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By Jazmine Reed
To begin a piece quoting John Mayer is not the most astute of choices, yet here we are: “Fathers be good to your daughters. Daughters will love like you do.” (The man hasn’t gotten a lot right, namely regarding his romantic relationships but he’s never been as poignant and precise as with this line.)
A father’s love, whether flooding or fleeting, is a defining variable in our love lives. Our experiences with intimate partners and most important, ourselves, is reliant on understanding this notion and accepting the soul-prescription(s) it needs to endure in an effort to remedy any negative symptoms. Pop-culture (and thousands of therapists… including my own) diagnose the pouring effects as “daddy issues,” but in a more eloquent, sympathetic breath: this is how a father’s love affects us.
1. Communication. When a household works more like a dictatorship than a democracy, the daughter will digest and fuel the idea that the man has the last word. This will cripple her in fights and conflicts that she will have in the future. Having her thoughts booming and bold, she is silenced with fear of disappointing a man she loves. The only thing growing as rapidly as her tolerance for such behavior is her resentment towards men, feeding a cycle of love-and-hate that will ultimately eat her alive. Believing she should be seen and not heard, she will perfect the tragic art of bottling emotions. This could very easily lead her to bottling her emotions with wine or anything else.
Fathers, let your daughter win a fight. Not all of them, not necessarily most of them. But enough to build her confidence in times of conflict. Take a moment and ask yourself this question, “How would I want her to react if she and her boyfriend were in a fight?” Meek or mighty? Give her opportunity to be mighty, and loved thereafter. When a father hears and listens to his daughter, she will always have something stunning and thoughtful things to say.
Daughters, examine your role in conflicts. When you trace back your steps, do you stumble on memories of being silenced? If so, speak up. Take the first step into healthy conflict with clear communication with your father. If you were always ‘mighty’, encourage others to grow as strong.
2. Defining (healthy) relationships. Growing up, particular familial roles are assumed and there is a power dynamic between father and daughter. Less examined but more confounding is the love dynamic between them. When a daughter grows up achieving accolades to provoke verbal affirmation, it translates into her dating life. Rather than think how she and a suitor fit well together, she contemplates how to make a suitor like her. And when he doesn’t utter three small words, her actions and gestures become bigger, ironically only making her feel smaller. For many years and many relationships, she will feel as though she must jump through hoops. She will begin to believe that like a promotion or raise, unconditional love must be earned–a disgusting irony she romanticizes. She will mistake pleading for pleasing and deprivation as a symbol of devotion. If she never hears that she is beautiful or that she is loved, she will think it is normal when her boyfriend doesn’t — even if she wants him to. And even worse, if she felt and feels abandoned by you, she will come to either expect, settle for, or even participate in abandoning relationships.
Fathers, be the man you want your daughter to marry. A daughter has to learn how to accept love and how to recognize love. If kind words don’t naturally fall from your mouth; do it anyway. Sacrifice your comfort zone and masculinity woes to encourage and embrace your baby girl. May her first lesson in love be taught by you.
Daughters, pursue an honest relationship with your father. Lick wounds you have ignored and swallow the pride you both may share. If you want to grow old with another man, begin at the infant stages with your father. What do you consider a healthy relationship? How did you come to that conclusion? Have you ever been in something that looks that it? … Why not?
A father’s love acts as nourishment for the soul. Yes, a woman can go her whole life without a father and turn out splendid. But she can also grow hungry and start supplementing with harmful vices. Repairing the relationship with her father will have a profound domino effect, and future lovers and future children will be so grateful. As will she.
Image: Nicole Mason