Daddy dearest

All Woman

THE relationship with our parents from infancy, however good or bad, teaches us what is normal and accepted and helps us to make sense of the world. This does not only apply to skills such as talking and walking, but also to what is acceptable in interpersonal relationships. A girl's relationship with her father, or lack thereof, is very likely to affect the kind of woman she grows into, and how she views and relates to men.

Clinical psychologist Jennifer Kromberg tells Psychology Today that, “A woman's early relationship with dad, who is usually the first male object of her love, shapes her conscious and unconscious perceptions of what she can expect and what is acceptable in a romantic partner. Our first attachment patterns shape our expectations for future attachments.”

While we all may be able to link some of our patterns and tendencies to something from our childhood, which is normal, some women can spot a trend in their dating history that screams that they might have a father complex, or what is loosely called 'daddy issues'. These may include distrust or fear of men, only being attracted to much older men, patterns of promiscuity, constantly choosing men who don't treat them well, jealousy, clinginess, a constant need for reassurance, and even substance abuse.

Daddy issues can also arise in women who have had great relationships with their fathers, but put them on such high pedestals that it becomes difficult for any of their partners to measure up. These women might become extremely judgemental of their partners, expect to be fully financed by their mates, and be extremely dependent on them to carry out even the smallest tasks.

For example, the women below spotted trends in their love lives that they think might have something to do with daddy dearest.

Renay, 30, nail technician:

My father was an abusive womaniser and I watched him hurt my mother a lot while I was growing up. I didn't realise it at first, but after my fifth failed relationship in my early 20s, I started seeing that it affected my relationship with men. Firstly, all the men I was with remind me of my daddy — very stern, serious and forceful. I always feared that I was being cheated on and I was very insecure, and in every single relationship the men were cheating. When 'softer' men were into me I didn't take them seriously. I realised that I was just attracted to the idea of the man who I grew up seeing.

Michelle, 32, teacher:

I grew up with my dad but he was never really there for me emotionally. All he did was go to work and come home and go to bed. I think that caused me to always go after the opposite. I like when men are obsessed with me and want to spend every waking moment with me. I know it's probably not healthy, but I feel like I'm making up for lost time.

Kerry, 25, medical student:

My father left my mother when I was very small, so I really don't know him, or want to. Yes, it still affects me, but not so much anymore. I just don't allow myself to get too attached to men because I expect that when they get bored they will just leave. Maybe when I get older I will change my mind, but right now I cannot see myself getting pregnant for a man knowing that he can just disappear and leave me alone with the responsibility. I do not aspire to marriage either, to be honest. I like casual dating until things fade out then I cut my losses and move on.

Teana, 26, copywriter:

I think the fact that my daddy is a compulsive liar has made me very distrustful of people in general. Lying is a huge turn-off for me, and not only in intimate relationships. If I find out that you lie to me once, no matter how small the lie, I want nothing more to do with you. Needless to say I have a very small circle.

Jada, 27, dancer:

My dad used to beat my mother until she migrated and left me with him, then he used to beat me too for the simplest of things when I became a teenager and was the 'woman of the house'. I won't deny that it probably had something to do with my choice not to be with men. I was also sexually abused by other 'father figures' in my community, and although I tried dating men, I am yet to meet a man to change my mind from thinking they are all trash. So I choose to only date women seriously. Boys are toys.

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