THE DETACHED FATHER
When it comes to emotional wounds, what we experience during childhood can harm how we navigate adulthood. The people who raise us affect the way we mature. While some of us might have had fathers who were not present, others of us might have endured a childhood where everything about our fathers said “present” aside from their emotions. That critical connection that we long to feel about our fathers is missing because of their lack of understanding (or desire) to foster a close father-child relationship.
Maybe your father was detached or apathetic. Maybe your father was sorting through his own issues and couldn’t show up for you. Perhaps, he was just under-equipped to help with your feelings because he had difficulty feeling his own. Whatever the reason, often, these behaviors by father figures can manifest in our adult lives as abandonment issues, needing constant reassurance, and clinging to relationships to the point of suffocation — exacerbating any mental health issues we may have.
Needing Constant Reassurance
They may need constant reassurance that people love them and care about them. “Constant” means that people think so low of themselves and always doubt that people care about them. They may get confused when people are nice to them, to the point of feeling uncomfortable. Some people learn that they need to do everything for themselves, and if anyone is trying to help, that will come at a price.
Filling the Void with Other Things
Some individuals will try to fill the void they feel with material possessions, some developing hoarding habits, while others may run into financial trouble through overspending.
Some may have trouble maintaining friendships for fear of being abandoned or even criticized when they make a mistake. They may build walls and compartmentalize their feelings.
Craving Attention or Approval
Some women seek out attention from men because it makes them feel worth something, in contrast with the absent father.
Assuming Everything Is Your Fault
Some people always assume they’ve done something wrong if the attitude or mood of others suddenly goes cold or hostile. It makes them anxious, and they end up blaming themselves even if they aren’t guilty of anything. They automatically and irrationally assume that they cause people’s disappointments or negative moods.
Clinging to Relationships
As a result of the fear of being abandoned, these individuals will cling tightly to their relationships, even new ones. This suffocating behavior may jeopardize their relationships to the point where the other person must find space apart from the clingy individual.
Fearing Meaningful Intimacy
These people may even avoid deep relationships, moving quickly from one partner to the next, forming superficial connections with many people, and then abandoning them just as quickly. Some may even go after unavailable partners, such as those already in a marriage or relationship, because this absolves them if it doesn’t work out.
Having Difficulty with Other People’s Emotions
Because they aren’t in touch with their own emotions, these individuals will have difficulty dealing with other people’s emotions. Sometimes, seeing other people express strong emotions, even positive ones, can make them jealous, upset, and miserable.
Struggling with Authority Figures
Because they never formed a meaningful relationship with their father, these individuals can struggle to interact with authority figures, such as at work or in school. They may be unable to see authority figures as anything but cruel and meanspirited.
Overcompensating in the Way You Parent
Other people cope with an absent father oppositely in that they end up spoiling their children and giving in to every one of the children’s whims. This could result in spoiled kids, and discipline could become an issue.
Being a Perfectionist
Because these persons never experienced their father’s pride in their accomplishments, they may be unable to find pride in themselves later in life. This could lead to a destructive form of perfectionism, where nothing is good enough. The individual focuses only on all the negative aspects and is blind to all the positive accomplishments.