You’re Not Your Daughter’s Handsome Prince

Hugo Schwyzer explains how a dad who relies solely on emotional validation from his daughter (instead of his wife) might be causing unforeseen harm.

My daughter Heloise is nearly three. She’s tall and talkative for her age, and a source of wonderment and delight to her mother and to me. But as cute and charming and funny as she is, she is no princess. Or, to put it more accurately, she may occasionally dress up as a princess–but I am not her prince.

In August 2009, I posted a piece on my own blog, She’s got you wrapped around her finger: fathers, daughters, and a variation on the myth of male weakness in which I noted the extraordinary number of folks who expressed to me their certainty that I would treat Heloise as a flawless angel whose whims I could not help but indulge. But there’s an even more troubling aspect of the father-daughter relationship that needs calling out.

Becoming a parent for the first time in one’s forties has myriad advantages, not least that I’ve had the opportunity to watch a great many of my peers “do it all first.” (I have three high school friends of mine who are already grandparents.) And I’ve seen, a time or nine, an unhealthy triangulation occur with dads, moms, and their daughters. While the dangers of physical incest and abuse are real, there’s a kind of emotionally incestuous dynamic I’ve witnessed over and over between fathers and daughters, one in which dads seek from their daughters the validation and affirmation that they feel they are entitled to, but are not receiving from their wives.

Little children adore their parents. Really, it’s a lovely thing to come home each day and be welcomed, as I invariably am, with gales of excited laughter and delight. My daughter’s love is an impressive thing to feel. No matter what has transpired during the day, no matter what I’ve said or done (or failed to say or do), Heloise seems to adore me. It’s a wonderful thing, and I eat it up with wonder and gratitude and delight.

Of course, spouses aren’t the same as children. My wife loves me, a fact of which I blessedly have no doubt. But she most certainly doesn’t have me a on pedestal, doesn’t think I’m flawless, and doesn’t greet me with shrieks of joy everytime I walk into the house. Eira engages with me as a partner, and she challenges me and pushes me and asks me for things; I do the same for her. In a good marriage, iron sharpens iron, and the more friction in the sharpening process, the greater and more enduring the heat. Anyone who’s met my wife knows that she’s a tall, strong force of nature. (This is a woman who can dress down Israeli soldiers on patrol and make them blush apologetically. If you know the men and women of the IDF, you’ll know how astounding that is.) She loves me and she encourages me as I do her, but she doesn’t conceal her displeasure when she’s unhappy, and she doesn’t come rushing to me like something out of a Marabel Morgan book when I enter the house.

Here’s the thing: some men play their daughters against their wives, mistakenly believing that the way in which their daughters see them (as heroic and perfect) is the way that their spouses ought to as well. If a man hasn’t done his “work”, he may find himself looking at his daughter, gazing up at him with adoration, and he may start (resentfully) to contrast his girl’s fierce and uncomplicated devotion with the somewhat less enthusiastic reception he may be getting from his overworked and exhausted wife. In most cases, this doesn’t mean the papa will turn to his daughter sexually, though it surely, tragically, maddeningly does happen more often than we like to think about. But he may find himself relying more and more on the affirmation he gets from his adoring baby girl.

A wife’s affection needs to be earned anew each day; it requires a husband (I’m writing this, of course, from a heterosexist perspective) who can pull his weight in housework and childcare and the emotional maintenance of the family. Marriage is, as we are invariably reminded, hard work. Getting a small child to adore you is not anywhere near so difficult.Many husbands do tend to think that merely being married (or living together) entitles one to expressions of devotion from one’s partner.They buy into a myth about men and women, one that suggests that it’s a woman’s job to soothe, to affirm, to encourage, and to manage her husband’s emotions. Think of the execrable bestseller by Dr. Laura, The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands. Dr. Laura often suggests that if a woman doesn’t validate “her man” well enough, then she’s to blame if he looks for that validation somewhere else. Men have needs, Dr. Laura insists, and the greatest need they have isn’t for sex, but for a woman’s affirmation and admiration. If they aren’t getting that from their wives, they will invariably find it from another woman.

Men’s capacity to self-soothe is just as great as women’s, and women’s need for affirmation is just as great as men’s. That ought to be a given. But Dr. Laura does speak for a great many people who have bought into this delusionary understanding of what it is that men are entitled to. And men who do believe that they are being deprived of what is rightfully theirs may indeed go elsewhere. Disastrously, for fathers of daughters, that “elsewhere” may be to their little girl. Again, that doesn’t mean physical incest in every, or even most, instances. What it means is that a great many dads (and it wasn’t until I became a father to a girl myself that I realized how common this was) start to rely more and more on the simple intensity of their daughter’s love rather than doing the much more difficult work to remain connected with their wives. I’m certainly not saying every father of a daughter does this, but it is common — and if you ask the mothers of daughters, as I have, you’ll hear plenty of anecdotes about this.

Princess culture is huge for little girls, as surely anyone who spends time around children between three and eight knows. I’m convinced that princess culture  is in part fed by fathers’ longing for validation. After all, princesses need princes; giving your daughter her princess fantasy is a way for a man to feed his own longing to feel like a handsome prince, indispensable and heroic and good. The gulf between the “handsome prince” in his daughter’s eyes and the loved but decidedly imperfect man in his wife’s eyes grows greater and greater. All the more reason to do what more than one man I know has done, and spend one’s family time basking in a daughter’s affection — and then, after the kids have gone to bed, spend time compulsively using internet pornography. And of course, there’s almost no time spent actually engaging, face-to-face and eye-to-eye, with one’s wife.

This doesn’t mean that we won’t ever let Heloise dress up as a princess. But it does mean that as devoted to my amazing, lovely, grace-filled daughter as I am, I’m very clear that in that relationship, validation needs to be a one-way street. Plenty of daughters grow up with a sense that they are somehow responsible for taking care of their fathers emotionally, for being the good and understanding woman in his life (as opposed to the mother/wife figure, who is invariably cast as judgmental and cold.) To do this to a daughter is child abuse, and I am determined not only not to do it myself, but to call out other fathers of daughters when I see the signs of what can only be called emotional incest.

Heloise may or may not choose to play at being a princess as she gets a bit older. (We’ll neither forbid nor encourage it.) But in her little games, I will not play the part of the prince. I’m a father, and that is something utterly and wonderfully different. And if I need validation, I need to go and get it from my equal, my peer, and my partner — the spouse who will make me earn that validation, as she should.

photo: marismith/flickr

Sponsored Content

NOW TRENDING ON GMP TV

Flight or Fight
Forever Boogies
Are You A Narcissist?

