Young People Up Close

Working with adolescents

Girls Need Fathers

A girl's need for a father never goes away, despite the most painful setbacks. Read More

Casey Anthony needed a father

The infamous childkiller Casey Anthony had a poor
relationship with her father and see what happened.

distracted father

My father wasn't present emotionally. My parents did not fight. My mother would steam roll and my dad would go silent.

He would be silent to everyone in the house for days, weeks. If a neighbor stopped over for coffee (I grew up on a dairy), then my father would speak to us as if he hadn't been silent. As the neighbor would leave, the silence would reengage. He looked as if he would explode sometimes. Suddenly, the silence would end. He'd be speaking to us as if the silence hadn't happened. No resolution.

I learned to stick my head in the sand. I learned that I wasn't pretty or ugly. I just didn't exist, it felt like. I wasn't spanked after age 2. I would have done anything to be better than my sister. He seemed to favor my older sister. I see now that I was competing to be more and it didn't work.

When I married, I wondered to myself as I walked down the chapel aisle if it would look odd if I shook my father's hand. We were not physically affectionate. We actually did hug - sort of an A-frame. I actually asked my new husband if it looked weird. It was the first hug I had from my dad that I remember. It was the last I got.

My mother favored my younger brother. I'm a middle child.

The first man or woman to tell me that I was loved was my husband. I was 29 years old. I hadn't realized that til I was writing this. Even the last time I saw my father, he was on hospice. I was 45. My parents dropped me off at the airport. He told me to call when I got to my hotel. I never did get "I love you" from him.

I "dated" but none of my relationships lasted more than a few months. I never took anyone home. Even the man I married at 29 (divorced at 48), I didn't actually date. I knew him from high school. We spoke a lot on the phone, emailed a lot, used instant messaging. I visited about 8 weeks after we started conversing a lot. We lived a plane flight away from each other (several thousand miles). we were engaged a month later and married just two weeks after his divorce was final. That was 6.5 months after he had filed for divorce - the same time we had started reconnecting.

My life likely may have been different had my father been more present and if he seemed to care. He was emotionally strangled. Not my monkeys; not my circus.

Some parents report being squeamish about the birds 'n the bees talk or those "growing up" talks. My parents just never had them. My mother would say that my brother would ask her about this or that. I would just clam up. I wanted her to just go away. I didn't trust her or my father or my own self.

My mother has started adding "I love you" to things and I'm creeped out by it. I've been divorced 9 months and haven't told my family I'm divorced. They live far away. I am emotionally detached. I find creating attachments discomforting. I'm growing and living more real.

I've been in therapy for approximately 2.5 years working through a lot of issues resulting from a lack of my father being present. My mother wasn't present either. No physical or sexual abuse. Emotional abuse? Yes. Child neglect? Yes.

Life happens. I'm in a much better place than I was.

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Nick Luxmoore is a counselor at King Alfred's College, in the UK.

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