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Cleaning up Father Issues Changes Your Relationships with Men

Aug 18, 2007
Most little girls look up to their fathers, thinking our dad is big and strong -- and that we want a man like him when we grow up. Even if we don't think we want a man like him, we usually end up with one -- one that fits the stereotype of unavailable, controlling, self-righteous, and/or bullying.

WHY?
Because when we are little girls, our dad's are mysterious to us. We usually don't spend as much time with our fathers as we want to, don't get to know our dad's at a "real" level. We sometimes don't think they are human because they don't share their fears or hurts with us. When we grow up, we think that's just how men are. It seems normal. So we become accepting of "unavailable, closed, self-righteous" behavior. We don't expect our man to act normal, open, healthy, warm, sharing. But we should.

What Our Father's Did
*Never let us know them, because they hid their emotions.
*Faked strength, leading us to believe that men are stronger than women.
*Taught us to have low expectations of men.
*Taught us that being close to a man means being controlled by him.
*Taught us that men are insensitive and don't hurt easily, when they are really just afraid of their emotions.
*Set us up to look for that strong man we thought our father was.
*Didn't know how to relate to us once we became women.
*Tried to overprotect us which made us dependent on them and men in general.

What You Need to Do:
1) Find the Crack in His Armor: Look at your dad realistically. Is he perfect? Make a list of his flaws, both as a human being and in raising you. Use this information to start thinking of him as "just another human being, flaws and all."

2) If he judges, criticizes, or acts self-righteous with you, use information from your list to let him know that he has no right to do that -- that his life isn't perfect either and that you don't think like he does or want to be like him.

3) Separate yourself emotionally and financially from him. If you are taking money from him, it is hard to stand up to him and try to have an equal relationship, as he does have a right to be in your business. If you are still emotionally tied in, telling him all of your issues and crises, he will continue to believe that you are too weak to run your own life.

4) Express yourself when you disagree with him instead of going along trying not to rock the boat. You must speak up to develop your own identity and personality. This helps you know who you are. People who don't usually have 2 sets of values: the ones they really believe and the ones they think they should believe. These people are easily intimidated by others because they are never clear with themselves. Stand up for your own beliefs.

5) Pull away, hang up, or walk away when you are not being treated respectfully by him, and tell him why.

6) Confront your father about your issues.
My client Sheri did just that. Here's her letter confronting her father about her issues with him. {You can write a letter or confront in person. Sometimes a letter is better because you can get it all out without him stopping you. Also, if he has passed away, you still need to write the letter.}
"Dear Dad,
First of all I want you to know that the reason I have not visited you on my last two vacations is that I'm afraid of you. I'm afraid of relying on you and being emotionally abandoned by you again. What I mean is that I remember a little girl who was adored by you. But as I grew up you were wrapped up in your own life, and I never saw you. I spent a lot of time alone and lonely for your love.

My relationship with you as I grew up has directly impacted my relationships with men. I want the attention of a man so bad that I become obsessed with him to the point I lose myself, and I stay in relationships that don't work. I'm attracted to men who are emotionally unavailable to me, just like you were. I always try to force a relationship, trying to make the man love me, just like I tried with you. It didn't matter how good my grades were or what I did, I couldn't get you to pay attention to me. When the man pulls away from me, like you did, I become nonfunctional. I call in sick to work, become reclusive, go into an emotional coma, and lose sleep because I can't control or second-guess what a guy will do.

At some level, because I feel I lost your love, I fear I'm not good enough to love. I'm ashamed of who I am, so I fear letting the real Sheri out for fear I'll be rejected. I settle instead for being needed and do things I said I would never do to try to win a man's love and approval. I humiliate myself.

I know some of the things I've said here are going to hurt, and I'm sorry. I'm not bringing all of these hings up just to hurt you. I want and need you to come to me, and get to know me, and to tell me I am important to you. When you still make excuses to me about not coming to visit me because of money or layover, it hurts. It makes me feel unimportant. I am grateful that you are a hard worker and that you were a good provider, but I feel I don't know you very well, and I want you to try to get to know me.

We can't change the past, but we can become friends now, can't we? I need you to try now because it's not too late.
Love, Sheri"

Why It Works
Most people don't believe me: that cleaning up issues with their father will change their lives and the way they relate to the men they date and marry. But it is true. Not only did I do it in my own life, but I've now had hundreds or thousands of women/clients in my practice who have, and are now living happier and healthier lives with men who adore them. It has even helped them handle their male bosses and other men in their lives in a better way. When we are no longer afraid of or intimidated by our fathers, there are very few people that can scare us.

Look at the list above under, "What you need to do," and imagine handling your boyfriend or husband in the same way. If you don't handle him this way, then that tells you that you need to clean up issues with your father, so that you can be stronger in the way you handle men in your life.

Just remember: "You can't have a relationship any healthier with your husband (or boyfriend) than you do with your father."
About the Author
Carolyn Bushong, a Denver,CO licensed therapist, helps couples and singles in her office, on-line, by phone. Author of: Loving Him Without Losing You, Bring Back the Man You Fell in Love With, The 7 Dumbest Relationship Mistakes. Has appeared on Oprah. http://www.carolynsays.com. 303-333-1888.
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