Do daddy's girls own a negotiation power that I do not?
April 30, 2009 7:25 AM   Subscribe

30 years after my father is gone, I wonder what intangibles he denied me. How do I get a sneak peak into the world of a daddy‘s girl?

I‘m a 33 year old woman, the only child, and my father left the family when I was 3. I would say I turned out very well in life, all things considered, and I never cared about how not having an active father took something qualitatively from a life of a girl/woman who otherwise got lots of love from her mother and other family members. Until pretty much now, as I start raising question as to why I failed to create family of my own, which has been my desire since my teenage years. By observing other people’s dating-courtship-getting married transitions, I cannot escape thinking that in most of these successful cases, women had negotiation power that I did not.

My family did not condition me to dislike men: I quite like them. But I was raised with this sense of partially removed security where I was constantly aware that if I get in trouble, there will be no one to bail me out. This successfully kept me out of trouble. But it kept me out of marriage, too!

I had two long term serious relationships: both ended at the point where decision needed to be taken whether there is susbtantial future to them or not. In both, men had expressed confidence that they had found in me what they had been looking for for a long time. Apparently, those qualities in me were not enough, and I tend to believe it was because of my lack of the said “negotiation power”. I received a good education, but I am by no means rich, I live in a foreign country which I came for my phd to (hence lacking social support structures). And at some level I harbor this idea that having a strong father to step in (or at least the idea/threat of him stepping in) would have meant a different outcome in my relationships with men.

Am I very much off-base in my thinking? Does the father factor have such real significance? (On my side, I certainly felt pressure to make sure my behavior does not call for the man’s parents’ disapproval, especially in the second case where parents lived in my new country, and the father came off as a resourceful, powerful, controlling and intimidating personality.)

And more importantly, how do I regain what was never part of my informal education as a father’s daughter? Do you have an experience to share? A book recommendation? Would you advice to try to avoid revealing that father factor is non-existent early in dating process, before they get to know me better?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (38 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
The book Fatherless Women: How We Change After We Lose Our Dads by Clea Simon is quite good.

But I was raised with this sense of partially removed security where I was constantly aware that if I get in trouble, there will be no one to bail me out. This successfully kept me out of trouble. But it kept me out of marriage, too!

Your reasoning process here is a bit hard to follow. Are you saying that if you had a father, he would help you with some kind of "negotiation" that would move a relationship from dating to marriage? Unless you're talking about a very traditional culture where there are formal dowry customs, I don't see it--from a first-world Western perspective, this feels like a non-sequitur.

Would you advice to try to avoid revealing that father factor is non-existent early in dating process, before they get to know me better?

No, why? I mean, yes, it would probably be odd for you to pour out your feelings about not having grown up with a dad on the first date, just as it would be odd for you to pour out your feelings about not having a brother or sister, or not having had grandparents, or any other profound sharing about a non-normative family situation. But I don't think that your not having grown up with a dad, in itself, makes you a "bad risk" for relationships.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:38 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sidhedevil, that book looks as though it comes primarily from the standpoint of someone who grew up with a father and then lost him - not someone who never had one and wonders what life would be like if she had had one. Is that the case, or is the Amazon summary misleading?

Unfortunately I have no insight for the OP. I grew up with an absentee father who died when I was 24 - before I really had a chance to get to know him or forgive him for not being there. However, I was lucky enough to have a grandfather who was more of a dad than my father ever could have been. He died three months after my father did. It was devastating.

Did you have any sort of father figure in your life at all?
posted by elsietheeel at 7:50 AM on April 30, 2009


But I was raised with this sense of partially removed security where I was constantly aware that if I get in trouble, there will be no one to bail me out.

That sounds like the real issue, that you didn't grow up with the sense of security you needed. I'm guessing you think it could/should have come from a father figure, but it doesn't have to.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:50 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have no idea what you mean by negotiation power. Do you mean that the women who you observed getting married and having families had a father standing behind them making sure their boyfriends did right by them? Or do you mean that those women learned something about manipulating men simply by having been daughters of fathers? Because as a married woman who grew up with a great dad, neither of those situations rings true to me.

