Maybe her father was an alcoholic, maybe he was abusive toward her mom. Perhaps he was strict to a fault or was too busy at work to be emotionally available. Maybe he just wasn’t a family man. Many women grow up with fathers who are unable to develop healthy relationships with them and end up developing daddy issues that cast a shadow over their romantic connections.
These issues become apparent when a woman is trying to build a relationship with a man in adulthood and govern the way she handles her romantic partnerships. Hence, a woman is said to have daddy issues if she is trying to resolve the inadequacies of her childhood through her relationships as an adult. However, it’s important to note that the term mentioned here today isn’t a clinical term or a disorder recognized by the American Psychiatric Association’s latest update of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
In fact, it is often used as a derogatory term to trivialize insecure attachment styles. In this article, Dr. Gaurav Deka (MBBS, PG diplomas in Psychotherapy and Hypnosis), an internationally acclaimed Transpersonal Regression Therapist, who specializes in trauma resolution, and is a mental health and wellness expert, writes about these issues to help you understand where they stem from, what they look like, and how they can be dealt with.
What Are Daddy Issues?
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The origin of daddy issues, like all other tabooed relationship issues, goes back to Papa Freud. He said, “I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.” When this need is not fulfilled, the emotional and cognitive development of a person goes awry.
In simple language, women having these issues have an unconscious hook by which they attract men who typify all kinds of unresolved issues in their relationship with their own fathers. The emotional baggage of the past is carried forward into their romantic life. This is the complex psychology behind daddy issues.
Such women tend to replicate a similar relationship that can fill the void of an absent father or the lack of a relationship with a significant male person from their childhood. Developing secure relationships is quite challenging for these women; attachment is not as simple or straightforward for them.
The Psychology Behind Daddy Issues
In pop culture, the term is used to belittle women who only date older men or have issues with establishing secure relationships. The intricacies of it, however, are not that simple. The effects of having a father figure who was emotionally unavailable usually seep into a person’s adult relationships, which tends to cause damage.
Though the term is prevalent, its origin is not exactly set in stone. However, as Sigmund Freud mentioned the importance of a father’s protection in a child’s life, his idea of the “father complex” seems to be the cornerstone for daddy issues psychology.
The “father complex” describes the negative effect an unhealthy relationship with the father may have on a child’s psyche. It is important to note that both men and women can be afflicted by the father complex, and the manifestations in both cases tend to be different. Men usually struggle with approval and self-worth, while women could seek more protection and validation from their adult relationships.
The idea is also loosely based on the Oedipus complex, which suggests that a young boy could experience feelings of competition with his father and attraction to his mother. According to Freud, if this complex isn’t adequately dealt with within a certain period of development, the child could become fixated on the opposite-sex parent, which in turn leads to insecure attachment styles in the future.
The Attachment Theory
When considering the daddy issues psychology, perhaps a better and non-gendered approach to the origin of it may be understood by taking a look at attachment theory. The theory, first suggested by British psychologist John Bowlby, describes that when a child experiences a negative relationship with their primary caregivers, they develop an insecure attachment style which leads to difficult intrapersonal and interpersonal relationships in the future.
On the other hand, when a child experiences a secure attachment with their primary caregiver, they grow up to experience trustful, healthy and fulfilling relationships. Those who develop an insecure attachment style mainly display clingy behavior, act distant because they’re fearful of getting hurt, have commitment issues, or may be extremely anxious about being betrayed. When women portray these attachment issues, they’re usually deemed to be the daddy issues signs.
Related Reading: Oedipus Complex: Definition, Symptoms and Treatment
Symptoms Of Daddy Issues
There are always a few tell-tale signs of any problem. A woman who experienced issues with a father figure is bound to exhibit these symptoms:
- The first and foremost symptom is a woman’s inability to sustain a stable relationship. She usually jumps from one man to another because of attachment problems stemming from her childhood
- The woman has a tendency to like older men and regularly falls for married men too. The end of these relationships is quite hurtful, leading to further mental turmoil
- She wants attention and importance like a child and is actually quite aggressive in bed. Many men like this aggressiveness and need for attention in the initial stages of the relationship, but it soon becomes tiring
- She generally wants a lot more reassurance in the relationship and may display clingy behavior
- She may engage in risky behavior as a way to gain the desired level of attention and love
- She may struggle to establish boundaries in a romantic relationship or any other kind of relationship
- She will regularly display patterns of codependence and extreme jealousy
- The signs of daddy issues in a woman include a fear of being alone to the point where they attract toxic relationships
Do these daddy issues symptoms resonate with you? Now that we’ve touched upon the problematic patterns, let’s discuss them in greater detail. We have to answer the question plaguing your mind: does the girl I’m dating have daddy issues? There are 5 signs you absolutely need to know; get ready for a few reality checks… the truth bombs are about to drop!
