(A post dedicated to the good fathers is coming next week in honor of Father’s Day. This one is for the rest of them.)
The first thing I learned about love from a man is that it hurts.
“Daddy Issues”, as it’s so affectionately called, is another one of those jokes everyone uses but no one acknowledges may actually be true.
My dad was the dead beat exemplar. In and out of jail, drugs, another family, and just a general “can’t get right” type of man. And I loved him with everything I had.
Some women use “daddy issues” as an excuse to be a hoe or raging bitch. I’m neither…well today I’m not anyway. But my “daddy issues” are very real.
My mother warned one day I’d have to take him off that pedestal. When I was younger, no matter what he didn’t do, the times he didn’t come through, or the continuous cycle of disappointments, I LOVED him. I clung to the times he did do right like it was the holy grail and played the highlights reel of his fatherhood over and over to ease the nagging feeling that I was missing out on something in life.
Throughout child hood it was one failed attempt after another. I lived states away but I guess the phone only works sometimes or the mail only runs once every 2 years. Every summer I’d spend in the same city with my extended family, sometimes he was there, sometimes he wasn’t. I’ll give him credit that he DID try once upon a time. But that “try” decreased with age. The less I cared. The harder I became. By my pre-teen years it was a wrap. I was left in those first years of dating to figure it out on my own. Even though my mother tried, nobody can tell you about a man like another man.
So the “daddy issues” started to surface. I was always second to either his drug habits, his other kids, or his desire to vacation in jail every six months. I showed up at his family reunion once to surprises and awe “Oh he DOES have another daughter huh?”
I never went back.
Now as an adult I have a sincere and epic reaction to any man putting me second. More than half the time that feeling is in my own mind. For years I just wanted to be a priority and now when I’m not it’s a volcanic eruption.
Doesn’t go over well.
For as long as I can remember I’ve been trying to EARN his love. I did all that over-achiever nonsense because I thought it was my duty to pull that good fatherly love out of my dad. That if I could just be good enough and try hard enouhg he’d love me back how he was supposed to.
So what did I do with my other relationships? A constant state of trying to pull love from men who don’t want to be loved has become my standard operating procedure. There’s no gradual build of emotions. I believed love is something I was supposed to earn rather than something given freely. I tend to be attracted to men who enjoy this game and I can describe most of my relationships in one word – draining.
Then there are the apologies. I am the most understanding person on the face of this planet and I hate it. Oh I ate those excuses my dad gave like a candy necklace on a summer day. He said he loved me. So this is what love was. I learned that love hurt and came with excuses.
At one point, as a grown up, I was accepting everything from a man – including his bullshit. Any egregious act accompanied by an apology was all I needed to put on a smile and forgive again…and again….and again.
When that hardness took over and the forgiveness fountain stopped, a tough cookie was born. I’m still emotional about everything but there’s a layer that hasn’t been broken yet. That total trust that someone won’t hurt me and that I can rest in his love. I stuck with that first lesson – that love hurts – and just embraced it as a part of life.