On preview, I reread the last line of your question, which seems to indicate that you think your potential mates are somehow not taking you seriously as a future wife once they know you have no father. In the US, at least, I can't see that factoring into anybody's equation.
posted by Biblio at 7:51 AM on April 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


OP, can you write back, maybe through a mod, to give us some examples of specific ways in which you perceive other women interacting with men where you would be unable to do the same? I think that most of us are very confused about what, exactly, you believe yourself to have missed out on. There are lots of ways in which losing a parent or having a difficult childhood can affect someone. I think that we just don't understand which of those you're trying to gain insight about.
posted by decathecting at 7:58 AM on April 30, 2009


My father taught me to be independent and self-confident. What I learned from him was how to navigate my relationships without relying on someone else to stand up for me or rescue me. You seem to have learned this on your own, or as a painful lesson as a consequence of your father's leaving (I learned it the easy/pleasant way, you learned it the hard way). So, in that sense, I don't think your father's absence puts you at a disadvantage, at least compared to me. Sure, there are some girls who get whatever they want from daddy, and chances are they'll end up with someone just like him who gives them gifts and tells them what to do and pats them on the head--but that has never appealed to me, and I don't think that that dynamic is at all healthy or good for successful adult relationships.

I'm not trying to say that your experience was the same as mine, or that you have no reason to feel confused or sad about your father, but when you ask if daughters of present fathers have some kind of negotiation power that you lack, I think the answer is no. At the same time, it sounds like maybe your assumptions about yourself in relationships are tripping you up (i.e., your actual experience of not having a father didn't put you at a disadvantage, but maybe because you thought it did, that caused problems in your relationship--but then I don't know you or your situation).
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:01 AM on April 30, 2009


I too am confused as to what your question is. How does having someone there to bail you out help you with... negotiating your way into a marriage?? I really don't know what you're asking.

FWIW I too grew up without a father (parents split up while my mother was still pregnant, she never remarried, I never met him), and I have been happily married for nearly 5 years (am 33 now too.) So maybe I'm missing out on something that would be obvious to someone else?
posted by gaspode at 8:06 AM on April 30, 2009


My father is a dependable man who I can count on in a pinch, but a friend of mine has a rather selfish (non-absentee) father and can't say the same thing. There are no universal truths here, so you can't be sure you really missed out on something on that point.
posted by lizbunny at 8:10 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Am I very much off-base in my thinking? Does the father factor have such real significance?

I don't have much insight into your specific situation, but one thing that comes up with all kinds of people is that it's easy to latch onto a problem you perceive about yourself and attach a lot of meaning to it. So if you're bald, it's easy to start blaming all of relationship problems on that, or if you've never been to college it's easy to start blaming that.

There's a tendency to fall into the trap of thinking "X is my problem in life, if I could just fix that, everything would be great." The fact is that no one is perfect, and no one has the perfect life. Relationships end for all kinds of reasons, and if it doesn't end for one reason it could easily end for a completely different one.

Not having a father in your life growing up definitely impacted who you are, and not always in a positive way, so there may be things you can learn about interacting people that will help. But to me it seems like everyone else you might be focusing to much on one (albeit important) issue with regards to relationships and should probably not worry so much about it.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:12 AM on April 30, 2009 [17 favorites]


I don't think this matters for the reason you think it matters -- no father to "negotiate" (strong-arm?) a boyfriend into proposing. But (warning: simplistic pop-psychology notions to follow) having grown up without a father can tend to make a woman less secure about men's affections. If, in a relationship, you focus on trying to get this man to marry you, as opposed to determining whether you want to be with this man, that could get in the way of forming the kind of relationship you want.
posted by palliser at 8:14 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm going to assume the OP was referring to a subconscious "safety net" sense she feels like a father might have provided, rather than having her father there to literally step in whenever relationship problems cropped up.

