to help or slave for him on the farm and he treated the cattle better. It was just keeping tradition though. He laughed how he broke me at 16, like a horse. He used to work a lot in England when we were small to send money over. Mam has always been a very loving woman, she’d wipe his ass and care for him, sometimes us children may have been seen as a threat. He’s a workaholic, he loves work.

      But Agatha, my daughter has her grandfather and step grandfather, and maybe I should see her more. I noticed she needs to be held, picked up. Brazilian culture much different than Irish. Agatha’s aunt just separated with her husband and I ask how their daughter is, she’s OK, it’s cool, says Agatha’s mother. They all look after each other’s kids, or adopt or take in one those whose parents didn’t care. I ended up letting her mother into my life. Maybe it was more than just because I have low opinion of myself, she’s just herself. At times I thought I was used as a sperm donor, tricked. Life goes on, I continue 2 years with my degree and see Agatha three or four times a year.

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  • 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. Its only now in my 30’s I have managed to heal and have become a person who doesn’t need their father’s approval, and funnily enough, I now have it, I guess because I dont seem as weak as I did when younger. I don’t think that loss of relationship will ever heal properly but it just became something I accepted. But I do know that underneath all that I went through it was because of that relationship that was so messed up. I was however able to look at my father’s own childhood and understood completely why he is the way he is. His own mother was and still is a monster, completely messing with his head and causing him to be emotionally very cold. Funny thing is he is actually very sensitive himself but just never knew how to deal with it. I think the key is for all of us to look at the father and try and find out, ‘why is he like this?” then we can remove lots of the anger and realise that he has gone through something terrible too. But the sad thing is he wasn’t able to break the cycle. It is the job of us though, to do that, to not pass the pain onto our own children.

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    • Well I always told my daughter I love her. I told her she was great the way she was. Then as a teenager she rejected me and refuses to even say why. She claims to remember some “thing” but does not say what it is. When I ask her she does not give any specific things. Just says mean and hateful things. A father telling their daughter he loves her has made no difference. My daughter still hates me and won’t say why.

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  • What if you had your father’s love then at age 6 the parents divorced and from that point on the daughter was no longer of any importance or value to her father? What happens to the girl then? How can she recover or heal or even learn to live?

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    • My view on this is that for a girl to grow up healthy and whole she needs her father’s love throughout her childhood and teens and into adulthood. If that doesn’t happen for whatever reason – whether because he dies, leaves or rejects her – there WILL be healing to do, and it can take time. But that healing CAN be done – even in situations as heartbreaking as the one you describe.

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      • my mother is tearing my father apart from me by lying to my father. I never told her anything but she complains telling that thing differently but in a bad sense. my father never scolded me but what she told is is fully different what I said. now he will never trust me on anything. please tell me how to make the solution. even I don’t want to low my mothers image in front of father. please give a solution that I can talk to my father again and not to make my mother low in my fathers eyes.

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        • Thank you for sharing the comments. I learn that I had been rejected, abused on purpose since an embryo time through all my life, even in adulthood when I wanted to know this man….to name things is the good start on the pathway. 🙂

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      • Dear Sarah,

        I found your article today while researching for help for my daughter. She just turned 16 and last Tuesday she took a bunch of pills and try to take her life. I asked her why I said baby mommy loves you so much why you have such a wonderful future ahead of you and she said because Mom you’re the only one, Dad doesn’t love me. My daughter was in the ER from Tuesday until last night late Thursday night. Today is Friday and she is at a behavioral health center. My heart is broken for my beautiful child.


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        • It may have been a while since you wrote this. I just want you to know I’m the father of 2 children with a broken family and raising my daughter alone going through all kinds of hardships. I found that surrendering my cares wholeheartedly over to Christ and diligently seeking his guidance and wisdom has brought me to a better place that I could have achieved alone. This world is a broken place only in heaven will things be right. God Bless you.

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        • Oh Liz I’m so so sorry to hear about your daughter. I’m going through a similar problem, my daughter cuts herself, has depression and anxiety. I read her journal and she says her dad doesn’t love her or care about her. I think he is a wonderful, gentle and patient dad but not very affectionate. He is struggling with her condition and shuts himself off because he doesn’t know how to fix it. I’m trying to send lots of love to them both but it really does hurt to see this happen. Best wishes for you and your daughter.

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    • That’s what I’ve also experienced and now I know why I have felt that I’m unlovable! Love this article. Hope you heal from your experience. Just remember you are lovable and special. ?

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  • Sarah,

    Thank you for your insight. My situation is really different. I became a dad when I was 19 years old. I also came from an abusive home, both physically and emotionally. At the time of my daughter’s conception, my own father beat me and told me i would never be a father. I remember being forced into denying parental responsibility and the beatings would continue until I denied my child.

    That being said, I made a conscious decision to protect her from my own parents. My mother wanted to take custody from my daughter’s mother, because i was having sex with her when I was 17 years old.

    Now, I since reached out to my daughter, specifically when she became a senior in high school. Things started off great and exciting for the two of us. The bond was instant. The only thing that bothered me was my internal memories of those beatings from years earlier. I shared this with my daughter and she felt compassion.

    I fell into addiction, alcohoism, sex, etc. I am working a program of strong recovery. My daugther is getting married in November this year, I’ve re-established contact with her through Facebook, and I really want to give her away at her wedding. I am scared to death to even consider asking her if this is what she would like me to do. Can you give me some help?

    Thank you.

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    • Dear Anthony,

      Thank you for your question. My heart goes out to you, and your daughter, for the extremely challenging circumstances in which your relationship began. I think it’s a credit to both of you that you managed to establish a bond, and an understanding.

      The best advice I can give you is to tell your daughter how much it would mean to give her away at her wedding, but emphasise that while it would be the greatest honour for you, the decision is hers, and you will respect it whatever it is.

      As this could be emotionally charged for both of you, consider writing to her about it rather than putting her on the spot in person. That way, you have time to compose exactly what you want to say, and she has time to consider her response without pressure.

      I wish you the very best of luck with this, and with your ongoing program of recovery. I think that if you ask this question in the right way, then even if you don’t get the answer you’re hoping for, your daughter will still be incredibly touched, and it will be a huge positive for your relationship going forward.


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  • I am Mum of a beautiful talented young daughter. I am married and we are happy, my husband is my daughter’s father but since she was young he has had issues with her behaviour, she is willful. She is now 23 and is well aware that her father is not a fan of hers, she states he hates her, I don’t think he does but understand why she feels this way. He finds fault in everything she does and the way she behaves.

    She doesn’t do what we think but is in no way a bad person, she is just very unconventional and does things her own way which I applaud although it does cause me a lot of worry. At times I understand his worries or complaints although don’t feel the constant critisism will get us anywhere and feel we need to support and trust her to make the right decisions. I worry so much about the effects of his behaviour on her and also hers on him.

    He suffers from depression and I feel when he is ill it is worse but am never sure if this is my excuse for his behaviour towards her. It is not a simple solution I know but I have seen them get on together and to me it is beautiful as they bounce off each other as they are similar in wit and manner.

    They both talk to me about the problems with the other although my husband thinks I stick up for my daughter and I feel they have lost trust in each other and are fed up of going over old ground all the time. I sometimes think I should have left my husband when the children were younger but he would still be their father, I have talked to them both but it seems to get worse.

    I am at the point now that I will continue to nurture my relationship with them both separately but don’t know if what I am doing is wrong or right. Wer have a son who is 25 and gets on with Dad most of the time and also recognises the problems between my daughter and husband. He wants us to go on holiday together next year but I think it will be too stressful, any words of wisdom would be greatly received

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    • Dear Doris,

      There is no easy answer to the situation you’ve outlined, but I will say, based on your outline of it, that the root cause is in the way your husband relates to your daughter. No daughter should feel that her father is “not a fan of hers”. He should be her biggest fan – but the situation you describe is sadly all too common.

      This is a quote from an article in (UK newspaper) The Telegraph which I think beautifully sums up how a healthy father-daughter relationship looks, 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 ‚Äì with luck ‚Äì 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.”

      Sadly, many fathers I know, or know of, do NOT view their daughters in that way – or at least they don’t show it. And those father-daughter relationships are, without question, painful ones for the daughters in question, and in many cases for the fathers, too.

      Daughters play a role in the father-daughter relationship too, of course – but the father is fully responsible for how it goes for the first 18 years, as he is the only adult in the relationship. Those first 18 years set the tone for the relationship.

      Your daughter has only recently entered adulthood. She would be very different towards your husband if, instead of “finding fault with everything she does”, he had been a supporting, loving presence during her formative years.

      He can’t change the past, but much can be done to heal the wounds of the past. The first step is understanding and accepting what caused them.

      I will be writing more on this topic soon.



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      • Dear Sarah, I am so fed up with mostly women say “with time the children will get over their dad not being in their life.” It’s because of a court order that came about from lies and accusations about the dad is why the father isn’t there. This happened to me twice. And i beg to differ with you, that as a father being humiliated in court and supervised visitations for years all the time in the world will never heal the pain of you daughter being taken away from you by the courts based on pure lies. The mothers that do this to their children and the fathers is disgusting and evil and should go to prison for such actions. I have a bachelor’s and Master’s in Psychology and doesn’t make me any smarter or less intelligent. Father’s need to be in their childs life. Period. If it hasn’t happened to you (anyone) then you will never understand the sadness and hurt from your child being kept away from you. Sincerely, Mark from Calif.

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    • I have the same situation with my husband and daughter. I know my husband loves his daughter but gets so angry when he is not the center of her universe. She is in college and trying to live her life and find out who she is but he can’t seem to accept it. He feels that she no longer loves him and he is horrible with his feelings. I too feel that maybe I should have left him a few years ago and that would have been better for everyone. It is starting to make me resent and even have ill feelings for my husband. How can I be with someone who behaves this way with his children? He seriously was the best father with both kids until the kids started to have lives of their own. I just don’t know what to do. I know it’s ok to be mad at each other once in a while but to show no feelings and play the pity game is too much. I can’t take it any more!!

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      • Hi Ramie,

        Some parents are emotionally distant and become even more so when their children grow up and leave home. Others do a great job when their children are younger – as your husband did – but when those children become adults, struggle with the transition. From what you write, your husband has unreasonable expectations of his daughter, and is reacting to their not being met with unreasonable behaviour. And I do hear that it’s not easy from where you’re sitting, caught in the middle.

        For the longer term there is every reason to be hopeful, though. He was a great father when his kids were growing up so has built a solid relationship with them (something so many fathers sadly do not do). That foundation remains, despite the current challenges. If your husband is open to it, The Work by Byron Katie is a book which he might find helpful at this time. It teaches us to really examine our expectations of others, to see the pain those expectations cause us, and to let them go!

        Sarah x

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      • Me, as a deeply abused child by my father and his father (but more by my father), I would actually like to see my father in pain. I don´t think that he suffers from rejecting and abusing me, letting me without any child support (I was 3 times in court with him in my adult age to receive the child support for the past years at all, him hatefully ridiculing me “don´t you have enough money for bread and water ?”)….and many, many other abusive things.

        I think my father ( I call him sperm donor, a not wanted one) only thinks that I have to jump for him: he wanted me to write give him a birthday present or write to him on his birthdays when I mentioned that he never did for me (the philosophy is that I as a child had to take care for him, and when I failed, he has the right to mistreat me, it is my fault).

        Thus, anything bad that happens to him would be a satisfaction for me.

        It was so bad how he abused me and it has had such an impact on my physical and emotional life.

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  • Sarah,
    Thank you so much for the article you wrote, it really made me understand so many things.
    I have suffered my whole life with the non-existent relationship i have with my father. He had a very traumatic and tough childhood, a lot of it spent in orphanages. As a child i was very naughty and was hit by him usually with belts and on one occasion he also kicked me while i was on the floor.

    Now im 22 and find myself still battling with the same issues of not being close with him. My parents are still together but don’t have a relationship and even sleep in different rooms. He’s a very distant person who doesnt communicate and probably would not understand if i tried to explain to him everything i was feeling. It just upsets me that even at this age this is still affecting me to the extent which i am on antidepressants. It also doesnt help the fact that i work with him and live at home.

    I just want to be able to sit down and let it all out of how i’m feeling but have never had the courage to do it.

    Thank you so much,


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    • Alexia,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to write in and share that. I’m very sorry to read it. I’ve been amazed at the number of hits this article gets – and at the number of readers who have written to me either here in comments, or privately, to share their stories. These situations are deeply painful and this is a topic I am preparing to cover again soon.

      Thank YOU,


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      • I just read your original article on this topic today, after Googling for info on angry outbursts from fathers, etc. Your article is excellent. I only hope you still post updates/more articles around this topic and especially on help for recovery from the aftermath of such devastating experiences so many sufferers share. Please keep posting.

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  • Hi Sarah,

    Thanks for making this kind of information available. I think I’m on the verge of being in what would be considered a hostile relationship with my dad. I still live at home and really worry about the impact it has on my younger sister and mum.

    I’ve tried so many times to explain to him why I’m so upset at the things he does and why it hurts me that he’s so unreliable, doesn’t respect my mum or us really, and doesn’t remember things that are important to me, but it just gets me nowhere and I have no idea what to do next. It was great to read the article and I look forward to reading more of your insights.



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  • hello sarah
    your article exposes the pain and hurt but does not say what CAN be done to heal a father daughter relationship?
    my daughter has been giving me the silent treatment. she does not communicate with me and relies on very negative rhetoric provided by my ex wife. i have been a good father and tried to reach her repeatedly with no avail.

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    • Hi Arv,

      I’m very sorry to hear of your situation. I wish I had a soundbite at the ready which would answer your question. I will be writing on this topic again soon, this time including more information on what can be done. I will also be answering a number of letters in the new article, so I’d like to invite you, if you wish, to send in a little more information – anything else that may be relevant.



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  • I am a teen and my father and I are very distant, distant enough to where we barely say a word to each other. I’m desperately seeking ways to strengthen our relationship! I’ll be heading to college soon, and I really don’t want our relationship to be like this forever. What can I do to help us bond?

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  • Hello Sarah,

    As I have just had one of my usual arguments with my father, I turned to google out of frustration on negative effects of strained father daughter relationships, and came upon your website which I find to be incredibly interesting and quit relatable in my perspective.

    As I read through your article I continually saw the similarities you discussed which relates to my relationship with my father. I am only 18 years old, although at times I find myself feeling much older due to my troubled relationship with my father.

    I am the daughter of a portuguese Canadian immigrant. Similar to many other stories out there, my father immigrated to Canada at only 18 years old after being treated badly by his own father, as he continually tells me, he came here with only 100 dollars in his pocket. Married my Canadian mother and ended up becoming a very wealthy self employed businessman.

    Also very similar to your story of the woman named L, I was brought up in a house of much privilege and wealth due to my fathers hard work. I am the oldest of three children and I have two younger brothers.

    Growing up my father was continually verbally mean at times. He continuously would call me fat as I was a chubby child, and he made rude remarks about how I was a lazy useless child. I can probably count on one hand the number of times my father has ever said I love you to me. Although as a child I was well aware that my father did love me but only because my mother continually explained to me that my father does not know how to show love and his type of love is shown through money or gifts.

    As I am now in university and at the same age as my father when he moved to my county. Our relationship has become much more strained. He continually never fails to acknowledge the fact that when he was my age he had to make his own money and no one offered him the chance to have an education.

    It is as though now he is more resentful towards me then he ever was to me as a child. With my younger brothers he provides them with laughter and the love that I never saw growing up. Although when he sees me he is cold and distant and if I try to say something he looks at me in utter disgust.

    growing up and even through high school I was a very well behaved young girl. I never dared do something that would upset my father.

    As I had what I would call my first serious dating relationship last year (which my father knew nothing about) I found my self realizing how insecure I really was towards a man. I found my self not trusting the guy I was dating even though he was an incredible guy with good morales. I ended up purposely cheating on him because I was so worried that he would end up hurting me first so I wanted to end the relationship on my terms. Still to this day my friends continually acknowledge how crazy I was for hurting such a good guy who had so much to offer me.

    I know for a fact that my actions towards my ex boyfriend was due to my troubled relationship with my father. As I know I am still young and naive, I have made it clear to my mother that my father must make an effort to display his love for me or after university I might be forced to not want anymore contact due to the intense stress it has caused me at my young age.

    I know there are many great and wonderful men out there, as I have witnessed from my grandfather on my mother side and the fathers of my best friends who show their love so deeply towards their daughters. Although at times it makes me very sad that my father could not display his love for me that way, It has also given me hope that hopefully one day in the future when I have learned to handle another dating relationship, then I will find a wonderful man who will love my future children the way I wished I was loved.


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    • Ale, Thank you so much for writing in. I am just back from the holidays clearing an email backlog and have only so far skim-read it – I look forward to reading it in greater depth. I thank all who have shared their experiences here – so many are suffering with the same root issue and with any challenge in life, we all feel less alone when we read of others who have been through the same things we have.

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  • My scenario is quite like Terrences’ 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…sometimes I wonder if we should go to counseling but we despise speaking to each other…I’ve gotten advice about how to build a better relationship, but a lot of the responses were more for girls who are confident in their daddy-daughter relationship…can you help me?

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    • Charlotte, I’m so sorry to hear that. This sort of thing is sadly extremely common, but that doesn’t make it any easier for those who experience it. I will be writing more on this topic soon. In the meantime, I think that it would be very beneficial for you and your dad to attend counselling together. I suggest talking to any potential counsellor first, though, to check they are knowledgeable about family therapy and the issues at hand, and also that they feel right to you energetically.

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  • This article has really opened my eyes. For years both me and my sister had a vacant and verbally abusive father. We’re both older now but both suffer with anxiety and depression, we have always wondered why we are like this. My dad was alot harder on my sister, maybe because she’s the oldest and now she has very few friends and can’t hold down a relationship. I feel so bad for her. Luckily i have managed to find someone but he so reminds me of my father sometimes. I really hope he doesn’t turn out like him especially if we have children in the future. The sad thing is my dad lost his dad at a young age and clearly had no idea what he was doing, to this day he still doesn’t realise what he put us through! I hope young fathers take the time to read something like this. It’s so important.

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  • Hi,

    My father is a workaholic. He never is home (stays at work until midnight, 2am, or never comes home) aside from on the weekend. It has been this way since I was born.

    When he is home it’s like he isn’t even present. Often he is reading the newspaper, working on more work, or lost in a sports game. I try and talk to him but it takes him a very long time to respond to me, so I give up. He seems to have no interest in my life, and probably couldn’t even tell you where I work, what my future plans are or what my interests are. Sometimes when I am talking to my sister or mom about something light hearted he will interrupt to tell me not use swear words. I would say most of the time he only talks to me to discipline me “you and your sister can clean up the kitchen”, “you don’t do enough around here”. I feel that it is very unfair because he only is there to see me on the weekends. He misses all the cooking and cleaning I do all week long.

    I have not been seeking out sex from males like you would assume as a girl with no relationship with her father. I think this is because my mom has been a very strong support in my life and has been helpful in teaching me how to respect my body, dressing modestly and to get to know someone really well before sleeping with them.

    In terms of my sex life there are some issues. I do have a hard time reaching orgasm with my boyfriends.. I feel afraid to, I literally fight them and wiggle my body away so I can’t have one and sometimes want to cry/ am mad at myself for not relaxing and allowing it to happen. On my own I am do orgasm with no problem, so I know that is not the issue. I wonder if this has something to do with not having a relationship with my father? It’s like I don’t trust my partner fully so giving myself to them sexually is very challenging for me. I also notice I enjoy sex that is more aggressive (getting spanked, little bites, etc), and I do not know where that comes from.

