It’s Fathers’ Day and of course we would like to thank our dear dads for everything they have meant to those of us lucky enough to have a half-way decent dad – or one at all for that matter.
But our fathers aren’t just good for fixing our cars (or paying for it to be fixed) or bailing us out when our first pay cheque doesn’t quite cover the credit card debt we’ve accumulated. Or getting up to their knees in human poop as my Old Man did when the first flat I moved into had a horribly blocked plumbing situation. As any amateur psychologist can tell you, your relationship with your father has a powerful impact on many aspects of your life from your body image, self-confidence and romantic relationships to how well you get on at work. According to Dr Meg Meeker, author of the bestselling book Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters, “The biggest mistake dads make is not understanding their significance.”
Your father and your romantic relationships
A daughter’s first relationship with any man is usually with her father and that relationship will affect all other relationships, especially romantic ones. Unfortunately, we often repeat what we know rather than what we want or know is good for us – we like familiarity and so we will choose a man who feels familiar to us (by the way he treats us like our father does or did), even if he treats us badly and the relationship is unhealthy.
Several branches of psychology (especially Imago Therapy) will tell you that we tend to unconsciously pick partners who resemble our fathers psychologically, behaviourally or emotionally. We do this so that we can (unconsciously) work through our childhood wounds and unresolved issues. According to Imago Therapy, because we are born in relationship, and are wounded in relationship (by our imperfect parents), healing can only occur in relationship.
But obviously, if your dad was emotionally distant and barely registered your existence, choosing a similar man isn’t going to heal any wounds if he doesn’t change. And let me give you some advice: don’t ever (EVER) wait for a man to change. You cannot change anyone. YOU CANNOT CHANGE ANYONE. The only person you can change is yourself – and we all know how hard that is!
Alarmingly, it turns out that women who have good relationships with their fathers are inclined to pick men who resemble their fathers physically. Don’t want to think about that one too closely, if you don’t mind. Eek!
Not only does our relationship with our father influence who we choose for our romantic partnerships, it affects how we relate to those partners. So if your father expected his little princess to look after him, for example, then you will find yourself looking after the other men in your life, usually to your detriment.
Awareness is key
So if we are drawn to men who are like our imperfect fathers, and who carry their patterns, how are we to heal those childhood wounds if we just keep repeating the same harmful patterns? Well, awareness is key. When we see our patterns and begin to understand them, we can break them and choose men who are good for us (and who deserve us).