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How To Heal Your Relationship With Your Dad

Nicole MooreI just returned from a 10-day chip to China with my dad.  For me, that’s huge.

I don’t think I’ve ever spent 10 days straight with my dad since my parents got divorced and he moved out when I was 11.

Just a few years ago, just going out to dinner with my dad gave me anxiety.  I was anxious and on edge around him.

My story about my dad was that he was critical and uncaring. He did criticize me a lot when I was younger. He called me fat, laughed at me when I cried or made mistakes and would negatively focus on the one A minus in a report card full of A’s.

What I made that mean was that I wasn’t good enough. That he didn’t love me and that I had to be better to get his love.

And this hurt.
I had to find a way to protect myself.
So, what I learned to do every time his words stabbed me like a knife was shut down. I held my tears in until my throat felt like it would burst and closed my heart.

As a child, I didn’t have the tools to heal. To let my emotions out in a healthy way and let them move through me. So they stayed in me, buried underneath layers of “I’m tough” “I don’t care” and “I don’t need his love anyway.”

But I did.
And since I didn’t think I had it, I went to men to get it.

As you can imagine, this didn’t work and ended in disaster every time.

What I didn’t know then that I know now, is that we project anything that is unhealed within us from our relationship with our dad onto our romantic partners.

Until we’re healed, men don’t really stand a chance, even if they’re great guys.

That was the case for me. I had men who literally adored and worshiped me, but somehow their love was never enough. I would invent reasons to be angry at them anyway, because subconsciously, I was expecting them to fill the hole of my dad’s love and was mad that it didn’t work.
Projection makes perception.

I found a way to recreate my past pain anyway no matter who I was with.

I’ve been working on healing myself for years and have come very far, but there was still a missing piece until my recent trip, some lingering pain that I could tell was negatively impacting my relationships with men.

I didn’t want to be in defense mode on the trip, bracing myself for the next criticism, so I made the decision before I went that I was just going to be present to the moment. That I was going to enter the trip as Nicole, the adult and that if my inner child felt hurt in any way, I would take care of her.

And a funny thing happened.
Because I finally chose to stop reacting to my dad as if I was the wounded child, he literally changed before my eyes.

Since I wasn’t busy trying to protect myself from his next attack, I was able to just be with him and also be with my reactions to him.

I detached from my story of him and just saw him for who he was.

He stopped being the critical, uncaring father and he started being a real person, with his own weaknesses and strengths that have nothing whatsoever to do with me.

I saw that he just has a natural tendency to criticize, not just me but also his wife, my sister, people in the street…that’s just the way he is (and it’s just a reflection of his relationship with himself).

When I was a kid and we were rushing to catch an Amtrak train, he would walk so far ahead of me and my sister and never turn and look to see if we were still there. I thought to myself, “wow, he must not care about losing us!” I felt abandoned.

But as we walked the Great Wall of China, I noticed he did the same exact thing to his wife when she had to slow down to take a break!  He didn’t look back..that’s just the way he is.  And it doesn’t mean he doesn’t love her, just like it didn’t mean that he doesn’t love me.

Because I was more open to seeing my dad for who he is, rather than the character in the story I had created about him, I was awake to his love. I noticed moments of tenderness where he would come by and squeeze my shoulder.  I noticed that he cared enough about having my sister and me with him that he paid for our entire trip.

The healing that I got on this trip was that I finally and truly understood that it’s not personal…he is the way he is.  And that I don’t have to make his inability to love me perfectly mean anything bad about me.

What I feel now is freedom and release.  A deep healing has begun. I feel a little more complete.

Do you have anything unhealed with your dad, and could it be affecting your romantic relationships?

Which of your dad’s actions have you taken personally? What story have you made up about him that might not be the truth?

What did you make his inability to love you perfectly and exactly how you wanted mean about you?

Choose to step back from the story and the drama today and see your dad for who he is/was. Another soul on this planet doing the best he can with what he’s got.

It’s not personal. Nothing really is anyway.

And you are already so loved.  I promise.

Xo,

Nicole

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Nicole Moore, Love & Relationship Coach and founder of Love Works, which helps women unlock their hearts and create lasting love.  Nicole doesn’t just teach women how to get love, she teaches women how to BE LOVE, so love flows to them effortlessly because it’s who they are. She helps women detox their love lives so they can create lasting love with her signature Save Your Love Life Intensive.

  • Lisa S.

    Thank you! This is what I’ve been searching for. I just recently have come to the realization that I have been projecting onto my Husband my un dealt with issues about my Dad. Your idea about some time away with my Father would be or could be very healing. I appreciate that my morning reading brought me to your article.

    • Nicole Moore

      I’m glad the article helped Lisa. Keep me posted!

  • Lida

    Thank you! Projection makes perception. I loved this sentence.

    • Nicole Moore

      You’re welcome Lida!

  • Sandy

    Acceptance opposed to forgiveness is the key! Once I learned to accept everything & everybody as is I found freedom. The best thing I found out about acceptance is that I know instinctively how to proceed. Thank you for sharing your awakening!

    • Nicole Moore

      You’re welcome Sandy! Acceptance works wonders.

  • Megyn Blanchard

    yes yes yes, perfect timing. just getting out of another relationship with an unavailable man. just like my dad. I’ve never been angry with my dad, but perhaps I’ve never dealt with his inability to love me the way I wanted either. I’ve been told that dealing with that grief and loss is important. I’m definitely more aware of the fact that it’s my responsibility to love and nurture myself now and not protect that on to some man. it’s vampirism, my Dad’s love or lack thereof doesn’t provide my worth, just like a relationship doesn’t provide my value.

