“I don’t blame my dad for leaving and I don’t blame myself. I think that it’s better not to blame either of my parents. My therapist helped me to see that.”
—Liza, age 27
The quality of the father-daughter relationship—good, damaged, or otherwise—profoundly impacts daughters in multiple ways. A girl stands a better chance of becoming a self-confident woman if she has a close relationship with her father. A dad’s presence (or lack of presence) in his daughter’s life will affect how she relates to all romantic partners who come after him.
Studies show that if a girl grows up with a damaged relationship with her father, her self-esteem will be lower than one who does not. In fact, she may seek out partners who confirm her low opinion of herself. Women who have a wound in the father-daughter relationship may gravitate to mates who treat them poorly because they are unaware of the root of their issue. However, when it is brought to their attention, they can reverse this pattern and pick partners who honor and respect them.
Many of the women we’ve interviewed talked about being attracted to or marrying someone like their father. Sandra, a software engineer, age twenty-six, reflects: “I’ve had several partners who were like my dad. I guess I felt that the way my dad treated my mom was the way I deserved to be treated. I’ve been in many bad relationships where there was physical and emotional abuse.”
According to author Peggy Drexler, PhD, awareness of the father-daughter wound and willingness to accept responsibility for changing is key to healing any damage. She writes: “Likewise, even the most troubled, overwrought, baggage-laden relationship is not without hope—if not of reconciliation, then at least of the daughter finding a new way of seeing her father that might help her make sense of the forces and motivations that shaped him and his actions.”
I’d love to read your comments on this page. Be sure to order our new book “Daughters of Divorce: Overcome The Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship.”