Premium Membership, The Good Men Project

About Hugo Schwyzer

Hugo Schwyzer has taught history and gender studies at Pasadena City College since 1993, where he developed the college's first courses on Men and Masculinity and Beauty and Body Image. He serves as co-director of the Perfectly Unperfected Project, a campaign to transform young people's attitudes around body image and fashion. Hugo lives with his wife, daughter, and six chinchillas in Los Angeles. Hugo blogs at his website

Comments

  1. I saw my ex-husband starting to do this with our daughter. He literally said to her, “Since your mom isn’t going to be calling me every day while I’m on this business trip, I’d like you to do it instead.” Even more problematically, he asked her to “help” him keep track of calories and give him encouragement when he was trying to lose weight.

    In both cases I explained why those things were putting too much pressure — and inappropriate pressure — on her, and he did stop immediately. For which I’m grateful, because as you said, this kind of thing doesn’t help anyone.

    • Aagblog —
      I’m just curious. Were you still married to this fella when you disregarded his desire to receive a phone call from home every day that he was away on a business trip?
      L.

      • Liz,

        I get your bent – that wives contribute to a marriage breakdown by taking for granted their roles to nurture their husbands’ interests, which, in turn, will keep these husbands bonded to them (the wives).

        Indeed, spiral downs happen in a marriage, and each marriage partner contributes to that swirl down the sink, however, I submit that the issue is not chicken and egg, and not 50/50. Instead, it’s more like dominoes, and the husband/wife responsibility, on average, is more like 75/25. (Note I say, on average. There’s always outliers on any bell curve.)

        Problem is that wives lose their stomach for extending to husbands who do not reciprocate well enough. Nurturing a husband when he does not nurture back means that she is in the mommy role, to his little boy role. When wives continue to mommy their husbands, they lose their sexual attraction to their husbands, for who has the hot hornies for their de facto sons?

        No one.

        And then, blame is further shifted by the immature* husband to his wife that she’s not the hot vixen he wooed…something’s wrong with her, which eats away at a wife’s core, drip by drip.

        * Relative to her maturity, which has been turbo-charged by motherhood – a state that forces a human to care for another (her baby) as much or more than she cares for herself; without this turbo-charged empathy, the species dies.

        A component of immaturity is the inability to look in the mirror and take responsibility. Embedded is the inability to trace today’s resultant behaviors back to prior antecedent initiating behaviors. Embedded is a male’s testosterone based brain’s ability to compartmentalize, instead of connect the dots (whereas a female’s brain does the opposite).

        An immature husband who takes little responsibility for initiating loving and nurturing towards his wife, (which often results in her having the hornies for him), but instead, requires her to mommy him and then adds salt to her wounds (created by hurts big and small, including having her emotional tank drained by him and his immature neediness) by deflecting it back onto her, turns a wife’s stomach even more.

        Sometimes, they decide they can no longer mommy their husbands with a daily call.

        That said, maybe she couldn’t call him every day because she had her own work obligations and he traveled to a time zone that prevented her calling him, while, perhaps, the daughter was home with the nanny and could call him.

        It could be as benign as that. There’s not enough information to judge.

        This illuminates how much more pressure wives/women are under, relative to husbands/men, especially by our culture, (and even by other women), to be responsible for the state of their marriages….which makes them mommies to their husbands even more.

        No wonder we have such an egregious rate of family breakdowns. There’s a 60% divorce rate in Christian churches even. (Rate skewed higher than the average by the fact that many Christians still value getting married before having children.) It’s because wives are required to carry too much of the burden for the state of their marriages.

        If husbands would be their wives’ Prince Charmings, instead of their daughters’, then there’s increased likelihood the boyfriend/girlfriend and lovers dynamic stays in place, which causes the marriage to last.

        Interwoven into this truth is each genders’ biochemical and physiological nature. Testosterone is meant to initiate (if men didn’t initiate going out to get the deer, tribe dies), and estrogen is meant to respond (if women didn’t respond to the babies’ cries, tribe dies), therefore, whatever the husband initiates, the wife will respond to (on net, over time).

        Exceedingly simple concept, which is excruciatingly difficult to execute in a marriage without coaching during the break-the-old-habits-and-form-new-ones phase.

        [A new habit can start in just a few months, but it takes 3 years (on average) for new neural pathways to form and solidify, therefore it takes 3 years (on average) for new habits to become fully integrated and ingrained.]

        There’s much more to explain how this works, but I’ve already written too much.

        • Sounds like you’re entitled yourself wanting him to initiate everything. Have you pushed him away, I think that’s the case most of the time when a man closes himself off. At some point being nice to your wife only makes her resent you more.

          • Oliver, no, not at all. It should be mutual initiating. Taking turns.

            BUT, what happens in immature people’s minds is they disorder the actual facts: An immature person thinks he or she has done much more initiating than he or she actually has. And, an immature person will initiate acts that they, themselves want, instead of initiating acts their partner wants – a type of projection.

            HOWEVER, it is true, in the case his wife is also a mother of his children, in order for a husband to catch up to her boost in other-centeredness, created by having to care for someone else (her infant) more than herself, a husband must initiate more towards his wife, during the time period she’s initating towards their child.

            That way, the husband’s other-centeredness stays on par with his wife’s.

            Again, on net, and over the long run, the initiating should be mutual. This, and a commitment to the commitment while working out the inevitable kinks, makes a relationship last..

            (Resentment builds layer by layer, and it takes a while to dig down to its root. Often, the surface issue is not the real issue.)

      • Liz, tell us you are kidding. Men normally don’t want their women to be overbearing, so why the sudden change. When he is at home, he doesn’t want her to nag him, so why now??????

        • Nagging is different from affection, nagging is trying to manipulate someone into doing something by domination. I tell you do.

  2. Excellent article, so true! Some men often seek for validation from their daughters and the image of “daddy´s litlle girl”. As I grew up I realized in certain way that I wouldn´t be my dad´s “young wife” (speccially once he got divorced) .

    • Laura –
      Reading your note about your intentional choice NOT to assume the role of your father’s “young wife,” following his divorce (from your mom?), I thought of U.S. Sen. John Edwards’ oldest daughter, Cate. It was astonishing to me to observe how, following the death of her mother, Elizabeth, Cate repeatedly appeared in public at the side of her scandalous father, just as if Cate had assumed the role of ever-loyal political spouse, a role that even Elizabeth did not assume during her lifetime.
      It was nice to see that late last year Cate married. I hope she enjoys a long and happy marriage!

  3. This calls to mind one of my least favorite aspects of one of my very most favorite movies: The Philadelphia Story. Katharine Hepburn’s character, Tracy, has a philandering father of whom she’s dreadfully ashamed. She’s even more aghast at her mother for not completely disowning a husband who is famously sleeping with a “dancer”… This all makes sense to me, until her father comes back into town and verbally eviscerates his daughter for being the cause of his adultery, as she was such a cold and heartless daughter, with no devotion or unconditional admiration for him. If he’d had a more loving daughter, he accuses, he would never have looked to someone else for affection.

    This always sat wrong with me, obviously, and I chalked it up to being such a different age of gender politics. But what you’re saying here, Hugo, reminds me that this dynamic is still at work. Perhaps no father would dare blame his daughter for his affair, but it’s the same sort of diseased thinking.

