Daddy Issues: How Real Are They?

5 min read

Daddy issues
Team VOW
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We have all heard the infamous phrase of “daddy issues”. Or, if you are a woman, the term has probably been carelessly flung towards you at least once. Daddy issues have become stereotypically gendered in the modern context and thus, often ends up being misused.

So, what are daddy issues? Are they real or just another method used to mock women? Well, daddy issues are a real thing, but they are not what you expect. Real daddy issues can happen without any “fathers and daughters” involved.

And no, they have nothing to do with a woman wanting to call someone “daddy” in bed.

What are daddy issues?

Well, daddy issues is an umbrella term for a group of underlying psychological challenges in which a person has trouble forming healthy relationships due to the kind of treatment they were subjected to in their childhood at the hands of their caregiver, in this context the paternal figure.

Psychologically, this term could interchangeably be used with the term “father complex” which pertains to the subconscious projections of the father figure on current partners. The caregiving relations of your childhood end up influencing your relations as an adult negatively.

There are many types of damaging paternal figures and hence, there are many types of negative attachment styles that can lead to a variety of issues, some of them under daddy issues. Here are the three broad categories:

Anxious-preoccupied

In this, the signs of daddy issues reveal themselves in your anxiety and insecurity about your partner leaving you. You become fearful of possible abandonment even as you desire to get emotionally close. This could be because of any similar experience you had with your caregiver as a child.

Fearful-avoidant

Those who suffer from this usually have a fear of intimacy and do not like confrontation and facing difficult feelings. They tend to avoid the problem and pretend it doesn’t exist. This could lead to difficulty in maintaining healthy relationships where problems are talked about. They fear both getting very close to someone and growing very distant from them.

Dismissive-avoidant

An inability to trust people out of fear that they may hurt or betray you can also be one of the many daddy issue symptoms due to the dismissive-avoidant attachment style. This leads to people forming an emotional barrier around themselves, where they refuse to get closer to people beyond a certain limit.

Can daddy issues only happen to women?

In the modern context, daddy issues are understood as problems that women with absentee fathers face in forming relationships. But this is completely false. Daddy issues can happen to anyone regardless of their gender. Men, for one, could have daddy issues which reveal themselves in them trying to live up to this idealized masculinity of the father figure while feeling insecure when they don’t match up. 

Daddy issues

Daddy issues can also be used as a general term for unhealthy projections of a relationship with a caregiver of any gender. Thus, you could show some signs of daddy issues even in you have a difficult relationship with your mother–but in today’s modern context, that is understood as “mommy issues.”

So why are daddy issues gendered towards women? Well, because it has become a stereotype. Most people do not understand the actual implications of daddy issues and just casually use them to refer to women who have been in relationships with older men or have had a series of other unhealthy romantic relationships. It has become a running gag to dismiss women’s actual mental health issues.

Thus, it is important to clear up such stereotypical misunderstandings to not mock them for any genuine trauma that women may be suffering from. 

Signs of daddy issues

So are there some apparent daddy issues symptoms that can help you understand more about this condition? Yes, of course. There are many psychological and emotional difficulties we might face which we don’t even realise stem from negative attachment styles as a kid.

Thus, many of these daddy issues symptoms get internalized by us to form subconscious damaging belief systems that interfere with our ability to connect with our peers and romantic partners. 

Daddy issues

If you want to know how to deal with daddy issues, it is important to first pinpoint which of these signs of daddy issues you can relate to:

1. You may experience difficulty in establishing trust in relationships due to being ignored or abandoned by your father figure as a child. Having someone you trust to take care of you fail to do so can cause a lot of emotional damage, especially when you are at a vulnerable age.

You may find yourself “screening” your partner to search for any negative signs that you may have missed. This goes beyond normal caution and often leads to an inability to ever expose your vulnerable side. No matter how many times your partner says they love you, some part of you always doubts them.

2. You constantly need validation to feel good about yourself as a result of a childhood spent trying to get the attention and praise of your father figure, only for them to not respond in the desired way. As a kid, treatment like this convinces you that you are only good when other people say so.

Thus, in a relationship, you have low self-esteem and are unable to have confidence in your worth without having your partner’s and other people’s confirmation.

3. You subconsciously drift towards relationships in which your partner is emotionally unavailable and does not completely fulfil your emotional needs. This can often be a result of an emotionally unavailable father figure, whom you tried pleasing as a kid, only to have no response in return.

Still, subconsciously you end up repeating these same negative patterns in the relationships of your adulthood. This is because you develop this understanding that love only works when one party goes ignored and thus, you seek the type of love you are used to.

4. You are exceedingly jealous and insecure in your romantic relationships to the point where you constantly find yourself obsessing over whether they might leave you. This can lead to you questioning their every move because you forever on the precipice where you have one eye trained towards the inevitable end.

This can often be one of the daddy issues symptoms because of a father figure who may have abandoned you as a child or not been in there in full capacity. Thus, you internalise this belief that people will always end up leaving you, one way or another.

5. You do not have a healthy perception of yourself and your worth. Loving yourself is extremely important when it comes to forming healthy, fulfilling relationships. If as a child you were often scolded and dismissed for your interests, you may end with a negative mindset. If you don’t respect yourself, you will be unable to seek relationships in which your partner respects you.

This also leads to an inability to form boundaries. Thus, if you have had a few relationships in which you were mistreated, this could be because you didn’t feel like you were worth standing up for.

6. You end up pushing your partner away out of fear of getting hurt yourself because of the traumatic experiences you had as a child when you shared your emotions with your paternal figure.

Having just one or two of these signs isn’t enough to declare daddy issues, so always go to a professional to understand these feelings better.

How to deal with daddy issues?

Learning how to deal with daddy issues can seem intimidating because it means facing a part of yourself you may have repressed for a long time. But beginnings don’t have to be perfect. What matters is that you start somewhere and want to heal the wounds inside you. 

Daddy issues
  • Going to therapy does wonders for your understanding of your psyche and your relationships. Talking to a professional and having them guide you in interpreting your own emotions helps in recognising damaging patterns and how to break them.
  • If your father figure is up to it, you can consider going to family counseling where you convey your emotions to your father in a way you were unable to do so as a child. This can help resolve negative feelings that have persisted for years.
  • Looking at healthy relationship patterns, both caregiving and romantic can help you pinpoint the misconceptions you have internalised. Love shouldn’t be an excuse for the hurt caused and it is so important to know that.
  • Acknowledge those negative beliefs the best you can. Running away from your trauma will only make it wrap itself around you tighter. It can be scary to face it headfirst, so go one step at a time and acknowledge the emotions that exist inside you.
  • Practice self-appreciation by giving yourself the care that you deserve, rather than depending on another person. It can be hard, at first, but over time you will slowly realise just how much joy exists in relying on yourself and fully being aware of your worth and all that you deserve. Once you know this, you will never let any other person take you for granted.

Forming Healthy Relationships

If you suspect that you may have daddy issues, don’t be too hard on yourself. What you need right now, above everything, is love and support, not shame and anger. Remember that the way your parents treated you says much more about their character than your own.

Daddy issues

Now is the moment to hold your hand and tell yourself what you wish someone had told you as a child: you do not need to be a certain way to be loved, you deserve to be loved for you.