    My relationships have never lasted past 7 months. Aside from the “puppy love” I experienced in high-school that lasted close to 3 years. That relationship was very unheatlhy (he cheated on me, was often focused on my physical appearance, we fought daily, and he was very jealous). I honestly do not think I ever loved him, it was lust. Since then I am happy to say that my relationships have been much more positive. I haven’t heard a man say “I love you” since I was 18 and that was from the boy in my unhealthy “puppy love” relationship. The fact that I have not heard it is upsetting and currently all I want is to have someone love me. I know the usual advice for that last comment goes like this: you need to learn to love yourself first. I 100% agree with that, and I do love myself (I am working on gaining more confidence though) but I can’t help but wanting that love from a man. I sometimes worry I will never find that.

    Often in my relationships with men I push them away without meaning to. For example, 5 months into a relationship I grew concerned my boyfriend would never tell me that he loved me. I asked him if he ever was going to love me (that was very unfair of me to ask him). He grew nervous that I wanted something more serious than he could give me. During our break up that occurred days after the conversation he said he could have been with me for a long time but that he did not want to hurt me because wasn’t sure if he could tell me for certain that he would fall in love with me. That was the hardest break up I have ever been through. I could not eat for weeks without throwing up because I have no appetite. I could physically feel that my heart was broken.

    My most recent relationship ended because my partner left to travel. At the start of the relationship we mutually decided to continue dating but to break it off when he left. He came home recently from his wordily trip only to leave again for the summer. A part of me feels like if I was enough he would have wanted to stay here after returning from his trip. The relationship lasted 7 months and although it was a wonderful relationship with no issues, the break up was much easier to handle than the relationship prior. I think it was because 1) I knew we were breaking up and 2) I did not make the mistake of questioning about whether he would love me. 3) I do not truly believe that it is over for good but I am open to dating other people, and exploring myself further.
    I believe that he did love me though and I loved him as well, we understood each other and each others needs very well. Literally just as I was typing this response he texted me with his new number. I was skeptical that he would as it has been a while since he left.

    As a little girl I thought it was normal not to have your Dad around until my mom told me “daddy’s are suppose to come home, I don’t want you to grow up thinking this is what you deserve in a husband”

    My question is.. how do you think I have been affected by my workaholic father if my mother has done her best to compensate and teach me to be respectful of myself? I know that as much as she has tried, there are still some residual effects. I want to be aware of them and begin working through them.

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  • Also, I am 21 years old, and I just completed my degree in nursing. My biggest insecurity stems from failure and more so rejection. I have a 3.7 GPA but in the working world I feel unsure of myself, stupid and lack confidence. I feel as though I attract males fairly easily, I am kind and caring, and very picky when it comes to guys (not really a good thing). I do not want to marry my father, I want a mate that is educated, attractive and talkative.

    In junior high I was bullied by a group of boys. The would point out my physical features that they thought were ugly on a daily basis, and make fun of the things I would say in class. My relationship with my brothers is also weak. One of my brothers picks on me and says that is what brothers are suppose to do. The other I rarely see as he is moved out. I noticed I can be defensive. It is safe to say that I do not have positive male relationships in my life.

    My life father-daughter relationship could be way worse.. when I read comments about physical and emotional abuse I honestly questioned whether I even write a response because I can’t even imagine how hard that would be to go through. I hope you ladies find love and support in your lives and continue to stay strong <3.

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  • Hi well i have an untrustworthy relationship with my dad. He’s just recently returned back into my life but a week ago i had a volleyball game and no one except my grandmother usually shows up to any of my games, no matter what but this time she had to work so it was just me and my sister, i was sitting on the bench warming up when my best friend came up to me happy and told me my mom was outside i was, in shock because usually shes very anti social and doesnt like to be around alot of people . But my best friend looked funny and said she was with some man i knew it had to be my dad it was, i was so happy, but then at the end of the game a friend of mine was related to my dad which was her uncle which made her my cousin i guess she told me i couldnt have been his child because he told her mom he had 1 child and she’s named afther him. It made me mad and sad, i now i try to act and smile as friendly as possible but im not sure if he notice i don’t know if i should tell him, or leave it alone, i just know i’ll never forget those words even if they arent true

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  • I grew up with a mom and dad, but I always felt like my dad did not love me, at times I used to think that perhaps I was adopted. And although this might sound weird I wanted to believe that at one point because it made me find a reason for the behavior and somewhat understand.

    I am the oldest of three, a sister and a brother. My father was very strict, critical, and disciplined me a lot by hitting me with the belt. I was even told at times when I did something wrong that I was a retard, to the point that I started to kind of believe it. I grew up to be a very rebellious person. I did not like authority, fought a lot, and was insecure. Now I’m in my 30’s and I had to work with these demons that I believe he created.

    I am a hard worker and like to be almost perfect at everything I do, and if I don’t do something right, now I took my dad’s position because I am harsh on myself. As a young female I was promiscuous and treated men like shit, as if I need to be in control and did not allowed anyone to tell me nothing. Now I still at times find myself needing the approval of others and I hate that about myself. I had build a wall were people don’t really know these things about me because I appear strong, confident, and in control, but that’s not my reality. I’m very shy and when I tell people that knows me this they are very surprised. But thats because I’m very shy in situations that I have no control over, where I’m being judge. Interviews are a nightmare to me, and I don’t get to show the real me and might have lost good opportunities.

    As an employee I think I’m one of the best, because I have this need to be the best at anything that I do, and although that might sound positive for me is not because I worked harder than the average person because I need to feel that I am good at what I do more than anything. I do well in positions where I’m the leader. But when I am the leader I tend to be more of a team player I work so that people don’t feel what I felt, I tried to work with them and never like others to feel as they are lower than me. I tried not to repeat my story with others, and it does work for me.

    Like Juels, my biggest insecurity stems from failure and more so rejection. I’m currently in my last semester in nursing and I’m very scared that by the time I start working I will feel like she does, unsure of myself, stupid and lack confidence. Because as a nurse you can’t be this way you have to be confident you are working with other peoples lives.

    I have spoken to my dad about it at some point in my life and I have tried to forgive him. It helped me in some ways because I was able to move forward and stop using it as an excuse for not doing better for myself. But sometimes when something goes wrong in my life I get a reminder and sometimes relapse. I wish I could get over it and be normal, but I guess this will be something I will have to work on till the day I die.

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    • I am adopted and cannot stand when people say this. My adoptive father was pure hell so I guess this all makes sense since I was adopted. Ugh

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  • I will be turning 28 soon and about to get married. As far as I can remember; my father was abusive towards me from 1995 when I was 10 years old. He will beat up my mother so bad, right in front of me. When I cry he will come and slap me in a way that I see the shining stars around me. Until now nothing changed except the fact that he doesn’t do it to me anymore but to my younger siblings. We are 8 in the family, with one child coming from another relationship he had while cheating on my mother. When I was young he use to kick me out from his house, even at midnight for petty reasons.

    Things got better after completing matric as I had to go and stay in the university. He never paid for my studies, and my mom had to struggle alone. I had to study hard to get bursaries because I didn’t want to drop out and go back to my abusive father. I am now independent and renting my own flat very far away from him. Now he is abusing my other three younger sibling (girls). They called me telling me that he kicked them out. One of them is staying at a friend ‘s place, and the other one refused to go while the other one is only 11, and trying to hide under the wings of the one who refused to go. Now i just called my mother to report him to the police or social workers because he is sabotaging them instead of protecting them. Do you have a better advice?

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  • This article made me think a lot…I’m 17 and what really touched me here reading through the article and the comments was the fact that I don’t have to feel solely responsible for our relationship. You are right – he’s the adult. And I know that. I’ve never made it my excuse but I also try not to beat myself up over it.

    My father is a good man, and has never physically abused me – but he can rather verbally abusive whether he knows it or not. He has also destroyed my things when he gets angry, including smashing my laptop and destroying the hard drive over a total miscommunication.

    I know I’m not perfect, but I feel as though I do try – the things he gets angry at me about is because I’m tired or not hungry. I never break any rules – and I don’t go against his wishes. As I get older, I’m finding it harder to get along with him – he is unreasonable and unwilling to even talk to me about anything besides the weather practically.

    I always felt as though I was the reason we don’t get along. My mother has basically said so many times…she says that I always could try harder and do more. But never gives me specifics – although I do remember once ( at age 12 or 13) her telling me to apologize (for something I literally don’t even remember) on bended knee to him. I didn’t do it.

    I need to do what I feel I must – but I won’t take sole responsibility for this. I’m not even technically an adult – although he accuses me of not acting like an adult. Yet he never treats me as though I am.

    But anyways. Just reading this article – although it doesn’t change anything – has made me think,


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    • Hi Kay,

      Thank you for sharing. I’m sorry to read of your situation. As you point out, you are not yet an adult. This means that by definition, the responsibility for the problems in your relationship lies with your father, not with you. No child, or teen, should suffer verbal abuse. That is never acceptable. I wish you all the very best.


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  • I have been in my daughter’s life ever since she was born. Her mother and I were already separated shortly after she was born. She was my first born, my joy. I had to fight in court just to see my daughter from day one.

    Her mom is very bitter. I believe it came from her father not wanting to know her and her twin sister at all. They do have a relationship with the paternal grandmother. I believe my daughter’s mother wanted her to grow the same way.

    Her mother felt that she herself was ok without a father so my daughter didn’t need one. My daughter’s maternal grandmother didn’t have a father. In fact I was the only man around when I was married to my daughter’s mother. I have had to fight in court for contempt etc, and to my daughter I was the problem for calling the police or taking her mother to court. My daughter’s mother only respected that I was my daughter’s father on a few occasions, if my daughter was misbehaving in school etc.

    I have remarried and had a second daughter (8 yrs) and gained a son(15). I feel my daughter didn’t have a place here. I have heard and recorded her mother telling her I don’t love her only she does. My daughters mindset was to cut me off.

    When my daughter was bought a cell phone by her mother, she was told I can’t speak to her on it because I didn’t pay the bill. When I bought her a pre paid phone, her mother hid the chargers (we later found out). I put her on my sprint plan, but as usual my daughter was made to feel bad or embarrassed about speaking to me on the phone. So I still didn’t speak to her unless her mother made her speak to me if her mother wanted something. On different occasions her mother was verbally abusive to me and my wife in picking her up and when we record what is happening it upsets my daughter because it is proof.

    I am a very strict dad. I don’t stand for disrespectfulness. Eye rolling, hands on the hips and back talk. I have never in my life spanked my kids. I might have talked them to death. I recently had my daughter write papers on , internet respect, teenage pregnancy, the importance of a relationship with God. My daughter would tell me on different occasion her mother would slap her or pinch her for being disrespectful. I would tell my daughter don’t be disrespectful and you won’t have to wonder when would be the right and wrong time. There is no time to be disrespectful.

    Her mother tried to take me to court once based on the fact that I made my daughter write 500 times. I will not be disrespectful to my mother and father. In which my daughter wrote 94 times.

    I am very emotional about our relationship. I have been an advocate for fathers to get their children and be a significant role in their child’s life.

    In the last couple of months my daughter has expressed she doesn’t want to come over anymore. I know her mother is still filling her head with the unimportance of coming over and having a relationship with me. Since she has been rejecting me, our relationship has been so distant. I have to admit I have become resentful because of the rejection. I kept trying to make it right between her and I and have made appeals to my daughter for us to make it right.

    Recently, I had an argument with my daughter but it’s to the point my daughter doesnt want to come over anymore. I spoke to my pastor and he told me not to force my daughter to come over. My daughter explained to me on the last night she was here, which was about a month ago, ( in my words) she was stuck between a rock and a hard place. I have noticed in the past her mother will shun her and I can see that being hard on my daughter being she was over her mothers house 60% of the time.

    Not sure what to do, if I force her, she will reject me, if I call the police and court, it is a problem, it’s like what I tried so hard to achieve and being in my child’s life it has crumbled on me and her mother has finally gotten her way‚Ķfor her daughter to hate her father. I feel like everything I tried was wrong. Do I just wait, to see if my daughter would one day return? My daughter is about to have a middle school promotion and I want to send flowers to the school, just to let her know I love her and I’m still there.

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    • Thank you for sharing. It is always tragic when one parent puts their needs and agenda before the child’s need to have a close, loving relationship with both parents.

      Regardless of whether you decide to seek legal intervention, the best advice I can give is continue to be there for your daughter in any way open to you – continue to reach out to her and let her know you love her.

      One thing I’ve discovered in the year or so since I started researching this topic and receiving emails from women around the world – it’s amazing how rare it is that daughters feel seen (for who they really are), loved and appreciated by their fathers.

      You don’t say how old your daughter is, but I assume from what you write that she is around 13. As hard as her younger years have been for you, I’m confident that as she gets older and is able to better understand the situation, she will begin to appreciate you. There is still every chance you could have what so many fathers and daughters do not – including those who lived under the same roof for 18+ years – a close and loving relationship.

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  • Father’s Day has always been one of the most difficult days for me. My father and I have never had a relationship. I was always the one who seemed to be the guinea pig when it came to what I was able to do growing up. Being the oldest never meant I got to do things that bonded me with either parent. It meant my suffering for my younger siblings to have things easier when they turned my age. I am now almost 40, divorced and remarried and still estranged from a relationship with my father. I have been learning that after all these years, it was not my fault that I was treated that way. My mother always defending him bc he had a rough childhood… It angered me bc he was hurting me and the older I got the more I realized I’d never get the “I’m so proud of you.” Or “I love you” conversations with him.
    Who would have ever thought it would have such an effect on relationships I had with men. The only men I felt I deserved were ones that treated me poorly and belittling me. When I was married the first time, I never got that approval I longed for… After my son was born, the only grandchild to my parents…still the only grandchild to this day..never getting the love from my dad caused me to realize I’ll never be good enough for any man…after divorcing and opening dark doors of my past , I learned it’s not me… I still have hard time.. Several yrs later, I remarried and have been very happy for 2 yrs married. Being treated so well scares me a lot . I’m unfamiliar with how it feels to be loved.
    I’m still learning that life is what you make it. I’m learning to cut negative people and it’s been hard bc it’s family.
    I love myself and I love my son and I love my husband.
    I want some closure to the pain. I want him to see I’m doing well and to love me for me. But I can’t wait around for it.. I have been told to sever the ties…very difficult

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  • Hi Sarah, I really enjoyed this piece. I hope you can give me some advice, especially on this father’s day when I am feeling very alone

    I am a highly sensitive child, now in my late teens, and I grew up with loving parents. However, I have always wanted an involved father. My father always uses the excuse that he is very busy but in all honesty he is not (very flexible hours, he is self-employed). He is always on his phone talking to others, even when he walks through the door. He can be highly critical of times and I feel he does not support my aspirations. In this past year, my parents have grown a bit distant and he hurts…at times I feel like my father is being unfaithful as well. I have suffered from anxiety attacks and whenever I see friends who have a great relationship with their fathers it just tears me apart

    My question is, how, and when, should I talk to my father about him not being involved in my life. I have rehearsed it in my mind for years now but I don’t have the courage

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  • is there any self help books that can heal these feelings of rejection from a father? i have felt guilt, shame in expressing how i feel towards loved ones. it’s like i feel i’m not allowed to be or feel upset when i feel i’m am being taken for granteed, not respected, especially by men i feel for. i am aware that it comes from my relationship with my stepfather from the age of 2yrs old, i walked on eggshells, and have grown into a low self esteemed woman, who is afraid to speak her truth in how she feels. is there any books that can help?


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    • Dear Sherene, I’m so very sorry to read that. I have been looking into this very topic and I will have more on this. So far, I’ve found that books that deal specifically with the childhood issues that cause low self-esteem tend to define and explain the problem very well, but not enable the reader to transcend this – in fact, reading such books can even lead to feeling more stuck as they merely focus attention on this negative area. I think it’s important to have an understanding of what happened, so these books can help in that sense, but as for the next level…the books I’ve found by far the most transformative are empowering texts such as anything by Eckhart Tolle (his writing on the “pain body” will strike a chord and can be powerful in helping reframe our experience), Marianne Williamson or Gabrielle Bernstein.

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  • Glad to have found this! I’m hoping you can help with some suggestions. My 13y.o. daughter is CONVINCED my husband (her dad) hates her. In “normal” teen fashion, this vascillates with “I love you Dada”.
    Jordan has always been willful, opinionated & outspoken. It’s part of what makes her the awesome, smart driven young woman she is becoming & I’m in awe of her self-confidence.
    BUT I am the go-getter in my marriage, where my husband has had his issues: spending, drinking etc. He has worked to get them under control, but obviously Jordan identifies with me. This has led to some hurtful arguments between she and her dad.
    So I’m looking for ideas of things he can do to rebuild that trust. A word, a card, an event. I know there’s no instant fix, but every step is something.

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  • I m a girl of 10th standard. My relation with my father is not a pleasant one! He always scolds me though i dont make any mistakes.. There are frequents fights between my parents for this. My mother trusts me a lot. I m caught up in mess! plz help

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  • My father have a very healthy relation with my brother… He loves him a lot! At times (or mostly) i feel jelous by looking at my brother nd most of my friends who r very close to their father. This is affecting me a lot i m not even able to concentrate on my studies… I want to be the dearest one to my father…i tried a lot to make place in my father’s heart,but achieved nothing except agony every time i was degraded nd insulted in frnt of my younger(we live in a joint family) i have also tried to stop expecting frm my father.. Plz help me in brushing out my brain worms.

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  • Hello Sarah,

    I have found your article very interesting and I feel that in a way it hit home, at one point it even brought me to tears. I am 22 years old, at university abroad from where my parents live.

    When I was a young girl, my father and I were really close and I was always very fond of him. He spent a lot of time with me, was very kind and attentive – we would go on bike trips, hike, play music together etc. However, he would lose his temper quite suddenly and turn from the most perfect dad to a tyrant, who orders everyone around and throws objects in anger. He never hit me, but I always heard him telling my mom how she does too much for me and that I would never become independent and will grow into a lazy selfish child. These episodes of him being very loving and then suddenly very cold and angry made me feel slightly uneasy, but he still meant the world to me.

    When I was about 13 years old, my little sister was born and my whole life turned upside down. I wasn’t happy at the news, but my parents told me that nothing would change and we would still have the same bond and love. Still, I wasn’t looking forward to her birth, avoided being with my pregnant mom in public and would even refuse to look at the baby scans. This coincided with me starting a completely new school, where at first I struggled to adapt. During that time my father repeatedly told me I wasn’t helping enough around the house and caring for my mom properly. Unfortunately days after my sister was born, she became very ill. My parents spent a month at the hospital, so I was sent to live with my uncle in a small village in the middle of nowhere. I spent a month away from school (where I only just managed to make new friends) and my parents, rarely spoke to anyone at all (my uncle is a very quiet person). When my sister recovered, I was very hopeful that things would finally get better but they never did and since then I felt pushed away.

