What It's Really Like To Marry A Fatherless Son

Photo: Serge Bielanko
photo of author with kids provided by author

I was always an SOB. I'm one of those temperamental/creative/dedicated/crazy people.

I am a fatherless son. I have an addictive personality and when I get interested in something — or, God forbid, someone — I smear it/her all over me from dusk 'til dawn, and I don't give a damn if it looks messed up or smells strange.

I've never cared about what other people think. But at the same time, I've always cared way too much about what people think. Super messed up, I am.

Sometimes I want to blame all the bad parts of who I am or who I've been on the fact that my dad just up and split on us once upon a time.

Not a day goes by anymore when I don't ponder the idea that perhaps being abandoned by my own parent when I was nine years old damaged me in ways I've never even recognized or considered.



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But I struggle with thinking things like that because I have dignity and self-knowledge.

I would love to pin a lot of my darker side or my lesser side on the father who broke my heart, yet if I do that, I'm shirking responsibility. If I simply take one last drag, toss my cig to the street, and chalk my own human frailty/failings up to the dad who left me, what's the endgame?

How do you become a better/cooler/more peaceful/loving human being, even at 44 years old, if you don't at least try to understand what you'll never ever understand? I don't know the answer. 

I don't imagine it was always easy to be married to me, or even ever easy. I'm divorced now, so on the surface that says something.

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But here's my problem: No matter how tough/emotional/GQ SuperDude I try to be, when I zero in hard on my married self — using retrospect in some attempt to extricate my true self from the wreckage of a quick and murky love affair that turned into married with kids — I still can't help but always swing back around to that one same old thing: My dad.

I've tried so hard to convince myself that being a fatherless son has no real effect on how you turn out as a husband — or even as a man. But I'm done with that. It's too exhausting. I keep circling the same block over and over again.

His absence in my life does matter. I had an extremely hard time finding my groove as a husband because of the fact that I grew up without a dad — and I hate saying that. 

I want to punch myself in the face for thinking about it. But I keep recognizing its gross face every time I flip over some marriage rock from my past, looking for clues.

I wasn't ready to be a husband when I got married, and it wasn't because we didn't wait nine years and live together in some crappy apartment for a long stretch before we "just knew" we were finally ready for holy matrimony. That's all BS.

I wasn't ready to be a husband because I missed out on so much of what a husband ultimately has to offer, which is the ability to carry all of the love, learning, knowledge, and school-of-hard-knocks degrees that they soaked in from their own dad through the years.



Is that me making things up? Am I creating some kind of fatherly fairy tale that doesn't actually ever go down like that? I don't think so. 

I'm not saying you absolutely have to have a dad in your life to end up being a good husband. Not at all.

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You probably know a few fellows who never had a good father in their lives but turned out to be fine spouses, loving, hardworking, and good listeners.

Sometimes, though, women end up marrying guys like me — and there are a lot of me's out there.

I was raised by a single mom and she loved the heck out of me. Then I had a stepdad from the time I was 17 and he loved the heck out of me, too. But I still missed out on something monumental and beautiful.

I brought nothing to the table when it came to manhood. I'd had to learn it all on my own and I sucked at a lot of that.

So when it came to the things I could have/would have loved to learn from my dad in the father-son talks of my dreams, I brought none of that to my marriage. I brought the opposite.

I was a self-taught emotional rapscallion street rat. I wanted love so badly, but I was the worst at understanding how it ebbs and flows and how it requires so much patience and understanding.

I wanted to love someone forever and I wanted her to love me forever, and I thought the vows meant that was the deal. I was living on the surface of things because that's all I'd ever known.

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It had to be hard to be married to a guy who had so much about him that was attractive and cool and engaging, but who ended up having no idea how to navigate marriage.

The divorce wasn't all my fault, of course, but I can look you in the eye today and tell you I was out of my element when it came to true love. And I know my lack of a father was a big reason why.

All I can do now is accept that and try to turn it all around. People can break your heart by leaving you — and the damage is tried and true —​ but I'm still a self-taught lover and self-made man in every way, shape, and form.

And now that I understand what has been happening, well, I might just be one of the coolest guys who ever walked into a bar/stopped in his tracks/got all lost in the smile of someone out with her friends/went out for a drink or two on a Wednesday night.

And then this happened; then you showed up. I hope so, anyway. I really hope so.

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Serge Bielanko is a writer and musician who has been published on Babble, Huffington Post, Mom.me, Yahoo, and more. Visit his website for more of his work.