“A wedding is for daughters and fathers. The mothers all dress up, trying to look like young women. However, a wedding is for a father and daughter. They stop being married to each other on that day.” — Sarah Ruhl
How do we go about choosing our relationships and more importantly, how much choice is actually involved. Some might say that we all have certain qualities that we desire in members of the opposite sex and based on those we decide on the person who is right for us. However, is it that simple?
Sigmund Freud, the father of modern psychology, believed that our mothers and fathers have a lot to do with the people we are attracted to when we become adults. In addition, numerous studies have shown that we do have a tendency to choose mates who either resemble or in some way remind of us our parents.
Of course, this is not always the case, and no one is suggesting that every girl can draw a straight line from her father to her husband.
Nevertheless, it is difficult to dispute the influence of our parents in our adult relationship choices.
Imagine a young girl who was pampered by her father from the time she was born. Not only was she pampered and her every whim was indulged. This father made his daughter feel incredibly special and incredibly loved.
All things being equal there is a very good chance that this girl will grow up with a very good sense of self-worth and high self-esteem. This father/daughter relationship will become her model for all future relationships with members of the opposite sex.
According to this theory, when a girl becomes a woman she will likely choose men who will compliment her, indulge her, pamper her, and treat her with dignity and respect, just as Dad did. Furthermore, it is unlikely that she would have any interest in bad boys, cads, or abusive men.
However, what if she did NOT have a positive experience with her father. Let’s say that Dad did not pay much attention to his little girl. Perhaps he was critical, mean, or even out-and-out abusive. The result would very likely be a girl with low self-esteem and low feelings of low self-worth.
After all, if the first man in her life, her father, did not treat her with love and kindness why would she believe otherwise about herself? Furthermore, why would she expect to be treated with kindness and respect from any other man?
Of course, the same things hold true for young boys and their relationships with their mothers.
Therefore, it would certainly seem that metaphorically girls do marry their fathers. When it comes to romantic relationships we are all powerfully drawn to “the familiar,” and what could be more familiar for a woman than that initial father-daughter relationship.
However, familiarity is not the only explanation. We also learn our sense of “deserve” from our early relationships with our parents. A girl’s father consciously and subconsciously teaches her how she deserves to be treated by how he treats her and how he treats her mother.
If Dad treated the women in his life with gentleness, love, and respect than that is what she will look for in a man. However, if a girl was mistreated by her father and saw her mother mistreated as well, then her sense of deserve will be diminished and as a woman she will likely pass on nice guys and opt for less desirable men.
This all sounds pretty depressing and hopeless particularly for those women who did not have a nurturing loving father. So does this mean that these girls-women are doomed to spend the rest of her life with cads and bad boys? Certainly not, as human beings, we also have free will, and as difficult as it may be to break these long-standing patterns of attraction, it is not impossible.
The first step is simply recognizing that this dynamic exists. However, as in all things insight into a problem alone is never enough. After that, we need courage and desire. The courage to elevate our self-esteem and feelings of self-worth and the desire to want more than we have now.