Often, when clients share their pattern of attraction to emotionally unavailable partners with me, I know that their romantic partners are very similar to their fathers. My spidey sense even picks up on, for example, the possibility of their father (or mother) cheating even before they admit this. How do I know? I’m attuned to picking up on relationship patterns. There are also subtle, near-casual things that people say that aren’t that casual. That, and I’ve dated nearly every possible variation of my father!

Habitually involved with emotionally unavailable people? You likely have unresolved issues with one or both parents. Combined with emotionally schooling, what you learned about values, and what influenced your beliefs about relationships, love, and yourself, you are following unconscious patterns.

If you’re attracted to emotionally unavailable partners, it’s you’re attempting to right the wrongs of the past, heal old rejections, and gain validation.

You’re trying to meet old unmet needs.

If you’ve read my ebook Mr Unavailable and the Fallback Girl, you’ll know that my parents broke up when I was two and that I idolised my father. To this day, how I was with him in the first few years of my life impacts my relationship with my mother. She felt very rejected by my daddy obsession. Side note: We’ll get to mothers in part three.

According to my mother, I was inconsolable and in deep grief when they broke up. It was as if he’d died. Now, although I’m too young to remember, I know enough to know that it felt funny to even try and recall that period of my life up until a few years ago. My chest would tighten. I’d feel panicky even listening to descriptions of that period as they touched emotional scars I’d long suppressed. Even now, early memories are warm and oddly comforting. But in 1983, just before my sixth birthday, everything changed. My father broke my heart and it took me another twenty-two years to get over it.

Understanding our attraction to emotionally unavailable partners:

We feel and perceive abandonment as rejection.

I no doubt already felt like he’d ‘left me’ when my parents broke up. He abandoned me though when I spent four weeks in hospital to have a serious operation to have a potentially malignant birthmark removed. Initially, I was thoroughly excited by the prospect of going into hospital and showing off to my brother. My father visited me once after my first day. After that, I didn’t see him until I returned home because, well, he didn’t like hospitals.

Excitement about the hospital quickly dissipated as I realised what the frick was going on. I actually thought I may go crazy in what was basically a ward with seriously ill children who either died or went home. The one time he did visit, I climbed on top of the window sill to try and get to him as he walked to his car. I became so hysterical and distraught, that the nurses sedated me. I wasn’t the same child when I came out of there.

While my father and I get on pretty well these days, it’s just never been the same again. I wondered what I’d done that he didn’t visit and whether I was a Bad Daughter. I felt unloved and unlovable and abandoned by the one man whose love I truly craved and needed. Combined with a very fraught relationship with my mother, despite my outwardly projected confidence, inside was someone who didn’t think she was loveable because her father abandoned her and her mother seemed resentful and hyper-critical.

Wondering why he didn’t visit became wondering why he didn’t call or fulfil his fatherly obligations. He stepped back and left fathering to my stepfather. In the meantime, I watched a very volatile relationship with my mum and stepfather play out.

The message was clear: Men leave, there was something wrong with me, and relationships are high drama. Emotional unavailability was the norm.

Pretty much as soon as I hit my teens, I focused on getting attention from boys. There were the usual crushes and creating illusions. I tended to pine for guys who chased hard even when I wasn’t interested and then backed off when I reciprocated. Boom, my attraction to emotionally unavailable partners was in full swing. And it makes sense because the man I adored most reflected the qualities I unwittingly sought in boys and then men.

All of my relationships right into adulthood were high drama. I’ve been out with aggressive men and guys with alcohol issues. Some were sports-obsessed, womanisers, self-involved, or solo-minded. They tended to blow hot and cold and make promises they couldn’t follow through on, leaving me disappointed. They were all variations of the father figures in my life.

Petrified that they would discover ‘that thing’ that made my father abandon me, I lived in fear of abandonment. Even though I was often ambivalent about the guys who pursued me, once they turned the tables and blew hot and cold, they saw a different me. My fear of rejection and abandonment caused me to go from the outwardly cool and composed persona of confident, ambitious, and high-energy, to a high-drama, little girl still looking for her father.

I inadvertently looked for my father in my romantic partners.

I spent most of my twenties going out with guys that were eight to eleven years older than me. On one hand, they had that maturity that I was looking for from inadvertently trying to recreate a father-daughter dynamic. And on the other hand, by playing the very role I set myself up for, I hated it. I found it patronising when men treated me like a child (even if I acted like one at times). It led to high drama and me eventually rebelling to reassert myself.

The first time I had a major inkling that I was ‘daddy hunting’ was with my ex-fiance. He was charming, popular, aloof, obsessed with sport, an ex-cricketer, and had a tendency to withdraw or disappear when things didn’t suit. Funny, it was him that reunited me with my father. I remember watching them laughing together and suddenly feeling uncomfortable at the stark similarities. My family had that sympathetic look that people get when they realise someone is trying to go out with their father packaged up in a boyfriend. Unfortunately, the relationship reflected every negative thing I believed about love, relationships, and myself. It was a relief when it was over after the mind games and control I experienced. It’s just a shame I charged straight into being with someone who was already attached.

In my relationships, I expected unconditional love and projected very unrealistic expectations. These had evolved out of the unmet expectations and lack of emotional relationship with my father.

Little did I realise, I’d held on to a distorted image of him. Despite the deep-seated hurt and pain, I sought my father in my romantic partners. This created the wrong messages about myself. These guys wanted a girlfriend, not a daughter!

I come from a high-drama environment, so it felt totally normal when I experienced it in romantic relationships. And drama was bound to unfold by choosing men who were the least likely to provide a healthy relationship.

In retrospect, my quest for unconditional love combined with my unrealistic expectations and ideas about relationships caused me to act out. It was inadvertent self-sabotage. Testing men to see if I could get the unconditional love that I’d sought all of my life created a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I spent my energies scared of abandonment and rejection and then poured salt on the long-term wound by choosing dubious relationships. Boom!, I’d get to live out my fears and then burn up energy trying to gain validation.

I share this with you—and it was difficult to write this—because there are so many women like me, it’s scary.

My father and stepfather aren’t Bad People. No, they just didn’t foster a healthy father-daughter relationship or an emotionally secure environment.

Over the past few years, I’ve stopped being the little girl who felt abandoned and unlovable. I’ve made peace with myself. When I was in relationships or around men, I wasn’t my age; I was the Little Natalie. I’ve had to take care of her and the adult me and nurture myself with love. Because you know what? I’m not going to get those years back.

I woke up as an adult with no healthy example to draw upon for forging healthy relationships. Underneath my confidence, strained smile, and my quest to be liked and loved by my peers, was a very insecure person. She didn’t know who the hell she was and had little self-love. It’s no wonder I headed down a self-destructive path until I became conscious, aware and present. And I hope that by sharing a little of my experience, I can continue to help others stop the relationship insanity and find peace so that they can get happy.

Your thoughts?

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