That backstop feeling you're missing is not necessarily something all other women with fathers enjoyed, and which helped them navigate relationships successfully. Instead, my guess is it's a manifestation of your missing having a dad, which plays out in your relationships with other men, and maybe gives you an excuse not to commit, or something. I think you need to sit with a therapist and discuss the specifics of your relationships, and how your lack of a father may have impacted them.

I don't think it will be productive for you to get a "sneak peek" into the world of a daddy's girl, even if there is such 'a world'. Every girl's relationship with her dad is a little different, just as every dad and every girl is a little different. You're yearning to know what you've missed. That's understandable, but it's ultimately unknowable.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 8:24 AM on April 30, 2009


Also, you seem to be idealizing the father/daughter relationship and assuming that your father would have been an incredibly positive influence. A woman who grew up with an abusive father may be envious of your fatherless life.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:28 AM on April 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


I had two long term serious relationships: both ended at the point where decision needed to be taken whether there is susbtantial future to them or not. In both, men had expressed confidence that they had found in me what they had been looking for for a long time. Apparently, those qualities in me were not enough, and I tend to believe it was because of my lack of the said “negotiation power”.

While I don't know what you mean by "negotiation power," per se, this does strike me as a core issue for a heterosexual woman who grew up with an absent father. My dad left my mom and me when I was an infant, and his permanent absence gave me the impression that I was leave-able or replaceable. As a grown woman, there's a niggling impulse to run the hell away from men, even ones who are kind and loving, because I assume on a ground-zero level that all men are transient and untrustworthy, or that they will decide I'm not worth the effort of sticking around.

I went for years without knowing why I was so unwilling to trust men, without realizing that I just didn't trust men, and might have repeated the same pattern as yours if a therapist hadn't dragged that nebulous issue out of me over the course of several months. Like you, I was independent and successful and didn't have any crazy hang-ups with dating, unless you counted the typical fears of commitment that lots of young adults harbor, so I was willing to brush off the possibility that my absent dad had damaged or traumatized me. In some ways it's much easier to submerge emotional pain under a list of accomplishments and normalities, and it sounded so lame to admit to a professional that I assumed all men were unstable just because one man had failed.

I think you'd benefit from therapy in a similar way, because therapy teases out all of your irrational responses to the world that, as a functioning adult, you would assume you're too smart and well-adjusted to unconsciously believe. Good luck.
posted by zoomorphic at 8:29 AM on April 30, 2009 [6 favorites]


It would help to know the cultural context you're in. If I understand your question correctly, you seem to expect that at some point in a romantic relationship, the woman's father implicitly or explicitly threatens the man to force a proposal. This is not typical of, for example, mainstream America, so where are you? Please ask the mods to drop that in the thread so that people can tailor their answers to your specific circumstances.
posted by prefpara at 8:36 AM on April 30, 2009


In contemporary American culture, if two people get married there is generally no perception of a father's "threat of stepping in" as a factor in the decision to marry.

I wonder if you are thinking of a shotgun wedding? Pregnant bride and a bridegroom that is threatened with physical harm if he does not marry her? This is not a part of most people's lives today, although I have heard some people use the phrase "shotgun wedding" to refer to a couple getting married during pregnancy, it did not carry any connotation of the father of the bride even being involved in the decision.
posted by yohko at 8:47 AM on April 30, 2009


This is just my guess but is it possible that your relationship problems stem from the fact that you still obviously carry a lot of baggage from this estrangement from your father and that in turn, affects your relationship with anyone else? Before you can have a healthy relationship with anyone in this world you need to rectify and come to terms with the broken relationships of your past. Otherwise you will be continually wondering about and projecting these problems on the present. There is nothing you can do to make up for not having a relationship with your father. You make matters worse by allowing yourself to believe that your life would be any better today if things were different. All that you are is an accumulation of how you have reacted and adjusted to what you have experienced. Never see anything that happens to you as good or bad because what is seemingly bad could actually turn out to be good fortune in the end. Here's a great Zen story that exemplifies what I'm talking about:



There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit.

"Such bad luck," they said sympathetically.

"We'll see," the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses.

"How wonderful," the neighbors exclaimed.

"We'll see," replied the old man.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.

