We’ve got our own tribe, don’t we?
We had bad fathers who were distant, cruel, or abusive. And at their worst, monsters. The circumstances can be so different, but we share some common issues.
My father was/is a narcissist. He told me that he loved me. I think he might have even said it often, but his actions and other words made it clear that he was a liar.
If our fathers didn’t love us then how were we supposed to learn how to have a relationship with men? If we’re lucky, we figure it out on our own, but usually there are some spectacular failures first.
I know it’s not just women with shitty dads who fail at male/female relationships, but we are really good at bad relationships.
If we were unworthy of love, then we learn at a young age that we don’t measure up. We’re not good enough. We are wrong and shameful and less. We are less than other people and we are sure other people can see that, just like lint under a black light.
We listen to other women talk about their fathers with adoration and respect and we feel curious and envious. I’ve often wondered how different of a woman I would be now if I had a good relationship with my dad. I wonder how much less fear I would have felt throughout my life if I felt the security and acceptance of a loving father when I was growing up.
I understand that he did what he could. I’m not even as angry and resentful as I used to be. That doesn’t mean that I’m rushing to visit him more often, I don’t know that will ever happen. I also don’t feel mind numbing rage every time I’m around him, either. Bursts of extreme annoyance, sure, but it’s not as bad. I don’t know if this happened because of the time I’ve spent learning about parental narcissism or if I just got tired of being angry.
He’s frail now. He moves slow and his eyes have that ‘runny old man’ look to them. His voice is getting shaky and his hair is almost gone. I look at him and see how he’s breaking down and slowing down. I have difficulty processing the feelings it invokes. Not compassion, I’m not in a place to feel compassion for him yet. Perhaps sadness for having a childhood filled with anxiety when it was so unnecessary. I was right there. I could have brought him happiness, love, and comfort. He was lucky to have me and he wasted that time.
This is the first time I’ve ever framed that thought in such a way. That he was lucky to have me. He was. I was a funny kid. I was funny, quirky, and loyal. I would have been a great daughter, but his mental illness made that impossible. His mental illness kept us from having a relationship. The bad relationship was never my fault.
My hope for others in this tribe of women with shitty fathers is that they grow to learn it wasn’t their fault. It’s not their fault their fathers sucked.
I wish that no human has to live with a bad parent, but wishing changes nothing. Since I can’t wish it away, I will just be grateful that I’m not alone.
Neither are you.