This is the second of a two-part series on the female father wound. If you haven’t yet read part 1, you can do so here.
Why Is It So Difficult to Recognize That the Father Wound is at the Core of Our Relationship Problems?
- The loss of a parent is traumatic and we tend to block out the pain.
Whether we lost our father through death, divorce, or dysfunction, the trauma of the loss leaves permanent scars. We tend to deny the pain and often block out the feelings of anger, hurt, fear, guilt, and shame.
- Since the losses happen early in our lives, we tend to forget the details.
We assume that time heals all wounds and anything that happened when we were young is long forgotten. We get on with our lives and the feelings seemingly fade away.
- We tend to view the past as less important than the present and the future.
There was a time when the therapy profession saw the past as all important. When you went to a therapist, they focused almost exclusively on the past. In recent times the pendulum has swung away from the past to focus on the here and now and what we want in the future.
- Subconsciously we recreate the kind of family system we grew up in.
In working with clients for more than fifty years I have come to see that we recreate a similar dysfunctional family environment to the one we grew up in. Why would we do that? I believe we are attempting to heal as adults what we couldn’t fix as children.
Understanding and Healing the Female Father Wound
Denna Babul experienced two father wounds.
“I lost my Dad twice,”
“The first loss was at the age of three when my parents divorced. The second loss was when I was thirteen, and he was killed. It wasn’t until I was thirty-seven, that I had a major breakthrough about how I could use my story—my life—to help other fatherless women.”
Along with psychologist Karin Luise, PhD, who also experienced a father wound, they wrote the book, The Fatherless Daughter Project: Understanding Our Losses and Reclaiming Our Lives.
Although often denied and hidden, the father wound is very common in men as well as women. According to Denna Babul and Karin Luise,
“one in three women see themselves as fatherless and struggle with feelings of abandonment.”
The father wound not only impacts our own lives, but the lives of those we live with and love. McKenna Myers grew up with a dad who was physically present but emotionally absent. She numbed her pain with food and anti-depressants. In an article, “Fatherless Daughters: How Growing Up Without a Dad Effects Women,” she offers a number of key characteristics of women impacted by the father wound.
Characteristics of Women Impacted by The Father Wound
- They are often charismatic and successful women.
All three of my wives are powerful, charismatic, and successful women. That’s why I fell in love and married each one. Yet, there was always a driven quality to their personalities. Understanding their father wound helped me understand their strengths as well as their vulnerabilities.
- Father-wounded women have self-esteem issues.
“Academically, personally, professionally, physically, socially, and romantically, a woman’s self-esteem is diminished in every setting if she did not form a healthy relationship with her father.” With my three wives, in the privacy of our home and the intimacy of our relationship, I saw how vulnerable and fragile their self-esteem could be.
- Wounded women often have eating disorders.
Many unconsciously try and fill the “hole in the soul” from their missing fathers, with food (Men do this too. I continue to wrestle with weight). We often overeat and gain weight, which lowers our self-esteem, but have trouble staying away from “comfort foods,” like cakes, ice cream, and pizza.
- Daughters of absent fathers are more prone to depression.
All three of my wives suffered from depression, but only my present wife, Carlin, actually addressed the issues directly, and got help. The other two refused help, saying the problems in our relationship were mostly caused by me.
- Father-wounded women have problems with intimacy.
Pamela Thomas, author of Fatherless Daughters, says that women who grew up with absent dads find it difficult to form lasting relationships. Because they were scarred by the loss of their father’s affections, they don’t want to risk getting hurt again. Consciously or unconsciously, they avoid getting close to people.
My wives all hungered for my affection, but often pushed it away or distrusted my intentions. Men often feel “damned if we do, and damned if we don’t.” At times, it feels we can never please the woman. We feel blamed for things we didn’t do.
It was a huge relief to realize that I wasn’t the problem, that most of the problems we were having, up to 90% according to numerous studies, had their roots in the original father wound. Until then, the women projected their hurt, anger, and fear that occurred when they lost their fathers on to their present relationship.
Of course, I was dealing with my own father wounds that impacted the stability of my own family growing up. Only with my third wife, Carlin, were we able to work through these issues together.
Getting Help For The Father Wound
The first step in getting help begins with acknowledging there is a problem. This isn’t easy. Although childhood trauma is becoming increasingly acknowledged, there still is a great deal of denial. When people think of early trauma, they often think of physical or sexual abuse or serious neglect.
Growing up in a home where a father was physically or emotionally absent is so common that people often fail to recognize that their present life problems have roots in the wounding from an absent father. Further, the father wound is often passed down through the generations.
“A father may be physically present, but absent in spirit,”
says psychologist James Hollis.
“His absence may be literal through death, divorce, or dysfunction, but more often it is a symbolic absence through silence and the inability to transmit what he also may not have acquired.”
In my case, my mother’s father died when she was five years old. She never talked about the loss or ever dealt with the consequences. She had four marriages and divorces. Looking back I can see that her father wound impacted her whole life as well as my own. It will impact the lives of our children and grandchildren unless we deal with it now.
There are a number of good resources available for getting help. I mentioned my own books, My Distant Dad: Healing the Family Father Wound and Healing the Family Father Wound: Your Playbook for Personal and Relationship Success as well as my on-line program, “Healing the Family Father Wound.”
I will also be offering a free class, “Healing Your Family Father Wound,” for women and men who want to improve your love life, better understand the father wound, and learn how to heal it before it wrecks your relationship. If you are interested please sign up here and you’ll receive an email with further details to join.
Come visit me at MenAlive.com and check out our other articles and resources.
The post Is the Female Father Wound Wrecking Your Relationship? What Men and Women Need to Know – Part 2 appeared first on MenAlive.