"We'll see," answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son's leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.

"We'll see" said the farmer.

posted by any major dude at 9:04 AM on April 30, 2009 [29 favorites]


My father is a really great guy. I married a crackhead, and stayed married just long enough to have two children with him.

Now they are teenagers, and they have sometimes expressed their dissatisfaction with the man their father is. I point out to them that his genetic contribution, if he has done nothing else, is tremendous: they are beautiful (my side of the family is more typified by good personality), they are musically talented (my side, not), they are intelligent, they are healthy. They won the genetic lottery. At birth, they had more to work with than almost anybody gets. Moreover, unlike some fathers, he has never -- he would never -- actively worked against their happiness.

I get to think that I did not make the most responsible choice in my children's father, but if I had it to do again, seeing how it has worked out, I'd have to choose the same guy. Maybe your mother sees it this way -- maybe you could.

Everybody wants what he doesn't have. But conversely, everybody else wants what you have. Concentrate on that.
posted by Methylviolet at 9:26 AM on April 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


In both, men had expressed confidence that they had found in me what they had been looking for for a long time. Apparently, those qualities in me were not enough, and I tend to believe it was because of my lack of the said “negotiation power”.

At first I was thinking that you did not have the same confidence in them as they did in you, but now I see you are saying they were the ones who didn't want to get married (right?). Like burnmp3s said, it is easy to pick one "flaw" and decide all of your problems are because of that "flaw". Are you sure it's the father thing? Unless they outright told you this was the reason, I think you should reexamine both relationships and look for other problems. They may not have both ended for the same reason.

Even if you do decide that it's the father thing, I think your mother and the rest of the family members who love you can fill any roles that you see fathers playing for other women. In my extended family, most of the marriage/kids pressure comes from the females anyway.

Personally, I don't see marriage as something that one partner needs to negotiate or convince the other one to do. I'd never want a relationship that was based on coercion, and I'd never want to marry a man who had to be pressured into it by anyone. I too grew up with a mostly absent father, and although I know it has affected my relationships with men, I've never seen it as a negative in getting them to commit.

But of course, my culture doesn't put more emphasis on the father's relationship with the couple than the mother's. I speculate that if I did live in such a culture, that I would try to work around it by having uncles, male cousins or grandfathers involved.

Mefi mail me if you'd like.
posted by soelo at 9:27 AM on April 30, 2009


I think burnmp3's response is spot on:
There's a tendency to fall into the trap of thinking "X is my problem in life, if I could just fix that, everything would be great." The fact is that no one is perfect, and no one has the perfect life. Relationships end for all kinds of reasons, and if it doesn't end for one reason it could easily end for a completely different one.

For what it's worth, I'm 34, grew up in the standard nuclear family, and haven't married yet either.
posted by MsMolly at 9:38 AM on April 30, 2009


You say your relationships because the qualities the men liked about you were "not enough." I don't think it is helpful to think about it this way, even if someone were to say this is the reason. There are many reasons why things don't work out, the what if I had a father game won't help you. You didn't grow up with a father.

I'm with everyone else on being confused about "negotiating power." I do not think this is a factor in adult relationships in North America. If it is a factor I don't think it is healthy or desirable either.

I think the more cliche difference between girls with and without good father relationships is their confidence and their relationships and expectations with men. Things go wrong because you can't let go of the past or come to terms with it.

There is no sneak peak to understanding what it's like to being a daddy's girl, that ship has sailed. You should focus on making yourself happy and confident rather than wishing you had a father to do that for you.

and no ... you shouldn't bring up your daddy issues early in a relationship. You can discuss your history but major issues and potential impacts on the relationship is baggage and best left until you have formed a significant relationship with someone. They may care about your daddy issues ... just not on the first date.
posted by Gor-ella at 9:43 AM on April 30, 2009


