It’s one of the most commonly used phrases.
If a woman is promiscuous, flirtatious or suffers from low self-esteem, it must be due to her ‘daddy issues.’ Just a simple Google search of the words brings up over 5 million results. Pages and pages on how to read the signs, how to combat it and why these ‘damaged’ women should be avoided.
Certainly women aren’t alone in this. Men are often as guilty of having overarching emotional issues due to over-bearing mothers.
According to Freud and Jung, children become attracted to their opposite sex parent and jealous of their same sex parent. The two psychologists call this phenomenon an Oedipus Complex. Although I’m not totally inclined to agree with Freud’s morose sexual viewpoints, it seems he is on to something.
We desperately seek the love and affection of our parents and as an adult we often feel as if we did not get the approval we desired.
I find this true of myself and of most of my female friends.
When I was growing up I didn’t see much of my father. He worked evenings managing his restaurant and often worked late into the night. Most of our time spent with him was at the restaurant where my brother and I would sneak mozzarella balls from the walk-in cooler, drink Shirley Temples or have mini sword fights with swizzle sticks. Those rare times when he was off work were always spent doing something fun. I remember doubling up in my dad’s vintage sports car, he would speed down narrow alleys with my brother and I screamed in glee. My dad started a risky business venture that didn’t pay off. We declared bankruptcy and moved to a small town on a sleepy island.
That’s when my memories of him begin to slight.
I worked for him in his new restaurants and witnessed how cruel he was to employees. I saw how much they hated him and therefore me, “Daddy’s Little Princess.”
My dad was your typical Italian father. He didn’t believe young ladies should cuss or burp or wear makeup. He convinced my younger brother that it was his duty, as a man, to watch over me and keep me away from boys. A responsibility my brother still enacts to this day.
The older I got, the more my father and I butted heads. He was quick to anger and I, being his daughter, was much the same.
He was a huge believer in respect. If I didn’t get up in the morning and immediately say to him in my sweetest, most adoring voice, “Good morning Poppa,” he was outraged.
If I closed a door too loudly when he was trying to sleep, it was an all out war.
The most frustrating thing about arguing with my dad was that anything could set him off and he would start screaming and yelling. I would muster all my strength and remain cool. I would tell him he was right and apologize over and over again, but it seemed to make him angrier. I would feel my patience dwindling and my anger rising. I’d calmly say, “I’m sorry, but please, I need a moment alone so I can cool down.”
But he would follow me, screaming and cursing, calling me every bad name in the book until finally I would turn to him and explode. That’s when things would get really ugly and often violent.
One time, I couldn’t successfully help him figure out his voicemail and my dad became so enraged that I fearfully locked myself in the bathroom. He punched a hole through the door trying to get at me then stormed out of the house. I left immediately after and hid out at a friends house. When I got home that night my mother angrily asked, “What did you do this time?”
I don’t blame my mom, she was terrified of upsetting him. I don’t blame my dad, he had a miserable, abusive childhood. But I still felt utterly alone.
As I got older, I wavered back and forth from thinking my dad was an asshole to thinking he was the coolest. He grew weed and would get me stoned all the time. When I turned 16 we got tattoos together. I never doubted he loved me, I just wished he would show it in a more conventional way.
In grade 12 my dad lost his business and moved up North to find work. He was only home one weekend a month. My mother gave me freedom and respect and I never once abused her trust. It was the greatest time of my high school career, but it didn’t last. My dad came back. I started rebelling. I dated a much older guy, a bi-polar drug dealer who abused steroids. He cheated on me, treated me like garbage, physically, mentally and emotionally abused me, but I thought that was love. My parents kicked me out and I moved in with him. I finally found the strength to leave my relationship and thankfully, my mother gladly accepted me back into their home.
I was doing well in college and started dating a ‘nice guy’ from a ‘normal’ family. He treated me with love and affection, showed me courtesy and respect. I felt I’d finally straightened my life out and outrun my daddy issues.
Out of nowhere, this ‘nice guy’ ripped out my heart and stomped on it, I felt certain that I was undeserving of love. I went off the deep end. I started drinking excessively and sleeping around. My dad hated me, he wouldn’t speak to me or even look me in the eyes. I hated him and his oppressive nature. I transferred to a university in a city 2 hours away and left all the men who’d hurt me behind. After that, I barely spoke to my dad.
Whenever I did visit home my dad would lecture me about everything from my major to my job. I watched him treat my mom with the utmost contempt while she began descending into alcoholism. I stopped visiting home as much.
