How to turn your crappy dad into the perfect wingman

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Dear Megan,

I… sort of have a history of destructive relationships, and last Father’s Day I felt a sudden bitterness towards my own father for abandoning me that led me to do a lot of reflecting.

My father left my mother before I was born, and we’ve spoken a total of, like, 3 times. Last time was about 8 years ago.

I always feel like I had a very healthy and whole childhood. I had people who loved me, and I never felt like I missed anything by virtue of not having my father around.

My relationships with men, however, are a different story. I broke up with my last real boyfriend because I felt he was too engaged, too interested in being in a more serious relationship. We had a bunch of other issues that I don’t think were any less important, but at the heart of it, I knew I wasn’t in it for the long run and it was just best to walk away.

My subsequent relationships have been casual, where I try to keep a distance and not be too involved. And I know I seek out men who aren’t all that good to me. I find a certain thrill in the chase of seducing a man and being the one who draws lines and says the whole thing is casual and uncommitted… Then I turn and feel abandoned and rejected when they are casual about me.

I don’t want to think that all my self-esteem issues and insecurities come solely from my father’s abandonment. Everyone has insecurities, even if they grew up in married parent’s homes. But lately I’m starting to think that it did affect me more than I ever thought it did.

In the end, if I don’t know what being in a healthy relationship looks like, how can I be what I didn’t see?

-Yep, Daddy Issues

 


Dear “Yep, Daddy Issues,”

You already know I L.O.V.E. this question…  And not only because I wrestled with the very same confusion for years and consequently put it at the heart of my latest book, “The Care and Feeding of Sex Symbols,” but it’s also a perfect question for Father’s Day weekend!  Go us!

“How does one create a loving relationship with a man when one was never given a proper model?”  It’s an all too common problem among us women with similar backgrounds.  But don’t fret, in addition to making my book free for you this holiday weekend, I’ll also share with you here another trick that will help you break free from any bloodline filled with crappy relationships so that you can receive the loving one that’s waiting for you on the other side.

To begin with, it’s important to understand that for a very, very long time you’ll have at least some level of attraction to guys with negative traits similar to your father.  Ugh.  I know…  As the renowned creator of Imago Relationship Therapy, Harville Hendrix, points out, those, often not-so-obvious, similar traits are actually what subconsciously draw you to a person in the first place.  It’s what we call chemistry.  (For more on that and why you like the guys you like, and play the games you do, I highly recommend checking out Hendrix’ book, “Keeping the Love You Find.”)

So from here on out, accept the notion that its only until after you’ve burnt out of dating guys who aren’t good for you that you’ll be fully committed to learning to like the ones who are.  That’s right, in order to achieve the loving relationship you want, and be content in it, at some point you’re going to have to go against your current nature until it becomes your new nature.

Now, let’s say you are tired of the B.S. and ready to create that loving relationship.  Well good!  I didn’t devise this three-part plan for my health!  Lol.  Here’s what I recommend you do.

First, drumroll, please…  Turn your crappy dad into the perfect wingman.  And by that I mean to use his crappy behavior, and how it made you feel growing up, as your guide in picking out guys who are good for you.  Had a dad who was distant, unreliable, controlling, neglectful, disloyal, mentally, physically, verbally, or emotionally abusive?  Well, thank your crappy dad for showing you what sh*tty behavior looked like so that you can give your attention to guys who only display intimate, communicative, reliable, supportive, devoted, emotionally available, kind, and loving behavior.

At times you’re going to have to play some Jedi mind tricks on yourself to have the conviction necessary to walk away from poor behavior, and here’s a good one:  In “The Care and Feeding of Sex Symbols” I said to never listen to what a wolf says, just watch what he does; and now I’m adding that, upon observation of his actions, ask yourself, “Would this be okay if he did it to my child?”  Sure, you can wait around forever for him to show up, but would you want your kid to?

Even if you don’t have or want kids, use it as a reminder of what you deserved when you were a kid, and don’t settle for anything less now that you’re an adult and have a choice.  There is no need to keep emotionally, physically, or mentally abusing or neglecting yourself.  “You’s free now.”

So use your father’s unloving, contrasting behavior of what you don’t want to point you towards a guy whose behavior is something you and your soul do want.  “Thanks, wingman.”

