In another excerpt from Mr Unavailable and the Fallback Girl, I explore the all too familiar “daddy feeling” – Basing many of your relationships and dating choices on unresolved issues and beliefs that derive from your relationship (or lack thereof) with your father and unknowingly creating a familiar comfortable (yet still uncomfortable) feeling in your adult relationships.
“With parental relationships, it can all be about setting the tone. You may or may not have a good relationship with your mother, but your chances of having a bad relationship with yourself and future partners, further increases with a dubious interaction with your own father or strong male figure.
The pattern of systematically being involved with emotionally unavailable men can be deep rooted due to patterns that we have learnt in our childhood. It doesn’t have to be an absentee father or a ‘bad’ father; it may just be that the significant male figure in our life didn’t express his emotions or made you work hard for his attentions and affections, and for all intents and purposes, he was emotionally unavailable.
It’s called going after what you know.
Very often, men have to be ‘strong like bull’ and as providers they focus on providing security and fostering a good life, often stemming from the material and practical aspects of life, with very little thought given to how much emotional sustenance is being given to their children. They look around them and see food on the table, a mother doing her ‘motherly bit’, a car in the driveway and everything provided for, plus they work long hours, and they determine that their work is done. There is an element of them thinking ‘We’re here, aren’t we?’ and further on, you believe that all a man has to do is show up, not participate.
This type of father had good intentions and was doing the best he could, often based on his own experience of being parented, but if you have grown up in an environment like this, it can have you looking for love in all the wrong places. In life we often need emotional attention and what if you didn’t get it, or you spent a lot of energy trying to get this attention from him? Or what if at some point you subconsciously or consciously accepted that this is how men are with their emotions and became used to emotionally unavailable men?
And being abandoned by your father can certainly ensure that you’re put on the path to desiring Mr Unavailables. It’s extremely difficult for most children to comprehend why their father is absent, even if they have a relatively happy home with their mother, or with her and subsequent partners. How do you understand why it appears that your father didn’t love you enough to stick around?
Whatever a father’s reasons are for abandoning his child, it can never quite be explained or rationalised, regardless of whether his reason involved the child or not.
Whether the father is in and out of her life, or doesn’t show up at all, both can lead to a woman growing up and finding herself seeking out relationships that replicate that sense of abandonment and sometimes she will also seek comfort with older men that fulfil the daddy need.
With the father that shows up from time to time, you get to learn how to seek his approval by trying to do all of the right things. The child mentality says that if you just do enough, he will stick around and be your father full time. And then he’s gone again.
Or if he never turns up, you not only fear abandonment by all men, but at the same time you may seek a relationship where you let them have more control, in the hope of finding that intangible feeling of comfort that you have been missing from your father all of your life. You end up being uncertain about what type of man to go for due to the lack of shining example in your life and will struggle to engage with men in a healthy way.
There is a term ‘father hunger’ which was pioneered in the book Father Hunger: Fathers, Daughters, and the Pursuit of Thinness by the author Ph.D Margo Pain. It is described as “the emptiness, and resulting food and body image disorders, experienced by women whose fathers were physically or emotionally absent. Whilst it is not the scope of this book to look at food and body imaging, the book highlights the surety that when there isn’t a good connection between father and daughter, it will result in a variety of self-esteem issues. The book examines the fact that if a woman is unable to seek unconditional, healthy love and attention from the one man that she needs it from (her father), it will result in her believing that she is not good enough and that she must work extra hard for the attentions of men.
By seeking out men that give you that familiar ‘daddy’ feeling, you have become trapped in a vicious cycle, albeit one that feels totally normal to you because it is all that you know.
Many Fallback Girl’s don’t know what to do with the attentions of an available man because it’s a foreign concept, which has many of them running for the hills, because it seems scary and weird. They’ll be suspicious of him and call him ‘Too Nice To Date Twice’. It takes a lot to heal the damage done by a lack of connection with our fathers, and whilst you can’t turn back time, the key is to find ways to put yourself at peace with your past, and to reconcile yourself with a truer picture of yourself.
Updated May 2015: Please note that the Mr Unavailable and the Fallback Girl was completely rewritten in 2011 so this is not an exact excerpt any longer.