Male or female, your relationship with your dad is the most impactful relationship that you will ever have.
It is the relationship that teaches us how to love.
“Luke I am your father”, says Darth Vader. NOOOO! For some, Luke’s response gives us the right emotions… But feelings aside, our fathers are in every cell of our beings.
Growing up in a patriarchal society, we are all socialized to pay close attention to our fathers. We observe how they portray gender, how they act in relationship with their partners, and how they act in relationship with us.
For boys, fathers become teachers. They show you how men are supposed to act.
Is it okay to show emotion? When and how much? What should the power dynamics between men and women look like? Is fidelity important?
Sometimes we try to not become our parents but we become them anyway…
At first thought, it is natural for many of us to resist this. Our parents certainly are not perfect and learning from your father does not always mean that you will mimic him. While you are observing these traits, you are judging them. Some things will teach you what NOT to do but most will be the very observations that shape your core. My best friend always tells me, “the things we don’t like about our parents are actually the things we don’t like about ourselves”.
For us girls, fathers are the expectation setters. They are our first loves and we are programmed to choose men who resemble them. We strive to replicate the familiarity of that love and we repeat the relationship patterns that were embedded in us at a young age. The way they love us and the way they love our mothers and/or their partners teaches us about the love that we want to receive. We observe how they demonstrate love, how they handle conflict, and what their views of fidelity are. They shape our femininity, too, by demonstrating gender and power dynamics in the household.
I’ve also found that the tensions and insecurities we have with our fathers often transfer over to our romantic relationships. “Daddy issues” are not something to joke about and men can have them too. They are deep-seated feelings that guide many of our thoughts and actions. For people who experience reoccurring relationship problems, the solution is often found in an understanding and resolution of problems from childhood.
The way fathers love their children matters. Women, choose wisely! Men, love with intention!