If my parents’ divorce cheating me out of anything relatively significant, it was most definitely the opportunity to grow up with a less cynical set of beliefs about men.
It’s true, for me at least, that your relationship with your father will have something to do with the way you deal with men when it comes to your personal relationships. Also, how you interpret that relationship affects how you get along with the people you date. I realize that not all women exclusively date men, so it’s possible that some of this could apply to those relationships as well. For now, I can really only speak to the ones that have been grinding my gears ever since I took that class in 7th grade when I learned what goes into where.
I saw my dad do some awful things to my mom, especially behind her back. I knew about his girlfriends and I was there when my mom opened his briefcase and found pictures of them. I was there when my mom learned he was seeing one of the moms in the PTA and I was also there when instead of dropping me off at school, we drove to his job where she confronted him about what he was doing. He sat nonchalantly in the backseat and opened a Tootsie Roll wrapper. He showed the wrapper to me because it said, “Please help the mentally retarded” (this was back in the ’80s) and he gestured toward her.
Maybe that is why I react so strongly whenever I hear a guy call a woman “psycho” just because she is heartbroken. I have talked about this before in the article “Heartbroken, Not Crazy” and I feel very passionate about the way some women aren’t taken seriously when they are very upset about the way they have been treated.
We will absolutely have a reaction if someone we have feelings for does something that hurts us and doesn’t apologize. We hate being written off as crazy or dramatic.
I was thirteen when I last saw my dad. He came by to visit us after another long period of not seeing him, and I didn’t want to leave my room. I had locked the door and hid under a blanket because I was too scared to face how I would react to seeing him. I let my uncle come in when he knocked and he talked me into coming outside. Once I saw my dad, I hugged him and I cried and I felt embarrassed about it. He then promised to come over again to take my brother and I out somewhere and spend time with us.
He broke that promise and we didn’t see him at all, not even on the days he swore he’d visit.
For my seventeenth birthday, he called and asked if he could see us. I said no, but it didn’t end there. He continued to feed the pay phone from which he was calling with quarters just to tell a bunch of horrible things about my mom. I shot back with reminders that he had done zero to support us at all, that he left us poor and living in a horrible apartment full of roaches, and that very few people helped us out when we needed them the most, but that she worked her ass off for us. I let him know that I absolutely would not forgive him for hitting her (there was some serious domestic violence involved) and that if he ever showed his face, I’d hit back so he’d know how it felt.
He laughed at me.
A couple of days later he called again and he pleaded with me. He said he had a picture and swore that I’d written, “I’ll always love you.” I told him I didn’t remember. He asked to visit and I refused to see him. Finally, I asked him to never call again and now all I remember is the weak sound in his voice when he said he’d never bother me again.
The way I spoke to my dad that night is an attitude that hasn’t changed for me. When a man hurts my feelings, I try to push him out of my life before he can get rid of me. And if he is the one who rejects me first, I am devastated, confused, and depressed. This pattern has only been curbed in recent years by some very top notch individuals who somehow have had the keen gift of tolerating my emotions and knowing that they can often be fleeting.
One guy I dated was there during my quarter-life crisis and rather than blowing me off altogether, he maintained a good friendship and even encouraged me to grow in my own business projects. He was there for my 25th birthday when I drank myself stupid to the point that he had to follow me when I walked away from our watering hole with tears in my eyes, angry at him because he wouldn’t love me back. I still can’t figure out how anyone could be so patient with me.
These days, I have an odd friendship with a man I rarely get to see. We chat often, and he’s already put up with me trying to push him out of my life about two to three times. Every day I feel like I don’t deserve his friendship and I constantly remind myself to curb the nutty speeches and just appreciate his kindness. So many other men haven’t even flinched when I’ve walked away from them, but he remains sweet and supportive.
So this is what people are referring to when talking about “daddy issues.” When I’m faced with a tough choice to make about keeping man in my life, I find myself feeling the way I did when my dad broke my heart and the fear kicks in and I want to get rid of him before he gets rid of me, and sometimes I want to be the one who hurts him back just has deeply. These are thoughts and reactions that may never go away, but I do know that being aware of them now has made a huge difference keeping the outbursts at bay. I went for many years never recognizing the patterns, but now that I see them, I force myself to be more conscious of my choices.
When I’m mad at this friend I feel strongly about, I slam the brakes on my crazy train. I try to remember that he has no idea what things upset me, and that if I care for him to know, I can explain it. Even better, I can keep it to myself and evaluate it because it’s not his burden to carry. If anything, knowing these things about myself gives me a better idea about the kind of man I want to someday love, and he will have to be nothing like my dad.
Featured Image via Wilson-Brothers.com