Is your father influencing your love life?

It was Freud who first suggested that dad’s can have a big influence on their daughter’s romantic relationships. His Oedipus complex theory stated that girls are attracted to their father, and view their mother as a rival for that affection. Of course, Freud published his work over a hundred years ago, so it’s not the most up to date theory, but the question still remains: is your father influencing your love life?

Daddy’s Girl

y. Nor did it account for same sex relationships or girls who grew up without a father. But more recent research by psychologist John Gottman proposed that we can become psychologically attracted to a personality type that reflects are parents, with the accompanying need for love.

This is all well and good, if your dad was a competent father and a kind and caring man. But if he was unkind, indifferent or simply unavailable, then how do you stop yourself seeking out similar men, and minimise the influence your dad has on your love life?

Popstar Amy Winehouse, displaying her 'Daddy's Girl' tattoo.

Taking back control of your romantic fate

There are things you can do, but it may not be easy or feel natural at first. Generally, people are comfortable with what feels familiar, but with hard work and perseverance it can be done.

  1. Explore your relationship with your dad

    There are some connections that you will be able to make yourself by reflecting on the character or behaviour of your dad, and comparing these traits to partners you’ve had. For example, if your dad was fun loving and spontaneous but really bad with money, can you spot these traits in anyone else? Here’s a real example of how our fathers can influence our love life:

    My friend Emma’s dad was a successful business man. He’d split from Emma’s mum when Emma was 5, so she saw him only at weekends. On the weekends where he did visit, he was completely devoted to her. He’d buy her new clothes, take her swimming, and generally ensure a great time from morning to night.

    But all too often, he just wouldn’t turn up. Emma would dress up on a Saturday morning and wait. And wait and wait. Three hours later, her mum would gently inform her he wasn’t coming.

30 years on and Emma loves meeting guys in nightclubs. Where for a short time they’ll have a great time. The early days are fun, spontaneous and full of grand gestures- but invariably the men turn out to be uninterested in a long term relationship. Emma is aware she’s repeating patterns and that her dad has had a big influence on her love life. But she isn’t willing to make a change, as there’s so much about these short term relationships she finds sexy and thrilling. That’s completely Emma’s choice and it’s as good as any other. For Emma simply having explored her partner patterns, and then made a conscious decision to not change, is empowering.

2. You may need to see a counsellor if you keep repeating the same romantic patterns

It’s one thing to be aware of your patterns, but another thing to change them, if that’s what you want to do . This is where sessions with a counsellor, specifically a psychodynamic counsellor, can be worth the time and money. Psychodynamic counselling looks closely at your past as a way of spotting, and possibly changing, behaviour in the present. In psychodynamic counselling there is a concept called the presenting past. This is the belief that unresolved issues from the past will negatively impact the present.
Psychodynamic counselling also aims to make what’s in the unconscious, conscious. All of this is really useful fodder when it comes to looking at father daughter relationships, and the dynamics that continue to play out.

3. Don’t blame yourself for your father’s faults

All too often children won’t understand why they have grown up with a flawed father. A father who is abusive, emotionally distant or just not around. They may assume it was something they’ve done wrong. As an adult they will hopefully, logically, realise this is not the case. But those early beliefs can settle in hard and impact the core beliefs we hold about ourselves. If you believe you are essentially unlovable, then you may continue to attract lovers who reinforce this belief. This is a hard way to live and will do little for your sense of peace and mental health in the long term. Although your father may have influenced your love life up to now, the future is still in your hands.

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