I’m sure we’ve all heard the term “Daddy’s Girl,” you know that “Princess” who was spoiled by her father and could do no wrong in his eyes. Most women fortunate enough to have a special relationship with their father wear that title as a badge of honor. But for others who weren’t as fortunate, they carry a different label that often reads: “Daddy Issues.”
They say a woman has “daddy issues” when her behavior or mindset indicates that her father was either absent from her life completely, or was physically present but emotionally unavailable. These issues can plague a young girl into adulthood, especially if she’s trying to compensate for the attention she may not have received from her father in her relationships. As clinical psychologist Barbara Greenberg, PhD, explained to Vice:
“Here’s the deal. How their father treats their mother is one of the most important things that ever goes on in a kid’s life. If a father treats the mother poorly, not only will it influence the [daughter]’s choice of partners later in life and what she’ll tolerate in terms of abusive or unkind behavior, but it will also influence the girl’s self-esteem. That’s probably because her mother is willing to tolerate negativity and neglect, and the girl looks to her mother as a role model and says ‘Well, I guess this is what a woman tolerates.'”
While women are typically the gender poster child for daddy issues, “Boys have daddy issues too,” Dr. Greenberg pointed out. “If their fathers are treating their mothers like sh-t, boys think, ‘This is what being a man is like. You treat your woman poorly.’ So they influence their sons’ relationship issues just as much as the daughters’. I think with the daughters it affects their self-esteem more.”
We don’t always know what it is that makes us behave the way we do, particularly when it comes to our relationships with other people. If you suspect your relationship with your father might have an affect on your relationship with men or women, read on for a few signs.
1. Only dating older men
Some women who lacked a father growing up may find themselves solely attracted to older men. These older men then become the “father-figure” in their lives, rather than a boyfriend. She looks to these men to care for and provide for her in order to feel a sense of security, which she lacked from her own father growing up.
While dating older men can potentially be a sign of a woman’s subconscious yearning for fatherly love, it’s important to note society has also conditioned women to seek out more established mates for the sake of financial and familial security so this dating preference shouldn’t be the only criteria for assuming a father complex.
2. She’s Jealous and/or Overly Protective
Most women who grew up without a father probably did so because their father left the home. No matter the reason, all she knows is her father abandoned her – and if she’s close to and adores her mother, she may be resentful that he abandoned her mother as well. In dating situations, she may be a bit jealous, clingy and overly protective of her man because she’s afraid he’ll leave just like her father did. After all, if a father can leave his daughter, certainly a regular Joe off the street can bounce with no warning. Thinking every man is capable of leaving may make her try to hold on to him that much harder, even when the relationship isn’t a healthy one. When the constant smothering becomes too much for her partner to handle, they leave and she says, “I told you so.”
3. She Needs Constant Reassurance of Love or Affection
Even if a woman’s father was physically present in her household, it’s possible for her to have still felt unloved growing up. If you constantly question your partner’s feelings for you, it could be because your father never hugged or kissed you or told you he loved you on a regular basis. If you’ve never heard these words from your father, the feelings of insecurity run much deeper. Even if the person in your life now shows or tells you how much he or she loves you, it may never be enough. If you need constant reassurance, a father complex may be at play.
4. She’s Promiscuous or Sexually Aggressive
Some women look to sex to fill the void left by her father. A woman may feel that sex is power and she uses it to gain the attention she lacked as a young girl. Unfortunately, what these women discover is that they can’t fill that void with jerks and jump-offs. In fact, she’ll only attract more men who are only interested in sex and who will disappoint her. It’s a cycle of emptiness that most women with daddy issues continue.
It’s important to note that all sexually aggressive behavior doesn’t warrant such a label. As John D. Moore, PhD, wrote on PsychCentral.com, “Just because a girl likes calling her man “daddy” in bed doesn’t automatically mean she has a father complex. There’s a massive difference between sexual play, which is sometimes wrapped up in BDSM activity, and actually having a “complex.”
5. She is a Serial Dater/Monogamist
Some women can’t remain single because they’re constantly seeking the love their fathers never gave them. They move from partner to partner because being alone and feeling unloved is their greatest fear. It’s important for these women to recognize this pattern and learn to take time for themselves in between relationships. This is the best way to not only learn from the past relationship but also be sure they are with the next person because of what they bring to their lives and not simply because they don’t want to be by themselves.