I don't understand the "bargaining power" part, either, but I can give some personal perspective as the only girl and eldest child in a family of three kids whose father is still alive (turned 85 this year). Dad was never the warm, cuddly, fuzzy-type father - he never called me "Kitten" or "Princess" or never remembered when any our birthdays were. He didn't buy "presents" per se; that is, he wouldn't wait for an occasion and have it wrapped. When he saw something he thought I'd like (usually a small electronic gizmo, or a book or magazine) he'd get it then and there and give it to me. He helped me with my homework by not answering my questions outright, but by bringing me the Almanac and saying "look it up." (He'd sit and wait with me to make sure I found the right answer.) Back when roller skates were the metal kind you strapped onto your shoes, a cranky old man on the next street would come out and holler at us as we skated by, saying we were scratching the sidewalk (the city had just newly paved them, which is why we skated there - nice and smooth!). When I went home and told my Dad, he took my skate key, fit my skates onto his shoes, and muttered, "Let him come yell at ME!" and skated off. (I had no idea my stodgy old Dad could roller skate!!)

So even though Dad was never huggy-kissy and could be fairly grumpy 65% of the time, he was still our protector and sort of our "hero" because he could fix anything, from a bike tire to the household heating/cooling, to my first car. That last factor sort of spoiled me; when I got married I was surprised to find that my husband had to call a repair person when the dishwasher or hot water heater went wonky; Dad was always able to get out his toolbox and fix the problem himself!
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:08 AM on April 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


If I were your close friend and you brought this up, I'd say, "Why would you even go there? What's the benefit in thinking this way? Is it helpful?" That's what I would say to you in all seriousness, because I think considering the past like that is just a way to take away your own power and limit how awake you are to the present moment.

It's all in the way you think about it.

You sound like you turned out about as well as anyone does, considering everything we go through to get to adulthood. Leave it at that and be as kind and caring towards yourself as possible.
posted by nnk at 10:11 AM on April 30, 2009


I think the idea of the "Daddy's Girl" is kind of a Norman Rockwell myth. I have known only a few women in their 20s and older who have had a relationship like that with their fathers. Sure, some fiancees may still ask a woman's father for permission to marry or a young woman's father may intercede on her behalf if he doesn't approve of her choice of boyfriends, but this is pretty old fashioned.

A lot of men who came of age in the 50s and 60s weren't in touch with their emotions or skilled at nurturing. For my own dad, giving hugs or compliments are not natural things. Most of the fathers I knew in the 1970s and 80s, as I was a girl and teenager, were kind of aloof breadwinners, trundling off to the easy chair to read the paper after work. I knew a lot of women of this generation who grew up trying to get their father's attention and failed, and then consequently spent the 1980s and 1990s looking for that idealized father figure in male dating partners. I do feel like men of my generation who are fathers now are doing a better job of bonding and nurturing their daughters.

The things that benefitted me as a young woman growing up with a father were all very practical, tangible things: coming to pick me up when my car broke down, helping me move furniture, helping me fix something in my apartment, etc. For a lot of men of the older generation, this is how they show love and support to their daughters.
posted by pluckysparrow at 10:22 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Everyone is different, but as a heterosexual male, I have never given a thought to a girl's father. I don't mistreat women, but if -- for some reason -- I felt like doing so, I doubt I would think, "I'd better not! Her daddy might come after me!" Maybe I thought that way when I was 16, but as an adult, I relate to other adults without thinking of them as someone's kid. So with me, you would have an equal amount of "negotiating power" with or without a father.

I think one problem you have is that you think of relationships in terms of "negotiating power."
posted by grumblebee at 10:56 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Like everyone else, I don't understand what you mean by "negotiating power" and how it relates to someone being able to bail you out of trouble.

If you somehow mean that a father would have inserted himself into the situation directly and forced men to propose to you, that would be unusual. In our culture at least, men almost never marry people because the person's father threatens them or negotiates for them, and you wouldn't want to marry someone if your father had to do that anyway.

If you aren't marrying these men because you feel like no one would bail you out of trouble if something were to go wrong in the relationship, then having a father wouldn't much change anything. Being an adult is about being able to bail yourself out of situations, without relying on other people overmuch. That doesn't mean you don't take help where you can get it, but generally speaking, it's unattractive to others to appear helpless and attractive to be able to get things done without running to anyone else. You wouldn't get too far being someone who relies on daddy for everything.

