Having a good father isn’t a requirement for finding a good man or husband or partner or long-lasting significant other. In fact, having a hateful, hurtful and otherwise harmful father can help ensure that you won’t end up with a man who treats you the same.
There’s no reason you should be crying.
I was in the back of our family car, an incredibly small Dodge Neon if I remember correctly. The tattered seat covers and limited leg room stand out in my mind, along with the tears and the mild sobs and the unsolicited advice.
I was fresh from a high school break up, as devastated as a hormonal teenager could possibly be. My adolescent heartbreak wasn’t understood or tolerated by my father, who insisted on teaching me the power of indifference with hateful fists and spiteful words.
He’s just a boy. One day, you’ll find a strong man like me. He will know how to handle you and run a house. That is who you’ll end up with.
I remember looking at the rearview mirror, meeting his eyes and silently pleading to whatever god would listen, that my father was wrong.
As a daughter, all too often I’ve been told that I would end up with a man like my father. That through no fault of my own, for better or for worse, fate would intervene and pair me with a gentleman of similar personality or demeanor or character. And for most daughters, that is a wonderful affirmation. They welcome a man in their life that mirrors that of the first man they’ve ever loved, and they hope to find someone who is as kind and loving and caring as the man who raised them.
But I am not one of those daughters.
When you grow up in a home riddled with domestic violence, the thought of finding a man similar to the man who beats you and mistreats you and verbally abuses you, is as terrifying as it is paralyzing.
In fact, that very thought can leave you pushing men away through the majority of your dating life, keeping the opposite sex an arm’s length away for fear you will find yourself as trapped as you were when you were a child.
And while I understand the idea and have practiced the aforementioned defense mechanism myself—more times than I am willing to admit—I can also tell you that having a good father isn’t a requirement for finding a good man or husband or partner or long-lasting significant other.
In fact, having a hateful, hurtful and otherwise harmful father can help ensure that you won’t end up with a man who treats you the same.
And while I have and will miss out on what daughters are able to experience with their fathers, I am and was better equipped to look for good qualities in a potential partner.
I might not walk down an aisle and have a caring man give me away.
I won’t hand my son over to my father, introducing him as a grandfather for the first time. I won’t run to my father for advice or help or understanding.
But I can use my father as a benchmark for what not to tolerate.
I can use every hateful fist or spiteful word as an example of what not to say “yes” to.
I can use the bad man who was my father to find a good man that is my partner.
And that is exactly what I did.
When he started drinking heavily most weeknights and definitely on the weekends, I knew. I knew that this was the beginning of a violent end if something didn’t change.
When he pushed me, drunk and angry for speaking to a kind stranger, I knew. I knew more of the same would follow and time would erase the need for alcohol to spark any semblance of violence or rage.
When he started lying and hiding infidelities and evading questions, I knew. I knew there were more I didn’t know about and more to come and more heartache if I didn’t leave.
When he told me I was stupid and idiotic and naive, I knew. I knew that I would never be considered his equal or his partner or worthy of his respect.
And while I probably didn’t need an abusive father to be able to realize that the above actions aren’t tolerable or acceptable, I was quicker to identify their potential for greater despair. I was immune to the promises of better tomorrows and the hopeful wishes for change and the desperate pleas for forgiveness. I had heard them all before, directed at myself or my mother or my brother, and I knew they weren’t genuine or honest.
Because I had experienced it all before, I knew.
So, when I met the last him I’d meet for the first time, and he was everything my father wasn’t, I knew.
When he was kind and understanding and capable of carrying on a conversation in which different viewpoints were shared and respected, I knew.
When he was supportive but challenging and uplifting but honest, I knew.
When he was gentle but firm and steadfast but always considerate and open to new ideas, I knew.
And when our future daughter inevitably sits in the back of the family car—fresh from a high school break up and as devastated as a hormonal teenager could possibly be—and her father says that it’s okay, he understands that she is hurting, but she shouldn’t worry, because one day she will find a man just like her father, I will know.
I will know that when her eyes meet his in the rearview mirror, she won’t be praying to whatever god will listen that her father is wrong.
She will be hoping her father is right.
And I will say that I knew, before I met him and before she was born and before she ends up with a man just as amazing as he is, because I didn’t have that father.
I knew what wasn’t okay, because I had experienced it all too often.
I knew, because my father was wrong.
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