    My mom went through post-natal depression and seemed totally lost, my father was struggling with his business and spent long hours at work. The house was filled with arguing, my sister being the centre of everyone’s attention. I often felt like they were taking things out on me, expecting me to fix their problems. As a 13-16 year old, my dad constantly was unhappy with the level of my engagement in the family life, said I didn’t help enough or take care of my sister and that I was an egoist. He’d always make me feel guilty for not being there, shouted at me and slammed doors. I went to a very demanding school and disciplined myself to get good grades, as I thought that would be the way I can please my dad and make him proud, or just a way for him to notice some positives about me. My parents were never engaged in helping me with homework because I was very bright, so they got used to me getting good grades and crossed it off the things they had to worry about. I paid the bills and helped my father because “my mother couldn’t handle it” and so felt the weight of responsibility on my young shoulders.

    There were good moments and bad moments, but as I grew older things never changed. My dad would still make me feel like I wasn’t doing enough and was selfish, so I started to withdraw myself from the family life using homework as an excuse. I struggled with weight and became very self-conscious and withdrawn at school, but my parents were never aware of that because my sister was a very demanding child, so I just blended in the background.

    The moments I spent with my dad listening to music or going places were very rare but I made sure to tell everyone about it. I always was very proud of him and used him as my role model – even though it was a very unstable relation I idealised him in my head and blamed myself for the negative parts of our family life. He provided me with anything I needed and then was really encouraging and supportive in choosing higher education, and paid for me to go to university abroad. He would still often flip and become verbally abusive and at that point said he couldn’t change me for the better because I was too old, but I always told myself he was a good father and I wasn’t grateful enough.

    Our relationship now is good on the surface but I feel like there is a lot underneath it all. I would say it is a love-hate relationship where I am often scared of his reactions. It feels like he is Dr Jekyll and Mr Hide, and you never know which one he is on a certain day. Whenever we get into a hard situation when I’m at home, it’s emotionally draining, we drag out problems from the past. There is a lot more to it, but I feel like this is affecting my life in a big way. I have been on antidepressants for over a year, struggled with self-esteem and have never been in a relationship with a guy. Any men I meet, I push away and never let anyone get past the friendship level. I seek love and romance and constantly think about it but I feel extremely scared of it, too, so I try to focus on education and work. My friends buy presents for their boyfriends and I only talk about my dad.

    Could the relation I have with my dad be the reason why I am struggling with adulthood? I am completely lost and don’t know what to do, I have spoken to my dad about my feelings during my growing up and think he slowly realises things weren’t perfect, but how could we fix it now? Is it too late?

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  • Hey Sarah,
    I just had a traumatic experience. Unlike many here, my father is a very loving person. Although he doesn’t actually say he loves me, i can see love in all his actions. He has high temper, and never had close relationships with any of my other siblings. My eldest sister suffered the most. My dad had gone through a very tough life in his past which has made him the way he is. He is very sensitive but keeps his feelings hidden.
    I am the youngest in the family and he has always loved me. My sister has been going through a serious disease since the past ten years, and this has negatively impacted our whole family of six. I never had a good relationship with my mother, because she was always too busy with my sisters illness. She has been verbally abusive to me loads of times, and i am extra sensitive so I have always taken her words to my heart and cried in private all the time. I still love her very very much. Today, my dad was over stressed and he said things to me that he has never used for me in all my life. I am 21. I went through a shock. I couldn’t take the reality of things. He cried too. Finally i came out of the shock and he apologized. But i still cannot forget those words. I feel like they have shattered everything. He is the person that i have loved most in my life. I cannot stop my tears even after we settled it all. I feel like i can never trust a man again. He broke my heart. I never took my mother’s abuse to my heart like this. But now i actually feel all those things that my dad used for me. Can i heal? I have lost trust on my brothers and my fiance too just because of this ordeal. I have never felt this traumatised before in my life. Help me please.

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  • I would like to add that i have never seen my dad cry like this. I have never actually seen more than a tear or two in his eyes, that too extremely rare. But this time it was like he broke down. He is a heart patient. My mom, sister and elder brother are abroad for my sister’s surgery. So i took the whole responsibility of my house. Cooking, cleaning, everything. I have never worked so much before. I just wanted to create ease for my dad and my brother. But my dad’s words were like daggers on my heart. And it started off as a silly argument between my brother and I. Dad got involved. And i could never have imagined things would turn this way. I still cannot believe my dad could ever say those things to me. It is as if he was a different person altogether. I can’t block out the vision of him saying those things to me before he broke down and cried. I feel like i can never let go of these words. I am getting married in 8 months time. I have always been proud of my dad. Always. Today i am not. I have lost all feelings in my heart for the men in my life. I wish i never lived to see this day.

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    • I really feel for you, Memon. Being on the receiving end of hurtful words from her father is an especially traumatic experience for any girl, or woman. You shared that the words felt like daggers, that they make you feel differently about all men, and that you wonder how you’ll ever trust one again. I can’t tell you how many women have shared similar things with me. If only dads knew the effect they have on us.

      One of the distinctions I’ve found most helpful over the years, taken from A Course in Miracles, is that all human behaviour is either an expression of love or a cry for love. That can be the very last thing we think of when someone lashes out at us, so that’s why I think it’s so helpful to really understand this and keep it in mind.

      You say that your dad has gone through some very tough times and that he is also now a heart patient. Your family has had to cope with your sister’s illness, and she is now overseas having surgery, accompanied by several family members. You also said you’ve never seen your dad break down as he did the day he said those things to you.

      Looking at this from the outside in, I can say that you shouldn’t take what your dad said to you at all personally. It is about him and his pain; it’s not about you. I know that, as a daughter, when you hear words like that from your father it’s impossible to be unaffected; immune. But if there is any level on which you can see that those words were not actually about you at all, there lies the doorway out of this hurt.

      I’m also wondering whether you can sit down with your dad and share with him the feelings you’ve shared with us here? From what you write I think he may appreciate the chance to express what was behind the outburst. Also, this was the first time your dad spoke to you like this and opening up to him about the consequences of those words is the best way of ensuring it’s also the last.

      It sounds like you and your dad fundamentally have a very good relationship and it may seem impossible now, but it is often through challenges that good relationships grow even stronger.

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  • My father has always been the role model for me. I look up to him in every posible situation in my life. He has always been very appreciating and encouraging.
    With that being said, I have some serious trust issues. I cannot trust any men because I’m afraid they are not going to take care of me as my father did. I also have commitment issue. A moderate number of men have alredy proposed to me but none of them seems good enough. Why is this happening? Like I already said I had the most amazing relationship with my father and he has always been my inspiration.
    Whenever someone approaches me, I start thinking what if I deserve better. I’ve always fascinated about falling in love but it does not seem like I am ever going to experience that because of my own problem.
    I really need some advice now. What is exactly wrong with me?

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    • Simin, there could be many things going on here. My instinct, based on what you wrote: you haven’t yet met the right man so your gut instinct has been right, and you’ve been right to listen to it.

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  • As a dad, I am challenged by a 20 yr-old daughter, one of two kids from a 1st marriage that ended because the ex filed because “she was no longer in love with me.” I saw the kids on weekends, never missed key events in their lives (daughter was 10 when we separated), and both kids came to truly like the woman I met several years later whom I married (with their approval). But that same daughter, now 20 yrs old, as I said, resents me intently, blaming me for everything — even though I provided for the kids, gave them love and affection, and they grew closer to me and my new wife. Daughter now believes I’m “too logical” (actual quote), too focused on money (I am unemployed and we’re trying to conserve cash), and that it’s fine to treat both me and my wife with disdain and ignorance. Yet she lives under our roof by her own choice! We paid for her to go to college and she flunked out. We plan to pay towards her next schooling activity, but do we get gratitude or thanks? No! I get accused of lecturing her, and I get blamed for things she brings up from the past (5-7 years ago that are based upon half-truths and hearing my ex tell the daughter certain things). How can I overcome this? She wants to be treated as an adult with adult privileges yet accepts very little responsibility for anything. HELP!

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    • She wants to be treated as an adult, and that’s normal at her age – however, psychologists are now recognising that adolescence goes on longer than previously thought, and that the years from 18 to 25 represent a period of transition from adolescence to adulthood. So even while they are busy asserting their independence, many 20 year olds still need a great deal of help and support. Here’s an article on that topic:

      My suggestion? Schedule a time to sit down and talk to your daughter. Use that time to find out what’s going on for her and how you can support her. Tell her what’s going on for you too, and how she can support you. There is a risk, given the history, that this discussion could escalate into an exercise in blame and even an all-out argument, so choose your words carefully.

      I highly recommend Marshall Rosenberg’s non-violent communication techniques, as outlined in his book:

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      • Sarah, I will read the article and I thank you immensely for your advice. This is a daughter who has built up a wall of resentment based upon half-truths and misperceptions gained from her lack of perspective plus poisonous remarks from the ex. She runs to the ex for emotional support, but the ex gives her no financial support. Indeed, when my daughter was still bound by the marital settlement agreement and had to reside primarily with her mom, she pleaded with me on three separate occasions to come live with me and my wife! Of course, the ex would not let her do so, so it was a moot point.

        The latest request from her to live her was in 2010. The MSA expired in 2011, and she is free to live where she wishes. She chooses to live with me, but I think that might have more to do with the convenience of my location relative to certain activities in her life right now. SO my home is merely an address of convenience for her. She might as well be a tenant! Given how she ignores us and treats us with disdain despite all we provide for her (including emotional support when she needed it on many occasions) this is all so very strange.

        I will read the article. I’ve already had one talk with her and plan another. If anyone is gong to lash out, it will be her. I plan on staying completely calm. Clearly, she is an adolescent in adult’s clothing, and only she can make the changes she needs to fix herself. Her mom won’t tell her she’s wrong! I have to do so, and she won’t believe me. So far, she has her therapists bamboozled. Oh, and the shrink prescribed anti-anxiety and anti-depressants for her, but she refuses to take them. Not very adult-like behavior.

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        • Looking on the positive side, many daughters whose parents divorced when they were as young as ten have only a distant relationship with their dads a decade on. Even if it seems she only lives with you out of convenience, the fact she chose to still means you have obviously done a lot right over the years (bearing in mind that she is still transitioning out of adolescence, with its characteristic self-centredness and lack of perspective).

          Are you able to speak to your ex about her conduct? Poisonous remarks about you will not be helping your daughter, and will be all the more damaging to her if she is, as your comment implies, struggling with her mental health.

          Would your daughter agree with that assessment, do you think, and if so would she consider alternatives to anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication? For example, there is no drug on the market that can improve mood and mental stability as dramatically as correct nutrition can.

          Correct nutrition means eliminating foods linked to depression and anxiety (including gluten and refined sugar in all their forms) and identifying and treating any nutritional deficiencies. A number of nutrients are especially critical for mental health and they include vitamins B12 and D, magnesium, choline and the omega-3 fat DHA. Something else all of these nutrients share in common: deficiency in them is at epidemic levels.

          As you observed, only your daughter can make the changes she needs to fix herself. But she lives with you and your wife, and going by what you write, it might be time to set some stricter boundaries about what is and is not acceptable behaviour under your roof. My experience of hearing from girls and women who have challenging relationships with their dads prompts me to add this though: are you certain she knows you love and accept her unconditionally, and that she feels heard by you? Many dads assume they have communicated these things to their daughters but they haven’t done it in a way their daughters understood. Putting that right can be nothing short of miraculous.

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  • Sarah, I read the article and it was spot-on accurate. I also ordered the book you suggested, and it should arrive tomorrow. You mentioned nutrition, and I agree with you on this — it’s funny that you mentioned it because just this pst July, daughter revealed she is bulimic. NO ONE had any idea. She said peer pressure to get friends led to it, and that it was not a function of the divorce i went through with the first wife (her mom).

    She has improved her nutritional habits and getting psychological care as a result — but she refuses to take the anti-anxiety meds and anti-depression meds prescribed by the psychiatrist. And although old to stay “clean and sober,” it appears that she has been drinking this past weekend while away visiting a friend. She left here Thursday evening, visited the friend, returned Monday, and stayed over her mom’s house (not wanting to come here to my hues, I guess).

    I think her mom coddles her and gives in to her far too easily. And while I was guilty of people-pleasing behavior, too, at times, I now see that such behavior is counterproductive. This is why I had a short talk with the daughter on Thursday regarding responsibility and adulthood and how they go hand in hand. I plan to have another talk with her regarding proper household behavior upon her return here, if, indeed, she does return here. I have a feeling we’ll see her tonight or tomorrow.

    And then we’ll see where things go. But we have fulfilled every obligation and commitment, including full emotional support, for her bulimia. She is not overweight, not too thin. You’d never know she had this condition. But as we all know, eating disorders are rooted in psychological disorders — whether through therapy, medication, or both.

    Her therapists claim she has made progress. She’s made some progress, but you can’t choose which rules you want to follow if you want to beat an eating disorder. Again, this is an example of a 20 yr-old exhibiting adolescent behavior, rebelling against authority while claiming “entitlement” to certain privileges. So, we continue to work through this. Any additional comments would be helpful from you. Thanks.

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    • John, your situation speaks (among other things) to what a delicate line we parents walk between being fully loving/accepting and also having appropriate boundaries in place. It’s very easy to fall out of balance on that in either direction – all the more so when you and the other parent have divorced.

      Your ex is too lenient with her and this forces you into the position of being the one to set the boundaries – not an easy job with a 20 year old. While she’s under your roof it’s important to set them but be sure to show her you have faith in her too, even if you don’t feel she’s earned it.

      That’s fantastic news that you’ve ordered the book.

      You’re absolutely right that eating disorders are rooted in psychological disorders. Even though the superficial reason she has given is peer pressure, which I’m sure is true on one level, the deeper reason will be a lack of self-love and self-esteem. No girl or woman who truly loves and respects herself would abuse her body in that way. That bulimia is now commonplace is down to the tragic fact that so many do not.

      What’s wonderful about this is that as your daughter still lives with you and is still young, it’s quite possible that between you you can get to the root of her lack of self-love and turn it around, before it causes more serious problems down the line. It is unlikely to be easy, but it’s well worth making every effort you can to continue to support her through this.

      I don’t know her reasons for refusing the medications, but those may be valid. Medications can and often do cause more problems than they solve, so could it be that she decided as she did because she is aware of that? The consensus among many experts who’ve reviewed the research on anti-depressants, for example, is that they only truly benefit those with the very severest depression. In everyone else, the scientific data shows them to be no more effective than a placebo. Yet this “placebo” comes with a laundry list of negative side effects.

      Having discussed this over the years with many practitioners and patients my feeling is that your daughter will get better results combining her therapy with a holistic health regime which would include nutrition designed to balance her blood sugar and brain chemistry, and also regular exercise – nature’s most powerful anti-depressant.

      If your budget stretches to it, she would benefit from being guided in this by a medical doctor who is knowledgeable about nutrition. There are also books that lay out the basics – I will suggest some titles which may be of use. I am going to be away with very little internet access from this evening until the end of the week, so if I don’t put those up before I go, I’ll do it when I’m back – and I’d be interested to hear how you go.

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  • Sarah, I hope you enjoyed your time away. An update for you . . . . My daughter returned to my house today (she didn’t give a reason, and I don’t ask as this is her home, too). After she locked herself in her bedroom for 20 solid minutes watching TV, I knocked on the door, and started a conversation with her. “How did we ever reach such a low point? How did this happen? I’m asking rhetorically, (name), but really, how did this happen?” She could offer no clues in a very disinterested voice. I expressed my thoughts: “It seems to me that you do not acknowledge my existence or your stepmother’s existence in this house enough — there’s toot much avoidance of us, too much non-conversation. Have you noticed that?”

    She said she felt that she was behaving just fine. “Well, your actions (I named a few examples) make both of us feel ignored and scorned by you, as if we hurt you in some way when you know we’ve supported you in so many ways. Do you feel the same way?” No, was the answer, as she expressed a view that her behavior was fine requiring no changes. “Well, then,” I said, “why do you spend almost all your time here in your bedroom isolated from the rest of us? We’d really enjoy your company more often.”

    Her answer? “Well, dad, 12 years ago you would come home from work with headaches and you’d be in bed pretty early. So what’s wrong with my being in bed?” “Ah,” I said, “the headaches have plagued me, as you know, for decades, and the pain medication made we a bit sleepy leading to an earlier bedtime. I still feel bad about that whole situation but I treated it as well as I could. But that situation has nothing to do with your choosing to stay in your bedroom away from the rest of us today, along with your ignorance of us (lack of “hellos” and “goodbyes”). And it makes us feel very unwanted. If you want us to continue to support you as we have been, then you should treat your father and stepmom properly, wouldn’t you agree, as we’re parents as well as the the ones supporting your educational endeavors?”

    Again, she said she felt no reason to change and that I was trying to change her behavior by holding tuition payments “hostage” unless she changed her ways. In so many words, I said that it’s hard to have it both ways — to be willing to take the voluntary support offered to you by us while treating us in an inappropriate manner. She replied that we were withholding things just to get our way. I replied that what we wanted was better behavior, regardless of the circumstances — but that she could not expect such enormous support from people she was ignoring. And so I made it clear: We expect you to get a job, and we expect improvement in your behavior. And I ended the conversation. The book arrived a few hours later, and I have started to read it (it seems very useful). My guess is that in the near term that my daughter now has even deeper resentment towards us (which I expected, because I asked her to accept responsibility and to alter an unacceptable & destructive behavior pattern). I think she’ll probably spend more time with her mom and less time with us. But if she wants our help, then she knows what’s expected of her. She wants to say she’s an adult? Then she must act like one, and stop finding ways to justify bad behavior or flat-out lie to us. I welcome your thoughts.

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    • I’m sorry to read all that, John. I don’t know either you or your daughter, and haven’t heard her side of it, so I could be wide of the mark here, but this is what occurs to me…

      Your frustration regarding your daughter’s behaviour comes across loud and clear in your comments, and I’m not saying it isn’t justified – that’s not for me to judge.

      You have done a lot for your daughter and don’t feel she appreciates, respects or values you and your wife. Going by your side of the story, that sounds reasonable and her behaviour sounds quite selfish and unreasonable. But do you want to be “right”, or do you want a happy daughter and a great relationship with her? I’m sure it’s the latter.

      When someone else’s behaviour is unreasonable and we feel hurt by it, perhaps even indignant, it’s very easy to get stuck on complaining to them, arguing with them, and wanting them to admit their faults. We’ve all done it, and it almost never makes things better. The more usual result is a power struggle, with both parties digging their heels in. And perhaps never more so than when the grievances are directed from an exasperated parent to an adolescent.

      Even though you may be quite justified in pointing out what your daughter has done wrong, what if you told her what she’s doing right, and asked her what you’re doing wrong, and what you could do to make that right? She may really need to hear those words from you.

      Your daughter has been suffering from bulimia, and that tells us that all is not well with her self-esteem.

      It’s now known that fathers are the single biggest influence on their daughter’s self-esteem. Your job has certainly not been made easy due to the your marriage break-up, the years your daughter did not live with you, and the influence of your ex-wife. But your daughter is still very young and she lives with you now, so there is every opportunity to turn this situation around.

      When I hear from women who have unhappy relationships with their fathers – and just from writing two articles about this topic I have heard from so many it is truly tragic – what I hear time and again is that their fathers couldn’t “see” them; couldn’t appreciate their unique qualities as they were too busy correcting their perceived faults. This made them feel unloved and unworthy and I hear almost daily from women, many of them twice your daughter’s age and more, who still feel that way, and put it down to the influence of their fathers.

      Many fathers don’t know how to express to their daughters that they are loved and special, and worse still, they have no idea that this is an essential part of their role as her father. No one ever told them that they are the single biggest influence on their daughter’s self-esteem.