If you think that men perceive you as helpless because you have no father, you've over-thought this. Few men care if you have a father, much less think of things in terms of your having more or less power in the relationship because of it. Do you care if your potential spouses have mothers and fathers?

If men haven't wanted to marry you, I doubt it has anything to do with your lack of a father. What reasons did they give you for ending the relationship? Those reasons are why it ended. Even if it was simply that they didn't feel enough to continue the relationship long term despite liking you okay, that's the case for everyone, fatherless or not, in relationships. You're not going to be a great match for every man you meet, even if your qualities and desires match up on paper. If it were that easy, everyone would be married to the first person they dated. Without more clarification it sounds like you're experiencing something most people have to deal with, not anything unusual because you have no father.
posted by Nattie at 10:59 AM on April 30, 2009


OP, it would help if you clarified, but are you maybe referring to the subconcious message American culture conveys that says behind most women is a dad with a shotgun waiting on the porch, or brothers who will defend her if a dude tries to mess with her? As in, a subconscious safety net or feeling of protection that you think you might not get from your mother?

OK, so it's a sexist sort of role to expect from a father, but I understand (even as a liberated feminist) where longing for something like that comes from. My dad wasn't that type of "I'll protect my daughter at any cost!" guy at all, and my brothers couldn't really give less of a crap about me. I felt like I had to be a lot stronger and more independent than other girls I saw who had more protective fathers/siblings (though perhaps they never received the protection I thought they did, from the responses above). I think it's great I'm stronger for it, but I think I feel a bit lonelier because there's no safety net in the back of my head, there's just me.
posted by schroedinger at 11:15 AM on April 30, 2009


In both, men had expressed confidence that they had found in me what they had been looking for for a long time. Apparently, those qualities in me were not enough, and I tend to believe it was because of my lack of the said “negotiation power”.

Another woman here who does not remotely understand what this statement means. I've been in a couple serious long-term relationships also, and I've had them end when it came time to decide whether there was a substantial future for us as a couple. I can't remotely see that my fairly absentee father or distant but nice stepfather had anything to do with any of these relationships.

What negotiating power do you expect a father figure to have or teach that you don't?

I completely agree with zoomorphic that my dad taking off "gave me the impression that I was leave-able or replaceable. As a grown woman, there's a niggling impulse to run the hell away from men, even ones who are kind and loving, because I assume on a ground-zero level that all men are transient and untrustworthy, or that they will decide I'm not worth the effort of sticking around." But while those feelings that I still have may have been caused by my dad leaving, it's my fault if they damage any subsequent relationship that I have. As an adult, I have to work through those on my own or in therapy outside of my relationship with my father or any other man.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 12:04 PM on April 30, 2009


But I was raised with this sense of partially removed security where I was constantly aware that if I get in trouble, there will be no one to bail me out.

This is what jumped out at me. You are self-contained, and are wary of letting anyone else in. I think what you mean to ask is "how do I negotiate the (my) power in a relationship?"

Speculation/Oversimplification: You were raised to never, ever, depend on anyone but yourself, and your erstwhile fiance's probably noticed that - there might have come a time when they expected you to depend on them, but you didn't, and that indicated that you really weren't that into them, so they left.

Marriages can be constructed in whatever way works, but you'll need to, well, negotiate that. This can be done with someone you trust, and who trusts you. I won't lie, there's always a risk in letting go of control and trusting someone else. You're saying, "you have the power to hurt me, but please don't". This may be the part where you're getting stuck.

Not having a father in your life has made you successful and independent and adaptable. You're stuck on a relatively minor thing (I have a dad and I still have issues with trust) that I think you can overcome if you put your mind to it.

Also, "failure to start a family" isn't a failure of you.
posted by lysdexic at 12:34 PM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think everyone here has hit on a good point that it's not necessarily your lack of father figure that's led to relationship problems, people from all types of families (healthy and dysfunctional) have problems with relationships. That doesn't mean it isn't painful or you don't have some issues that stem from the situation.