    • Janet Dell says:

      Oh man, you got to love when people starting quoting movies as the basis of their beliefs.

      Joanna, it is a movie, iow , it isn’t real. Why would you equate a movie (fiction) to something in reality.

      • Movies often tend to be a mirror of the broader culture or society, so it’s not totally unheard of to use pop culture as a comparison to how people relate to each other in real life.

    • Robert Engley says:

      Thank you, Joanna, for bringing up The Philadelphia Story. I’m a literary/cultural critic and teacher who is getting more and more into cinema now. As my scholarship often deals with gender/sexuality, I’m always pleased to find a book or movie that can help me in my work and my understanding of the way the world works.

  4. “And if I need validation, I need to go and get it from my equal, my peer, and my partner — the spouse who will make me earn that validation, as she should.”

    It’s all about external validation? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cbk980jV7Ao

    The piece is interesting but addresses only one combination across a complex dynamic.

    I suppose the flip side is that sons should also not be used by mothers as a husband/spouse replacement?

    Daddy is working late – give me a hug!

    I’ve seen that happen just as often! There can be a particular prevalence linked to domestic abuse, with the child used as an emotional crutch to stay in the relationship. Even after leaving, the same pattern can and often does continue. The child can also be used in the opposite direction as the one who has frustration thrust at them – when it should be at the adult male.

    Mothers can get caught up in the princess ideal too – I have seen many little girls made to do dance classes as a little princess! Children made to dress particular ways – hair plats and all, like china dolls. Some fathers do the same with little princes and sports.

    Parents who either deliberately or unwittingly use the child as a partner surrogate for any form of validation have issues that they need to address.

    Children ask for affection freely – it’s seen as a good biological strategy for survival. Affection should be treated just as openly by return, but not twisted into adult forms.

    Whether Princesses or Princes children have the right to an imagination and to play. If parents find themselves seeing it any other way that is the parent’s issue – and it’s not always to be addressed by seeking validation from the child’s other parent – or any other adult.

    The issue is not just father and daughter – it’s parent and child. In damaging forms it can be inter generational too.

    • Mediahound,
      I think it is an interesting aspect to bring up the relation between sons and fathers, daughters and mothers. However, I don’t think the emotional validation that is sought by giving a daughter her princess fantasy is at work in a relation of the parent and child of the same sex. If there is any kind of skewed relation between child and parent going on here I think it manifests itself when the parent of the same sex as the child tries to live vicariously through that child. When a mother makes her child go to dance classes and dress a certain way, or go to acting auditions, I would say it is more akin to living vicariously through the child. Same for fathers, when a father forces a son to play sports, it is a way of actualizing aspects of desires and wishes they had/still have, through their children. The relation is not one that is pleasant for a child, in turn, because they are not allowed to form a sense of their own self due to the fact they are so busy being vehicles for their parents to vicariously live through. The emotional validation sought then is not going to be given. Rather, the child might feel resentment at the overbearing parent, who uses that child for their own ends.

      • MJ – I noted that you made comment on all combinations of parent/child other than mothers and sons! I did make THAT point quite clear. I covered all bases – including intergenerational.

        You didn;t come anywhere near addressing the questions – “I suppose the flip side is that sons should also not be used by mothers as a husband/spouse replacement?”

        I do see your points – but as I did point out, it does NOT depend on the gender of the parent or of the child – using a child either deliberately or unwittingly as an emotional surrogate or crutch is unacceptable – well it is to me and many others. .

        I don’t do warfare – but I do do fairness and equality.

        I am starting to get a clear picture of the gender blindness that some contributers here have expressed dissatisfaction with. There does appear to be a high incidence of gender bias in contributions and in comments!

        I have as yet not started to carry out a full statistical analysis – but I do get the distinct impression that it would be at least one standard deviation way from the norm. I do believe in equality in so many areas – and I’m starting to get the impression that this is an area where such equality is not always present.

    • I’m not a huge fan of Freud, but a lot of people give credence to BOTH the Oedipus Complex and the Electra Complex. I saw both at play in my family growing up.

    • Media Hound, stop taking the light away from men.

  5. So, this has nothing to do with fathers relationship with their sons or daughters. If there is a problem in the marriage, it will be manifested in other ways.

  6. Thank you for writing this. I believe this type of behavior is a manifestation of the objectification of women and girls, and that we are so immersed in this culture that many men have never learned to relate to a woman as a human/emotional peer, instead holding women to an ideal of perpetual beauty and kindness. A pretty little thing or an object that exists solely to make him feel good.

    • As a father of daughters and long time husband of my first and only wife, I can’t begin to explain how ridiculous and misandristic this opinion is.

      • Don’t worry about it Eric, only a single college student could come up with an idea that stupid.

        This article has its merits but I don’t appreciated the shift from the diagnosis of a common error made by joyful fathers to becoming a sanctimonious crusade against EVIL FATHERS THAT LOVE THEIR DAUGHTERS TOO MUCH (wink, wink)

        “To do this to a daughter is child abuse, and I am determined not only not to do it myself, but to call out other fathers of daughters when I see the signs of what can only be called emotional incest.”

        I would have settled for a “Fellas DON’T DO THAT!” Followed by simple “Your Wife is Cool”.

      • Don’t be upset Eric. There is much truth behind this. Hugo makes a great point. He is not saying anything wrong. We just hate to admit how dad/husband’s ego needs to be exalted by wife or daughter, and made to be the center of attention, lest he gets his feeelings hurt. When the man feels he has not been exalted, he decides that it is his wife and then daughter’s fault and so he will cheat. Look at the Purity Balls, walking daughter down the aisle, boyfriend asking girl’s father for hand in marriage, dad inviting himself in delivery room and watching daughter give birth. He thinks he can rule every aspect of his daughter’s life and really shouldn’t. It’s a joint effort between mother and father.

        • Jean,

          What factual data do you have to make such blanket statements about men?

          “Look at the Purity Balls,”

          Let’s do that.  Since you use “Purity Balls” to support your argument, you will need to show that a large percentage of men force their daughters to participate in Purity Balls.  What data do you have to prove that a majority fathers force their daughters to attend Purity Balls?

          “walking daughter down the aisle”

          My wife and I walked down together but my daughters want me to walk them down the aisle should they choose to get married.  You see, it’s THEIR choice.   Why is there a problem with women making their own choices?   Or is the problem with men?
          “dad  inviting himself in delivery room and watching daughter give birth”
          You evidently have no experience with this.  That is not legally possible.  There is this thing called HIPAA.  The woman giving birth is the ONLY person who may decide who may come in.  Her husband, the baby’s father, is not even allowed in without her permission.

          Also, it is far, far more common for the mother to be in the room than the father.  Did you not know this? 

          “boyfriend asking girl’s father for hand in marriage”

          Why not join us here in 2012.  It’s not 1950 anymore.

          • Dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, Roger Martin, was speaking on design thinking when he shared:

            “The two most dangerous two words to innovation are ‘prove it,’ because nothing new can be proven in advance. It can only be proven over the passage of time.”

            This idea, meant to be applied to business innovation, can be applied to all paradigm shift needs, including gaining clarity on how important a husband’s and father’s love, cherish, respect, and authenticity, in it’s proper order and amount, is.

            • Statistically, 0% of marriages end in divorce because fathers are too close to their children. Hence, the writer’s entire philosophy here is out of touch with reality or motivated by something other than a desire to help fathers. LACK of closeness and support is far, far, far more likely to cause marital strife than too much.

            • Eric, I respectfully disagree, however, you are somewhat more correct when it comes to a father loving his daughters (appropriately) over a father loving his sons, as a counter indicator that the marriage will end in divorce.

              Reason: A marker of a male abuser / narcissistic sociopathic husband is his heavily favoring male children.

              Also, there’s no one keeping statistics on this. Any stats on this subject would be anecdoctal, and not “scientific.”

            • Reasons for divorce are published in quite a few places. If closeness to children was a cause above 0%, there would be evidence of it somewhere but there isn’t.
              “Reason: A marker of a male abuser / narcissistic sociopathic husband is his heavily favoring male children.”

              The same is true of female abuser narcissistic sociopathic wives w/r/t to female children.

            • My marriage ended due to my husband’s too-close relationship with his daughter, Elizabeth, my teenage stepdaughter.
              She had lived alone with her dad for a few years after he divorced her mother. In those years before he married a second time, Elizabeth had in many ways assumed the role of her father’s mate, and it had been her choice to move away from her hometown so to live with her father following her parents divorce, rather than to remain with her mother.
              Once Elizabeth graduated high school and moved on in her life, to college and independence, her father (by then my ex-husband) sought me out again and asked me to marry him again, asking for my forgiveness for allowing his daughter to interfere as she had done with our marriage.
              I declined his offer.

            • Donna —
              I concur with your remarks about the value of a father’s love. However, I don’t see why you imagine an understanding of that value has anything to do with any “paradigm shift.”
              The lifelong value to a girl from the love of a good dad is nothing new whatsoever.

          • You are right Eric, it is not 1950 anymore. So since it is not 1950 anymore, you men cannot take females’ rights away. Females can show their legs, vote, work, etc. Females have just now begun to realize what unfair plight you men have kept us in for years. We were like prisoners locked in dark rooms with males having the door keys, who let us out to cook, clean, feed our children, and lay down at your feet and recite ” O worthy Masters”, we realize that we are at fault for being female and we ask your forgiveness and then tell us all the things we must do to satisfy your never satisfied natures”!

          • @Eric re: Jan 21012 post

            I have first hand knowledge that men have been in the delivery room when their daughters gave birth. A few of them eased into the room. One incident, the dad was outside of the door and leaned in looking into the room and could see everything. Bold violation of daughter’s boundaries. A woman is sometimes out of it, and is not aware of who enters the room. If…..if…. if you were a female, that has delivered, you would know that Eric.Speak what you know Eric !!! , Besides, why would a man accept his daughter’s invitation to come into an intimate female environment where her vagina and possibly breasts are exposed? Do you think many daughters would accept their father’s invitation to come in and watch the examination of his prostate and penis? No, because daughters generally speaking, respect their father’s private times. Men, generally speaking, really do believe that because they changed her diapers as a baby, that they have a right to look at her developed breasts and vagina in the delivery room!! Sorry dad, only her mate, her mom, her doctor, and maybe her sister, but not dad. If your son had his legs in stirrups and his penis and testicles exposed, with bright lights shining on his privates, would it be okay for his mom to stroll in and watch??

            • Jean,

              I have first hand knowledge that brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, male and female cousins, grandparents, neighbors and unrelated videographers have been in the delivery room, all with the express permission of the patient. You see, it really doesn’t matter whether you (or I) disapprove. It only matters what the patient approves.

              “One incident, the dad was outside of the door and leaned in looking into the room and could see everything. Bold violation of daughter’s boundaries.”

              It doesn’t matter who it was, it would have been a violation. What is your evidence that that is common?

              ”Speak what you know Eric !!!”

              What I always do.

              “Besides, why would a man accept his daughter’s invitation to come into an intimate female environment where her vagina and possibly breasts are exposed?”

              1. Breasts are seldom exposed during delivery. No reason for them to be.

              2. Who are you to dictate who an adult woman should or should not choose to invite in? It’s HER body, not yours.

              “Do you think many daughters would accept their father’s invitation to come in and watch the examination of his prostate and penis?”

              Possibly, if he was giving birth.

              “Men, generally speaking, really do believe that because they changed her diapers as a baby, that they have a right to look at her developed breasts and vagina in the delivery room!!”

              What is your evidence that most women invite anyone other than the baby’s father into the room? Your argument is not in touch with the reality of what normally takes place.

              “Sorry dad, only her mate, her mom, her doctor, and maybe her sister, but not dad.”
              What is your authority to dictate to other women what they should and should not do?

              “If your son had his legs in stirrups and his penis and testicles exposed, with bright lights shining on his privates, would it be okay for his mom to stroll in and watch??”

              If he were giving birth to her grandchild? That is the patient’s decision, not mine, not yours. Not sure why you feel you should be in charge of other people’s choices.

      • Eric: Your key words: “…my first and only wife…”

        I applaud you. You most likely are loving your wife and daughters just fine, and in the proper amounts and order of priorities, which is why you can’t relate to that which Hugo writes.

        It will take a leap of empathy to believe that a component of many divorces is a husband’s taking the path of least resistance to get his emotional needs met by his daughter’s worship, (as daughters do), instead of by continuing to woo his wife, which is much harder.

        • A lot of distorted weirdness in that presumptive remark, “much harder” for a man to woo his wife . . .
          You make it sounds as if wives are battle axes!
          You make it sound as if fathers find pleasure in courting their own child.

          I disagree with your point of view of husbands and wives.

          • Hmmm, interesting that your filters conjured that wooing a wife is inherently more difficult than gaining the worship of daddy’s little girl -> wife = battle axe.

            Not at all.

            It’s just that a wife is a husband’s peer, and so she most likely will not be rushing to the front door in her tutu, twirling and squealing, “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy! Pick me up!!!” This same daughter (and the father) has the mother’s (and wife’s) total support in developing this father/daughter relationship. It’s nurtured by the mother, in part, because good mothers know how important the (fit) father’s attention is for their children of both genders.

            The wife has no one supporting the nurturing of her relationship with her husband. In fact, our culture now shrugs its shoulders at all sorts of destructive-to-marriage forces now.

            It basically falls upon the husband’s moral compass and his embracing the notion that if he treats his wife well, then he will have a great marriage, for his treatment will set the tone for that which the wife can respond in kind to, with the end result of total equality and teammanship in marriage.