      It’s very positive that you’re reading Non-Violent Communication. I can’t think of a single women I’ve heard from regarding father issues who would not be extremely moved and delighted if her dad started consistently communicating with her in the way outlined in that book. This is the sort of communication that mends relationships; takes them to a new level.

      Sadly, many fathers are not and never will be willing nor able to pick up a book like this much less venture into a new way of communicating, so it’s a big thing that you are. See whether this brings a breakthrough, small or large. It may well. And if it doesn’t then it might be worth considering finding a family counsellor who can help you and your daughter work through these issues.

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      • Sarah, you said those famous words: “Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?” You are correct, naturally. Of course, I could turn that around and ask my daughter why she insists on standing on principle so much — even when she’s obviously wrong (not just my opinion, but there is a bros consensus bout this) == or else choose to be happy? Perhaps it’s harder to see that distinction and many other things when you’re only 20 years old. What we plan on trying is a mix of tough love (we have to say “no” to many things just because that is the proper answer) combined with empathy and concern. The hope is she will see that hearing a “no” has NOTHING to do with how we feel about her. Surely, no one would suggest trying to “buy” a person’s affection by giving them things or bending to their will on every issue — and even if we did those things, it wouldn’t teach her a thing. So we will use empathy, better listening skills, some items from the book, our natural love for her, and some tough love to get through this. We’ll see how it plays out. Part One should be known over the coming weeks, then we can re-assess.

        Thank you so much!


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        • You’re welcome, John, and as far as I’m concerned you hit the nail on the head on every front there. I really hope that this works for you – and again, I’m hopeful, as I can’t think of a single woman who has approached me about father issues who would not be delighted and very moved if her father were to make the efforts you describe here.

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          • Sarah, it’s John B. here. It appears that my 20 year-old daughter is distancing herself from me. She hasn’t spent a single night at my house in a month, and uses her mom’s residence as her preferred location. She stopped by my house just once since Oct. 23, when she came over on Nov. 17 to collect some more of her clothes. She only stayed for around a half-hour then she left. We exchanged a few pleasantries but that was it — I was hoping she might open up a bit or hang around a bit longer. So I never got the chance to talk with her.

            Her mom (my ex) is not very communicative with me about what daughter is doing, but she is surely not seeking any sort of new treatment for her eating disorder or related psychological matters. And I worry about all of this. It seems as though she prefers the path of least resistance — running away from a challenge — rather than being the “adult” she proclaims to be. I am clueless as to how to get her to listen to me again.

            I want her to be safe. I want her to succeed. But she cannot be ignorant of other people and treat her own father (me) with ignorance, and she cannot ignore responsibilities. Her immaturity is showing, and I fear that her mom (my ex) is a very poor role model to help correct this behavior. And the ex, by definition, is surely not a member of my fan club, although we have a cordial relationship at times.

            So, Sarah, I’m prepared to talk things through with this very confused 20 year-old, but she has to be willing to acknowledge her own shortcomings if we’re to fix things. No parent is perfect, and I’ve made mistakes. I’ll admit them to anyone. And I made some mistakes at age 20 — but nothing anywhere near the train wreck she might be headed towards. I wish she could see herself through my eyes for just a day or two. If somehow that were possible, I think she might might see that she’s been blind about so many things for a while.

            All help and advice appreciated.

            Thank you!

            John B.

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          • I hear your frustration, John, and it must indeed be frustrating that your daughter hasn’t been available to have the important chat you wish to have with her.

            I hear that you are concerned about her attitude, behaviour and mental health, and about what the future might hold.

            I would wholeheartedly recommend the work of Byron Katie – which is, literally, called The Work. If you’re new to it, start with her first book, “Loving What Is”. I have no words for how transformational this material can be.

            It helps us to bring the focus back to our internal world and our inner peace rather than trying to control others and external events – something we all do, and something that causes most of us great suffering in life.

            It shows a way of detaching from the stressful thoughts and beliefs that cause this suffering and involves challenging these thoughts and beliefs with a series of four questions.

            The approach also teaches us to be aware of whose business we are in – “my business, someone else’s business or God’s business.” We have a tendency to spend a lot of time on the second and third, yet the path to inner peace – and indeed sanity – is in keeping our focus on the first: our own business.

            The more we focus on what’s not right (in our view) with others and with external events over which we have no control, the less time and energy we have for taking care of the one thing we can control: ourselves.

            Putting these teachings into practice will often transform the way others relate to us, and that’s because it will ALWAYS bring about a profound transformation in the way we feel inside, and show up in the world.

            As someone who’s currently working through these teachings – and really needed to – I can’t recommend them highly enough.

            As an overview of what this approach is about, you could check out Byron Katie’s interview with Oprah Winfrey. It’s worth watching all three parts. In the third she specifically addresses the issue of minding our own business, and also setting boundaries in a loving way, including with family members.

            Part 1:–6GhdfM
            Part 2:
            Part 3:

            Byron Katie’s website:

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  • I came across your article while searching for help with my own “Daddy Issues”. I’m 43 years old and have only recently begun to heal from my long existing wounds.
    My parents separated when my father took a job 265 miles away. I was 9 years old and thought of myself as a Daddy’s Girl, although by then he spend very, very little time at home before he moved.

    After the move, he came back to our home on occasional weekends. We rarely spoke to him between visits, in fact he never called to check on our general welfare. He and my mother had always had a terrible relationship, fighting constantly, but the marriage was supposedly still intact and the separation simply for work reasons. But the fact is I truly cannot recall any loving moments between them. The one time I witnessed them kiss, it seemed so extremely awkward, not just for me to witness, but for the two of them as well.

    They simply argued over everything, and verbal abuse was common in the home aimed at my mother, myself and my brother. We also witnessed and experienced a lot of minor physical abuse.
    Despite all of the conflict, abuse, and limited time spent with him, I always knew that my daddy loved me. He favored me over both my mother and my younger brother. However, as I now look back, I was an adoring daughter. All I ever wanted to do was please my daddy. Therefore I mirrored him in every way. I parroted his every opinion, and thought him to be the most intelligent man alive. And, having such a big fan who never contradicted or questioned anything he had to say, he gave me adoration in return.

    The problems began when I started to form my own opinions. When I started to realize that he had a mistress/secretary and that he seemed to be lying about his life away from us, the seed for my long lasting anger and heartbreak began to grow. I finally was forced to question him and what he had to say. Therefore, the relationship began to sour. I was age 10 or 11 by then and I knew he still loved me, but his abusive ways dominated our relationship. I found that I couldn’t do anything right: my interests were “silly”, I was a “stupid kid” when I offered an opinion different than his own, and he never offered compliments, only judgments, disapproval and punishment.

    My grades in school plummeted. Scholastic testing placed me in advanced classes, but I never did any of my homework (My parents never helped with homework anyway, even when I first began getting it. They apparently assumed I was doing it on my own, despite all signs pointed otherwise)and I only passed by making good-enough test scores. As I see it more clearly now, I’m sure I was seeking attention, albeit negative. When I managed to make good or average grades, nobody seemed to make much notice. But all hell broke loose when I brought home D’s and F’s. And I did so pretty regularly.

    I did manage to graduate high school, and I have 6 years of college credits as well. But I find that I cannot attempt to reach my set goals in life without becoming paralyzed with the fear of failure at the last moment. I do not have a college degree.

    My fear of failure, low self-esteem, and distrust of people in general has left me middle-aged and alone.

    As an adult, after my parents divorce and Dad’s third marriage (my mom was #2), my only contact with my father has been at holidays, birthdays and when he called needing something from me or vice versa, though I ask ed very little of him. He now lives 1 hour away from me in a small town and comes into my large city frequently to do most of his shopping.
    About five years ago, he finally disappointed me with his lack of concern for me to the point of me cutting off contact with him.

    Since then I have been able to function slightly better emotionally. My contact with him in the past always left me either giddy with the sheer joy of his company, or more often emotionally raw and unstable.

    I still love him so dearly it seems to be burned into my heart. However, once I removed his ability to hurt me by his own disinterest in my life, and decided that I would now be in control of whether or not to have contact with him, I am slowly beginning to grow stronger, I hope.

    I know I have offered a lot of info here, but the relationship is so much more complex than I have described to you. I have gone to counseling on several different occasions, and received very little help from it. I just wonder if you can offer any help.

    Thank you for taking the time to read this ( I hope)…

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  • Sarah, thank for the advice regarding the, “Loving What Is,” book ( re: my 20 year-old daughter and our seemingly broken relationship, et al). After I read the book, and have a chance to speak with my daughter (using the non-violent communication techniques), I will report back. That could be in another 3-4 weeks, so we’ll see what happens. Again, I thank you for your advice.

    John B.

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  • I am not perfect but I have always given and been there for my daughter at all costs. Even as I am not with her mother I try and be decent and respectful. Her mother has not been so with me. Lies, blaming and all that goes along. My daughter is 19 now and Ive done all I could to show her the right way and give her a solid foundation. As I am and have been human and made my mistakes in life. Nothing abnormal to cause hatred but my daughter has said the most evil things said I’ve never been a father or have done anything for her. I feel used and am bewildered why so much hatred and discontent. Although I did stop the ATM and giving all the time and since she lived with me, now moved, she went from job to job if working and quit college. What do I do? She even held my house keys for “hostage” until I gave her money I was supposed to use to repaint her walls she painted with spraypaint. Help what should I do????

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  • Dear Sarah,
    I’m in need of some help. My daughter, (JK age 23) has been dating a young man, P, her age for 3 yrs. She lives with him and his roommate who are druggies. All of our friends and family truly hate him for good reason. When she came home 3 years ago, clearly not herself, I suspected she was on something. I picked up the phone just in time to hear P telling her he scored some heroin and asking if she wanted to share it with him. I broke in and told him to stay away from her. She acted irrational/scared, cowering in a corner of her bedroom. We calmly asked her why she thought we were trying to hurt her but the orders from P to get out instilled panic and were extremely powerful. The next day we got her to a psychologist who put her on Suboxone which she is still on 3 years later. J moved out to share an apartment but she lied, she really moved in with P. After about a year she moved back home. All through this, she maintained her high GPA and has now graduated. She moved back with him on graduation day. J is fine living in these two worlds. Mom and Dad give her everything so she won’t drop us out of her life and P gives her everything he can to keep her in his. J has said, P knows he could never find a girl as beautiful as I am if I leave. J comes to dinners, trips, and occasions perfectly happy to attend without him. We even lined her up once with a young man with similar interests. She immediately told him about the heroin history to scare him away. She still flirts with other young men we introduce her to. I feel like we are not being good parents by nourishing her behavior. Mom says, we have to provide unconditional love. She wrote an email to me a few days ago, that P is a wonderful boyfriend and she doesn’t care what family and friends think. P lies about being a student to get a subsidy on their apartment. His other roommate, C or ‘tic-tac’ because he ingests any and all drugs. We want the best for our daughter and P has no ambition. My daughter feels she can fix him. P worships her and lets her have full use of his new truck his parents gave him. Our friends and family say she’ll come around but 3 years is a long time. Personally, I suffer from serious back pain and have had 3 mini strokes. Life is short and I feel she is wasting it. We have always been so close and right now I feel this has gone on long enough. Is there anything we can do? I want to be a good parent to my daughter where I feel my wife is more concerned with being a good friend. There’s another weird twist; P’s parents and my daughter hate each other too for many of the same reasons. Please, how can we separate these two so we can get back to being a close family again? I feel I’m failing as a parent. J usually shuts down when her brother, sister, mom, or I try to discuss this and then we don’t see her for weeks.

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  • I came from quite a stable home and I have some happy memories but through my childhood my dad criticised me so much more than he praised me and also used to hit me, starting at a very young age. My parents are highly respected members of their community and always presented and still do an image of themselves as perfect parents. Even I used to believe it and think it was all normal and okay and that I deserved the verbal and physical punishments. As a result I felt deeply ashamed to the core of my being and I developed an anxiety disorder by the age of 13 – yet to my parents and the rest of my family, “my” problems have nothing to do with my parents. In my 20s I had a boyfriend who had an anger problem and was very aggressive and beat me on a couple of occasions. Then I met my husband, who has never been physically violent towards me, and he has been a big support to me, but he regularly turns on me and is verbally abusive. It feels horrible but at the same time it feels normal; it’s all I’ve ever know in relationships with men. I’m 43 now, I still suffer from anxiety, and I’m so exhausted.

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  • Hi, like other readers, i also came across this article by chance. What type of a father treats their only daughter like she is dead? I married my husband at 18, we had P four years later. He was a very loving husband, hard worker, and doted on his baby. When P was 5, I became involved with a co worker and regrettably left my husband. P adored her dad, they were unseperable. We both worked to remain good parents to P, I had taken her to live with my new partner. Dad paid maintenance and spent six nights a month with P.

    After a public holiday where he dropped her home a day early, it was discovered he had in fact left the country and moved back to Florida without even telling us; P was heartbroken (7), and if i’m honest so was I. After three months he got in touch, i had been taking P to a psychologist, her hair was patchy, she was going to the toilet in unacceptable places and most of all she missed her dad. A couple of years later he started to get in touch, he had a good job, a new girlfriend from his high school days who had her own son, and she encouraged him to reconnect.

    I had inside concerns but just by looking how happy she was i would never jeopardise that. She flew to visit them for two weeks, had a nice time, and from there would chat once a month for an hour. Now, she was 13 and started to attract the wrong type of company (boyfriends) and her school grades reflected that. We always stayed close even though i knew P loved her dad more than me. The following year we took a holiday to Florida, i could have a nice break in the sun, and P could visit dad and gf for a week. We all met up for an uncomfortable meal where P told me she wanted to stay with her dad. I was heartbroken, but was not selfish, i understood that P was not mine, she was a real person, and that her dad had as much right to have her in his life, like i had had those past 13yrs. I left florida, my heart shattered and i cried through the entire flight back to uk, whilst P was settling into school and adapting to life within her new family. Her dad did not marry the gf, and i didn’t marry again either. So….once she had been there for 6 months she hated it, missed her mum, friends, freedom and life in general. we talked for hours, me telling her to make the effort with dad, as i knew he loved her very much, but she just he was as cold as a fish, and couldn’t settle. I was worried about her, i saved enough to take a flight back the following may, where dads gf picked me up from hotel, drove me to surprise P on her last day of school before summer break. it was loving and emotional. P spent most of the time with me at the hotel, and i honestly did talk with her loads reminding her of her wishes and the expense they had gone to to kit her bedroom out and get her into school etc, she said she would try, but as soon as dad and P dropped me at airport she was the one sobbing her heart out, i felt terrible. two months later i receive a very hurtful email from her dad saying that as long as i was going to continue to allow P to act this way he was never going to win this battle to keep her with him til adulthood. one month later he booked a ticket and sent her home. The last thing he said to her (15 year old) was that he believe it was all a game to her, he would be paying off the debt for kitting her room out for the next two years and that once she is on the plane he will have nothing to do with her until she either saw sense or became an adult not living under my influence. Until P went to live with dad, he was god, simple as that, and it came out that she had so many insecurities since he just disappeared to move back to florida, she longed for the one person who abandoned her. That was 7 years ago, and the man has had no contact with her, he never stopped punishing her for wanting to come home, whereas i allowed her to stay because i felt it was her god given right. effectively, he has abandoned her again. she is now on her final year of a degree but has many daddy issues, the males she date are beneath her, have no plan and she either treats them rotten or becomes obsessed with them. I have no doubt that when i was stupid enough to break my marriage up it seemed he became cold and uncompassionate.

    Whilst we were all in Florida at the same time i went along to a counselling session with dad and P where the councillor told me that my ex-husband was not one to display his feelings and was unable to communicate love which is why P struggled, that simply was not true, the man i married who is the dad of my child was a good loving caring person. So here we are now, dad has had nothing to do with her, he actually blames her for how much money he wasted and they have not spoken since then. The only good thing that came out of allowing her to stay there that time was through living with him day in and day out she came to her own conclusion…He is not god on a pedestal any more! How can a dad put the blame onto the shoulders of a 14 year old child, wasn’t he the one suppose to act like a grown up? P has everything in life going for, yet struggles to recover from that huge wound her dad left in her heart.

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  • My father was a hard worker but was never around except to discipline or criticize us kids. My mother was our sole emotional support. All communication was thru her. I married someone just like my dad at 18. My mother died at 20. It was a huge blow to my life as I was so young and unsupported by my new husband and father. My dad remarried 3 years later and has never wanted a relationship with me or my siblings. He doesn’t know where I work, what I do pretty much anything about my life or my kids life. Im now 42 and I still feel abandoned and rejected. Not just by my dad but my husband too. I know I did nothing wrong but what can I do stop feeling this way? I have reached out to my dad several times in the past but never get anywhere. I know Im going to have to fix this inside me because he will never be there for me. Is there anything I can do to stop these feelings of rejection and abandonement? Ive felt like this for 23 years and Im tired of being stuck.

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  • Hi I have been hunting the web to try and find ways of bringing my two eldest daughters back into my life. My ex and I had a terrible 26 years of marriage and I was always excluded from the family, but got and still do get on reasonably well with my youngest daughter. 8 years ago we got divorced and I attempted suicide and this started my daughters not talking to me as they did not want to participate in my sad life. I was diagnosed with a personality disorder, but I am still sane and have a responsible job. My daughters want absolutely nothing to do with me and I am heartbroken yet am lost for ways to approach them again. There is a lot more to this story but I would just like to know what i can say to them that may be positive. I love them dearly.

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  • My heart goes out to you, Michael. Here’s what I’d suggest: Call or write to each daughter (whichever feels most appropriate), individually, and tell her exactly that – that you love her dearly and want her back in your life. Tell her also how committed you are to this.

    Then be prepared to listen to – and sincerely address – any concerns she may have. Also, if you haven’t ever told her which qualities you see and most appreciate in her, this is something she really needs to hear. I have not yet come across any woman who is disappointed in her dad, who would not be absolutely delighted if he would communicate with her in this way.

    Your daughters may or may not show this, though. One or both of them may need more time in order to let their guard down and this could manifest in a variety of ways, including silence or hostility. Be prepared to stay patient and loving, and know that these words are likely to touch each of your daughters deeply, and very positively, even if they do not immediately show it. I wish you luck.

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  • Hi,

    After reading all these posts I’m encouraged to write to you about my situation. I am in my fifties and still suffering from the damage that my father did to my mother, my siblings and myself.

    He had affairs while we were all still under 10 resulting in us needing to leave the state where we lived ( small population where he was a big fish in small pond scenario).

    We moved to another state after selling family home then rented. That lasted until Christmas Eve when he left the family with his boss’s daughter and vanished overseas for 4 years leaving us homeless and hearbroken, without financial support.

    Fast forward to his return and a fledgling relationship formed. Then my older 19 year old brother was killed in an accident, the family was plunged into grief and pain. Dad dealt with it by getting involved immediately with a woman who became pregnant almost instantly, she already had three small daughters.

    He abandoned us all over again, moved in with her family and took over the financial and spiritual care of that family.

    My family continued to be neglected and abused whilst being aware of the large family house he bought them, top private schools, horses, hiolidays etc while we couldn’t afford decent clothes or school field trips.

    My steo mother made sure that any money was kept with her purse strings and my mother to this day lives in poverty in govt housing.

    So, cut to the chase… father has made some effort since his wife passed away but now is incapacitated and needing care, all of a sudden I have four step-siblings to deal with who are territorial, insensitive and obnoxious and clearly want us to disappear.

