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.
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.