In part one, I talked about my personal experience of dating men who were reflections of my father (and stepfather). A difficult subject, it’s something, however, that I knew I must talk about. We often don’t realise how the relationship with our father affects our relationship choices and the way we feel about ourselves. I explained how we look for men to meet needs that our fathers failed to meet.

When our experiences with our father left us feeling unsafe and insecure, we believe that they loved us conditionally; that we were not enough. In turn, we’ll look for the unconditional love that we always wanted from them. When we couple this attitude with unrealistic expectations, we convey the wrong messages about ourselves with our unhealthy relationship habits.

When we don’t love ourselves, we often love others ‘unconditionally’.

We project unrealistic expectations and love and trust blindly even when evidence suggests that we need to roll back. In turn, we seek unconditional love from others to try to get them to reflect it back to us.

I’ll love him unconditionally. —> I will be there, stick to him like glue, and accept boundary-busting behaviour. —> He will love me back unconditionally. If I turn a blind eye to his behaviour, hell ignore my so-called flaws. —> I‘ll gain acceptance and validation. I‘ll finally get the love I’ve wanted but never got, 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.

Unconditionally loving yourself is about loving and liking yourself irrespective of what’s taking place around you.

Regardless of what’s taking place, you don’t internalise the external factors. You keep a healthy sense of love for yourself so that you don’t distort your self-image. That, and if you do love yourself without reserve, you won’t look for people to be and do things that you aren’t for yourself. You won’t look for unconditional love from unlikely sources.

Because of my experiences, I didn’t like or love myself very much. I looked for love in all of the wrong places, hurling myself into relationships. I ‘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. 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 and created a self-fulfilling prophecy that confirmed everything I already believed about myself, love, and relationships:

I am unlovable.

They will discover my flaws and leave.

All men leave or hurt you.

I don’t deserve to be loved.

All relationships are ambiguous and/or have high drama.

Each relationship with Mr Unavailables changed me.

I bent, twisted, morphed, shape-shifted and adapted for every relationship. Because I didn’t love myself, I internalised every experience as a sign of my unworthiness.

I didn’t like myself enough to be myself because I thought that would scare men off. I also didn’t know who I was because I became whatever I thought each guy wanted.

Often, women involved with emotionally unavailable men (Mr Unavailables) are afraid of abandonment and rejection. They’re inadvertently trying to recreate aspects of their father-daughter relationship with these men in a doomed self-fulfilling prophecy. Your father doesn’t have to have been absent though. He could have been ‘there’, just emotionally unresponsive. Or he was selective with his attention or busting boundaries.

If you’ve recreated patterns based on your relationship with your father, it’s likely because he:

  • Put his needs first to the detriment of you or your family’s experience.
  • Was self-involved.
  • Emotionally, sexually, or physically abused you.
  • Abandoned you or was fond of disappearing acts.
  • Might not have met his financial or family obligations.
  • Was unresponsive. You could have put a cardboard cut-out and you’d probably have got more engagement.
  • Was uncommunicative and undemonstrative.
  • Could be communicative and demonstrative… but only when he had something negative to say or demonstrate.
  • Was ambiguous and non-commital.
  • Was very charming and a ladies’ man so there may have been cheating.
  • Grappled with addiction. e.g. alcoholism, drugs, sex, gambling, sex addiction.
  • May have been a great ‘provider’ and there for all intents and purposes and assumed that it was job done but did not provide emotionally.
  • Maybe played you off against your siblings or even your mother.
  • Made you work for his attention.
  • May have been cruel enough to say something that made you believe that you were responsible for his behaviour/him leaving.
  • Emotionally, sexually, or physically abused your mother or siblings, and you witnessed it.
  • May have left and you may have misguidedly felt responsible.
  • Maybe moved on with a new partner and it changed your relationship.

These factors, and more, will mean that the primary example of a man in your life gave you skewed perceptions about yourself, love, and relationships.

Unchallenged, these affect:

Your values, your fundamental beliefs about what you need to live authentically. It’s about what makes you feel good, bad, happy, or sad; what’s right and wrong, and what you think about yourself, love, relationships, and life in general.

Your boundaries, so how you communicate to yourself and others what is and isn’t permissible. If you’re used to having little or no boundaries with your father, you’ll repeat it with partners or veer in the opposite direction and have more walls than Fort Knox.

How you connect emotionally. This includes what you perceive as ‘connecting’. You’re likely to indulge in limited relationships with people who have a limited capacity to engage so that you don’t have to be truly vulnerable.

Your empathy. You need empathy but might look for sympathy. You might also inadvertently assume victim status and avoid accountability and responsibility. There’s a distinct possibility that you might become involved with people who lack empathy, making them potentially cruel and distant. They won’t be able to connect with where they’re causing you harm.

Love, care, trust, and respect. These are the fundamentals of what you need to be happy and live congruently with your values and within your boundaries. Love, care, trust and respect are the basis of a healthy, loving relationship, providing a foundation from which everything else can grow. If these are absent, your relationship will not prosper. It’s also likely to be dangerous.

The healthiness that we need to seek in our partners and relationships is what we ideally needed in childhood, including our father-daughter dynamic.

If you don’t have a reasonably healthy relationship with your father, 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 him.
  • Clinging to an image of the father that you’d like but didn’t get and then projecting your unrealistic expectations onto partners.

And here’s an example of how you get on the chasing your father merry-go-round:

In spite of my experiences with my father, I kept seeking ‘him’ out. I created an image of the father I would have got if it were an ideal world. This isn’t something I consciously did. I didn’t reflect on who he was, nor did I consider (or know about) values, boundaries, and healthy relationship behaviours.

Instead, I took a man with not-so-great relationship habits and added my ‘unconditional love’ for him.

This new version of him made me feel all the things I didn’t feel for myself. He’d do everything I thought relationships were about. And then I went in search of this person who was a figment of my imagination. Unfortunately, I’d made someone with conflicting qualities and characteristics. I then expected it to give me a relationship it was incapable of giving.

It’s like going:


Father Image + Unrealistic Expectations = Mr Unavailable, the man fundamentally incapable of meeting your needs.

This is why we get involved with Mr Unavailables and want them to make us the exception. Mr Unavailables are reflections of our father with selective ideas and characteristics that we’ve added along with our expectations that have absolutely no basis. We don’t realise that we’re setting ourselves up to fail because we’re chasing incompatible relationships. And, of course, this 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.

Your thoughts?

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