Now, don’t worry, I still remember what you’re up against: Nature.  And she can be a stubborn b*tch.  She’ll cause you to only be genuinely attracted to the distant/elusive, controlling/demanding, or unfaithful, etc. wolves, while the ones that are good for you will struggle to maintain your attention.  After all, their “good deeds” can only get them so far before they start to feel boring, smothering, or creepy AF.

So here’s where the second part of the plan comes in:  When you start to feel uncomfortable with the “good guy,” don’t fight the guy fight the discomfort.  Sit with the uncomfortable feelings and acknowledge them to yourself.  Write about them or talk with someone you trust.  Remind yourself that what you are feeling is normal and to be expected.  After all, the changes you’re making will have a generational impact akin to changing your DNA, and that’s no easy, pleasant feat.  If it were, the generations before you would have bypassed all the suffering their choices caused and just done it themselves.

Then, allow yourself to focus on all the wonderful qualities the guy you’re interested in has, and the life you two can create together as a result of sticking it out.  With that said, you don’t have to stick things out with every nice Tom, Dick, and Harry who treats you well.  This isn’t a guy you date just because he’s nice and you’re tired of dating jerks, you date him because you feel drawn to him.  If you feel good, safe, and like you can be yourself with him, fight through the moments of doubt, boredom, fear, etc.  If you’re looking up “101 ways to fake your death” before your dates together move on.  He’s not the one. (And for more on picking a guy check out this question I answered.)

Finally, the last step in attaining this loving relationship you never saw is to not only fully accept and appreciate the “good guy” you get for who he is, but to support him in who he is.  Now, it might take you a thousand guys to get this step down, but it’s essential.  Here, you resist the urge to play games and behave badly in a subconscious effort to try and change him into the jerks you’ve found more attractive.  You also don’t test him in ways that’ll make him prove to you he won’t abandon you just like your dad.  If he’s really a loving person, he’ll love himself enough to not put up with your abusive behavior and leave because of that.

Instead, treat him the way you want to be treated.  Mimic his openly loving, kind, and generous behavior.  Support him, even when others take advantage of his nature, and know that in a world that can be very harsh you two have something very special. And why?  All because of your sucky, wingman dad.  Best of luck!

-Megan 🙂

P.S. For more help on connecting and locating these “good guys” check out this question I answered.  And don’t forget to download “The Care and Feeding of Sex Symbols” for free on the 17th-18th!

 

For my story check out “The Care and Feeding of Sex Symbols” here

To submit your question to “Dear Megan” click here!

“Dear Megan” Home Page

Note: As this column is designed to be a judgement-free zone, only those who have been, (or know someone who has been), in a similar situation are invited to comment; especially if the question is unorthodox or hard for one to relate to.  And for even more relevant insight, those seeking answers are always encouraged to go within.

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Goodbye, mother who disowned me. Hello, abandonment issues…

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Dear Megan,

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Just over 8 years ago, my mother rang me up to tell me she no longer wanted me to be in her life. I had recently turned 30. We’d had a difficult relationship for many years and I believe this was an extreme maneuver to get me to beg her to keep me in her life and thus establish her as being in control of me again – that’s how she tends to like things.

I was deeply crushed but certainly did not grovel to be taken back. My pride and dignity just wouldn’t allow me. My mother is a complex mix of 20% loveliness and the other 80% is composed of aggression, volatility, unpredictability, and the list goes on. She was such a lovely mother in my early childhood, but she appeared to change and become very aggressive and violent after I turned ten.

The biggest problem in all of this is the fact that I find it really difficult to be open to having a proper relationship with a man as I fear he may not be able to fully understand my family circumstances as it’s quite unusual to be in this situation. I literally don’t know anyone else who shares my circumstances so it feels quite isolating at times. It’s also hard for me to imagine how anyone would be able to love me if my own mother isn’t able to feel proper love for me. I really want to be able to move on with my life and be part of a loving relationship, but these barriers seem to hold me back.

This is me speaking from having a lot of therapy over the years. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

-Disowned 😦


Dear “Disowned,”

Yep.  Crazy mothers…  You are soooo not alone in having to deal with one; and when it comes to the “disownment” department, I got your back in “The Care and Feeding of Sex Symbols.”  Been there, done that.  As your time in therapy has shown you, it’s tough to find something that can take away the feelings of pain, disappointment, alienation, and unworthiness of love that a mother who walks out on you can cause, but as someone who’s been in your shoes I’m grateful for the opportunity to share with you the things that have worked for me on my journey to trust in love again.