I totally empathize with you, OP. I grew up with an alcoholic father who more or less ignored my whole family and me. I've always wondered what it would be like to have a dad who was actively involved in my life and was always envious of other girls who were close (or at least seemed to be) to their dads. And more than once I wish he had shooed a crappy boyfriend off. ;)

Ultimately, it brings more pain than it's worth to ruminate about what could have been or how you'd be different person if he had been around. It's hard as hell and I still struggle with it, but ultimately you have to choose to move on and actively work on what you need in order to be happy. Best of luck.
posted by modernabsurdity at 12:57 PM on April 30, 2009


OK, can I guess at what you mean? I think you're saying you think other women have the ability to seal the deal - to turn a relationship into a marriage and a family. You're calling this "negotiating power". You think you lack this ability perhaps because you are self-reliant, implying that the other women get married partly because they need, consciously or otherwise, to have someone care for them. This need is something they learned from being a "daddy's girl".

If this is what you mean, you need to stop thinking it because it implies that women get what they want only by being needy and weak and childlike, and that's just not a healthy opinion for anyone to hold. Other women (and only some, certainly not all) may have an ability you don't to make men want to marry them, but it's not based in weakness, and it's not because they grew up with fathers. It's also not an ability that is intrinsically positive.
posted by donnagirl at 1:44 PM on April 30, 2009


FWIW, one additional "daddy" point - when Mr. Adams decided to propose to me, he first went to my parents' house to announce his intention and ask for their "blessing." My Dad had long ago accepted Mr. Adams as part of the family while we were dating - the two of them regularly chatted about cars, watched TV together and the family cat took an instant liking to Mr. A, which was just another check mark in his "credit" column. So when he actually went to "ask for my hand," my Dad just sat back in his La-Z-Boy in front of the TV and mumbled, "Yeah, sure, whatever," while it was my Mom and one brother who confronted him and warned him that if he ever hurt me, yada yada.
posted by Oriole Adams at 1:47 PM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Huh. As far as I understand it, "Daddy's girls" have their own issues.

If you're talking about a woman who had a healthy relationship with her father, maybe I've come from a skewed population sample, but I don't really actually know that many.

I've had a surprising number of friends whose fathers have been beaters, punchers, or emotional abusers. In several families I know, the father is the "child" that needs to be cared for, propped up, and catered towards.

I think the fact that you don't have a father has made some things harder for you. On the other hand, some things are also easier. Be careful not to see the lack of one in your life as 100% negative. The way you've dealt with it may have made you a stronger person, more than you realize.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 3:08 PM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


My ex left DD and me when she was 5 and had no contact with her whatsoever from that time until she was 25 when she found him. All that time, it was impossible to completely convince her she was lovable, that someone else wouldn't abandon her, too. She was angry & sad. After meeting dad, and not liking him one bit, she's decided it's better that he wasn't around, that there's nothing wrong with her, that she's more than OK. She's a bit cautious with men which is fine with me as I'd prefer she's 110% sure before she marries, but she's blossomed since she discovered that it's dad, not her, who's not lovable.

If you cannot agree during a negotiation to get married, then you're better of not marrying that person. If the person who wants to marry you/you want to marry, cannot happily compromise then you do not have a basis for marriage as marriage is partly mutual accommodation. No one else can make the bargain for you. You do realize that the more education a woman has, the fewer men are available to marry due to age, social status, achievement level, etc. This is not to discourage your studies or achievements. Far better to achieve your goals than not just for the sake of being a Mrs. That's a recipe for misery.

Fathers and grandfathers do not have the same clout they used to when women married young and needed someone to guide them, or when the law was slanted in men's favour (but that's another discussion.) Most men are not interested in a woman's family and would be surprised to have to deal with a third party to get a marriage agreement. You are the one with the power today.
posted by x46 at 3:12 PM on April 30, 2009


I think what she means by "someone to bail me out" is that she missed out on having a strong man in her life to stand up to an abusive lover on her behalf, etc.

