Fathers Teach Their Daughters What Honest Love Looks Like
I’m doing the best I can to demonstrate for my 10 yo daughter what honest love should look like. We hold hands. We listen to each other. And we never fail to offer up, “I love you” at random and magical times. Many a night, when the kids are with their mom, have I gotten a text of heart emoticons from my daughter, just touching in before she goes to be. And her Facetime chats on those nights have been known to boost my mood by 150%. It’s not that I depend on her for my happiness. But she shows me random acts of love all the time. And that’s how I walk the earth, too.
It seems that I have a bone to pick then, with the fathers of my first two wives. Something was seriously amiss with both of their relating functions. And now, with hindsight, I blame their dads for a good portion of their damaged response to being loved. Let’s cover them one at a time, just for example.
My first wife had emotional problems early on in the marriage. I did not see them while we were courting. (Well, okay, I saw some indication of them, but was oblivious due to her hyper-sexual tractor beam that had a hold of me. Her father was even more messed up than she was. He was a lawyer that seemed to enjoy fucking with people. The were estranged when we met and courted and got married. Perhaps that should have been a clue. But later as the real-life of living uncovered some of my first wife’s emotional problems, his presence raised its ugly head rather dramatically.
She had been sexually abused.
I tried to put the genie back in the bottle after her sexual abuse was revealed, due to some therapy our new financial union had afforded my wife. But the demons came screaming into our bedroom and never left. Some of the nuttiness was certainly on my wife, and she went through phases of recovery, when she continued in counseling and got ever more clear in the distinction that I was indeed a man, but I was not her father, nor an abuser. But as her commitment to “working on it” wained so did her ability to remove the target from my heart. Things didn’t get any better as we began some engagement with dear old Dad. He was a creep and a user right from the start. You could tell from his dyed curly hair and his “everything is awesome” attitude that if you didn’t watch yourself around him, you were gonna get fucked.
When things had progressed towards the demise of my marriage, I’m sure, Dad, the family lawyer from Oregon, had given her a final piece of fatherly advice. “File for divorce while he’s out of town, get what money you can into bank accounts that you control, and file a restraining order before he knows what hit him.
I returned from a business trip to New York and was served in my office on a Monday morning. An ultimate fuck you to the end of a very troubled and painful marriage. (Note: when the abused becomes the abuser, it can often turn into an out-of-control rage that threatens both life and sanity. If you are in a relationship with someone who has been sexually abused, please seek help for yourself. You CAN choose to be in that relationship, but rocky times are ahead.)
The ex-y and her Dad had a very different relationship. His style was much more suited to his engineering mind and career. He kept his emotions in check at all times. (Of course, that my second wife’s mother was off her rocker would factor into this dramatically, but he had learned this coping mechanism long before he met my ex-wife’s mom.) He was rarely concerned with understanding or expressing emotion. But wanted to know the bottom line in every transaction. Rather than engaging in a relationship with me, after we got married, he seemed to always be asking, “What do you want from me?”
My ex-y got her relationship skills from the engineer. If things got difficult she reverted to his “process over emotion” method. She rarely told me she loved me except in response to my overture. She liked to “run the numbers” all the time, when I proposed a quick getaway. “Hey let’s go to the beach this weekend.” She’d start with, “We don’t have the money for that.” (Come to think of it, that’s still kind of her approach to me, in divorce, it’s about money first, money always, emotions and expression of feelings second or not at all.)
So my second wife learned to cordon off her emotional bonds and use logic and spreadsheets to rule the day. I guess in some zen-like practice this is good. It has seemed to work for her dad. But of course, if you are trying to relate to someone who’s always asking, “But what do you feel?” your approach may not work. Still, she is a master spreadsheeter. And like her dad, she can start and finish conversations with Excel. But there’s no way to navigate LOVE in a spreadsheet.
So I get to give my daughter something different.
I show her how a gentleman treats her. I am always listening, often adoring, and when applying discipline, I try to stay close and not punish with cold logic. It’s how I would want to be treated. It’s how I treat a relationship. It’s where I start from.
I want my daughter to be strong in this world. And when she is treated with disrespect I want her to KNOW in her deepest heart that it is not right. To love from the spreadsheet may get you down the road of business, but it will kill the passion in your relationship. To love fully, we must open to the pain of loving, to the pain of feeling raw emotion. This opens the possibility for full-love. And perhaps I’m experiencing it in a platonic/fatherly way with my daughter. But I believe it’s the way to loving deeply and loving for the long haul.
The fathers of my two wives did not do a good job of being fathers. And their daughters are still struggling to find their love language. I am clear on my role as Dad and protector. But I am also clear that I am showing her what it feels like to be loved deeply and fully. And hopefully, to know when something is missing before she enters into a serious relationship with someone who is damaged or damaging.
The Off Parent
- Ferris Bueller Gets a Divorce – My Dad’s Divorce Blog – The Movie
- Team Dad, “Even When We Can No Longer Be Together”
- Last Good Moment Before the Storm: Rockstar Fantasy Camp
- Another Single Father’s Day
- The Divorce Library (reading list)
- Songs of Divorce (free listening library – youtube sourced songs)
- Laugh It Off (building a resource library of funny videos and other diversions)
- Facebook (follow us on Facebook and keep up with all the conversations)
- The 5 Love Languages (a book on love styles by Gary Chapman)