To begin with, I want you to know that it’s important for you to allow the little girl inside of you, the girl who just wants her mommy, to grieve over her absence.  It’s like a death, and all transitions of that sort require a painful mental shift that must be given its proper respect.  The pain is a sign that you actually did value the relationship, and there’s no shame in that.  So cry.  Ugly cry.  Stay in bed.  Write a letter to your mom detailing the hopes and dreams you had for a loving mother-daughter relationship, and your disappointment in them not coming true.  Give it to her, don’t give it to her, do whatever you feel like doing during this grieving process.  All that matters is that you get it out.  And write a letter to the little girl inside of you, as well.  Let her know what you’ve got her back and will be the one taking care of her from now on.  Tell her that she’s safe, and can rely on you.

Once you’ve gotten all that out and feel ready to move forward, you and your tired-from-crying eyes can now focus on the next step.  This is where you understand that the pain, disappointment, alienation, unworthiness, etc that you’ve been feeling has less to do with your mom actually leaving, and more to do with the story you’ve told yourself about what her leaving says about you.  Whatever emotional wounds your mom had before you were born were still there after you were born.  And for all we know her staying in your life could have done more harm than good, while her leaving could have been the most loving thing she’s ever done for you, (well, outside of allowing her body to be used to bring you into this planet).

There are many parents who have stayed in their child’s life only to abuse them physically, mentally, and/or emotionally, and when you make up the story that your mom’s disownment means that she doesn’t love you, or that you’re somehow unworthy of love, you experience the pain that comes with the lie “Something is wrong with me.  I don’t deserve love.”  And no matter what your circumstances are in life, if you tell yourself that crap, AND BELIEVE IT, you’re gonna hurt like a motherf*cker, (no pun intended).

“Okay, so my mom not being around is more of an expression of love, and given her f’ed up mentality, she (consciously or subconsciously) removed herself and her toxic ways from my life in an effort to give me a chance at creating the happy life that has always eluded her.”  That becomes your new, empowering story.

Now, while that shift in perspective is a crucial step in the healing process, it most certainly isn’t the last.  Why?  Because it doesn’t change the fact that there are times in life when you still just want your frickin’ mommy, or hell, even a mommy.  So, what do you do next?  You give to others the very thing you crave.

You want to feel love, guidance, and support?  Find a kid out there who can use it and give it to him or her; or if you have children give it to them.  That way you not only can participate in the loving exchange you’ve always wanted, but you give meaning to the pain you’ve felt over your mother’s absence.  You see, the key to overcoming these challenging situations in life is not to try and get rid of the pain, but to transform it into love.  Notice how your mom walking out has allowed you to value things like reliability and unconditional love more than you might have otherwise?  Well, bring that gain from the situation, not the pain from whatever you think you lost, to your current relationships.  And appreciate the loving relationships you create.  Be present with them.  

Then appreciate the loving, compassionate woman you’ve become as a result of having a mother who could only love you from a distance.  When you do that, the guy you meet and like won’t be turned off by your distant relationship with your mom, but rather inspired by what you’ve done with the tough cards life dealt you, (not to mention grateful to be the beneficiary of the depth of love you developed as a result).

So, to sum it up, (#CheatSheet), my advice is to: (1) let yourself grieve the loss of your ideal mother-daughter relationship, (2) change your abandonment story to one that empowers you, (3) give away whatever you feel you didn’t get and appreciate the exchange while it’s happening, and (4) focus on what you gained in terms of sensitivity and values from your mother’s absence so that the disownment becomes an asset to your future relationships instead of a liability.

Lastly, remember that this is a process.  Some days will be better than others, but before you know it you’ll not only have made peace with your relationship with your mother, but realize that you’re able to do kick-ass stuff like respond to letters from strangers asking you for help on overcoming some of life’s biggest challenges. And all because your mother never fully left you.  Only the 80% dysfunctional side of her did.  The rest of her – the best of her – she left inside of you.  Even if she only had 20% ;).  Best of luck!

-Megan 🙂

For my story check out “The Care and Feeding of Sex Symbols” here

To submit your question to “Dear Megan” click here!

“Dear Megan” Home Page

Note: As this column is designed to be a judgement-free zone, only those who have been, (or know someone who has been), in a similar situation are invited to comment; especially if the question is unorthodox or hard for one to relate to.  And for even more relevant insight, those seeking answers are always encouraged to go within.