But in fact, it seems likely that someone who was raised right wouldn't have ended up with an abuser in the first place. So having the strong father figure and strong, healthy family would result in personal qualities that would have warded off any abusive, weird relationships before they went anywhere.

My wife had the kind of "daddy's girl," Norman Rockwell upbringing that anonymous describes. She is confident, decisive, and wouldn't end up with an abuser under any circumstance. She wouldn't need her father's intervention --- but she could be sure it would be there if she were to need it.

Fathers and grandfathers do not have the same clout they used to when women married young and needed someone to guide them

Men fear other men in ways they don't fear women. If I were abusive toward my wife, I would be afraid of what her father and brothers would do to me. That's not patriarchal, that's not archaic, that's not treating her as property --- it's about what men fear.
posted by jayder at 7:48 PM on April 30, 2009


But in fact, it seems likely that someone who was raised right wouldn't have ended up with an abuser in the first place. So having the strong father figure and strong, healthy family would result in personal qualities that would have warded off any abusive, weird relationships before they went anywhere.
Although the term "raised right" is open to interpretation, I agree that a person raised by at least one strong, self-assured, confident, nurturing parent would be the one to run screaming from an abusive male before she got too involved with him. My Dad was the youngest of 10 children and, for the most part, lived an idyllic childhood. My Mom, on the other hand, was the second eldest of 10 kids, and had an abusive, alcoholic father. When she and my Dad first started to date "seriously," she warned him that if he ever laid an angry hand on her, she'd kill him. She didn't care if she had to spend the rest of her life in jail. She was the one, when Mr. Adams originally asked for my hand, who gave him the same warning - "If you ever hurt her....!" The possibility of future abuse never crossed Dad's mind.
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:45 PM on May 1, 2009


I get what she's talking about. Her question had nothing to do with abuse or abusive relationships. The negotiation power is an unidentifiable, intangible something that girls who had daddies seem to possess that girls who didn't don't. You'd think it wouldn't matter in a western society but it's intangible and it does. I don't know what "it" is. I wish I did.

The people responding are taking this far too literally. Being rescued, negotiations - it's not literal. It's a mindset that's missing from girls who weren't daddy's girls. I have the same problem and no matter how mentally healthy or physically desirable I am - that's still missing. I'm as strong as the strong daddy's girls. I'm as opinionated as the opinionated daddy's girls. I'm as thoughtful as the thoughtful daddy's girls and I'm as independent as the independent daddy's girls. They still have an advantage when it comes to adult, romantic relationships and it's difficult to pin down what that advantage is.

I'm more self-sufficient than most daddy's girls who are self-sufficient because it's a different mindset when there's no safety net. You can't take the same kind of risks that someone who has a daddy could take. Maybe that's it? Maybe those of us without fathers are too careful and and too needy simultaneously?

I've been what I've considered (and former boyfriends considered) a great girlfriend. Thoughtful, considerate, independent, maintained my own life and interests, sexual, good hygiene, nurturing, funny, smart, not too clingy or needy, not too demanding or nagging - yet there's something missing (or something there) that is a deal breaker for men and I don't think they can pin it down either. I've tried to ask and it's just something they're not feeling. It seems like the common denominator for women who experience this is having grown up without a father. How can we identify "it" and how can we fix "it?" I think that's these are the questions being posed for this thread.
posted by debbbie at 7:25 PM on May 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, ok. Seen in that light, I'm put to mind of the adoration aspect. I was a daddy's girl, and there's a whole lot of hero worship and loving dynamics that you build up over time. You can transfer a lot of that to a husband/SO, and since you've had decades of practice, you don't even feel it - like a fish in water.
posted by lysdexic at 9:01 AM on May 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is it the feeling of being able to wrap them around your finger? I'd be a pretty typical Daddy's Girl (albeit not one without massive family issues) and I'd guess that the feeling of being able to get key men in your life to love you and be with you and do anything for you, no matter if you're being bratty or stupid or whatever, is what you're missing.
posted by divabat at 1:54 AM on May 25, 2009


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