I’ve been dealing with the family father wound my whole life, but it has taken me a long time to recognize how prevalent the father wound is in the lives of men and women and how the female father wound can harm our health and destroy our relationships. If you visit my website, MenAlive.com, you will be greeted by my welcome videos, “Confessions of a Twice-Divorced Marriage Counselor.”
Going through a divorce can be traumatic for everyone, but it creates a special kind of challenge when you are a well-respected and successful marriage counselor. Telling people you are a twice-divorced marriage counselor may not inspire confidence in everyone who is looking for help to improve their relationships, but it is the truth, and I want to tell you more about the story in hopes that my experiences, both positive and negative, can help you improve your love life.
I met Lindy in college. She was a freshman and I was a senior at U.C. Santa Barbara and we met at a scholarship dinner. We both had been awarded regents scholarships for academic excellence, but when I met her I was more interested in her physical attributes than her excellent mind. We began dating, liked what we were learning about each other, and eventually got married.
We knew that we had each lost our fathers when we were young. Her father died when she was six. My father had a “nervous breakdown,” took an overdose of sleeping pills because he had become increasingly depressed when he couldn’t make a living to support his family, and was committed to the state mental hospital. But our father wounds seemed like minor events in our lives. We were in love and looking forward to a wonderful life together.
As planned, we had a child, then adopted a child, one boy and one girl, and looked forward to living happily ever after. Our marriage lasted almost ten years and the breakup was contentious and painful. After a brief interval between marriages, I felt I was ready to try again. I met my second wife in the pools of Harbin Hot Springs and our relationship was hot and exciting and our marriage a roller-coaster ride of highs and lows.
Her father wound was different from my first wife’s. Her dad didn’t die, but he totally withdrew his affections once she entered puberty. “It was like a switch was turned off,” she said.
“When I was a little girl, he hugged and touched me with affection. Once I began to be a young woman, he totally shut down.
Again, it never occurred to me that our fights and disagreements, her irrational anger, and aggressive make-up sex, had anything to do with her father wound, but our lack of understanding and knowledge hid a hidden time-bomb that would explode when least expected. Our marriage lasted less than three years and I was happy to make it out alive. But there’s something I’ve learned about those of us who suffer from father wounds. Though our relationships are almost impossible to sustain, we hunger for connection and are afraid of being alone. We often go from one roller-coaster relationship to another, before we stop the ride and begin to examine our lives.
By the time I married for the third time and learned that my wife, Carlin, had lost her father when her mother and father divorced when she was three years old, I knew that I best not I ignore that fact if we were going to have a relationship that would be healthy, happy, and last through the years. We continue to work through our father wounds, but they didn’t blind-side us and we’ve been joyfully together now for 43 years.
What Are the Indicators That Your Relationship Problems Are Related to the Father Wound?
First, let me say that millions of men and women are impacted by the father wound. We all grew up in a family where a father was absent physically or emotionally. I wrote about my own healing journey in my book My Distant Dad: Healing the Family Father Wound and the accompanying workbook, Healing the Family Father Wound: Your Playbook for Personal and Relationship Success and offer guidance for men and women who are ready to heal their own wounds.
In the books I talk about my own father wound and the healing journey that I took. The father wound impacts the health of men and the health of their relationships and it also impacts women. Too many of us suffer from a father wound, but don’t recognize it.
In addition to individual and couple’s counseling I have developed an on-line program that brings together more than fifty years’ experience and wisdom. You can learn more about “Healing the Family Father Wound” here.
Here are some of the things that indicate that the family father wound may be impacting your relationship:
- Your present relationship is not working well.
You may be having constant fights that never seem to get anywhere or there may be angry silences that can last for days, weeks, or months. Your relationship may be wonderful one moment than turn bad the next.. As the Eagles song, “Victim of Love,” says: “You’re walkin’ the wire, Pain and desire, Looking for love in between.”
- Looking back on past relationships, you recognize a similar pattern.
This isn’t the first time a relationship has started out well but turned bad. You thought you had just picked the wrong partner, but now realize there is something deeper, something more hidden.
- Reflecting on your family of origin, you feel a certain resonance.
Your parents relationship may not be the same as the ones you have experienced, but there definitely are similarities.
- Your father was absent physically or emotionally.
You may have lost him through death, divorce, or dysfunction. But you begin to suspect that you have been, “looking for love in all the wrong places,” (the title of my second book).
- There is a longing, a hunger that you feel.
Falling in love feels like you have finally filled an inner void, that you have found that magical partner that will make everything all right, but it never seems to work.
“Kids have a hole in their soul in the shape of their dad,”
says fathering expert, Roland Warren.
“And if a father is unwilling or unable to fill that role, it can leave a wound that is not easily healed.”
There are a number of good resources available for getting help. I mentioned my own books, My Distant Dad: Healing the Family Father Wound and Healing the Family Father Wound: Your Playbook for Personal and Relationship Success as well as my on-line program, “Healing the Family Father Wound.”
I will also be offering a free class, “Healing Your Family Father Wound,” for women and men who want to improve your love life, better understand the father wound, and learn how to heal it before it wrecks your relationship. If you are interested drop me an e-mail to Jed@MenAlive.com and put “Father Wound Class” in the subject line and I will send details.
In Part 2 of this series I will describe why it is so difficult to recognize that the father wound is at the core of so many of our relationship problems. I will also detail the characteristics of women who are impacted by the father wound and what we can do to keep the father wound from wrecking our relationships.
Come visit me at MenAlive.com and check out our other articles and resources.