    My relationships with men have been painful and disastrous, my sister even worse. She is a recluse, morbidly obese and rarely leaves her apartment. Dad has never given me or my brother any kind of help finacnially but has been very generous to his ‘second’ family. He naively expects us all to work together and I am struggling and feel about to flip my lid.


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  • I am 22 weeks pregnant, and I am no longer in a relationship with the baby’s father. However, I would like him to be a part of the baby’s life (it’s a little girl). He wants to be involved, too. But due to the circumstances I have to move out of state closer to my family so that they can help me. I feel terribly guilty for moving away and I am afraid I will jeopardize the relationship between the father and daughter. My ex is not opposed to me moving but acknowledges that it’ll be challenging for him to bond with the child. I want her to have a present father but at the same time cannot afford to stay in the same city. Can he bond with his daughter by visiting often? Will it adversely affect their relationship?
    My friend tells me that it is not the amount of time he spends with her but the quality but I still worry and am consumed with guilt.

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    • Hi Emma,
      In an ideal world, every one of us would grow up with two parents who love us and reliably meet our emotional needs, but few of us had childhoods like that.
      I’m now convinced that the girls who are most damaged by their fathers are not those whose fathers do not live with them, nor even those whose dads have NO relationship with them.
      They are the girls who grow up under the same roof as a father who expresses more negative emotion towards her than positive.
      Sadly, this is precisely how many dads interact with their daughters. And it is the biggest root cause of the shame, low self-esteem, depression, anxiety and related issues that so many women suffer.
      I agree with your friend. It is about the quality of time, not the quantity.
      Your daughter is very lucky to have a mother who is already thinking about how best to meet her emotional needs.
      Sarah x

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  • Dear Sarah,
    My daughter is nearly 16 now, and I continue to worry that my ex-wife’s long negative alienating campaign against me has damaged and continues to harm my relationship with my daughter. When my daughter T was a little gorl, I read to her every night for many years. I was the parent who went to every school event (plays, concerts, open house), every teacher-parent-student conference every equestrian competition. T’s mother saddled her with daily horse chores to care for 4 horses, and I would help her after she started looking exhausted, a lot of work for a 7 year old girl. I taught my daughter to cook, I made things for her, like pretend barns and paddocks. I was the one who hugged her and spent time with her, not my ex-wife. When T was 9 my ex-wife moved out of the house and didn’t see our 2 kids for 9 months, while I had to take care of everything, sell the house, find a rental and provide bedrooms for my kids. My ex is verbally abusive, that’s why I wanted a divorce, to keep her from verbally abusing my kids 100% of the time, which I succeeded in doing. A year after my ex moved out, she started seeing our kids again, but also started alienating them from me by verbally bashing me constantly in front of them, I’m sure of it, because I used to hear our kids in the background during phone calls while my ex ranted and cursed all kinds of false accusations and harmful ideas, forcing the children to listen. My kids grew more quiet, afraid to say anything to me in case their mom would find out and then make their life miserable for speaking to me openly.

    Unfortunately, the dynamic continues to this day, only now my daughter is almost 16, has a boyfriend and has assured me they are not sexually active. T has been distracted at school, not performing like she is capable of. I have talked with T about school, emailed her teachers and helped bring her grades back up. T’s mom is good at giving her things, and can build her esteem up but will tear it down again. When T was 10, my ex told her that I was bad and wanted to see my little girl naked, the ex texted T that in my presence, I looked at T’s cellphone and saw it. I told T “I’m sorry honey, your mom should not have texted that, it’s completely untrue”.

    Sarah, can you see my plight? I try my best to not feel defeated, and to communicate to my daughter that I love her and I’m there for her in every way, forever. This alienation campaign weighs on me tremendously. I don’t want to lose my daughter’s trust and affection. Every day I take T to High School and give her lunch money. What can I do to improve my relationship with my daughter? I’m a pretty quiet person and am sure I can improve on being more communicative with her.

    Thank you,

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    • Hi Mark,
      Yes, I can totally see your plight and the situation is heartbreaking – as it always is when parents separate and one of them tries to poison their children’s view of the other.
      You’re on the right track with communication.
      She needs to hear that you love her and you’re there for her. You can’t say those things too often.
      While your situation is difficult now, due to circumstances, that could change for the better at any time, and this gives the best chance of that.
      I know so many women who would give anything to have grown up with a dad who expressed these positive things to her, and I’m one of them.
      It’s positive that you see your daughter every day – and I think that you are really making the best of a challenging situation. Just keep on doing what you’re doing, and more of it!
      Sarah x

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  • Hi, I’m glad to know i’m nt alone. I’m a muslim. Ever since i was young,my parents have been having problems financially. Dad can’t support us. Mum has had to struggle to take care of us. To top it all she has had to withstand his physical and emotional abuse. So many times she tried to get out of marriage bt our religion only places emphasis on what men want.

    Growing up, my dad and i communicated very little, and i blamed him for all our suffering and pain. I grew to hate him and i still do. In my teens, Mum had to work late hours,and i had to take up her role and study as well. I struggled to cook and help my siblings with schoolwork. I hated it especially because i worked as he sat. He even ordered us around like maids.

    As a result i indulged myself in premarital sex which is forbidden in Islam, with the hope of getting married so that i can distance myself from him. As we speak, Mum, my siblings and i have left home and are living on our own. An ongoing court case filed for divorce awaits us.

    He has blamed Mum for my shortcomings, even though i was of legal age. He has denied the divorce and is withholding our items. I am 22 and i feel i can never forgive my father for what he has put us through and choosing to display my private life in public. He has ruined my name infront of the Muslim community, my mum is worried that i won’t get married. I hate him even more and he insists on keeping us. Please advise.

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  • Dear Sarah,

    I am nearly 13 now and my story is mostly like the others who’ve posted here. My dad thinks girls and women are bad to men. That is why he treated me and my sister really bad and i don’t know how to stop this.

    Whenever i try to work things out, it would become worse or go back again. Like the dad in N’s story he always said bad things and curse me and my sis. I just don’t know how to get away from this and have a peaceful life. A lot of times he would physically beat us up like we are trash or something.

    I really don’t have time for that and am stressed out because of his insults. It also hurts a lot after he beat us up. Sometimes i tried to make him proud but he doesn’t give a heck about me. When i tried to show him how girls could be good like men, he will just talk about how Eve got God punished mankind. Please help me to get out of this life of suffering.

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  • I’m in a completely different situation. The mother of my child took off to the other side of the country to the most expensive real estate market in the country (NYC). I followed as close as my work will allow. She fought against me having shared custody or visitation. I won bi-weekly overnights, but sometimes can not afford the gas and hotel fees to get there from Boston.

    I’ve decided to move back home and to ask the courts for summer visitation. I know my little girl needs her daddy, and seeing her bi-weekly is like a knife in the soul knowing what I am missing-it’s not being a dad. Thanks for you article, I truly wish my ex could recognize the value that her child’s father could have in her life instead of pushing her child’s only father (who she admits is a father who loves his daughter with all his heart) away. I sure hope she gets it that her dad loves her.

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  • Hi Sarah,
    I stumbled upon this article, and the title caught my attention. Its been 5 years that I haven’t talked to my father. After an argument he disowned me and told me that I wasn’t his daughter. And that he wouldn’t care for me anymore.

    While in high school I decided to concentrate in school and not let my family problems affect me. All my high school years I got into extra curricular activities, and enrolled into AP classes and honor classes to keep me busy. And because of that I got accepted into UCLA.

    Currently I am taking a break from UCLA, I was only able to attend 2 quarters because while attending my 3rd quarters I received news that one of my high school teachers passed away, that broke me down. To the point that I need to analyze everything that was happening and that happened the last 4 years of my life.

    The death of my teacher bought back so many hidden emotions that in high school I did not deal with because I threw my self into school work. The death of that teacher triggered panic attacks and a depression that I am currently dealing with. The panic attacks are not that bad anymore, with the help of my family I have been able to slowly come out of this depression.

    I just wanted to share my story, I never understood why I was having these panic attacks and experiencing depression until I read this article. I am barley 19, and reading this made me realize what could happen with me, I am going to be honest I am afraid of not being able to find that person that will be with me for the rest of my life because I may push them away, in the process of finding them.

    Thanks, Griselda

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  • Dear Sarah,

    Thank you for a great article. I can completely relate to N’s issues with her father as I, myself, had a similar upbringing but I did not have the kind of relationship a normal girl would have with her parents. My parents were mostly not around and as I was sent to boarding school in my early teens, I became very independent and developed a very strong personality.

    I remember that my father always thought that he loved me dearly and attended to all my material needs. But he did not know I have always craved for his attention but mostly his approval. I always felt that my parents loved and preferred my younger sister more than me. As I entered into adulthood, I had started justifying my feelings and lots of time stopped caring about what my parents thought.

    When I was 20, my parents had my youngest brother. Since then my father showed me even less interest but one more stress added on my shoulders. He started insisting that I will be responsible for my younger brother when he grows up because my parents will be too old to take care of a growing boy.

    Maybe because I was still very young I took that responsibility to heart and tried too very hard to “act mature”. But that was not it. I became pregnant with my very first male partner at 20 with an unplanned child. I wanted to opt for abortion but actually forced to give birth. Not that I did not love my child but the pregnancy was extremely difficult for me both mentally and physically. Little did I know I was to become a single parent.

    While everything was so hard for me to overcome, one more surprise was awaiting me. My father decided to have an affair with a woman who was not so much older than me. He even tried to leave his family. He mentally abused me and my mother. My parents left my 1-year old brother with pregnant me for a while. Meanwhile all this was happening, my father told too many hurtful things; he would have already left us if it was not for my brother.

    Well as time went by, I gave birth and things became better but never back to normal. I finished college. While in college, I had suffered once more because of my best friend’s death. I had went through major depression. My father thought I should not have been grieving after “such a loser” whom he resented so much all because my friend supported his “unwanted all failure daughter” 100% at all times.

    He even told me then that I do not deserve to be a mother to my daughter. All during these events I was trying to figure out a solution to deal with my daughter’s other parent who happened to be a son of my father’s friend. Excuse my language but that man was too an absolute and complete “asshole” just like my father. I graduated university and started working. Things were getting better but I knew that I was so broken. I could not maintain a normal relationship with a man.

    All that I tried ended either so abruptly or hurt me emotionally. I was professionally becoming successful but nothing was ever enough for me. Finally I met my current husband. He was everything that I dreamed of but things started to change a lot shortly after our marriage. He disrespects me, never appreciates me. He has anger management issue which he does not want to do anything about. I am so worried about my children for raising them in such a sad environment.

    I used to feel betrayed my husband. He constantly tells me that he wants to leave us and I should not be hurt by him or his words. From time to time I wish I had a supportive father or an older brother to defend me. I am afraid that my daughter will become someone broken like me. Adding insult to an injury my dysfunctional relationship with my father recently has been replaced by pure hatred. He decided that his affair with another married woman has been discovered because of me. He now hates me. I now find myself in a place and situation I would never want to be.

    Ever since my father announced his hatred against me for ruining his relationship with his “princess” (he calls her that) mistress, my husband’s mistreatment seemed to become worse. I want to make everything better. I do not want my professional success affected by all the misery in my personal life. I am desperate for help and support. The tiniest bit of positive sign could help me get through this. All I can say is that physical wealth is nothing compares to peace of mind. I am always jealous of people with a peaceful happy life.

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    • Thank you for your comment Stefani, and for your email. And a big thank you to everyone who’s written in and shared their experiences. For those in need of assistance, two ways I can help: (1) If you’re looking for one-to-one assistance and are interested in my private coaching, send me a message. (2) To get my articles covering all aspects of this topic, sign up for my (free) Father Daughter Newsletter – href=”″ target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow”>you can do that here.

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  • I am 32 years old…and come from an Asian background with strict social/ religious values. I am the oldest and my father was a workacholic and drank too much in my early childhood. He was abusive to me and my siblings at times and to my mother too. On saying that he is also hardworking and is popular with friends and relatives.

    I was sexually abused by a family member in my childhood, who is now dead! It impacted me very badly in my childhood, including difficulty in making friends/relations, performing bad in studies, attract attention for all wrong reasons. So i was labelled the ‘naughty’ child of the family beacuse i could not express the abuse to anyone! This created communication gap between my father and me. I always thought i am to be blamed for any situation, so i kept quite and never explained myself.

    In 2005 i moved overseas for further studies, closing all communication lines between my dad and me. My mother tends to understand the tension but would not confront dad..which angers me a lot..! I met a guy here and got married to him which my mother disapproved because he belongs to a different country and religion. I now have 2 children with him, who have never seen their grandparents.

    My mom knows the truth but has lied to my dad about my husband background and religion coz according to her it will ‘hurt’ dad and she doesnt want that..which i dont understand too! Also to mention i have lost 22 years old brother in an accident which hit all of us very hard.

    Now they are wanting to come and meet me…with dad only part truth about who i am married to…i just dont know what to do…should i just randomly call him up and tell him the truth..what will be the consequences..or should i hold my mother responsible in sheilding things from dad..! Just to mention the childhood abuse episode is still a secret and thats why i am still considered to be the bad fruit of the family tree..!

    I want him to know the truth and accept me but there is so much to tell him and justify myself, i just cant find the courage to do it..particularly when i’ve always seen the bad side of his personality…!

    One side of my brain tells me to cut off all ties with them and live! But other side tells me that it wont be fair in my kids..coz they deserve their grandpa’s love!

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    • Hi Jess,

      I send out regular (free) email updates for readers who are looking for guidance on issues relating to the father-daughter relationship. In these updates I share really life-changing information and inspiration, and you can sign up for them here.

      To briefly respond to what you wrote, my take on it is that your parents have always been unable to meet your emotional needs due to some major unresolved emotional issues of their own. This underlying issue is heartbreakingly common, though in terms of how it manifests in a family it has a thousand different faces.

      I think you need to really go within and ask whether you think your relationship with your parents can ever be a source of support and joy in your life (and that of your husband and children), rather than stress and heartache. And if you think it can, then it would be time to get clear on what you need to communicate to both your mother and your father, and how best to do it.

      I hope you’ll sign up for my updates as I’ll be including a lot of information designed to guide women in gracefully navigating dysfunctional family dynamics and I think it will really help you in making the important decisions you need to make here.

      Sarah x

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  • I have a situation with my daughter and husband not speaking right now and they were so close. I am heartbroken because she left and he tried to apologise.

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  • Very sorry to hear that, Rachel. I hope the situation turns around soon. One side has offered an apology – that’s the first step on the path to a reconciliation. Sending good energy your way, along with my wishes that this will soon be resolved to the greatest good of all concerned.

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  • Hi. My boyfriend has some of my father’s neg traits but without the abuse. He’s arrogant (but can admit his mistakes), controlling (but I often like that), not affectionate (but tries), emotionally unaware, and he drinks daily (but responsible and again, nothing like my father’s drinking).

    I have become a stronger person dealing with my anxieties that got triggered even though my bf is the “safe version” of father. It has been exhausting but with my therapist’s support I have been able to face a lot of triggers. As I understand, he is a good match because I get to strengthen parts of me that became suppressed out of my fear of my father’s rage.

    We of course have our good stuff, I love his mind, sex is good, we have similar values and sense of humor, enjoy similar activiities. It’s important to add that my relationships have averaged a few years. I am usually the one that leaves relationships.

    This current relationship, until recently, was the most promising because I believed him to have great integrity (which meant, he was safe, wouldnt lie or cheat, etc.) I still believe in his fidelity but have learned that he does lie to me about his work and also, instead of being direct, he creates dramas to express his own fears of my fidelity (I have been faithful). Anyway, these incidents have all made me now want to run more than ever. And by the way, we’re in our 40s.

    I am tired and terrifed of starting over. And I am terrified of staying. I am afraid no one will ever be “safe enough” for me to trust with my heart. I am afraid of my fears keeping me alone forever. I dont have friends for similar reasons, disappointment. I leave. So, I am hoping you’ll say, bf sounds good for me, and afraid you’ll say walk away. Or maybe it’s vice versa. Thanks.

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    • Hi Anonymous,

      Reading through what you shared, the key issue that jumps out for me is: “I am terrified of staying. I am afraid no one will ever be ‘safe enough’ for me to trust with my heart. I am afraid of my fears keeping me alone forever. I dont have friends for similar reasons, disappointment. I leave.”

      You had a childhood that makes it hard for you to trust. Understandably afraid of being hurt again, your instinct is to run as soon as someone disappoints you. Your father was totally unable to meet your emotional needs. He let you down in many different ways and this makes it hard for you to trust men.

      You have chosen a man who reminds you of your father in many ways, albeit the “safe version” of him. Going by what you write you feel very ambivalent about this relationship, but I think the biggest question for you is how much of that is about THIS man, and how much is your pattern of fleeing out of fear of getting hurt. And then, how you can heal so it is easier for you to trust other people. And your own judgment.

      I will soon be releasing new material on healing from the fallout of a challenging father-daughter relationship and I’d encourage you to sign up for these updates (which you can do by scrolling up the page to the end of the article) as I’ll be including tips on just this.

      Sarah x

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  • My daughter and her dad are not getting along. My daughter, 30++, says that he is not considerate, she does not feel that he values her at all as she managed to be very successful in life without our financial support. Her dad is angry because she expresses her feelings clearly and he has done financially well for himself as well. He thinks that my daughter considers him as a not good father, because he told her that he does not like her acquaintances as he calls them “snobs” and because of her way of living (not saving for the future).

    To make the story short, I am between, very stressed, very nervous.. I can’t stand the situation among those two and I love them equally. My daughter did not speak to us for a few months and now she is back. My husband doesn’t want to see her around until she apologises to him and the rest of us (other siblings, we’re all talking to her again with no apologies) only tells her off and can care less if she is alive or not…at least that’s what he says for now.

    My husband complains to me and gives me ultimatums like “she is not welcome to my house”. My daughter doesn’t talk about it… This problem started since my daughter went to college and now has escalated this far. Before that, her and him get along very well.

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  • Hi Sarah.

    Me and my Dad have a rather complicated relationship. When my mother was pregnant with me she made the difficult decision to leave my dad, she did this because at the time he was an alcoholic who had a habit of disappearing for weeks on end. My Mum felt that it was in my best interests and hers to leave.

    Once I was born my Mother never stopped my Father from seeing me, and there were times that he would visit but they were very sporadic and not regular. My mother told him that he needed to see me on a more regular basis because at that time I was getting let down a lot by him. After this conversation he disappeared for most of my childhood. His alcoholism was very bad, and it took over his life, I don’t think it should be used as a excuse for his behaviour though.

    When I was 15 I met up with him, and it was after our meeting that he went into treatment centre number 17 to recover. When I was 17 we began trying to build a relationship. For a few years it was alright, but there always seemed to be unsaid things between us. He had explained all about his alcoholism and that he was sorry and I think at the time I just accepted it because I wanted have him in my life.

    However, when I was 23 I decided to join the Army. During this time I was based overseas, and our relationship seemed to suffer because of this. I began to feel that he wasn’t make enough effort, and this turned into resentment. I got a boyfriend whilst in the Army, and he is loveliest man in the world. I left the Army in 2013, and since then I have felt very differently towards him.