            Yes, very few “get” this concept. Which is why our families are in the dismal state they’re in today.

            • Danna –
              I wonder why you imagine that a wife, a role you reasonably describe as a “husband’s peer,” would NOT rush to the front door to greet her mate, perhaps even to throw her arms around his neck and to whisper into his ear, “Darling! Darling! Darling! Make love to me!”

              I think it’s sad that your view of the role of wife — or of husband – appears to exclude enthusiastic ardor.

              And I can’t imagine why you believe “The wife has no one supporting the nurturing of her relationship with her husband.”
              WHY do you believe that wives do not have friends, family members and generally an entire community of people who deeply value the integrity of her marriage?
              Liz

  7. A Concerned MRA says:

    I’m waiting on the creation of the Total Douchebag Speaks column, where we can stash this asswipe’s garbage.

  8. Lots of resistance to change for the better in the above comments. Commentators also take the opportunity to disparage – another technique to resist change.

    Hugo points out something important. He writes from his own perspective as a husband and father. A father helps grow female narcissists when he takes the path of least resistance and skips over his wife to give his best self to his daughters.

    I agree that mothers should be equally as careful to not lean on their sons as pseudo-husbands. Many a future daughter-in-law will thank that mother if she is able to maintain healthy boundaries with her son.

    This becomes a great task when the father has been a bad husband, (thereby creating the vacuum which is filled by the son). The mother must resist the temptation, nonetheless, in order to mitigate the cycles of dysfunction from being passed into her sons and their marriages, similar to the father’s obligation to mitigate dysfunction from being passed down, by treating their children’s mother best.

    • Danna, please don’t let these males, get you to turn on women, when this blog is really about men and daughters. Sister girl, please be strong and keep focused. These men are angry because their male pride has been attacked. Don’t turn it around on women. We will discuss women on another page.

  9. “I will not play the part of the prince. I’m a father, and that is something utterly and wonderfully different.”

    Don’t worry. When she is a sullen and hostile teenager, there will be no risk of her thinking of you as a prince.

  10. I’m not buying the statement that Hugo knows men who spend their family time basking in their daughter’s affection then compulsively using internet porn all night.

    Guy 1- “so Bob, how was your evening?”
    Guy 2- “Pretty good Mark! I selfishly let my daughter lavish me with affection then went on a 6 hour 4Loko fueled porn bender after she went to bed!”

    Does ANYONE have conversations like this? We’re treading into the realm of the ridiculous.

    • It’s ridiculous to you only because you must not have intersected with this type of behavior. (That makes you lucky.) It’s way more prevalent than you think. (Except men who do this don’t confer with each other about it. They do it under the radar for the most part.)

      • “It’s way more prevalent than you think. (Except men who do this don’t confer with each other about it. They do it under the radar for the most part.)”

        If this statement is true, what is your evidence? Or, did they just teach you this in Gender Studies?

        • I’ve collected dozens of case studies and testimonies from around the globe. I have first hand knowledge and experience with several.

          Here’s an article from today. This guy is a father of 2 and a professor at Univ. of Utah. The porn use is getting way out of control today. So is child sexual abuse and human trafficking. Human trafficking is not just in Asia. There’s plenty homegrown.

          Porn On Plane: Man Accused Of Watching Child Porn On Flight
          http://www.huffingtonpost.com
          A Utah man has been accused of watching child porn on a Delta flight from Salt Lake City to Boston on Saturday afternoon.

          • Sorry but I cant’ find any evidence here that quantifies your statement. All you’ve listed is a story of one accused man (although he denies it). But, even if he’s guilty, that doesn’t show that he fits the description in this male-bashing article.

            • Eric, don’t be ridiculous. This happens every day. Men are always blogging on the web about the special relationships they think they have with their daughters. They totally leave their wives out of their conversations and activities. You all know it’s the truth. If men wouldut on their big boy pants and do what they are supposed to do, act like a man, love and honor their wives, then they would not need to lean all over their daughters and cheat with other women. But because a man’s heart is so selfish, and he is afraid of showing emotion, compassion, and affection to his woman, he contributes to the problems in that relationship. He is so sexually oriented, that he only sees in one direction. That’s why women complain so much. They get tired of the mess. Wives and mothers don’t deserve this wrong treatment from their men.

            • Jean,

              Based on your statement, your evidence is based on selected blog postings and your own opinion.    Got it.

        • haha. nailed.

  11. Great post, Hugo. I see this dynamic play out in much of the family work I’ve done. As others said, I do see it on the other side too: mothers using sons to meet their needs.
    I do think the potential sexual dynamic is different, given how women are sexualized globo-socially, resulting in greater levels of father-daughter incest. But that’s aside from the point you are making.

    Anytime a child is used to feed the emotional soul of a parent/adult, there are negative results.

    • The Pressmans of Rhode Island, who wrote “The Narcissistic Family, Diagnosis and Treatment,” cite that parents who require their children to meet their adult emotional needs (which is the opposite of the proper order of things – it’s parents who should be nurturing their children), end up creating the next generation of narcissists. The children are, in essence, used up….drained….their cores are not infilled. And then, these empty cores become encapsulated as they age. Voila. Narcissists beget narcissists.

    • Single-parent families, especially, create an emotional environment in which human beings are prone to unintentionally slip into such distorted and confusing cross-generational relationships.

  12. Yesterday, I posted a comment answering Eric M’s question, with some current evidence, (a new article about a Univ. of Utah professor, and father of 2, who was watching child porn in first class on a Delta flight), but it’s still awaiting moderation (unfortunately).

    Hopefully my post will be cleared and then visible. It will render Linguist’s (false) assumption that Eric M. nailed me, inaccurate.

    This is not a contest, btw. It is not about winning. It’s about bringing the truth of up-til-now hidden abuses and their lag time effects to the table, so that light can be shone, and change for the better can take place.

    We very badly need to turn this tanker around. The amplification and escalation of very destructive behaviors shows that what we’ve been doing in the past has not worked. We need major shifts for the better in thinking and then behaving.

    Hugo is definitely onto something.

    • “Hopefully my post will be cleared and then visible. It will render Linguist’s (false) assumption that Eric M. nailed me, inaccurate.”

      Your post came through, and no, it does not render Linguist’s assumption false. The latest sordid headline about one alleged pervert on a plane does not prove your point about some widespread trend among fathers.

      “I’ve collected dozens of case studies and testimonies from around the globe. I have first hand knowledge and experience with several.”

      How much is “several”? Unless you are going to share or be more specific about these “studies” and “testimonies” and what evidence they contain, they have no persuasive worth. Nobody is obliged to believe your argument because of secret evidence that you keep to yourself.

      “This is not a contest, btw. It is not about winning. It’s about bringing the truth of up-til-now hidden abuses and their lag time effects to the table, so that light can be shone, and change for the better can take place.”

      And people are not obliged to believe that you indisputably know “the truth” from the outset.

