Something I’ve noticed in both my little girls is their intrinsic need to be adored, treasured and affirmed by their daddy. My 3 year old is currently obsessed with all things girly. Weekly she brings me her basket of nail polish and asks for her “foot bath” (pedicure;). She walks around the house daily with her pocket book, exchanging out her variety of rings, bracelets, necklaces and other accessories. She dons her Queen Elsa dress with full crown, gloves and princess wand, twirling around in her glittery gown. And I tell her how beautiful she is, how amazing and dazzling. She may give me a half-smile as she walks along, but almost immediately after she gets all dressed up, she says “I gotta go show daddy.” I see her entire disposition shift as she seeks his affirmation of her femininity in the way only a daddy can. And when he excitedly embraces and adores her, she lights up with the biggest, brightest smile, almost as if he just gave her that final approval stamp of “yes, you ARE amazing.” Even my 18-month old craves her daddy’s affection! She recognizes the sound of his truck in the driveway and begins screaming “DADDYYYY!!!!” with sheer unrestrainable excitement as she waddle-runs to the door to greet him. Such a realization of the power of a father. His words. His love. His guidance. His protection. His affection. His approval. His presence. HIS ATTENTION… a little girl NEEDS it. She is incomplete without it.
The first man a woman ever loves…is her daddy. A girl’s relationship with her father not only shapes her self-image and self-confidence, but develops her understanding of the world of men, and gives her experience in how to relate to them. If daddy is abusive or absent (physically or emotionally), if he gives her no approval, no acceptance, no emotional connection to himself… she can develop a desperate hunger for masculine affirmation that may be refocused onto other men.
As a therapist, I have heard countless story after countless story of women with deep daddy wounds that turned to dysfunctional relations with men and even promiscuity in search of the love they were missing. This can happen because she may grow up insecure in her femininity and acceptability. That lingering question of “am I woman enough? …am I worthy of a man’s love?” can leave her incredibly vulnerable and susceptible to deceptive and alluring promises by men to meet those deep needs she doesn’t even know she has. Thus begins her search… and she often gives herself to men who promise her the world, but are secretly harboring ulterior motives in selfish sexual conquest. Sadly, as she makes herself vulnerable and gives herself away, in mock reminder of her daddy-wound, she experiences a continued failure to emotionally connect with men. Added wounds on top of wounds can continue to reaffirm her low feelings of worth, reinforcing her unlovability, ultimately producing an even deeper well of sadness and insatiable need. And the cycle repeats itself because after feeling hurt by one man, she desperately looks to another to answer those very same questions she has had since she was a little girl. Am I lovable? As she perpetually continues in search of masculine love and acceptance, she sorrowfully finds herself coming up bankrupt by the same kinds of men, and the same devastating emptiness and loneliness that accompanies it. Then if promiscuity was involved, this woman can additionally be labeled and harshly judged by society for her visible sexual exploits… all the while possessing a hidden wound that nobody sees.
A study out of Texas Christian University in 2013 discovered that females who had unstable or nonexistent paternal relationships were more likely to lose their virginity at a younger age and develop risky sexual behavior. Taking it further, the 2018 US Census Bureau identified a “father factor” in nearly all social issues. More than 1 in 4 children currently live without their father in the home and children without a healthy father relationship are:
1) 7 times more likely to have a teen pregnancy
2) More likely to face abuse and neglect
3) More likely to abuse drugs and alcohol
4) 2 times more likely to drop out of high school
5) More likely to have behavioral and mental health problems
6) More likely to commit a crime
7) More likely to be incarcerated
This is wild. Fathers possess so much power to build up or tear down their little girls (sons too). An absent or rejecting father can create lifelong struggles for a child. As they grow, children look not only to intimate relationships, but also to peers, potentially bad influences, and to alternate ways of coping (drugs, crime, etc.) with their daddy-wounds. If you currently carry a daddy-wound that is or has been impacting your life and your relationships, please know that no matter how you were treated as a child, you are worth so much more! If you need to seek professional help, please consider it. Your wound is profound and may need to be grieved for the significant role it played in your loss of innocence and all the pain that came along with your search for masculine love. If you are a daddy, please recognize the incredibly powerful level of responsibility you carry in protecting and shaping your daughter’s heart. You lay the groundwork for her future relationships with men. You speak personal value and worth into her soul. You teach her what to expect with men and you demonstrate the way she should expect to be treated. So daughters, embrace the truth: You are acceptable. You are lovable. Despite what any man including your father may have told you. Despite how society may view you. You are priceless. And fathers, own and take care of the sacred power you’ve been entrusted with; do not take it lightly. Your little girl is counting on you.