No matter what, a father plays a major role in a child’s life. This is true whether he is a wonderful and devoted dad, it’s true if you had a present but emotionally unavailable father, and it’s true if he was completely absent. Dads have a major influence on their kids’ development and, later, on their adult personalities whether they were perfect or less than perfect. Children are both affected by and, for better or for worse, model themselves based on their parents before any other group or person on earth.
All that said, “daddy issues” need not have been caused by a father figure – or by any parent or even by family life, for that matter – in order for them to manifest.
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What we call daddy issue for short (we’ll define the term more completely in a moment) can also be caused by other family members, as a result of a fraught romantic relationship, in the wake of failed friendships, and from myriad other factors.
For our purposes here today, we won’t be discussing potential causes of your daddy issues, but will instead be focused on helping you identify if you have them and, if so, what you can do to get over them. If you do feel that past traumas, abuse, neglect, or other factors have led you to develop current mental health challenges, it might be best if you speak to a trained professional such as a psychologist or therapist who can help you deal with your underlying issues. If you feel that daddy issues are your primary problem holding you back in life, then read on.
What are “daddy issues,” anyway?
The short story is that daddy issues refer to trouble people have forming healthy, lasting, and mutually rewarding romantic relationships with partners. They manifest in several different ways and cause myriad different issues, but writ large, the term refers to relationship issues that prevent the formation of a balanced, stable union.
A father complex can wreak havoc on a person’s self-esteem, it can ruin his or her ability to trust others, it can cause a tendency to self-sabotage, and it can preclude healthy relationships even with a partner who would have made a great match.
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Thus we can see that though the term “daddy issues” may seem casual and even almost flippant, it’s a shorthand term for a raft of potentially major problems.
Here are five common manifestations of daddy issues and a few tips for getting over them and learning how to form more successful adult relationships.
You are too needy and clingy
If your father figure or any other major figures in your life was absent or was present but effectively unavailable, you may have developed abandonment issues. As a result, you may too quickly become clingy, possessive, and even obsessive over a partner, fearing – consciously or not – that they may bail out on you if you don’t keep them extra close.
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The problem, of course, is that clinginess can have the polar opposite effect you want and can push the person away from you rather than drawing him or her closer. To overcome this tendency, you need to establish boundaries that you will be able to respect. If your partner needs a certain amount of space and freedom, you need to respect that. You also have every right to ask for good communication so you both remain on the same page even as you allow that space.
You are unable to commit to relationships
Quite the opposite of being too clingy, many people with daddy issues are unwilling or unable to properly commit to a relationship. This may be because, subconsciously, they fear the other person will abandon them eventually anyway, so it’s emotionally safer not to commit.
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It can be hard to give your trust to another person when a major figure in your own life did not warrant being trusted. However, you need to find ways to let yourself trust your partner, or you will never enter into a truly meaningful relationship. A person who does not feel trusted or committed to will not truly be able to trust and commit to you.
You have an unhealthy relationship with sex
If you suffered any form of abuse as a young person, especially sexual abuse, it’s entirely reasonable that, as an adult, you will have an unbalanced approach to sex. This could come in the form of hypersexuality, wherein you engage in potentially dangerous and/or emotionally devoid sex too often. It could also mean you have an aversion to sex.
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Both of these opposite issues can lead to unhealthy relationships (and to much worse outcomes in the case of a glut of unsafe sex) and merit the support of a trained professional, a support group, or both.
You regularly choose bad partners
Daddy issues caused in youth can manifest in the choosing unsuitable partners in your adult life. If you tend to form relationships with abusers, philanderers, people with substance abuse issues, or other problems, it’s a good bet that you are dealing with daddy issues that preclude you from seeking out and only connecting with safe, suitable partners.
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If people have expressed concerns about your partners, if you have been or fear you will be abused by them, or if you form relationships even with people to whom you’re not really attracted because you just don’t want to be alone, those are all red flags. Read some relationship quotes and if few or none of them seem germane to your partnership, then you may need to consider ending things.
You lack self-esteem
You should always be your own biggest advocate, you should believe in your dreams, and you should be willing to look after your own needs along with the needs of others. But if you had a parental figure who did not support and believe in you, as an adult you may be lacking in self-esteem. This can lead you to settle too easily in your romantic relationships, but it can also have a ripple effect out into other parts of your life.
When considering your own sense of self-worth, think not about the desultory ways in which your dad related to you, but instead imagine the ways you wish you had been supported, and then direct that positive energy back at yourself. And if you have kids of your own, by all means break the cycle and raise them with the love, attention, and respect you are now aware was lacking.
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