In part one I talked about my own very personal experience of dating men who were reflections of my father (and stepfather). A difficult subject, it’s something however that I knew I should talk about because so many women are affected by their father daughter relationships, and often, it’s not in the most positive way.
I explained about how we look for men to meet needs that our own fathers failed to meet.
Our experiences with our fathers can have us believing that we’ve been loved conditionally. In turn, we’ll look for that unconditional love that we always wanted from our fathers and coupled with the unrealistic expectations, create the wrong messages about ourselves with mistaken love habits.
When we do not love ourselves, we often love others unconditionally, placing unrealistic expectations and loving and trusting blindly even when there is evidence that suggests we need to roll back. We seek unconditional love from others because we want it to be reflected back.
I’ll love him unconditionally —> I will be there, stick to him like glue, accept boundary busting behaviour—> He will love me back unconditionally and because I turn a blind eye to his behaviour, he will turn a blind eye to my so-called flaws—> I will be accepted and validated and I will feel the love that’s been eluding me and I will like and love myself at last—> We can live happily ever after.
However unconditional love starts with yourself and it is not about loving people regardless and without basis.
Unconditional love of you is about loving and liking you irrespective of what is taking place around you. Regardless of what is taking place around you, you don’t internalise the external factors and keep a healthy sense of love of yourself so that your perception of you doesn’t get distorted. That and if you do love yourself without reserve, you won’t look for people to do and be things that you are not being and doing yourself, and you want look for unconditional love from unlikely sources.
Because of my experiences, I didn’t like or love myself very much and went out looking for love in all of the wrong places. I hurled myself into relationships and ‘loved’ without basis because I wanted to fill up that void in me.
The partners I chose were either not appropriate for a healthy relationship or even if they were halfway decent, my own internal dialogue meant I was suspicious, acted up, and felt it was too good to be true, so I sabotaged stuff and created my own self-fulfilling prophecy that confirmed everything I already believed about myself, love, and relationships:
I am unlovable.
I have flaws that will be discovered.
All men will leave me.
I don’t deserve to be loved.
All relationships are ambiguous and/or have high drama.
Every time something happened with a guy, it changed how I saw myself – this was because I bent, twisted, morphed, shape-shifted and adapted for every relationship, but also because I didn’t love myself so I internalised every experience and decided I was unlovable etc.
I didn’t like myself enough to be myself because I thought that would scare them off. That and I didn’t know who I was because I was whatever I thought each guy wanted me to be.
Often, women who are involved with emotionally unavailable men, Mr Unavailables, are afraid of abandonment and rejection, and inadvertently try to recreate aspects of their father daughter relationship with these men in a doomed self-fulfilling prophecy. But your father doesn’t have to have been absent – he could have been there but just emotionally unresponsive, or selective with his interaction, or busting your boundaries.
Typically if you find yourself recreating patterns based around your relationship with your father, it’s likely to be because:
Your father put his needs first to the detriment of you or your families experience.
Your father was self-involved.
Your father emotionally, sexually, or physically abused you.
Your father abandoned you or was fond of disappearing acts.
Your father may not have met his financial or family obligations.
Your father was unresponsive. You could have put a cardboard cut-out and you’d probably have got more response.
Your father was uncommunicative and undemonstrative.
Your father was communicative and demonstrative…but only when he had something negative to say or demonstrate.
Your father was ambiguous and non-commital.
Your father was very charming and a ladies man so there may have been cheating.
Your father was an alcoholic, gambler, sex addict or some sort of addict.
Your father may have actually been a great provider and there for all intents and purposes and assumed that it was job done – but did not provide emotionally.
Your father may have played you off your siblings or even your mother.
Your father may have totally made you work for his attention.
Your father may have been cruel enough to say something that led you to believe that you were responsible for his behaviour/him leaving.
You may have witnessed your father emotionally, sexually, or physically abuse your mother or siblings.
Your father may have left and you may have misguidedly felt responsible.
Your father may have started a relationship with someone else and your relationship changed with him.
These things and more will mean that the prime example of a man in your life will have given you some skewed perceptions about yourself, love, and relationships, which unchallenged, will affect:
Your values – Your fundamental beliefs about what you need to live authentically, what makes you feel good, bad, happy, sad, what’s right, wrong, and what you think about you, love, relationships, and life in general.
Your boundaries – if you’re used to having little or no boundaries with your father, you’ll likely repeat it with partners, or veer in the opposite direction and have more walls than Fort Knox.
How you emotionally connect – and also what you perceive as connecting. You’re likely to indulge in limited relationships with people that have a limited capacity to engage which means that you don’t risk yourself.
Empathy – You need empathy but may look for sympathy but may also find yourself involved with people who are lacking in empathy making them potentially cruel, distant, and unable to connect with where they have caused you pain. You may also find yourself inadvertently assuming victim status and avoiding accountability and responsibility.
Love, care, trust, and respect – Fundamentals that you need in a relationship for you to be happy and living congruent with your values and within your boundaries. They’re the basis of a healthy, good relationship and provide a foundation off which everything else can stem. If these are absent, your relationship will not prosper and is likely to be dangerous.
The healthy things that we should seek from our partners and relationships, are what we should ideally have had, albeit in a father/daughter dynamic. If you don’t have a reasonably healthy relationship with your father to draw upon, you will be:
Afraid of men leaving or withdrawing.
Chasing similar partners.
Trying to right the wrongs of the past.
Trying to gain the validation that you failed to get from your father.
Clinging to an image of the father that you’d like but didn’t get and then projecting it onto your partners and tying them and yourself up in unrealistic expectations.
And here’s an example of how you can put yourself on the merry-go-round:
In spite of whatever experiences I’d had with my father, I’d drawn a halo around it and created an image of the father I would have liked in an ideal world. It wasn’t necessarily something I’d voiced out loud and it’s not as if I reflected on who he was, knew about values, boundaries, and healthy relationship behaviours.
Instead, I took an already very imperfect man with not so great relationship habits and basically tagged on him loving me unconditionally and making me feel all the things I didn’t feel for myself and doing everything I thought that relationships were all about…and then went out looking for it. This person was a figment of my imagination and I’d made a person with conflicting qualities and characteristics and expected it to give me a relationship it was incapable of giving.
It’s like going:
MR UNAVAILABLE DAD + MY EXPECTATION OF UNCONDITIONAL LOVE + MY EXPECTATION OF COMMITMENT + MY EXPECTATION OF A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP = MY IDEAL MAN = MR UNAVAILABLE = EXPECTING UNCONDITIONAL LOVE, COMMITMENT AND A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP FROM AN UNLIKELY SOURCE
Father Image + Unrealistic Expectations = Mr Unavailable, the man fundamentally incapable of meeting your needs.
This is why we often get involved with Mr Unavailables and want them to make us the exception – they are reflections of our father with selective ideas and characteristics that we’ve added on with our expectations that have absolutely no basis and are actually incompatible creating relationships that are set to fail which inadvertently creates a self-fulfilling prophecy that caters to our negative beliefs.
Instead of setting ourselves up to fail, we now need to focus on setting ourselves up to succeed.