Conventional wisdom states that every little girl wants to marry a man who carries her father’s fundamental qualities. If her father is the very definition of chivalry and wisdom, then it is not such a terrible ambition to pursue. However, if the contrary is true, then prospects of “happily ever after” are significantly diminished. What we rarely consider, though, is the psychological burden that is carried by boys who have douchebag fathers.
For those who insist that every child needs both parents to be present, the question “what if the child is better off without their father” is rarely asked. This is not to say that mothers are flawless and perfect, but numbers do not lie. In the realm of positive influence, fathers have a tendency to fall short too many times.
The nature of daddy issues
The “father complex” was pioneered by Freud and later taken up by Jung and other thinkers. It describes the neuroses that stem from from an individual’s unsavoury relationship with their father. Interestingly, when it was first introduced, it was used almost exclusively in regard to men who had had difficult relationships with their fathers. Over time it became more widely accepted that both men and women could be positively or negatively impacted by their connection with their father.
Issues associated with the father complex range from unstable romantic relationships, risky sexual behaviour, substance abuse, mental illnesses such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as a sense of victimhood in the face of confrontation.
Unfortunately, due to the ways in which many men are socialised, it often happens that these symptoms are easier to spot in women. The idea is that men are supposed to be ‘strong’, therefore many men are forced to suppress their emotions from a young age. The danger with such suppressed emotion is that vulnerability is masked by machismo, and pain and fear are expressed through violence. Communication is suffocated to the point of death and replaced with either passivity or an explosive temper. When many men act out because of their poor relationships with their fathers, it is usually in ways that are divorced from their own emotionality.
Despite the paranoia and mistrust that can be generated by a negative parental role model, humans still long for love. For the benefit of developing a bond, a heterosexual woman may disclose intimate details about her relationship with her father (or lack thereof) to a lover.
If said partner is a fuckboy, he will later leverage this information as ammunition in confrontations about his disrespectful behaviour, instead of offering warmth and understanding. Given that the woman is already making do without an upbringing of clear and open lines of communication, as established by her father, her obvious defence against future hurts might be to shut down completely. She builds her walls as high and thick as she possibly can and convinces herself that she is better off in her fortress.
Men are just as likely to shut down due to unresolved daddy issues, even more so if they are flooded by emotions they have difficulty identifying. In the event that they do relax their defences only to have their trust betrayed, they might regress beyond recognition, either becoming withdrawn or acting like douchebags themselves.
A growing number of men raised by physically abusive or emotionally absent fathers are making the decision to be deliberately present in their children’s lives. They do so, firstly, to break the cycle and, secondly, to heal their own pain. These men tend to actively pursue being better for and to their own children. Their recovery often comes in the form of being everything to their kids that their own fathers were not. Whether these men are married to the mothers of their children or not, whether they live as a family unit or separately, they often work to create a loving and wholesome environment for their children. Many of them try to teach their children the values they had to learn on their own.
Also, given that daddy issues do not emerge from absent fathers only, these men draw from their own childhoods to develop an acute awareness of how sensitive children are to what happens around them at home. This informs how such men carry themselves and communicate with their children.
Women with daddy issues often also have to work on letting old hurts go, becoming aware of their triggers, and setting boundaries. Unfortunately, given that many institutions condition women to be docile, a lot of women with daddy issues submit to discomfort in their relationships in the name of preserving the peace.
However, like their male counterparts, women who succeed in overcoming their daddy issues either move on to healthier relationships or invest their lives with purpose. They become living testimony to healing and living life on one’s own terms.
The father complex is itself complex, therefore it is critical to have open channels of communication. Partners of people with daddy issues need to be supportive and apply the utmost delicacy, patience and empathy. Men with enough insight to recognise that they have daddy issues are better suited for a positive turn of events in their lives. With women, too, calling the father complex by its real name, instead of justifying it with excuses, will lead to higher self-esteem and healthier choices in general.