  13. Here I thought that the common problem was that men tend to be emotionally withdrawn, and that children often miss the intimate contact with their fathers. And yet Hugo adds his voice to the chorus telling fathers not to get too close to their children, waving around that vague suspicion on pedophilia for men who “like their children too much”.

    Don’t buy it, fellas. Shower your girls (and boys) with love. It’s one thing kids can never have to much of.

    • Lars, with the proper underlying motivations, absolutely yes, shower children with love and nurturing.

      Love and cherish does, indeed, influence both male and female children to make choices that will help them become caring, responsible adults.

      The issue that Hugo cites: Skipping over one’s wife or husband and developing the much easier love/cherish relationship with one’s children, at the detriment of one’s marriage relationship (which comes drip by drip, until the marriage goes over the cliff), is something to be careful and aware of.

      So, this falls into the category of Good Things, Taken Too Far, Can Become Bad. (An example is peace at all costs, becomes appeasement, like Chamberlain’s enabling of Hitler -> 6 million Jews’ death.)

      Some people have an abundant well of love, from which they draw and then pour out onto everyone. Some do not. If one’s supply is limited, then the order of things is spouse first (except when the babies are very small, and then, the mother has to put the babies first, for their survival), and children second (albeit a very close second).

      It’s a delicate balance.

      The proof that things have been out of balance, and out of the proper order of things for a while now, (there are lag times to everything): Our divorce rate and the explosion of narcissism and abuse* in our culture.

      * Among some other things, like the explosion of sexual addiction, which, in a circular manner compounds the rise in narcissism, abuse, and divorce.

      This must change. Hugo is a voice of change for the better.

      • Typo: Jews’ deaths (not death).

      • “The issue that Hugo cites:  Skipping over one’s wife or husband and developing the much easier love/cherish relationship with one’s children, at the detriment of one’s marriage relationship (which comes drip by drip, until the marriage goes over the cliff), is something to be careful and aware of.”

        If this were truly how it was presented, I doubt if anyone would have much of an argument.  But, the argument isn’t presented in a balanced, rational way.  It’s got the trademark anti-male prejudiced spin, obscuring any potential valid thought.   Any argument wrapped in prejudice and will lose any value it may have.

      • “So, this falls into the category of Good Things, Taken Too Far, Can Become Bad. (An example is peace at all costs, becomes appeasement, like Chamberlain’s enabling of Hitler -> 6 million Jews’ death.) ”

        Godwin’s Law is vindicated again.

      • If I had a penny for all the things I’ve heard we have to do / stop doing / change to counter the growing divorce rates, I’d be a rich man. But the problem is always the same – no real argument is presented.

        Look, you can’t just point to “growing divorce rates” or “growing rates of sexual abuse” as a proof that one should not love children too much, without presenting even the slightest argument that the two are linked. As it is, you have presented absolutely nothing to argue that one is the cause of the other.

        As I see it, you (and Hugo) are just recycling t he age-old idea that men who love their children are suspect (and probably pedophiles), and that children and childcare should be the domain of women. If men start taking an equal role in caring for and raising their children, there will be divorce and sexual abuse.

        If find this line of demonizing of men who care for their children disgusting. And, really – a holocaust analogy? How far are you prepared to take the demonizing?

        • Lars, you miss the point entirely in my citing something which lead to the Holocaust.

          You also miss the point in the cause of growing divorce rates – it is that spouses skip over each other and love a variety of other people and things more than they do each other. (It’s NOT that loving one’s children causes divorce.)

          No where does anyone state that child care should be the sole domain of women. Caring for children should be a team effort, and the optimal nurturing and security for children is accomplished by their biological parents who remain marriage to each other in a loving and reciprocal relationship.

          The issue is: How does one stay loving and reciprocal -> stay happily married -> optimal environment for children to become caring and responsible adults, themselves? This is what Hugo speaks to.

          See how easy it is to twist and misinterpret? (Geez.)

    • That’s not what he said. Don’t pretend you all don’t understand his article. He did an excellent job .

  14. wellokaythen says:

    I think in this case Hugo is onto something. I don’t know how common this father-wife-daughter triad is, but it sounds perfectly plausible to me. I think we would all agree that there are parents who use their children as leverage, intermediaries, or substitutes in all sorts of ways. This sounds like one more case of that.

    I think there’s another facet of this. If a girl is raised to put her father on a pedestal and adore him as something superhuman, that sets up a huge fall when she starts to get older and sees that her parents are completely human. With unrealistic expectations comes horrible disillusionment.

    If there’s an expectation on dads to be superheroes in their daughters’ eyes for the rest of their lives, that’s a whole lot of unnecessary pressure on men, too. I’m not saying men should just let it all hang out warts and all, but expecting to maintain a superhuman image with a person for 50 years is hardly conducive to one’s own well-being. And it won’t work anyway. Don’t expect to be a prince for the rest of your life, and don’t expect your daughter to be a princess for the rest of her life.

    • This is a manufactured issue to pick on men. Where/when has any relationship expert documented this supposed father/daughter issue as being the cause of a large percentage of major problems between husbands and wives, but not the same mother/son issue?

      • Eric M. – Actually, the mother/son issue causes more problems than the father/daughter issue, however, both can be traced back to husbands not loving their wives properly. I cited the dysfunctional mother/son issue in a prior port on this thread.

        •  “both can be traced back to husbands not loving their wives properly.”

          So, all marital problems are 100% because of “husbands  not loving their wives properly?”

          That could only be true if all wives are literally perfect.  What evidence do you have to substantiate that?

          • Chromosomal gender differences -> gender differences biochemistry and physiology, including the differences in biochemistry and neurophysiology of the brain. There are areas of the brian, when taken out in isolation, men and women look like different species.

            In male/female bonded by sex and especially by shared children relationships, testosterone dominance dictates a nature as initiator and provider. Estrogen / progesterone dominance dictates a nature as responder and nurturer. This has been reinforced by natural selection for eons.

            (In the workplace or academia, women initiate just fine – the dynamic I’m describing is purely in application to the heterosexual marriage relationship, especially one that’s produced children.)

            Thus, whatever the husband initiates, the wife will (in theory) respond in kind. If he treats her well, she will reciprocate. The reverse is also true. When a husband takes his proper role as initiator, in time, the wife will respond so well, she will start initiating. End result: Total mutuality, in which the back and forth flows so seamlessly, the couple themselves can no longer tell who is giving first and who is receiving, and visa versa -> life long love affair.

            When the husband creates a vacuum, and the wife fills it (as estrogen based nurturers do), in other words, she is the initiator and he is the responder, then over time, she is, in essence, his mommy. Over time, who has the hot hornies for her, de facto, son? No one. (Or very few.)

            Marital sex life breaks down, the real root (the husband’s lack of initiating loving and cherishing his wife, the way she needs to be loved and cherished), is covered, and the problems are amplified by the husband blame shifting his wife’s lowered libido onto her – there’s something wrong with her / she’s not meeting my needs.