    I have met up with him, and told him how I felt whilst in the Army and that when I left I felt like our relationship was at a standstill. Unfortunately he became quite defensive and felt I was blaming him for stuff. I ended up leaving the meeting and we haven’t spoken since. He has texted me but I have felt unable to reply.

    I just don’t know what to say, and part of me feels like I don’t even like him. It was so hard to have the talk in the first place, because I didn’t want there to be any conflict and I was worried that he might take it that I was blaming him. I don’t think he really understood what I was saying. I said to him that I didn’t know deep down that he loved me.

    If I wasn’t bothered by the whole thing I wouldn’t be messaging you, but your article made me feel like I could ask you for advice. I probably have rambled on quite a lot, and there is still more that I could say, but I think you probably get the gist of it.

    How to I forgive him for the past? Can I grow to like and maybe love him? It affects my relationship with my boyfriend as I have quite low self esteem. I want to deal with it and try to move on.

    I’d appreciate it if you could offer any advice.

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    • Hi Emily,

      Going by what you write your dad clearly has unresolved emotional issues – so unresolved that at times during your life, the best way he’s known to deal with them has been through alcohol. That is unspeakably sad for him and also for you, his daughter, as he wasn’t able to be there for you in the way you needed. And judging by what you write, he isn’t able now, either.

      With this backstory, it’s not surprising that you feel confused and conflicted about him; nor that it is affecting your self-esteem and relationship with your boyfriend. These are normal reactions but at the same time, you can heal and the fact you are aware there is an issue and actively looking for information is a big first step on that path.

      I am about to launch a free newsletter in which I will be sharing tips on all of these challenges you mention, and answering reader questions – ones posed on this blog as well as by subscribers to the newsletter. If you would like to sign up to receive it, just scroll up the page to the boxes between the start of these comments and the end of the article and enter your details.

      Sarah x

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  • Hi Sarah,
    I am a father of 2 girls one aged 13 and the other aged 5. I am extremely worried about my relationship with my 13 year old and the effect it is having on our family, I constantly seem to be giving out to her !!! This is not the relationship I want with her at all. It is probably more intense lately as I use to work away for 3 weeks at a time and now have changed jobs and I am home every night. She is a great girl and I love her with all my heart but we seem to be pulling in different directions which is frustrating for me and I am worried it is tearing us apart. To add I am stubborn and always have been which is not something i am proud of so i do admit this is not all her fault.

    Since I have been home we work on her school projects and homework together and maybe I push her to put in more effort as I feel she is a little lazy and tends to take the short cut which she thinks will do or its good enough just so she can go sit on the couch and watch TV. Frustrating !!!! Our relationship when we are together is pretty good but add someone else and her attitude changes and she becomes another person with back chatting and disrespect for her mother and I. Is this normal?
    My wife reckons I am too hard on her and reckons to let her be herself. No problem but i believe every young person needs guidance on most things in life I presume and how to treat people including their parents is an essential part of that learning curve. I always seem to be giving her the old respect your elders speech,I just don’t know, nothing seems to stick. It’s like its the same things we are arguing about all the time.

    Latest was she was hiding poor test results from me which I had been asking about for weeks. When I confronted her she say she lied because she was scared to tell me because I would be disappointed and mad. I lost the plot grounded her for a month….not because she got a poor result but because she lied about it. I know she needs help with her homework and I am dedicating my time to help her, whatever it takes i am there. I want her to be the best she can be and achieve what ever she wants in life. She is a year younger than the rest in her class but is very smart when she wants to be. Over the last couple of months i have guided her with a few projects and she has excelled with them. so much so that the results have been fantastic and she has ended up in the top 5% in her class. to see her glow and i mean glow when she gets the results is magical. she is so proud of her self and that is all I want for her.

    Anyway after lots of tears and frustration I told her i loved her so much but that i was really disappointed that she thought she couldn’t tell me the results. I told her unless i know what the problem is I cant help her fix it. I said it is something we can work on and we will together. Then this morning she lied to me again about something stupid and of course I gave out to her and now I feel so bad about it. I mean really bad. Thing is we have moved to Australia almost 3 years ago and maybe this has something to do with it or maybe it’s me being too hard on her. I don’t know.
    I was afraid of pushing her away before but after reading your article and comments above I am terrified that is exactly what is happening with us. Any advice would be much appreciated.


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    • Hi Tim,

      A lot of what you describe is normal and to be expected. Among other things, teenage brains are wired differently and this accounts for a lot of the behaviour that has parents tearing their hair out.

      I can hear that you only want the best for your daughter and going by what you write, you are doing many things right as a father. But I think you’re correct to be concerned about the fact your daughter has made the decision to lie to you again. You have mentioned “giving out” to her and feeling bad afterwards. There is a link between that behaviour of yours and her behaviour of hiding things from you.

      I would encourage you to practise enforcing those boundaries while staying calm and non-judgmental at all times and see what shifts. Fathers often underestimate just how much their daughters need their love and approval. I hope this helps.


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  • Thank you for this article. I am in my mid 30s and have a string of unsuccessful relationships and a great desire to have a steady, committed relationship. I know that healing my relationship with my dad at a profound level will bring about a great transformation. Something that helps me is to have moments where I suspend all judgment and worry and rest in the peacefulness of those feelings. It is something that I have taught myself to do while lying in bed. Over a decade of practicing this, along with other little techniques, I have come to a point where I internally support myself in all sincerity. I want to say to all women that come here for comfort that they are not alone, and this is happening around the world. But we are also together and we can help each other heal and find ourselves in a joyful place.

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  • My guy is quite emotionally attached to his 50 year old daughter to the point of him being unable to say no to her constant requests for either money or “go buy me a bottle of wine for a friend, wrap and bring to me at home. (She does not work and has a car). He defends her every word/action no matter if good or bad or the truth or not. He is so resistant to identifying this and seeing what everyone else sees (all family and many others). Has been to counseling and stays in denial.

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  • My daughter’s father left the minute I said I was pregnant. He saw her twice in her life, the last time being when she was 7 mos old. When she was 3, he took me to court to have child support amended. The mediator we met with asked if I had ever kept him from seeing her, and his reply was “No. Her only condition has been that I have to be consistent. We left court that day and he disappeared.

    She is now 9 1/2 and is for the first time developing a relationship with a man. It is my fiance. I’ve never allowed her to meet any of the men I have dated for fear that the relationship wouldn’t last and she would have further abandonment issues with someone she related to leaving us. Once my bf and I knew we would be marrying, I let her be the one to broach the subject of meeting him. She is very intelligent and highly emotional. I tread carefully to not force relationships on her.

    My fiance and her have bonded very well and she has even asked to start calling him daddy. Well, wouldn’t you know it, this is going so well, her biological father has decided he wants to be a parent after all. He served me with papers to start seeing her.

    I want to know what effects this could possibly have on her. She is just now bonding with a male figure in her life, what will the man that abandoned her entering her life do to her?

    Should I allow it or fight it? I want what is best for her but I do not want to have to pick up her broken heart if the bio father flakes again.

    Please advise me. I want my daughter to continue being the intelligent, self-assured, confident and radiant child she is!

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    • Hi Monica,

      First of all, that’s very positive that your daughter has bonded so well with your fianc√©. Regarding what to do about her biological father, I think you’re right to be concerned. I’ll share my thoughts, for what they’re worth, and I wish I had an easy answer for you. If you don’t allow him to see her now there’s the risk she may later resent that. But given his track record you’re right to be concerned that he may abandon her again.

      As you’re considering fighting him, I would suggest talking to a family lawyer about what the legal position is here, if you haven’t already. And if the legal position is that a court is unlikely to bar him from seeing her, I wonder whether there is a family mediator, counsellor or therapist you and your ex could see to talk through the situation. Including the impact of his past behaviour on your daughter, and his reasons for wanting to see her again now, when he has been largely absent from her life during her first nine years. Has he truly changed and if so, what is he willing to do to convince you of that?

      If this route is not available to you for any reason, including that he won’t agree to it, I would challenge him in any way you can under the law and remember that in the event he prevails, your daughter has the love and support of a step-father, and a mother who is very switched on to her emotional needs. This is a lot more than many girls have, and it makes her a lot less vulnerable in the event that your ex does disappear again.

      Sarah x

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  • I have been looking for an article like this for quite some time. This validates what I have been saying for years. It validates the advice I have given my sons, who have young daughters. I told them to tell their little girls, every single day, that they love them, they are beautiful, intelligent, funny, and loveable. I told them to let their daughters be angry with them, to let them rant and rave at them, then sit down with them and talk about how to manage their anger in a more constructive way. I explained to them that one day they will grow up and fall in love with someone who treats them like their father did…who cared for them like their father did. I told them that as fathers, they set the standard for who their daughters fall in love with.
    The reason I talked to them about this is due to my life…the abuse- emotional and physical, I suffered at the hands of my father. Then I fell in love with someone who treated me as my father did (which I thought, unconsciously, was normal). It is all emotional abuse, which can hurt more than physical abuse and cause more harm.
    I hope they listened. I watch them closely as they relate to their daughters and pray they are heeding my advice. So far so good.
    Thank you for this article.

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    • Hi Mary,

      Thank you so much for sharing that. It is absolutely true that emotional abuse can be more damaging than physical. I’m sorry to read of your experience but love that you’ve used it to influence your sons so positively. If only all men were told the things you’ve told them about what their daughters need from them and how important it is.

      Sarah x

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  • My parents divorced when I was 3. But that didn’t change the fact that I was a daddys girl. I followed him everywhere, even after the divorce and I only saw him on the weekends, I was on his heel at all times. But as I got older, my dad started his own life. When I was six my dad met a woman 10 years younger than him. She was in her twenties, had been married, been in rehab, and never did anything with her life, until she met my dad. They weren’t together long before surprise, she got pregnant. This cigarette smoking, pot head got pregnant with my baby brother. I love him. And do not regret them having him. But after he was 3 or 4 years old, they got married. She is pot head still to this day. My dad drinks more and more just to deal with her. She has turned the man I once knew into a piece of shit. She doesn’t much like me, so neither does my dad. I have 4 siblings whom my dad loves. But me, he won’t talk to me. See me. Or anything. He does everything in his power to avoid me. Everything good that I did or do was for my father’s approval. I longed to hear him say that he was proud of me or that he loved me. But not until just recently did I realize that I will never have my dad back. I will never again be or feel like daddy’s little girl and I’ve accepted it. The fact that I know that my father won’t be at my graduation, giving me away at my wedding or even in his grandchildren’s life, hurts me. But he’s made his choice. I’ve given him time to change his mind and it never happened. He has lost me forever and that’s just the way it has to be. Time to move on, right?

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  • Hey Sarah, I have little connection with my dad. Sometimes he changes for like a week or two then he goes back to normal. And whenever I try to speak to him in person I get scared because he is either going to abuse me or curse me. He says very many things to me and I start crying and even if he changes for some time I still can’t forget what he told me previously.

    I am fat and the last time I stayed with my dad I would miss meals. All I would eat was watermelons and I would swim every day by force, well swimming is not bad but when you’re being forced it gets annoying. My parents separated when I was six and now I’m 16 but whenever they have their issues they put all there anger on me. I really have no problem with my mum because I can stand up to her when it gets too much. But for my dad I’m too scared to approach him because of the way he treats me, though he gets me gadgets and every other thing even when I don’t ask.

    But I’m tired of being scared of him, I really want to talk to him but I don’t know the right way to approach him or even start the conversation and I know it’s going to take me a lot of corauge but I have this urge of opening up to him. Sarah should I send him an email or talk to him in person. What should I do and even say that would be right and not rude?

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    • Anisha, I understand why you wish to speak to your dad. However, going by what you wrote, I think you need some support in doing that. I don’t know whether you mean physical abuse or “only” verbal but either way, I think you need a trusted adult you can talk to about this, and who will support you. Both in deciding what to do next, and through the process of communicating with your dad. I wonder if there is a relative or teacher or school counsellor who would help. If not, I’d say look into which local agencies have counsellors with whom you can talk through these issues and figure out what to do next. I wish you the very best of luck.

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  • This article REALLY spoke to me and really hit on how I feel about the whole father, daughter relationship. In the midst of my parents getting divorced, my father and I had a HUGE falling out because I discovered (while my mother and father, not yet divorced mind you, were still living together) my father had been speaking to another woman he worked with for a LONG time all because he made the mistake of leaving his Facebook open for anyone to see and after my telling my mother what I had discovered, he was EXTREMELY angry at me and with me.

    When I got pregnant last year and got married, my father never reached out to me nor did he express his feelings toward any of the two most important events in my life which really make me resent him all the more. With all that being said, he and my husband (who STILL have never met to this day and my husband is a wonderful man) got into a HUGE fight over the phone all because my husband told my father what I had been feeling and how I honestly feel about our relationship which was followed by my own father saying, “You’re dead to me. Never call me or contact me again.” And I have not spoken to him since.

    He has NEVER seen or met his only grandson, has NEVER met or seen his only son-in-law, and as much as I hate to say it, I don’t foresee things changing with our relationship but that may be for the better. I don’t want my son to be disappointed by his grandfather like I was growing up especially feeling emotionally neglected and I don’t want him to get hurt because of what his grandfather might do or say. I have tried reaching out to my father but nothing ever changes.

    I have pretty much given up hoping he will try to be an adult and change his ways even though I have always been closer to my mother anyway and not because of the divorce but my mother always made time for my brothers and I, took vacations with us, talked to us about things, and she’s ALWAYS been there for all of us.

    I don’t even care if I suffer from our strained relationship, but I don’t want my son coming to me some day and wanting to know why his grandfather has never spoken to him, seen him, or has never spent time with him. That alone breaks my heart. I hope some day, even if he is old and gray, he will come to his senses and take advantage of the time he has left because he is wasting precious time.

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    • That is heartbreaking to read, Keely. I don’t know any of the people involved in this so with the proviso that I comment only based on the little summary you gave here, I think your feelings about this are very normal and totally sane.

      But, again going by what you wrote, it sounds like your son will be better off without having your father in his life. Though you’re not wrong to hope that one day he might come to his senses and realise what he is missing.

      Sarah x

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  • Great article. Brought me to tears just reading it. The comments, too. I cried reading them & relating to other women as well. I’m 20, everyone around us, family members, my parent’s friends, etc look at our family as the “ideal Christian family”. However not true. I realized that I do suffer from the lack of love that I never got. Quotes like searching up “when girls find love in boys because their father didn’t give them love”. It’s interesting because in video cassettes of me (I’m their first child) my dad seemed to love me so much. Video taped me every day, watched me grow.

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  • My daughter and I have a terrible relationship. It breaks my heart. I know I have not been the perfect parent. I know I am at least, partially, at fault. But I really feel it isn’t all me. My daughter, from the time she was a baby, refused to let me show her any love. She gets really mad at me if I try to hug her, kiss her forehead, etc. She always shoves me away physically, and emotionally.
    I definitely have my shortcomings too. For instance, I know I am too strict and inflexible. When I say there will be repercussions for certain behaviors, when those behaviors happen, I follow through with what I said would happen. But when I initially give state the repercussion, I try to make the punishment fit the crime. This is in contrast to my wife who generally tends to give a life sentence for a minor infraction, then give in and not exact punishment.
    My question is, now that my daughter is in her teens, how can I heal this relationship. This article was titled “Healing the father-daughter relationship” I clicked on it hoping to get some help in healing this relationship but I didn’t see the practical help. Do you have any suggestions?
    I’m Desperate for a better relationship with my daughter.

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  • Everything described in this article describes a battle I’ve been fighting for 28 years. However, does this healing process have to be a two-way street? My father has never apologized for anything. I can only assume he believes he’s done nothing wrong. But watching him get emotional as my three other siblings graduated high school when mine was the only one he missed is still incredibly painful, and the reason I chose to forgo walking at my college graduation.I don’t even know if he thinks he did anything wrong. I’ve been through nearly a decade of therapy and group counseling, but when he treats my like he did when I was a child, all the hurt and emotions I thought I had gotten over or worked through come flooding back with a vengeance. So how do I repair that relationship?

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    • Very good question, Lauren. The reality is, we can’t always heal our relationships with our fathers. But we can heal ourselves to the point where anything he does or doesn’t do affects us a lot less. So no, the healing process doesn’t have to be a two-way street.

      Because your dad has never apologised and has no awareness of having done anything wrong, it sounds like you’ll be better off focusing on your own healing. This may make your relationship with your dad better, but we can never guarantee what anyone else will do, and the main thing is, you’ll be taking care of you. If you’d like inspo and tips for doing that, sign up for my free newsletter.

      Sarah x

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  • I really really desperately want to heal from all the pain my father has caused me. How can I heal? I am 43, never married, and feel totally unsuccessful with intimate relationships. I tend to push men away and attract needy guys who see me as the strong one. My dad abandoned the family when I was 13 and then moved across America for a job with his new wife, then died 9 months later. I have profound abandonment issues. He loved me dearly and would hate to see me suffer if he was still alive. He was super loving and yet violent, and would beat me once in a while. Deep down I had no doubt that he loved me with all his heart. He was just unable to control rage and would mostly smash objects but would sometimes hit me. My mom was devastated by his affair with another woman and my teenage years were full of drama and mayhem, and her being so angry at him (understandably). I last saw my dad as a 17 year old, emaciated and 75 pounds, dying of cancer. It was the saddest day of my whole life. My mom said we have to go and I never got to see my dad ever again, not even at the funeral. I get so sad about relationships and marriage because it feels so impossible to me, even though I have been in tons of therapy. I have had no addiction problems, no debt, but lots of depression and anxiety. I have tried and tried so hard. I don’t know how to heal this. I miss my dad terribly. It feels like my whole adult life I have been searching for him, and wishing I could contact him in the spirit world. Does anyone else have this experience? thank you.

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  • My 17 year old daughter and her father do not speak to each other at all. We are all under the same roof and the tension is so thick that I feel like I’m having small breakdowns everyday. She is unable to have healthy relationships with the opposite sex. I try to tell her you speak to total strangers on the street or to your friends fathers but you won’t acknowledge your own father. I don’t know how to teach or guide her in the right direction about how she act towards him. He always tell me I allow it and I make excuses for her and I do, I’m trying to keep the peace, because I want everyone to set an example for my 4 year old daughter. How should I approach her on how to be respectful.

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  • I have a problem or several with all of this! My daughter’s father has 3 kids he has been horrible to, mostly out of hate for their mothers leaving him. And this would mean that all of that just means my daughter is doomed – all because of him? And what I do and how I love her doesn’t help offset any of it? I TOTALLY disagree!!!! Fathers, mothers, siblings, friends. Anyone close to us has an impact, and in different ways to different types of kids/then growing to be adults….And I am not going to listen to this and accept that just because he cannot be good-normal/healthy to her and love her she will have issues! Sorry Sarah!!! Good luck to everyone reading this!!!

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    • Hi Shelly! I certainly don’t think that any girl who grows up without a loving father is doomed! And yes, of course everyone close to your daughter will have an impact – I totally agree. You, as her mother, will have the greatest impact of all as she grows up.

      But: 1. Dads DO affect their daughters’ development far more profoundly than is generally recognised, and 2. Many girls who grow up without a father’s love also grow up without any close adult in their life looking out for their emotional wellbeing – i.e. with nothing/no one to offset the damage done to them by their dads.

      If a girl grows up without a father’s love, she faces challenges not faced by those girls lucky enough to grow up with it; that’s just a fact. But we all face challenges in life and challenges can be overcome. Sending all good wishes to you and your daughter!

