How your relationship with your dad affects your love life

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Kayleigh Dray
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Psychologists reveal how our relationships with our dads, in particular, affect our love life:

We’ve all heard the theory that people tend to pick romantic partners who physically resemble their parents in some way.  But how do our relationships with our dads, in particular, affect our love life?

Well, quite a bit, it seems: Shirani M. Pathak, licensed psychotherapist and relationship coach, explains to that if you have experienced a good relationship with your father, “you will most likely have few struggles in your [romantic] relationships”.

If you have a less-than-supportive father figure, however, then it can be a very different story.

Linda Nielsen, a professor of psychology at Wake Forest University and an expert in father-daughter relationships, explains that an emotionally absent father can have a damaging effect on his daughter’s love life.

“The daughter who has a fulfilling relationship with her father is usually more trusting, more secure and more satisfied in her romantic relationships than the daughter with a troubled or distant relationship with her dad,” she said, adding that this is the case regardless of whether her parents are married or divorced.

After all, a dad doesn’t have to be physically present to support his child.

An unhealthy relationship with our dads can spell trouble for future relationships

An unhealthy relationship with our dads can spell trouble for future relationships

In a separate interview with The Telegraph, Nielsen goes on to say that “women who grow up with meaningful, comfortable, conversational relationships with their dads make better choices in who they date, sleep with, and marry”.

She adds that, sadly, the opposite is also true – particularly for women pursuing a heterosexual relationship.

“If you go into a grocery store when you’re hungry, you’ll come out with junk food,” she said. “You just grab whatever’s on the shelf that makes you feel good right now. When women don’t grow up affirmed and acknowledged by their fathers, they’re like hungry shoppers. They generally make bad choices.

“If you had a father who’s cold and distant, you don’t know how to relate to men in another way. You pick men who are cold and distant, because that’s what you’re used to.”

To put it in layman’s terms, we tend to pick partners with characteristics similar to our fathers – which can prove to be very bad news if our parents do not value, support, encourage, and respect us.

Counselling can help us to break the cycle

Counselling can help us to break the cycle

Speaking to Psychology Today, psychologist Jennifer Kromberg explains: “In my years of psychology practice, I’ve met very few women who did not unconsciously or consciously pick a romantic partner based on the characteristics of her father.”

And, for those of you who are smugly thinking that you’re dating someone who is completely unlike your father, Kromberg has news for you: “Even the women that state they chose partners who were opposite of their dad are basing their decisions on the relationship (or non-relationship) with dad – a choice to go opposite is still a choice based on dad.”

She does allow, however, that a woman who recognises that she has an unhealthy relationship with her father and subsequently opts to date someone as unlike him as possible, is far more likely to be to find a happy relationship than a woman who dates a version of her dad.

If the latter is us, though, then how do we break the cycle?

“If you find yourself struggling in your love life, and you are ready to end your struggle, seek the support of a qualified professional to help heal your childhood relational wounds,” advises Pathak.

“This will help you stop turning your adult romantic partners into replacement parents, and you can start to enjoy your love life.”

This article was originally published on 15 June 2017.

Images: Warner Bros/Rex Features/iStock


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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.