            Marriage further breaks down and ends in divorce.

            Problems:
            1. The lag times, which make seeing the connection between that which the husband initiates and how the wife responds difficult to discern, very often.
            2. The wife’s old wounds from family of origin or any prior relationship. The husband did not cause her old wounds, however, when he married her, he takes responsibility for loving her through them. When he loves, cherishes, and validates her, even when she doesn’t deserve it, she will calm down (in time), and work on herself, recognizing she must do individual work to heal. Think Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew.
            3. However, most of the time, the husband utilizes his wife’s imperfections as an out for himself; as a way to excuse himself from the hard work of doing the right thing for their family and children, and loving her anyway. Eventually, marriage breaks down.
            4. Children of both genders are responders to their parents. (Pre-puberty, gender hormones have not fully kicked in yet.) So, only males must evolve from boy/responder to man/initiator. Childhood traumas, and teen self-medicating with drugs, alcohol, and too much/too early sex (ocytocin release in de facto unbonded sexual relationships hardwires the brain into greater difficulty bonding later on), arrests the brain at the naturally narcissistic and self-centered developmental stage, in which prefrontal processing in short circuited straight to limbic processing -> arrested emotional development, stuck in self-centeredness and immaturity.

            The truth of this testosterone/initiator and estrogen/responder essential enactment has been confused and covered by many cultural forces. It’s unproductive to assign cultural blame. What’s more important is to embrace getting back to the solution – husbands start being grown up men to their wives first, and children second (albeit a very close second).

            Because we have lost this essential knowledge, we have an ever growing divorce and family dysfunction rate.

            Children of divorce are 4 times as likely to become divorced themselves, similar to how children of abusers either grow up to be abusers or to accept abusers as partners, and children of adulterers are likely to repeat the cycles too. (Abuse and adultery are actually highly correlated, according to WHO studies.)

            And the effects of bad husbandry ripple forward into the next generations.

            Now, there are wives with high testosterone and low oxytocin uptake in the empathy centers (a marker of female sociopaths), exacerbated by the recent increase in female testosterone levels, (pineal gland too-early stimulation? hormones in milk and food?), so it’s not entirely black and white, however, most wives still fall into the estrogen based / nurturer category.

            I know I will be ridiculed for the above. Read Robert Alter’s Good Husband, Great Marriage for corroboration.

  15. I recognize — from my disastrous experiences dating a couple different single dads of teenage daughters — that emotional incest is a real problem. However, I disagree agree with this author’s presumption that unconditional love is not necessarily available to a spouse – whether male or female — from the other spouse. Don’t get married if you are not madly in love and you don’t adore your spouse above all others. Don’t get married if you are not able and willing to demonstrate to your spouse your love and admiration freely, easily and often.

  16. Amaranth says:

    Appears to me that, Hugo, here, as a father of a daughter, is writing about his thoughts on an experience he’s actually had himself. He’s not writing about out-of balance bonding between mothers and sons because that’s not an issue his life has called him to think about in the same way.

    This does not mean he’s denying that mothers do bad things, maybe exactly the same bad things. That just doesn’t happen to be the subject on his mind. I don’t see why that’s an issue. Writers do this all the time.

    I’m inclined to agree that you can’t love a child too much. But being emotionally dependent on a child is not the same as loving him/her. It can, in fact, make loving the child impossible.

    I think one aspect of this father / daughter dynamic that has changed over time has to do, also, with women’s changing role. I mean, for example, that when I was growing up ( I’m in my mid-forties and grew up in a fairly conservative, rural community) most of the families we knew were on the Dad-works-Mom-cooks plan. The fathers worked long hours at factories or offices, reporting to male bosses and thinking all day about things like machinery or accounting, and about male workplace politics. The mothers, if poor, worked equally long hours keeping a household running on a tight budget (making clothes at home, for example, home canning, doing lots of research on the price of anything they bought). They worked alone or they spent time with other mothers but apart from that they were pretty isolated. In rich families the mothers sat around a lot, and put a lot of energy into trying to look like teen-agers when they were middle aged. None of these couples had anything in common by the time they had been married 20 years. I mean, just no experiences in common. The fathers would come home at night and there’s be that “So-what-did-you-do-today-Honey?” moment, and either of them tried to answer the question, the other had no way of understanding the answer. This was certainly true of my parents.

    Meanwhile, the daughters of these couples were out playing sports and competing at the science fair and learning to fix things and planning their careers — generally doing the things their fathers had done in youth. Or the things their fathers were presently doing at work. When I was 15 (1980) my father and I were learning about databases together, and my mother was basically still living in the 1930s. The girls of my generation were, I suspect, the first females our fathers had ever had real conversations with. Plus, we were their kids and they loved us, plus (unlike their sons) we weren’t threatening. So I think things did get a little out of balance, and the maternal generation was basically left in the dust. Frankly, I think some of the 1980s media hysteria re: sexual abuse of girls was driven by older women’s anxiety about this.

    I hope that, today, this is less of an issue because husbands and wives have more in common than they used to.

    • Love your analysis. Makes sense to me.

      One thing you’re wrong on: Sexual abuse of girls is not driven by older women’s anxiety.

      In addition, much sexual abuse is under reported. I have a friend who’s bravely detailed her teen date rape on fb, citing she didn’t exactly realize she’d been raped (due to her own taking responsibility for her own drinking alcohol that night, plus she wasn’t a virgin), until a guy friend, years later (who was helping her with displaced anger and acting out), told her to stop blaming herself – she’d been raped by someone who knew she could not object to him raping her at that moment in time.

      That’s just one example. There’s millions more, including male on male child rape too, a la Jerry Sanduski.

      As intelligent as your analysis is, it still illuminates our culture’s continuing deep ignorance (and therefore its enabling) of the dynamics of abuse, the markers and manipulation methods of abusers, and the resultant markers of the abusers’ targets (victims).

      If our culture would help targets, instead of enabling perpetrators, our productivity would skyrocket. We may even be able to compete with China. (Which is a statement that may illuminate just how devastating abuse is to its targets.)

      It’s impossible for most to understand the depths of damaSimilar to how you cite the no-common-life

      • Oops. Failed to delete my last word salad sentence. Editor – if you can. please do. Thanks!

      • Whooo, sorry, that was indeed ambiguous, and the thing I actually meant is not that older women’s anxiety drove sexual abuse. Don’t think that at all, can’t picture it happening. What I meant was: Frankly, I think some of the 1980s MEDIA HYSTERIA re: sexual abuse of girls was driven by older women’s anxiety about FATHERS BEING CLOSER TO THEIR DAUGHTERS THAN THEY WERE TO THEIR WIVES. (Sorry for the shouty all-caps, I can’t do italics or underline.)