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  • I have a father who loves me to pieces. We live 2 hours away from each other but talk or text almost every day. He’s always been there for me no matter what. Always driving to my place to fix something in my house or on my car. He’s lent me money and got me out of debt many times (probably about 50K worth). He’s always worried about me and making sure Im ok.

    But when we talk, the only three topics we discuss are:
    1) the weather (“nice day today” or “its cold so dress warmly” or “freezing rain you better not drive”)
    2) he’s making sure I do something ( “don’t forget to do this” or “make sure you do that”)
    3) he’s giving me instructions on how to fix something (“you take the drill, but make sure its charged, take the bit, but make sure its the right size” ….by the third sentence Im lost because have no idea what half the words are since its either a tool or a car part)

    Those are pretty much the only things we talk about and when we have ran out of things to say its just awkward silence….and this silence happens way too often.

    Im emotionally drained. Even though Im so grateful for having such a great dad who loves me and is always there for me, I resent not having a closer bond with him. The lack of meaningful conversations we have, either annoys me, bores me to death, or makes me sad and angry.

    I call my dad almost everyday, not because we have so many interesting things to say, but because I feel pressured to. Since he’s done so much for me, the least I can do is call him everyday to show him I love him. But if I don’t give my dad enough attention, he says things to make me feel guilty (“haven’t heard from you in a few days. Where have you been? Too busy with your friends?”).

    Another thing is he easily loses his temper on minor things and says condescending comments (His favorite lines are “use your freaken head” or “don’t you have any brains?”)

    I love me dad, and the older he’s getting the more I worry about how much time I have left with him. The more I worry, the more frustrated I get thinking about how or father-daughter relationship is so meaningless and robotic.

    I want to call my dad everyday because I miss him, not because I feel like its a chore. I feel extremely guilty that I feel this way towards him. Im so ashamed to feel like its a burden to call him every day and listen to him talk about nonsense just so he knows that I love him.

    I want us to be closer, but I don’t know how to approach him because he takes everything personally and flips out.

    So many people have no father figure in their lives, yet Im here complaining about my dad who would give me the moon. Am I selfish? Am I spoiled?

    I can only count a few rare moments where my dad and I have actually connected on an emotional level, where we bonded, had a heart-to-heart, and reminisced of old memories. Those few moments are so precious and priceless to me. I would give up the moon just to have those moments again.

    Any advice?

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  • I forgot to mention that my dad has had to fill in both the mother and the father shoes, being that my mom is a bipolar drug addict who abandoned me. So, to have a bond with my father is very important since I did not have the privilege to have one with my mother.

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  • Hi,

    I need your guidance.

    My childhood with my parents – He always abused my mother, gave her silent treatment by stonewalling. Shout at my mother beat her at times shamming her in front of my relatives and suspected her character. He was good to me, but I used to keep some distance. My mother used to tell me everything and I used to console her.

    About me: till my 20’s I did not like guys and from 21 it is like for 3-4 years I want to get married and settled to this guy who dresses like my father and who is reserved and stonewalls. I go to temples/churches and pray to God that he will make me his wife. And after some time I get to know he is getting married and I move on deeply hurt. Till I get to know that he is involved with someone I keep calling/writing and expressing my interests and never get any response. Never getting response gives me the view that the guys is very decent and he is the right one for me.

    Current: I am going to turn 40 after all these failures I am not able move on and get settled in life. My parents are worried that I am not getting married. My problem is I am currently stuck with a similar kind of guy who does not even responds to me and I pray to GOD.

    Apart from relationship I am well settled career wise and have good talent and hobbies. I am also spiritual.

    I need your help to break this cycle. Please help me.

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  • Thank you for the share.

    Have you signed up for my Father Daughter Factor email series yet? If not, you can do that here. It’s free, and full of great info and insights regarding the very issues you’ve highlighted.

    If you’re looking for one-on-one assistance and are interested in my private coaching, send me a message.

    Sarah xo

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  • My daughter has never known her father. When I became pregnant at 34 he told me if you have an abortion I will marry you. His exact words. If you don’t, I will never have anything to do with you or that baby and he never has.

    My daughter is now 17 years old. She has not had a positive man in her life. My father her grandfather thinks he has been there, but he has not. He was a lousy father towards me and my two older sisters. He always berated us, and he was always unapproachable. Oh yes, he was in the home.

    I agree with everything you say about how poor relationships with fathers can affect a girl’s self-esteem. When I was young I dated a man 10 years older than me. I was 16 and he was 26. We dated for 5 years. I begin doing things that were really bad in terms of smoking pot at a young age and drinking. I know that it is because of the pain I felt because of the lack of real love from my dad. My father was emotionally abusive and didn’t even know it. I often felt like it was better for my daughter to have no man in the house then to have a man who ignored her and only had negative things to say to her.

    My 17 year old daughter is now longing for love and a relationship. I keep telling her that she is young and that it will come. She does not want to listen. I know that it stems from never knowing her father. It makes me sad and I don’t know what to say to her or how to help her. I did a good job as a single mother. She has graduated high school and is off to college. She is polite and very smart. She is also sad and hurt, as anyone would be. Her self worth is attached to what men/boys think of her.

    I try to tell her that she feels that way because of her never knowing her father. She acknowledges that it is true, but still is “desperate” for love. She does see a psychologist and has for several years, but it is not really helping her with her low self-esteem. She even says she does not have low self-esteem. I tell her when you value your worth by how a man feels about you, you do have low self-esteem. She just gets angry at me.

    I am just at a loss. I want to help her heal, but don’t know how. It is so difficult. Obviously, I have my own issues with my father still.

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    • Hi Kay,

      Thank you for sharing and I’m sorry to hear of your situation.

      Have you signed up for my Father Daughter Factor email series yet? If not, you can do that here. It’s free, and full of great info and insights regarding the very issues you’ve highlighted.

      If you’re looking for one-to-one assistance and are interested in my private coaching, send me a message.

      Sarah xo

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    • You and all others believe that the father is the only one that affects girl’s self esteem and worth. Nothing can be further from the truth.

      This is another one of those man-made doctrines, that was created by men and men supporters, with the intent to destroy the status of mothers’ with their daughters. Let is be fair and honest and admit is the only one who makes a difference in the way a girl child turns out, is her mother. The mother is the parent who God designed to nurture her and show her how a woman acts, NOT the dad, people!!!
      Go back and read all of God’s Word. You all are supporting people who want to remove mothers and their rights to raise their daughters and their sons!!

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  • Hi. I’d prefer not to say my name for I am writing this in concern for my daughter and her emotional state . Her dad pulled a restraining order on me to get me out of our home, the accusations are all false and quite the contrary of what he so believes, that I am the abuser and he fears for his life.

    I have two other daughters as well, 18 years, 16 years (the one I’m concerned about), and 12 years of age. My daughters do not want to be nor live with their dad in the house if I’m not there. We are at my mothers in one bedroom, for my girls and I. He has made life very hard and inconvenienced my girls by his deceitful ways.

    He wants full custody in believing my girls are in danger by being with me, yet he fails to acknowledge his girls see and know the truth , and that is he is an alcoholic, he is abusive and in their deposition all three have said that they want nothing to do with him and as far as they are concerned, he put their mom out and she, I am the one who has been sole primary caretaker and caregiver.

    Two nights ago my daughter came home drunk (2nd time), she claims she no longer cares about any of this and is ok and will not talk about it, yet her sister informed me, she had a melt down and was yelling, I hate my dad, he messed up our lives he put us out on street, I hate I hate I hate while in tears that apparently would not stop. The next day was as if nothing happened. She will not talk about her feelings nor express them and cont to say I’m fine I don’t care anymore!!!

    We both know that’s not true.

    How do I help my daughter deal, grieve and move on in a healthy way. I’m looking into counseling for her but have no idea how to go about it. She needs to get this out, my fear is losing her to the liquor. And she needs to learn to express herself without it. The dad is a hard-core alcoholic. She is bright beautiful plays softball and will have a scholarship next year for college.

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  • My dad and I have never gotten along. Ever since my parents split when I was 6 I saw the side of him that scared me forever. I just got into a fight with him about me talking to my mother and how he should know everything about my life. This is wrong. I am constantly trying to find his approval and I’ve come to realize that its not worth it. How can I show someone like him that I love him when I don’t and force myself to.

    In the article it talks about the father daughter relationship and how it is so strong. This is true but not with my dad. He’s very distant and pulls the “because of my age I know nothing” card and calls me fat and dumb. Even though I starve myself sometimes and try to lose weight so I don’t get called that. When I met my step dad I felt that kind of imprinting that the article talked about. To me my step dad is my dad but my “real” dad is just someone who has their genes in me. A

    t this point I would love to leave his house and never see him again. He says I’m free to go but yet I’m scared to. I am scared to hurt someone because I’ve been hurt so badly that I don’t want anyone to go through pain like I have. Regardless if it is him. I would forever have that guilt. I don’t know I just needed a place to voice what I am going through to see if it helped anyone or if anyone is willing to help me.

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  • I am a stepfather of a 17 year old daughter and feeling fully ignored by my daughter. It causes a lot of fights and we’ve lost all peace of family life. Help me come out of this situation…

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    • Hi Raj,

      Sorry to hear that. There are two ways I can help:

      1. I’ve recently started a newsletter for dads who are looking to improve their relationship with their daughter. It’s free and it’s full of great info and insights. You can sign up for that here.
      2. If you’re looking for personalised assistance/advice, I now offer 30 and 60 minute Skype sessions. For further details or to book, email me at sarah at


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  • So much good stuff here, Sarah.
    Do you leave room for the world that has our Creator as it’s centerpiece, rather than our always awesome and wonderful SELF? You are very educated, pleasantly cerebral and try to draw us all toward light and good…so I got right to the point in the interest of balance and good time mgmt. “) My understanding is that we are created with godlike characteristics that enable us to fulfill the specific roles we are responsible for in each of the various relationships we have…and that the one underlying aspect common to ALL of these different roles is the communication, if not the outright embodiment, of our Creators love, goodness, forgiveness, authority and, yes, plans and purposes. The well-worn cliche: “…it’s not all about, but bigger than, us” comes to mind. Fathers seem to carry the most water in that effort, as the anchorman in the relay with the most responsibility…and the necessary authority (not a bad word) to succeed in that role, IF we let him and to our benefit. Your wise words help in that regard…as long as they aren’t used to justify an overturning of foundational, even eternal, realities and truth. It’s about our Abba, our Creator as the center piece if we are to ever enjoy fully the things you encourage so specifically and so well.

    Shalom bshem Yeshua

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  • My father/parents always provided financially and didn’t abandon us (children). Yet, emotionally and socially he had NOTHING to give. One time I told him that, and he just said nothing and never changed or cared to. Whenever I accomplished something, he would always say something to try and cut me down; (or) he would take credit for it by saying it was something he did. If others told me I was beautiful, he would chime in saying, “Don’t give her a big head.”. He would try to find something about me to mock, or tell me I was a non-entity (Can’t believe someone would say that-especially a parent) since I’m accomplished and a contributor to society. Yet, he was nice to strangers! Yet, he would crave connection and wonder why he didn’t have that. I don’t think he ever loved me as an individual, but saw me as something he could brag about or use for company, etc. to meet his needs. Don’t know if he was capable of emotional love, but just feared being abandoned. As an adult, I realized there was something missing. I stopped looking for approval from him and found approval within myself by my own abilities. I tried to figure out why he was like this. Why he wouldn’t like his children to have a strong emotional base.? Not that you have to lie and falsely encourage, but just to support and try to make your children feel accepted and strive to be better. I never was able to understand. My only guess was that he was empty inside (maybe due to his own treatment by others or upbringing). I really can’t be sure. He was a smart man who accomplished much in his lifetime. Often I would try to give emotionally to him thinking that that was his issue, but he always seemed needy. At the end of his life, I felt sorry for him.

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  • Dear Sarah,

    Hello, my name is Mary. I just want to say I agree with your article, at least somewhat. But, here is my question. What if the girl had a dysfunctional relationship with her father. She knows he loves her, the father even shows it. But, at the same time his frequent disapprovel and disappointment hurts more, makes her more resentful. What should she do?

    And finally, I don’t think a girl has to be attracted to a man similar to her father, the man could be drastically different. God knows my type of men are different. They usually have different looks, attitudes, and personalities. Of course this is just my experience. Thank you for reading.



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    • Hi Mary,

      Thanks for sharing.

      To answer your question, the situation you outline is extremely common, and it’s one of the reasons I started my free newsletter on healing from the effects of a challenging father-daughter relationship. Many of the women who read that newsletter have just that sort of relationship with their father ‚Ä쬆and anyone who’d like to sign up to receive it can do so here.


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  • Hi Sarah,
    As the mother of a teenage girl who has a very self centered dad, I wonder what tips or advice you can provide me as the other parent (divorced) that might help her cope with all of the feelings she has toward him and their relationship? He doesn’t believe in anxiety or depression, thinks that we are all in “full control” of our thinking, yet our girl is suffering due to his physical, mental and emotional unavailability. He gives her lots of stuff and many consider her “lucky” but she would trade it all for a dad who listened and made her feel like she mattered. She sees a therapist once every few weeks as an outlet but I’m afraid that is all I have to offer her (besides my time, my love and my support, of course.) I worry a lot about her self esteem.
    Thank you.

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    • Hi Carolanne,
      In an ideal world, all girls would grow up with a dad who is emotionally available and supportive, and it’s always sad when a daughter has to grow up without a father like this. It always causes suffering and leaves emotional scars too. But your daughter is very lucky to have a mother with your level of awareness and empathy, as well as commitment to supporting her. I hear from so many daughters who don’t have that from their mothers, and an unaware mother makes the damage an unaware father can inflict so much greater. So please don’t underestimate the value of your time, love and support. As far as tips, I created a free email series for women who’d like to heal from the effects of a challenging father-daughter relationship : you (or your daughter) can sign up for that here.
      Sarah xo

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  • So how is this telling me how to heal the relationship? My Dad is so toxic I don’t feel the desire to be around him, we have tried to talk and fix things but that seems to go nowhere. At what point is it okay to cut ties and say enough is enough?

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    • Hi Lynn,

      Are you signed up to receive my (free) Father Daughter Factor emails ‚Ä쬆those are ALL about healing the relationship and one of the topics I’m going to covering soon is the very one you asked about: “at what point is it okay to cut ties and say enough is enough?” You can sign up here.

      Sarah xo

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  • This article is spot on. It made me so emotional, I had just typed a two page, single spaced response explaining my relationship with my dad. I saved that for my online journal but wanted to share with you the way it feels to have your dad growing up and then he fades away. When I graduated my dad started doing drugs after being clean for 12 years, him and my mom separated, she moved to NC and he got more and more distant. I graduated high school in 2003 and went to live on campus 4 hours away from him at 16 years old before moving on my own in Atlanta in 2007. It began as a call here and there, I would visit when I was in town, things like that. 12 years later he forgot to even send my I love you text on my birthday.

    My mom is close with my sister and my brother because they’ve been in the same city with her the whole time. My older sister is still living at home with her son and my not so lil brother lived there until he was 23. I actually came to live with my Mom first before settling down in NC and was kicked out officially by the 7th month. My mom bought a house with only two bedrooms, I don’t think she ever thought I would be coming back. I lived on my own for 12 years, no parents or anyone to answer to so I take majority of the blame. I had just left everything behind in Atlanta and was sleeping on my mother’s couch. It was a major adjustment for me and it got ugly towards the end with my mom saying somethings I am 88% sure she didn’t mean. My mom and I are just incompatible, I have a lot of resentment towards her because I’ve always felt like an outcast with them even as a kid. She was always hard on me about everything. I was too smart, too curious, too mouthy, not pink enough, etc (usual middle child stuff) and even on my best day my relationship with my mom is strained and feels phony.

    With my dad it’s different. I’ve always felt my daddy loved me no matter what. Growing up it was like he saw me, my flaws, and my strengths and decided he was cool with that until one day he wasn’t any more. So he left me alone with people who didn’t even like me. This is the root of all my insecurities and ticks, people could leave you all alone, you’ll be depending on them and loving on them but they will just be gone. No matter what you do or say, people can decide they don’t want to be with you anymore and you just suppose to act like your world always existed without them. But the reality is I need my dad, I don’t know what for since I am one year shy of 30 now but its a feeling I can’t explain every time I see his name or my brother does something that is so like my Daddy that it makes me want to call him.

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    • Hi Justlin,

      Thank you so much for sharing all of that. I hear you and for what it’s worth, since I started writing about this topic four years ago I’ve heard from many women in similar situations who feel just as you do. That’s why I started a free newsletter, full of info and tips for women who are dealing with a challenging, painful and/or non-existent father-daughter relationship.

      If you’d like to receive that you can sign up here.

      Sarah xo

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  • Thank you for this article filled with compassion. I’m 22 and grew up with a father who supported the family and was there physically, cooked food and all that. I know he really tried to be a “good father”, however he never learnt himself how to show love to your children and he was emotionally very distant.

    I became frustrated at his lack of attention and empathy, became a rebel teenager failed one year in school, started drinking and smoking way too early, I guess I just needed some form of attention. Instead he rejected me even more, judged and criticized the things I did and the friends I hung out with. When I developed depression and social anxiety he started criticizing me for having no friends and no sense of humour.

    There was no understanding or warmth from his side, while he was one of the main reasons these problems developed in the first place (I was bullied at school for a period of time, which was extremely hurtful to my already low self esteem).

    My father and I were constantly fighting, he would put me down every day during dinner, we would end up screaming at each other, I would isolate myself and cry, he never wanted to make up. He totally destroyed my self-esteem, I felt such a strong rejection from him. Today I understand he just didn’t know any better but it has left scars so deep I don’t know how to heal from it.

    It reflects in my relationships too, I have very low confidence and don’t believe a man could truly love me. Most men I get with only use me for having sex then they disappear. I know I am responsible for this by my behaviour and my lack of respect towards myself, but I can’t fake being a confident woman proud of herself and who loves herself when my heart at the very core doesn’t believe it.

    How can I heal? I find it so difficult. Rationally thinking, I know I deserve love and affection, but I just don’t FEEL it. I am tired of being heartbroken all the time and falling for guys who give me the littlest signs of affection, or even just offer physical intimacy. It hurts my soul. Your article helps to feel compassion and the feeling I am not alone… It’s devastating to miss the love of a father.


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    • Hi Nina,

      Thank you so much for sharing that.

      Yes, it is devastating to miss the love of a father.

      And it’s not made any easier by the fact that this is so little talked about and understood.

      But for what it’s worth, in the four years since I began writing about this topic I’ve heard from SO many women who feel just as you do.

      That’s why I started my free email series on the father-daughter relationship, which is designed to answer the very questions you posed, and which I see you’ve signed up for. I hope you’ll find it helpful.

      Thanks again for the share.

      Sarah x

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  • Good article. Interesting stuff. Thanks.
    I would like to ask about this paragraph:
    “In fact, it’s been established that from birth to around the age of six, children automatically “download” all their parents’ words, thoughts and deeds into their unconscious minds. ”
    It doesn’t really make sense to me. What do you mean by “download”? How can a child absorb the parents thoughts? Can you provide references for this please?

