What It's Really Like To Marry A Fatherless Daughter

Photo: Ron Lach | Canva 
woman with partner seeking validation

Daughters need their fathers. Many single mothers have indeed succeeded in raising intelligent, accomplished, and moral women, but daddies are needed. A girl’s relationship with her father is a significant primary reaction to the male gender. A dad is a daughter’s first male friend, first love, first protector, and comforter. When dads are absent — physically and emotionally — little girls often grow up as fatherless daughters and look to their partners or spouses for what they never received from their fathers.  

My father loved me immensely and I adored him, but he wasn’t very present in my childhood. Our relationship was strained the entire time I knew him. Before he had a chance to make it right, he died suddenly when I was only 11. My mother did a fine job of raising me on her own. I’ve never robbed a liquor store, been promiscuous, or set anything on fire, so it’s safe to say that I turned out okay. But as I got older, I realized just how much I needed my father. My “daddy issues” bubble to the surface every day of my adult life, and I often turn to my husband to fill the void.

RELATED: When I Accused My Father Of Hating Me, He Didn’t Deny It

I have an ongoing and annoying need for my husband to tell me I’m beautiful. For years, I thought I was just incredibly selfish, but I recently learned this requisite stems from the fact that I rarely heard my father praise my appearance. I was overweight the majority of the time that we shared on this earth. He didn’t live long enough to see me mature and exit my painfully awkward phase. I always thought he must’ve been ashamed of me. I wasn’t beautiful at all, and he knew it.

Because I didn’t get that affirmation from my dad, no matter how shallow some may view it to be, I am constantly waiting on my husband’s praise. His compliments are the ones that I covet. I’m working on it but often when I don’t receive the right admiring comment at the right time, I don't feel valued. I feel ugly. I feel like that fat little girl who was bullied on the playground. My father’s ears weren’t the ones that listened to my hurts or complaints about being teased at school, either. He wasn’t the one who defended me during the trials of my adolescence, so I long for my husband to come to my rescue at the most minuscule things.



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Nothing gives me a sense of worth, of belonging, of being loved, like when my husband defends me. I realize this makes me more dependent on him than I should be, but that’s the way I’m wired. In our 11 years together, I can only remember a handful of conversations with my dad. He just wouldn’t talk to me, which is one of the main issues that now surfaces in my marriage. I want so badly for my husband to converse with me. I need that male interaction. I need to feel heard by him, the way I wasn’t heard by my dad.

Girls often feel abandoned by fathers who wouldn’t engage with them verbally and I’m one of them. My daddy put his needs for a round of golf before talking to me or tucking me in every night. He would rather spend time with his friends than with his family. I didn’t know at the time, but this would set a precedent for my issues with rejection. This would lay the foundation for my shyness, my social awkwardness, and my need for everyone’s approval. A daughter’s sense of confidence and self-worth is linked directly to her relationship with her father. If dear old dad doesn’t emphasize her value, then she tries to find her value in her dear old husband.    



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Husbands of fatherless women often take on the responsibilities and roles that their fathers-in-law could not fulfill. They may wonder why their wife is so sensitive, so needy or so clingy. They may not be able to emotionally provide for her effectively. They may find her hard to live with and reason with. Their marriage may crumble because she needs so much but no matter how hard he tries, he only seems to provide so little. If this is the case, husbands, it’s worth examining your wife’s “daddy issues.” We can’t blame every issue on an absent dad, but what can you, her husband and prominent male figure in her life, do to help heal the wounds that her father caused?

Patience. Fatherless women need patience and a lot of it. They need understanding and comfort, as best that you can provide. They need your love and admiration even more so than women with loving, present fathers. They need your support conversation and time. They need your time. They need you. That abandoned little girl receiving those things from her spouse won’t cure the problem, though. There are steps she needs to take to bring the healing full circle. Fatherless women must learn to be content with the love and affirmation that their husbands provide instead of constantly craving more. They must stop searching other males for validation. They need to find their self-confidence and worth in the mirror, not solely in their husbands. Most importantly, they have to forgive their fathers and let go of their anger and resentment. I’m still working on that. Thank your husband for what he does provide, and forgive your dad for what he didn’t. Only then, I believe, will we discover happiness and contentment in our marriages and ourselves.  

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Susannah B. Lewis is an author, blogger, and podcaster. Her videos and articles have been featured in Reader’s Digest, Parents Magazine, US Weekly, Yahoo!, Huffington Post, Unilad, and TODAY, among many others.