        To be clear, by “Media Hysteria” I don’t mean to suggest that there isn’t a real problem with sexual abuse — just that there was a lot of sensationalism, and that I think part of the reason it struck a chord, emotionally, was the dynamic I described above. Women in my mother’s situation, watching their PhD husband and future-PhD daughter talk shop, felt that they were being displaced by their daughters (because they were) and that the whole situation was wrong (which to some extent it was) and they felt angry. So one way of resolving that was to read it as a sexual displacement, which would allow them to justify their anger by making the husband a villain. For most people, “I hate my husband because I think he’s molesting our daughter” is an easier way to see oneself than “I hate my husband because he’d rather talk about electrical engineering with our daughter than hang out with me”.

    • Hi, Amaranth –
      Here’s one of those tedious, yet, nonetheless, valuable grammatical guidelines:
      When using the word, “this,” it’s a good practice to immediately identify for your readers WHAT your “this” is, so your readers can be certain about your intended meaning.
      For me, reading your post with interest, your unidentified “this” in your last two sentences in this post left me perplexed over your intended meaning.
      You write: “Frankly, I think some of the 1980s media hysteria re: sexual abuse of girls was driven by older women’s anxiety about this.”
      IF, for just one guess at your meaning there, your “this” in that sentence refers to “sexual abuse of girls,” I presume that, not only “older women,” but all reasonable adults, regardless of sex or age, either, would share in anxiety about THAT.
      Don’t you agree?
      If, however, your “this” in that sentence has some different meaning, please spell out your intended meaning.
      This same confusion arises in your concluding sentence, in which your meaning of another “this” is, similarly, not clear.
      You write, “I hope that, today, this is less of an issue because husbands and wives have more in common than they used to.”
      Again, without your clarifying the meaning of your “this” in that sentence, I am guessing that you may mean that “sexual abuse of girls” . . . “is less of an issue because husbands and wives have more in common than they used to.”
      In my way of thinking, however, “sexual abuse of girls” would under all circumstances be a huge issue.
      Please clarify your meaning.
      Thx,
      Liz

      • Hi, Liz —

        See above. “This” meant, roughly, the whole dynamic I was describing, where older guys could be close to their daughters more easily than to their wives.

        On the “Sexual abuse is bad” front, we’re in agreement.

        • Hi, Amaranth —
          In “unpacking” your “this,” some interesting (I do NOT mean “interesting” in any sort of scientific way) and also some complicated issues emerge in what you have written about your view of intergenerational relationships at a certain time in history and also within your family of origin.

          In my view, electrical engineering has little or nothing whatsoever to do with what you have described as a husband who is no longer “hanging out” with his wife, and a wife who is distressed over her husband’s detachment from her.

          I can’t imagine you really believe that an electrical engineer can truly love only another electrical engineer, and no one else.

          Whatever the outcome of your parents’ marriage, whether happy or otherwise, I do not for even one moment imagine that what you describe as your mother’s dissatisfaction with her marriage at a time when you were studying electrical engineering was a result of your mother’s understanding of — or her ignorance of — electrical engineering (UNLESS “electrical engineering” is a euphemism for sex?).

          I often have observed that women who are deeply invested in their education imagine that education makes them sexually appealing. For many reasons, such presumptions seem to me to be very ironic. (After all, crippling girls by binding their feet was once regarded as sexually attractive, too!)

          When I was in graduate school, I knew many graduate students who had affairs with their married professors. Rarely, but sometimes, such affairs led to marriages, but such marriages were not any more or any less successful than any other marriages I have observed.

          In a successful marriage, husband and wife are primary to each other and not only primary to each other due to an emotional feeling they share, or a professional undertaking they may or may not sure, but primary to each other as an intentional and vital priority both husband and wife have to each other.

          When either party looses a commitment to that primary relationship, the marriage is in jeopardy, at least.

          Once that commitment is breached, various misplaced priorities can become symptomatic of the breach, whether those priorities are electrical engineering, substance abuse, or even one’s own beloved offspring.

          Whooo, sorry, that was indeed ambiguous, and the thing I actually meant is not that older women’s anxiety drove sexual abuse. Don’t think that at all, can’t picture it happening. What I meant was: Frankly, I think some of the 1980s MEDIA HYSTERIA re: sexual abuse of girls was driven by older women’s anxiety about FATHERS BEING CLOSER TO THEIR DAUGHTERS THAN THEY WERE TO THEIR WIVES. (Sorry for the shouty all-caps, I can’t do italics or underline.)

          To be clear, by “Media Hysteria” I don’t mean to suggest that there isn’t a real problem with sexual abuse — just that there was a lot of sensationalism, and that I think part of the reason it struck a chord, emotionally, was the dynamic I described above. Women in my mother’s situation, watching their PhD husband and future-PhD daughter talk shop, felt that they were being displaced by their daughters (because they were) and that the whole situation was wrong (which to some extent it was) and they felt angry. So one way of resolving that was to read it as a sexual displacement, which would allow them to justify their anger by making the husband a villain. For most people, “I hate my husband because I think he’s molesting our daughter” is an easier way to see oneself than “I hate my husband because he’d rather talk about electrical engineering with our daughter than hang out with me”.

  17. Freddie Kruger and Holger Dick are the best.

  18. ella nufford says:

    in the above article the daughter’s age is merely 8-10 yrs. can anyone tell me if emotional incest can be performed by a divorced father on his 17-18 yr old daughter? please reply asap

    • Yes. See aagblog’s comment at the top of this string. Narcissists (pathologically immature people, stuck at the infantile level of emotional development, which then hardwires into physiological problems in the empathy and remorse centers in the barin), often do this to their children.

      Single mothers (or mothers whose husbands are abusers, therefore they do not get nurtured by their husbands) sometimes do it to their sons too.

      This is one of the methods the cycles of dysfunction are passed to the next generation.

      By definition, a married couple with shared children who’ve not been able to stay an intact family, has some level of interpersonal dysfunction. Otherwise, they’d be together still.

      • ella nufford says:

        so what can a daughter(16-17 yrs) do on her part to solve this problem of emotional incest especially when her father is divorced or single if she is experiencing this thing in her family? i mean she obviously can’t talk to her father about this, saying “dad, stop incesting me emotionally.” mr. hugo has given a problem of fathers doing this to their daughters, but can anyone tell me how can a daughter avoid this on her part? please feel free to answer this question if anybody has come up with any ideas.

Trackbacks

  1. […] last column, You’re Not Your Daughter’s Handsome Prince focused on father-daughter relationships, warning my fellow dads against seeking emotional […]

  2. […] last column, You’re Not Your Daughter’s Handsome Prince focused on father-daughter relationships, warning my fellow dads against seeking emotional […]

  3. […] You’re Not Your Daughter’s Handsome Prince (Against Emotional Incest) […]

  4. […] I’m noticing more and more these days that we women (my perfectionist, Virgo self included) have a hard time letting go of being a ‘good girl.’ You know, the one all in pink who sits quietly in church, never tells a lie and is the apple of daddy’s eye? […]

Speak Your Mind

*