My brother would call me, worried, “I think mom and dad are going to split up. They sleep in separate rooms and never speak.”
I didn’t believe my mom had the guts to leave him and I knew he would never leave her.
My graduating year, they announced their separation and I knew it was my mother’s decision. Suddenly, my heart broke for my dad: jobless, alone and depressed. We all feared he’d kill himself. He wanted to start a new restaurant and wanted me and my current boyfriend to move back and manage it. He made it sound too incredible to pass up.
From the get-go there were issues from finding start-up money to securing the lease. It seemed he hadn’t really thought anything through. I began to get cold feet and tried to convince my boyfriend to back out, but he refused. When things were finally up and running my dad was a tyrant. He was rude and cruel, he showed up to work high and had become increasingly paranoid. He gossiped salaciously about his staff and drove them all away. He made a lot of enemies, fast. He allegedly sexually harassed a waitress causing my boyfriend to finally quit. But I stayed. My dad followed me around the restaurant, shit talking my boyfriend and my mother’s family, calling me a bitch and accusing me of being just like her. He openly blamed me for their divorce, he blamed me for the restaurant not doing well, he blamed me for all the staff quitting. Yet still, I did not leave, I couldn’t bring myself to abandon him no matter how many times I tried. There was only one other person in the world still speaking to him and that was my brother who lived 4 hours away and never came to visit. My dad sabotaged his business, his relationships, his happiness. He drove it all into the ground, ran out of money and had no choice but to close the doors of yet another failed business.
My boyfriend and I resolved to moved away from our crazy families and chose a city 12 hours away.
My brother was outraged, he accused me of abandoning my father and ruining the business. When I tried to explain my point of view, my brother covered his ears and refused to hear it. He took my father at his word and believed all of his delusional accusations. He never once offered to move back and help out, he felt that it was the responsibility of either my mother or me to care for my father.
I left and once again all but entirely cut my dad out.
I felt bad losing contact with him, but I couldn’t forget the way he treated me and the horrendous things he said. He was hurt, but you can’t treat people like crap and then demand their affection. You can’t blame everyone else for your own problems. If you wake up one day and find that no one wants you in their life, well then it’s time to take a good hard look at yourself and your behaviours.
When my relationship finally fell apart, I returned to my hometown and moved in temporarily with my mother. The first thing my dad did was ask to borrow money. A lot of money. My entire savings. He still refused to get a job and had accumulated a staggering amount of debt. He was already receiving spousal support from my mother and a part of her pension AND she had given him their life savings.
I was extremely hesitant, I asked my dad what his long term plans were. He rambled on nonsensically, claiming he was too ill to work and was trying to get on unemployment. Nothing he said made sense. He started sobbing uncontrollably and cried, “You’re going to let your own father become homeless?!”
I called my brother and tried to discuss the issue with him.
“Dad is unwell,” I told him, “I think he may be schizophrenic or manic-depressive. I want to seek legal advise and to take control of his finances.”
“Dad’s fine. We need to help him financially and let him live his life.”
Once again, my brother didn’t support me, didn’t want to see the truth. I was crushed. I gave all the money I had to my dad and he moved closer to be near my brother.
Around this time, I myself was considering moving to the same resort town, but began questioning my decision. I wanted to create as much distance as I could between myself and those two.
Somewhere along the line I decided for the move and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. The three of us patched things up. My dad got a job and started paying back his kids and his creditors. He quit smoking weed and drank less. He seemed more level-headed. I’m so grateful that he is in control of his life again and that we were able to begin having a loving father-daughter relationship.
Yet sadly, to this day, I’m still not able to fully forgive my father who admits no wrongdoing on his part. I can’t forget everything he said and did no matter how hard I try. I still keep him at arms length and only call him once in a blue moon. My brother still lectures me on how I should be a better daughter, he still blames my mother and I for everything. They both continue to meddle in my personal life even though I’m on the other side of the world.
I love them both more than words can explain and I always will, but I still have so much sadness in my heart. It’s taken years for me to finally sit down and write out all my feelings instead of suppressing it deep inside. I believe I’m on the mend and that admitting these things out loud is extremely healing. Still, I can’t help but wonder…
Will my ‘daddy issues’ follow me for the rest of my life? Am I doomed to be attracted to men who are incapable of returning my affection? My brother is 25, he’s never had a real relationship. I’m 27 and have had a series on unhappy, unhealthy relationships.
Are we both doomed to love those who will never love us back? Or are we making excuses for our own failures?
Perhaps daddy issues aren’t even an issue. Maybe they’re an inevitable part of life.