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    • Hi Gus! While I don’t have time now to search out specific references, if you Google some key words you’ll find a ton of information relating to the fact that small children are like sponges – and that what parents say, how they think and how they act all have a profound effect on them. Thank you for highlighting the fact that I could have been clearer here. Absorb would be a better word than download, so I’m adjusting the article accordingly 🙂 Sarah

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  • As a dad, I feel like I was a great dad. I coached many of my daughters sports teams. We interacted a lot, and I really enjoyed those days. In high school, she asked that I not attend her games…because she thought I was always critical and telling her how to improve. That hurt. Her mother and I divorced, and I took on a new relationship sometime toward the end of her high school. My daughter often saw me as never really doing well after the marriage ended. Now, she is 29 and has a laundry list of things I did that has caused her to be unhappy. I can’t figure it out…it used to be such a happy, never have to think about it, relationship. I would desperately love to figure it out, and have a great relationship with my daughter.

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  • Dan – I know what you went / are going through. After getting separated / divorced my ex – the mom of my two kids ages 4 and 9 – did everything she could to drive a wedge between me and the two children. I struggled to get my visitation every Wednesday and every other weekend with them. I was punctual and responsible and had routines – all of which she tried and systematically succeeded to destroy. The court system did not even want to talk about it when I filed contempt of court – even though I had Police logs showing the history of her behavior.

    When I called and asked to speak to the children my ex would say “no” and hang up, or tell me they were not home when I could hear them in the background. My son turned 14 and skipped visitation and when my daughter turned 13 she suddenly felt Dad was not important. Now they are 19 and 15 and I’ve seen them maybe twice in a year. I text them good morning and / or good night nearly every day and invite them to lunch or dinner nearly every weekend and often send simple “I Miss You / I Love You / Hey let’s talk” type texts. Seldom do I get a response. I send them birthday and holiday and “Thinking of you” cards on a regular basis and haven’t received anything in return. I’ve sent thousands of dollars in child support on time and thousands in school tuition and automobile / driver’s training / sports team / drama school fees. I attended all their events even when they didn’t see me. I was there in the crowd.

    So all I can say is……..the stories above from all the children that did not get the attention they should have……. What the hell did I do wrong?

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  • Hi Sarah!

    Great article. I just started writing this comment and it turned into an endless post. I do not expect anyone to read it or leave a reply, but I guess I’ll finish it up and post it anyway just as a way of letting go of some steam 🙂 .

    I am in a really odd and quite painful situation.

    My first-ever memory of my dad is one of him insulting me because I was wearing sweat pants instead of a dress… I was going to play in the playground, and I think I was 4 years old.

    My dad used to beat me up for no reason, and I basically spent my childhood and teenage years grounded. I wasn’t allowed to see friends, use my cell phone, watch TV, use the computer, and he even forbade me from doing sports (I used to practice athletics) because I’d skipped school.

    He would come home and just take possession and control over whatever I would be doing, be it watch TV or use the computer (I was also being bullied at school, so playing at the PC was one of the only ways for me not to feel under pressure).

    He would yell at me for 30 minutes straight, and I remember never looking back into his eyes, even more so because he kept yelling “Look at me when I’m talking to you!”. Because of this, I wasn’t able to look people in the eyes until I was 18-19.

    One of his favorite things to say would be, (translated from Italian) “Just the way I made you, I can destroy you”.

    I would go out with (my friend’s) friends when I was 14 years old, and I would literally sit at the table and say no single word for the whole evening. I was just drained and dry inside, somehow.

    My dad wouldn’t speak to me, sometimes for months on end, as some form of punishment. 99% of the time he wouldn’t approve of whatever I wanted to do, and was always ready and eager to criticize me and my choices, embarrass me in front of his friends or other people, compare me to the other kid who was just better and smarter, beat me some more. I never heard “I love you” or basically any other form of appreciation throughout my childhood and teenage years.

    Over the years, my character just worsened (around him, in school, etc.) and I tried to run away from home 3 times, would do whatever in my power to do exactly the opposite to what he wanted me to do, and find a way out of the punishment. I can appreciate that today, because it’s made me one of the most resourceful and strongest women / people I know…but.

    Once, I broke my ankle while performing a long jump at athletics. He came to pick me up with his motorbike, all grumpy, and didn’t take me to the hospital. The next day I woke up with a huge, swollen and hurting ankle.

    Anyway, at some point he started coming home at 5 am, my parents began to fight often, and one day they finally announced they were going to split (he was being emotionally abusive and cheating on my mom). I felt weird about it – being a 13 year old and having been ‘taught’ what family should be like – but in the end I was so glad they did. I began to breathe.

    He remarried after a few years and our relationship started to get slightly better, largely because he was never around and I just wouldn’t tell him things and what I was up to. He also tried to beat me one last time when I was 18 or so, and for the first time ever I yelled back.

    My relationships with men have always been a disaster (except for the current one), and I now fully understand why.

    However, I do know that he isn’t a bad person. He tried to support me financially, but the money was never there (another mystery to me, since he was a dentist … ) I think he spent all of his money on his lovers. But he did try to do some things for me, like, he bought me an old car on a birthday, and he would take me to skiing trips.

    I know he never received the right kind of love from his father. He has billions of friends who love him and support him, yet he behaves like a lousy partner or father.

    Rationally, I understand, but it’s hard to forgive / forget / talk about things. We don’t talk feelings. We do small talk. He still rarely approves of me or shows any appreciation of me – even though I’ve obtained a Bachelor’s, a Master’s, have started 2 businesses of my own, have traveled and lived all the world, and am seen as a successful person to whom many turn to for advice.

    All of this has been acceptable and OK to cope with over the past 10 years… until last year he had an accident. With his scooter. He fell and now is paralyzed. He wasn’t supposed to ever be able to move again, but now he’s making some progress.

    I am torn between some sort of lack of empathy, anger, resentment, and sometimes overwhelmed with pity and sorrow. I don’t see him as often as I should. I feel guilty and very bad about it. But when I go see him, I feel deeply uncomfortable. Is it because I am just so guilty? Is it because he is in pain and he is still my father, after all? Is it because I have fought so hard to be independent and now I am forced to change my life because of this man who has never been able to make me feel appreciated?

    I also know everyone in his circle of friends judge me, including his wife, and this is even more pressuring.

    I think he has changed a bit now, but initially after the accident was being such a piece of work. He would demand things, be arrogant, insulting – and it wasn’t because of the accident. He’s always been like that. So that made it harder for me to feel empathetic.

    I am so confused, and don’t even know if I do want to get over past issues? Do I really want to, am I ready to open that door?

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  • Dear Sarah,

    I have two daughters. My elder one just turned to 14 and she has barely started high school. Being a Father I have been loving them from the bottom of my heart. My elder daughter used to be with me so closed since she was 6 years. But since a year ago she alternatively ignores me and when she wants not even talk with me. I am in severe pain due to this and I just cant even concentrate my job. When she doesn’t talk and ignore me, I cant sleep at all. I am suffering as if I am about to die, and feel so much emptiness, I love my daughter so much. I never keep anything short for her, she is so smart in studies. She always used take guidance from me when she was little. She somewhat closed to her mom more than me and spends most of the time in her room doing studies and her other stuff. About 4 months ago I hit her and told her “I hate you ” and get out of my house”. I could not bear any more of her ignoring me. Thereafter I will never ever hit or say those words determined to my self. So now when she wants to, she talks with me for a short time, but most of the time she just ignores me in spite of my attempts to start conversation so lovingly. We had a baby boy 1 year and 4 months old. I love him so as much as I love both of my daughters. Please help me.

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  • I have been abandoned, lonely, betrayed, derogated, used and abused by that egocentric, phlegmatic, perfidious, unavailable, ostentatious, wayward, and vengeful called my father. In retrospect, he left home to the US in 1985 when I was in college and forsake me deliberately for 15 years. I was touching base, however, but he was rejecting my calls so often or changing his address and number furtively.

    Then, 2000 Mom passed away due to a brain tumor and I left to the US but my father and his wife treated me so repulsively from day one. In return, I have worked and studied assiduously that my father felt proud of me and at ease; however, he has was constantly unwelcoming suitors and imprisoning me at home on weekends and holidays, especially when he noticed my codependency in him. So work and school were my sanctuary that I must save from my father’s perfidy by giving him my visa card where my paychecks and tax return are deposited, and he didn’t mind.

    Then in 2010 I took pills and received treatment as an inpatient for depression and anxiety owing to long-term celibacy and stress at work and home. I wish you witnessed his promises to my psychiatrist and psychologist so they discharge me and wish you witnessed how he mercilessly broke them while I was begging not to.

    In conclusion, I hate my father for acting like my foe and waisting 30 years of my life. Imagine that I am 50, yet emotionally and mentally I am 21, that age where I was blessed with multiple happy events that my father ruined recklessly, like being together after 5 years of separation, and my graduation from college, and the marriage proposal from Ahmed, my sweetheart. Unfortunately, my father sent Ahmed away, and did not ask me about my letter grade or my goals, and he returned to the US after only a week with us. I am assured that Goofy understands why I hate my father, while my father can’t because he doesn’t want to understand 🙁

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  • Hi,

    I have a challenging situation. My daughter is 16 and lives with Mom and Stepdad a state away now for three years. She has been through a hard divorce and before the move she was with me 40% of the time. Now it’s only summer and we talk once in a while. It’s been a challenge to stay in touch and her mother has refused to co-parent since the divorce over 10 years ago. Court orders were to keep communications going through regular calls, Skype Facetime, and rules set to keep her out of the middle. Sadly none of this is happening and she is extremely angry and hostile. It’s been impossible to keep her connected with her extended family and now she uses communication time with me as a weapon to hurt.

    I show her love at every turn with calls, text, cards, letters. Recently went up for an open house at her school and she refused to see me. Both stepdad and mom want me out of their lives and as such hers as well. Now I find they have blocked texting with her and also have her refusing to come back to see me and family. Text with her mom between us are shared with her to force triangulation and she seems meshed with her mom so I am the bad guy no matter what. I keep trying but nothing works. Too late for the court as she is 16. So hard when her Dad tries so much and lost everything in the process. When she is with me its different but as soon as she is back with her mom it turns back into a nightmare. My only hope is that she goes far away to college to break away and become herself. Maybe then I can have a relationship with her but for now it’s toxic.

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  • I am a failure, if I cannot repair the bond betweem my perfect little girl, Sage and I. I am a 38 yr old estranged father of an amazing, sweet, intelligent, kind, and beautiful 12 yr old lady. I am unemployed, mentally ill and a recovering addict. I was homeless for 7 years during which I only saw Sage a couple times. It was never for a lack of love for my Angel.

    I did the best I could at the time, often begging and sometimes yelling at her mother on the phone, trying to get to see Sage. Her mother only closed up and became more apprehensive with each desperate and misguided attempt I made. I can’t blame her mother any more than I blame myself, but I need Sage to know that none of our seven years apart was because of anything she did or because she wasn’t good enough.

    After my family split up, I had my daughter on the weekends. I was devastated, but still strong and confident enough to be my little girl’s hero. A couple years and several failed relationships after being seperated from her mother (my first wife), I found the romance I had always dreamed of… And it was with a girl I hadn’t seen since we were in high school together. Her name was Sherra. To this day she is the basis upon which I judge the love of every other woman.

    Sherra and I discussed our future and made plans for marriage and “forever” . She had been asking if we could have a child together, so I impregnated her. I had never been so in love… I thought. 5 months into the pregnancy, shortly after an ultrasound showed us our beautiful unborn baby girl, Sherra left me and I never saw her again. At that point I entered a downward spiral, started using stimulants to get thru the work week and only being sober on the weekends when I had Sage. There came a point when it had gone far enough that Sage’s mother started withholding her and not allowing visits.

    Then I started using meth all 7 days of the week. I soon lost my job, and a few months later was evicted. That was the beginning of my seven years away from my daughter… seven years homeless, desperate, addicted and suicidal. During that time I was convinced the problem was me and I was punishing myself for not being good enough to keep a family together… Twice.

    I thought since I twice experienced what seemed to be the most perfect romance imaginable, and since I twice lost that seemingly flawless human love… That since I was a failure as a husband, and had gotten daily reminders of all the ways my partners had found me sub par, that I was unlovable… Too much of a mess for anyone to wanna clean up. That thought spread over me like wildfire, and soon infected my relationships with everyone. I no longer felt worthy of my daughter, my family, or my friends. I wanted to die and I allowed my lifestyle to reflect that by destroying myself with drugs, sex and crime.

    I have now been in recovery and visiting my daughter monthly for about two years. I need to find a way to repair the bond I broke between us. Sage is my life, my hope, my reason. We used to be nearly inseperable, til her fourth birthday… I truly was her hero and she was mine. I want to have her on the weekends again, to be an active parent and show her she is loved and valued unconditionally by BOTH of her parents.

    Sage has become so shy and withdrawn during the time we’ve spent apart… She has been deeply affected, severely hurt because my mental illness, homelessness, addiction and self destructive behavior kept us apart for so long. I’ve been praying this whole time, for God to bring us back together. There was never a point that Sage didnt mean the world to me, never a time when she wasn’t good enough.

    I need to find a way to put that happy confident smile she had until age 4, back on her face, but have been having trouble bonding. Her mother and I disagree about what is best for her in that regard, because her mother also grew up without an active father for much of her childhood… She sees no harm in limiting our time together to just an hour or two a month, and sees no benefit to me having Sage on the weekends as I used to. She seems entirely unwilling to consider progressing in any way from this point…

    So far in two years of visits I have only gotten the opportunity to have two short ten minute conversations with her alone. Generally her mother is there for the entire visit and controls everything we say or do. Sage and I had several months of therapist supervised visits before the therapist recommended unsupervised visits… But they are never unsupervised. All of our time together is spent under the rule of controlling, overbearing mother. I need any advice or help I can get.

    I have no idea where to start the legal process of changing a parenting plan I never even got a copy of or had a chance to read. Despite all the great ideas for dad-daughter bonding I’ve found on the internet and had suggested by friends and family, it seems like any progress we make reverts quickly. My efforts to show her my love have been a priority in my thoughts, feelings, time, finances and all other resources… She is the number one person in my heart, second only to God.

    I’ve even sworn off romantic relationships for extended periods and done my best to avoid them in order to be able to focus solely on her. Most of my fixed monthly income goes to visiting her and buying her gifts, and those monthly visits are the one thing I look forward to most.

    I apologize for writing so much, it feels selfish to spend so long writing these pleas for help/advice wherever possible online, but I am not doing this just for myself or to vent, I am doing this for the most wonderful, intelligent, caring, sincere and beautiful 12 year old young woman in the world.

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  • Michael, thank you so much for sharing that.

    I think your honesty is very courageous. And I don’t think your spending so long writing is at all selfish. Quite the opposite.

    I’m no legal expert and you need someone who is, to walk you through your options here.

    But I will say, from a parenting perspective, that you’re absolutely on the right track with this:

    “My efforts to show her my love have been a priority in my thoughts, feelings, time, finances and all other resources”.

    While you figure out your options and regardless of whether you get it back, keep that love flowing.

    Whatever the situation, that is always the right thing to do.

    I wish you all the very best.

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  • Just want to say that I love my daughter more than anything in the world. I will make any sacrifice for her and will always, always love her more than she will ever know.

    I have followed her from birth, through “toddlerhood”, childhood and now as a soon 17 year old woman. I feel we are the best of friends and that she can condide completely in me. we always laugh together and have a deep, instintive connection to each other.

    I am divorced and we live far away from each other but we manage it well and reconnect quickly. I see that I am very important in her life and wish all daughters had a great relationship with their dad.

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  • I guess my situation and my opinion is very different from the commenters here. My female relatives, friends, and I experience that the mothers are the ones who matter and are most importance to their daughters’ emotional, and physical development, because we, the women, get pregnant, carry, give birth and then nurture and take care of our daughters as we guide them, then build their confidence and self esteem.
    How dare some of you try to give dad, this credit. It’s as plain as the nose on your face.. When did we start this dad exalting doctrine? I work with families, girls and women. Mothers are on the frontline. They do everything for their daughters’ care and development. You cannot and we won’t let you turn this around to give the credit to the dads.

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    • Hi Jean! It’s not clear from your comment whether you’ve read the article 🙂 Nothing in it is meant to diminish the role of mothers, nor is it in any way a question of who gets the “credit”. This isn’t a competition 🙂

      The view that fathers are not important as parents is an outdated one. And it’s one of the reasons so many families are just as you describe, with the father unengaged and most of the job of parenting – and particularly parenting girls – falling on the mother’s shoulders.

      Every word you wrote suggests that you grew up in such a family and that it’s given you a very negative view of fathers 🙁 In the email you sent me, you ended by asking “Why do you do this?” It’s very simple. I write on the father-daughter relationship for all of the daughters, and fathers – and MOTHERS! – who see how important this relationship is and that it needs to be talked about more.

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  • Thank you so much for sharing this because i got relief that i am not the only girl who is facing such problems in life. My story is somewhere same with N’s story but it is more tragic than that. Because my father has bipolar disorder and he is very short tempered guy. He thinks that women are always less than men. Women can’t do anything. Not only me, my younger sister and mother are also suffering in this. We have a lot sad memories but most sad thing is my mother didn’t fight against him. She didn’t raise her voice and still she supports him.

    Both my parents want me to get married early and not to follow my dreams. I have faith and hope that I would win him over. My father is always demotivating me but i do not give up and i won’t. Me and my sister are trying our best in our work and following our dreams because we want to prove them wrong. Here I stop, saying thanks once again. I would like to share this my story to world through a book and movie I am sure it would inspire many girls.

    Thanks for reading!

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  • I left my wife after 13 years of marriage, we have 2 children together 10 and 13. They live with her in the family home and i now live with my parents, i was having them 3 times a week in my parents home as there are plenty of spare rooms. Since we separated i’ve met someone and my ex immediately told the kids that i was having an affair and that’s why i left which is of course not true.
    Going back about 6 months my children gave me an ultimatum – them or her!

    I told them they are more important to me than anyone in the world and that i love them more than anything and they can’t make me pick them or who i have a relationship with.

    Their mother encouraged this ultimatum and still maintains there’s nothing she can do to change their minds, however surely i can’t be the only one who thinks it is her duty as a mother to teach our children that it is not healthy to try and control peoples lives by giving them ultimatums like this. They will surely grow up to believe that this is normal behaviour and carry this pattern of control with them their whole lives. Am i wrong? Do i give up my relationship to make them happy? or do i stick to my guns and teach them that this is wrong?

    Please someone give their views because i’m starting to think i’m in the wrong here.



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  • M dad has never liked me, perfect example is he is a control freak. Always getting me into trouble for the most simplest of things, not leaving me alone and giving me my personnel space. Im now 35 and its still that bad, he’s never happy with what ever I do, new car, moving out, job. We have never communicated to the point where we tell each other our feelings, hell no would I tell him anything anyway. He even called the cops on me because I was angry at something that had nothing to do with him what so ever in which he most likely thought the opposite. This was only a year ago. He thinks he knows and understands me but trust me he doesn’t and there is know way in hell I would let him either. Other examples are when I was going out with my first gf he obviously wasn’t happy with that getting her in trouble also. Recently he had some family friends over and I was having a general chat with his friend about my 4wd, he constantly went off at me for being rude and all I was doing was having a conversation with someone else. This is the sort of thing I have had to put up with my entire life. I can’t deal spending time with him or being around him anymore, sad thing is now after him calling the cops on me he is acting all nice and proper and trust me it’s just an act (cant deal with it for much longer) Unfortunately im stuck living at home job hunting, but as soon as I get a job ill be moving out of home and renting.

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