5 Signs Of Daddy Issues In Women
Women with these issues usually have trouble knowing what they want in and from a relationship. This happens because they never had their fathers by their side growing up. There were no daddy-daughter hide-and-seek games, bonding time at KFC, or playtime at the park.
They say that a father is a girl’s first love. But what happens when it becomes the first heartbreak? This emotional and physical unavailability of the father creates issues for the daughter in her adult life. She feels sexually inadequate, becomes a clingy girlfriend, is often extremely aggressive, and tries to control her partner.
Dating a girl with daddy issues can be very draining from all aspects. But understanding the problem at hand is the first step to take. Here are 5 signs that show a woman has daddy issues.
1. Signs of daddy issues: No concept of boundaries
I don’t just mean sexual aggressiveness here; a sense of individuality may be completely absent in such women. You may see your girlfriend or spouse not only struggling to find her own space but continuously breaching your boundaries. They may not establish boundaries with lovers and friends as a result of low self-esteem.
Women with such issues are stuck in their childhood stage of clinging to a parent, demanding attention, space, and accommodation. As an adult, you may understand notions of personal space but she has no awareness of such things.
In fact, most of these women feel guilty for laying down any boundaries for themselves because they feel like they’re upsetting their partners or friends. In an attempt to make sure the people in their lives will not abandon them, they often disregard necessary boundaries and end up being taken advantage of. Hence, dating a girl with daddy issues can often be difficult because of their attachment issues.
Related Reading: Child Abuse By Parents? Here Is What You Need To Do
2. A constant need for validation
As I said, daddy issues are not simply about getting attracted to an older man in order to replicate a childhood relationship, but also mostly about the “absence of a father”. This can even mean that the father was physically present but was never emotionally available or was an abusive father. In such cases, you find your girlfriend or spouse hankering for attention and validation as a result of her father complex.
Everything in her world is of any value and worth only because you approve of it. Criticism of any sort may be taken personally and that too, in an intense manner. Sometimes this is followed by anger, crying, and aggression to the extent that you have to amend the negative statement you made earlier. The signs of daddy issues often manifest themselves in ugly fights and the lack of conflict resolution skills.
3. Psychology behind daddy issues: Crippling jealousy
Unrelenting jealousy and insecurity are classic signs of a woman who might be having daddy issues. She may not have left her childhood world behind, where everything was about fighting for attention from her father who was occasionally more attentive to her mother. That’s actually the root of the “Electra Complex”.
It’s the envy or the jealousy of a female child for her father in competition with her mother. As per Freud, it’s an essential part of sexual development. Some women unfortunately find themselves stuck in that stage. By extension, they may make life difficult for their partners in adulthood. These daddy issues signs are a hindrance in all stages of the relationship.
4. Fear of being single is among the worst daddy issues symptoms
This is almost addictive because such insecurity may drive a woman into serial dating, picking anyone who walks into her life. They cannot handle breakups as they find them apocalyptic and damaging. They jump from one poor relationship to another to avoid any negative emotions that come with a breakup.
In many cases, they would keep reconciling with their ex, reconnecting with them physically, mentally, and emotionally without any sense of self-respect or self-esteem. The fear of being single may drive them into an addictive cycle of losing their sense of self, as they find it immensely difficult to be comfortable in their own company. This is a classic sign of daddy issues in a woman.
5. Do you really love me? Daddy issues symptoms
Since everything in their world is motivated by fear and a deep sense of threat and loss, the thought that their partner may leave them any day without warning is recurrent and terrifying. Women with daddy issues know that they would have to survive alone and hence, they need constant reassurance.
As children, we are, of course, scared that we will die in the absence of our parents. Even when you first start going to school, you remember feeling a deep sense of fear and loss about being separated from mommy or daddy. What if they don’t come to see you or pick you up? It’s a crippling and debilitating thought. But with time, as we grow up into singular beings, we are more comfortable being by ourselves.
Sometimes, in dysfunctional families and abusive marriages, the child constantly witnesses violence and aggression from the father; they are trapped within that fear that “that” experience may repeat itself in their lives. And because their father didn’t love the mother, the woman has to constantly find some kind of reassurance that her quasi-father-partner loves her and wouldn’t abandon her.