    • Nicole Moore

      Megyn, exactly! You are worthy just as you are :)

  • Darlene

    Wow. Thanks for sharing your story here. I can relate to you so much! My parents divorced when I was 10 and those years were hard for me. My dad had a temper and we were meant to be well behaved, seen and not heard. He was not a warm, fuzzy dad at all. I spent years as an adult afraid to have any conversation with him and when I did I could not get through the talk without dissolving into tears. Flash forward 40 years, I am divorced from a 27 year marriage and have spent the last 3 years working on myself and my issues surrounding my dad and the choices I made with the man I married. Recently, due to recent circumstances he has come to live with me for a short period of time while he transitions to a new home. This has been a real eye opener! I have begun to see him as just a man who, like you said “is doing the best with what he’s got”. But I have to tell you, this is where my real work is just beginning! I have made it through the speaking to him without crying and I am able to express my feelings to him mostly without a problem. Where my biggest challenge is now is trying to coach him or correct his shortcomings. I know I need to let him “be” and this is so hard! I know I have to be loving and to show love in order for me to heal this part of my life. It was great to hear your story and it was what I needed to hear today. Thank you!

    • Nicole Moore

      Darline, yes, just keep working on what’s going on internally with you and you will see a shift. You have tools that he probably doesn’t have and you’ve got the awareness to see him with love. xo

  • David H. Breaux

    Hi Nicole,

    Thank you for sharing your experience and the wisdom discovered through it.

    With compassion,
    David H. Breaux

  • Otiti Jasmine

    You’re so right, Nicole. I’ve found myself drawn to male friends who remind me of my dad so I can get love from them, and indirectly get the love and protection I missed from my dad growing up.

    There’s something about divorced fathers who remarry and don’t look out for their kids, or who act in ways that make it seem like they’re not looking out for us. I kept asking my dad for help so his wife would stop shouting at my sister and I, but he never did anything. Took a long time before that stopped hurting, so I totally relate to your story.

    I’ve found my healing along the way and taken responsibility for my emotional health, so things are much better now. I’m so happy you unlocked your deep healing as well. :)

  • Michelle

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I still struggle with dad dynamics. I will try to be more detached and curious than shut down and protecting my little girl self. I don’t feel seen by him and I have a hard time staying in my adult self when we’re together. I don’t feel like our relationship ever evolved to two adults relating to one another. He was/is angry and emotionally abusive. This experience carries into my adult life affecting my relationships with men. I’m married to a great guy, but often I feel intimidated by other men, particularly men in power (bosses, etc). I don’t handle conflict well (tears!) because I revert back to wounded, scared child in those moments of tension. So good to think about clearing out all this old junk.

  • http://thejourneytolearnacceptance.blogspot.com/ Nina

    This story touched me, except for me it is my mother. I’ve been trying to do exactly what you expressed here, and we’ve come a long way, though we still have our ups and downs. It is truly important to see them as people with their own strengths and weaknesses, and not react out of pain and fear – that just keeps the cycle going. Thank you for sharing, it feels good to know you’re not alone!

    Much love,
    Nina
    http://thejourneytolearnacceptance.blogspot.com

  • Nancy Gutierrez

    It’s funny how your perception of other people is not always “the reality”. I’ve learned that any given situation can many various things to different people (depending on where they are in there lives). I used to shy away from confrontation and now I see it as a way to vocalize your feeling without necessarily degrading the other person.

    My relationship with my father is a lot better than it has been in a very long time. There is still room for growth but I think only time can heal.
    My parents separated/divorced when I was 2. Eventually my mom re-married and we moved far away. I would visit my maternal grandparents on summer and Christmas breaks. During this time I would also see my dad.
    When i was little my dad was my everything. He used to dedicate his time just to me when i was visiting. That’s until he re-married and had two more children.
    I felt left out, an outsider looking in on the father/daughter/son relationship of my siblings and father.
    I had a step-mother who in her way loved me but i hated her for taking my father. Eventually my visits became less and the distance became more.
    Now as an adult who is working hard to heal emotionally, physically and mentally, I see a father who was struggling to bring his family together. I see a father who loved me and wanted me to feel wanted but didn’t know how.
    For a very long time I was angry, hurt and confused. I refuses to open myself up to a relationship for fear of being hurt (now i see that for the excuse it was).
    I guess it is all about perception. We are closer than we were before and a lot has changed between all of us (step-mother, sister and brother). I wish my family love and understanding, compassion and growth. I know we will make it!

  • yayforadventure

    This is a great article, just what I needed. My mom died when I was 19, and my dad and I became close after that, but since he re-married, we’ve grown apart. I now live in a foreign country and he makes no effort to connect with me or keep in touch. It’s always up to me to make the effort, and it frustrates me. He says he’s busy with work and travel, but I can’t help but get so angry at him for putting his daughter after work. I need to work on realizing that he may be hurting because I moved so far away. All I can do is try to make the relationship what I need by asking for what I want. Thanks again for your perspective.

  • Anna

    Thanks for the article. Needed to read this. It was like having a closure with myself. I am going to save this so that I can come back and read again when I get pangs of those emotions.I think my experience with my dad has made me a much better parent. I know what really matters.