Conventional wisdom says men should avoid women with ‘daddy issues.’ Liz Furl says hers have made her stronger, wiser, and a better relationship partner.
I am a woman with daddy issues.
My father is no longer in my life, and that’s a choice of my own making. He is, by my account, a rapist, a physical and emotional abuser, and a complete non-apologist for any of it. I ripped him out of my life in 2007, after finding out what he was, after the bruise on my legs that he’d left me had long faded, but also after he’d refused to take responsibility for it.
I haven’t seen or heard from him since.
But the least of the marks he left on me was the bruise above my left knee. His manipulations, guilt trips, barbed words, and ill treatments (too many to enumerate) are what’s lasted, what’s continued to hurt and harm long past the day I said goodbye, seven years ago.
They’ve led me to men who have wanted to use me for sex instead of couple with me for love. They’ve led me to men who drank and smoked their way into a selfish misery. There have been men who withheld their affection, but were liberal with their cruelty; men who manipulated my vulnerabilities into their own strengths; men who called me a “crazy bitch” for not wanting their cock in my mouth after one evening of watching The West Wing.
I have had a bad track record, yanked again and again toward my past, even despite a wonderful marriage, because indifference was what I was used to, and bad behavior was what I thought I deserved.
Not all of it can be attributed to my father and the influences of the men who came after, of course. A good deal of it, even most of it, is the result of my actions, my unwillingness to learn from my mistakes, or to recognize the warning signs when I saw them. But I do blame him, my father, for setting me on the path where making those poor decisions could seem right. Proper. Perfectly suited to me and my life.
Oh yes. I have daddy issues.
But in spite of being used, manipulated, screwed over, ignored, and plain poorly treated, I can thank my father and everything rotten and foul he gave me. I can thank him, in a way, for saving my life.
If it weren’t for my father, I would not know the strength of survival. My heart has known many near-death experiences, but never given out, never given up. For reasons I cannot fully understand, I have always had hope for something better than the example I was given at birth. Instead, I used him as the counter-example. I took every trait he had and swore I would never let a man treat me the way he had my mother, my friend’s mother, daughters of other mothers.
I may have tripped up along the way, but I never lost my belief in something better. I never gave up, never hardened my heart. I became a survivor instead of a victim.
If it weren’t for my father, I would never have known the unique gift of being raised by a strong, selfless woman. My mother taught me to work with respect and dignity, to stand up for the conviction of your beliefs with politeness and honesty, and, most importantly, that every man, even my father, could deserve a second chance.
She never kept him from me as a child, but let me make my own decisions about him, indeed about all men. She never let the beatings he gave her impact her esteem of his love for me, even when it proved to be deeply flawed. To this day, she has said that if I were to want to reconcile with him, that she would hold no grudges, would not let her experiences keep me from having others with him of my own.
In a way, the terrible things he did to her allowed me the opportunity to see the good in even the most imperfect of people, to trust with caution, but completely—until that trust is broken. Because of being raised by her, I have many fond memories with him from when I was young, and I had the strength to walk away when he turned on me as he had on her.
And if it weren’t for my father, I never would have met my husband, the greatest man I will ever know.
We began as an affair. I was his intern, he was my much-older supervisor, and he had a girlfriend with whom his relationship was crumbling. I submitted to being his mistress because I thought I didn’t deserve better than that—a gift from my father. Yet he treated me as a lover, a girlfriend, a confidante, and a woman worthy of respect.
His relationship ended with class and without her knowing of the affair—to spare her feelings, for which I give him infinite credit.
Six months after our first kiss, we were engaged. Two years later, we were married. He has seen me through mental illness, indiscretion, disability, and brutal, self-depreciating honesty, and has repaid me with nothing but love. True, beautiful love that comes without games, lies, or reservations.
For that, I can thank my father. Were it not for my willingness to err on the wrong side of caution, I never would have married a man who has given me the support and strength to heal the wounds of my past and, hopefully, step confidently into a future where I respect and love myself as tenderly as I do him.
You see, daddy issues can make you strong. They can give you hope. They can show you the blessings within every person. They can leave you with grace and vitality. They can even lead you to everlasting love.
If only, that is, you have the conviction to use them wisely.