Related Reading: Why Do People Stay In Abusive Relationships?
Take This “Daddy Issues” Test
If the symptoms have got you drawing parallels with the woman in your life, you’re probably wondering if she suffers from such issues as well. If the psychology and the causes we listed above apply to her (meaning, if she has had a negative relationship with your primary caregiver), it may be worthwhile to get her to take the following daddy issues test so she can finally get some clarity about her patterns and where they stem from:
- Did you have a negative relationship with your father? Yes/No
- Do you jump from relationship to relationship? Yes/No
- Are you anxious that your partner and/or friends will abandon you? Yes/No
- Do you find it difficult to fully commit yourself to a relationship? Yes/No
- Are you often attracted to older men? Yes/No
- Do you often need a lot of reassurance and validation in your romantic relationships due to trust issues? Yes/No
- Do you have unresolved issues with your father? Yes/No
- Do you struggle to establish boundaries with people (for example, not being able to tell people you’re uncomfortable with physical touch)? Yes/No
- Do you have a fear of being alone to the point where you fall back into relationships you know were unhealthy? Yes/No
- Do you suffer from low self-esteem and often look for external validation from peers/partners? Yes/No
If she answers yes to most of the questions, she probably showcases all the signs of daddy issues in a woman. You might find yourself jumping from one unsuccessful relationship into another, all the while harboring a relationship anxiety that often gets the better of you.
Dating A Girl With Daddy Issues: The Possible That Come Up
Now that you’re well-versed with the answer to the question, what are daddy issues, let’s take a look at the possible issues a romantic relationship can face as a result of such unresolved problems:
- The relationship may have a lot of miscommunication and arguments without any resolution in sight
- Needy and clingy behavior may be the cause of resentment in the relationship
- Trust issues can often lead to recurring fights and a lack of respect
- Any attempt at trying to mend the communication issues may be seen as an attack
- Low self-esteem, jealousy, and insecurity issues will cause a lot of misunderstandings and fights
- Your relationship may experience a push-and-pull, and you may get back together after a rough breakup
- Commitment issues may prop up
The signs of daddy issues in women are often clearly visible in romantic relationships. Once such problems make themselves apparent, the question then becomes how one can cope with them and manage the problems.
Related Reading: 8 Relationship Problems Faced By Couples With Huge Age Difference
How To Manage Daddy Issues
A string of bad relationships, a negative association with oneself, falling back into toxic dynamics, self-sabotaging behavior, and perennial trust issues, are just a few of the negative outcomes a woman with daddy issues may grapple with. If you’re in a relationship with a woman who is struggling with some or all of these unhealthy patterns, here is how you can help her heal:
- Acknowledge: The first step toward managing such negative effects is acknowledging that these issues exist. The woman you’re dating/in relations with also needs to accept her unhealthy patterns for what they are. It’s important for her to assess how she might be recreating her childhood problems with her partners, and accept that a change is necessary
- Seek therapy: The most effective way of curbing daddy issues signs is by seeking help from a licensed psychotherapist who is trained to deal with attachment style issues and can help the inner child heal. Therapy can help her identify negative patterns, equip her with the necessary skill and exercises to manage such issues, and limit their impact on your relationship
- Give it time: Once she has consciously begun her journey toward improvement, it’s important both you and your partner realize that the issues she’s facing are a result of years of negative influences, you can’t hope to reverse them overnight. Be easy on her and encourage her give herself the appropriate time to heal
- Focus on your needs: Just because you’ve come to realize that your woman has daddy issues doesn’t mean that you need to dash toward the first exist door you can find. However, if despite all your support and patience, she is refusing to work toward changing her patterns and the issues between you two are starting to take a toll on you mental health and emotional well-being, don’t feel guilty about focusing on your needs
- Daddy issues stem from a negative relationship with the primary caregivers (especially with the father)
- Though it’s not a recognized and diagnosable term, the symptoms often come out as an insecure attachment style and a constant need for validation and reassurance
- Such issues can often damage the romantic relationships a person has as well as their relationship with themselves
- The symptoms commonly include: An insecure attachment style, a fear of commitment, a fear of being alone, jealousy and codependency issues, a lack of boundaries
- Managing such issues begins with acceptance and seeking therapy
Daddy issues are prevalent in more women than we can imagine. They stem from a deep sense of neglect in childhood. Many people have emerged stronger after battling their unresolved trauma in therapy. Seeking professional help can be beneficial for your relationship and general well-being. At Bonobology, we have a panel of licensed therapists and counselors who can help you analyze your situation better.