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Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Fatherless Women & Motherless Men

Note: this is an excerpt from Chapter 6 of my book “Emotional Unavailability & Neediness: Two Sides of the Same Coin”.


              The lack of the opposite gender parent in a child's life can have numerous significant ramifications as we shall see in this chapter. The parent may have died physically, or is 'dead' because he/she is absent from the child's life in a meaningful way, not only due to abandonment or divorce, but also due to simply not caring for the child in those necessary ways during the early developmental stages of our lives that help us grow into healthy adults.

              Note that what we are examining here is not poor bonding or attachment, which we have already discussed in Chapter 3, and which typically occurs in very early infancy and childhood, but an absence - perceived or real - of one of the parents by the child.

              Absence due to death may occasionally even be easier to deal with both psychologically and emotionally, than the other absence in which the parent is very much alive but missing from the child's life in that meaningful way that is - as we have seen - so very crucial for healthy development on so many levels in the very early stages of life.

              The problems that bring adult clients to my office in the instance of having had a supportive opposite-gender parent are very different from those that occur for individuals whose parent did not give them a sense of security, protection, love, caring, and last, but most certainly not least, of caring about them and the content of their lives.

              This lack of interest and caring about them and the content of their lives implies that getting those feelings of being loved and being protected always entails a struggle of sorts. It is never something they are automatically assured of having simply because they happen to be the child of that parent. That struggle, in turn, implies a chronic underlying anxiety related to love. As you can see, these individuals are already on the road to feeling - almost always subconsciously - that they need to protect themselves somehow; to erect some sort of defense mechanism in the arena of love.

              Clearly then, the condition in early life of motherlessness and fatherlessness frequently depends not on the death of the parent, but on the fact that the parent of the opposite gender is not there for the child in the optimal and ideal way that is necessary for emotional, psychological, spiritual, and in some cases, even physical development to take place in a healthy fashion. Therefore, due to this lack of parenting which may often occur even when the parent is doing their best, dysfunctionality in the personality of the growing boy or girl evolves. The reason it often occurs, even when the parents are doing their level best, is due to what I call the non-adult, non-self-reflective, and uninformed parent syndrome which is touched on several times throughout this book, but most particularly in Chapter 14. Remember, as we have already seen, when individuals who are themselves the product of this "parent syndrome", and then also become parents, it will require much awareness, re-thinking, and re-educating in order for them to evolve into a healthier role model for their own children.


Adult Women Raised Without a Father


              Little girls who live without a father do so not only due to death, abandonment, or divorce, but also due to physically present fathers but who are emotionally absent, or ill over a lengthy period of time in some way (clinical depression, terminal disease, etc.), or because the father is a workaholic, or because in some fashion the father is a disappointment to the daughter, as might be the case in a weak or ineffectual father. Such differing types of absence in the girl’s life may have major consequences of varying kinds, since an ideally healthy emotional and socio-psychological developmental trajectory in the early years of life does require some type of positive paternal role model.

              Optimally, a little girl needs to see herself reflected in the love she sees for herself in her father’s eyes. This is how she develops self confidence and self esteem. This is how she develops a healthy familiarity with what a positive expression of love feels like. This is how she develops an appreciation for her own looks and her own body. This is how she develops what Jungians would call her “animus”, her counter-sexual self; her masculine self, which will help her be proactive, productive, and creative in the outer world as she grows into adulthood.

              If, however, the little girl does not have such a relationship with the father, if she sees rejection or emotional coldness or withdrawal in him, or if he simply is not available at all, her sense of self will be tainted, her self confidence warped or non-existent, her portrait of a loving relationship may be distorted or dysfunctional, and she may find herself, no matter how pretty, vivacious, lovable, funny, or intelligent, lacking in appeal.

              Clearly, self confidence and self esteem can be forged through one’s own endeavours during the life course, even if a father has not been present, but the path to success in such endeavours, and the reasons for which they are even attempted, tend to be quite different in the adult woman who was raised with a positive relationship to her father, as opposed to the one who was not. The former may excel simply because she believes in herself, while the latter needs to excel in order to catch a glimpse of approval and recognition in the eyes of those who give her a message of approval, honor, or prestige. The value of such a belief in oneself, easily acquired by the woman with a positive relationship to her father, is immeasurable in the adult life, and the lack of it in many of the countless women who were raised without a positive father image, may cause the life course to be fraught with difficulties.

              Perhaps the arena in which the most painful process of learning how to deal with the early lack of a father is played out is in that of relationships. If a girl has not been assured of her value as a woman by that early relationship with the father, she finds it difficult to relate to men precisely because she may often unconsciously seek to find that recognition in the eyes of the beloved and this may lead her down an early path of promiscuity which in turn makes her feel she is “bad”, but on she marches, relentlessly visiting bed after bed, locking in a fierce embrace with man after man, in the hope that this one or that one, or the next one will finally give her that which she never had as a child – validation of herself for herself.

              Other women may choose another route, falling in love with an older man and thus marrying “daddy”. At this point many different scenarios may ensue. If the man is at all psychologically aware (something often, but not always lacking in older men who like younger girls), he may have a vague inkling of what is going on. Therefore, once she starts – within the secure confines of the relationship or marriage – the process of growth, which will inevitably lead her to separate from her husband in some ways that are emotionally and psychologically necessary in order for her become her own woman, he will not blanch in fear at this process, and allow her the necessary space and freedom to do so. In that case, the marriage will in all likelihood thrive and continue to grow. If, however, the man is not aware, and sees her search for growth as a threat to the superiority he felt upon marrying a young, and as yet undeveloped woman, he will attempt to stifle her, to manipulate her psychologically by making her believe she is worthless, silly, or, and this appears to be a perennial favorite, that she “needs professional help in order to calm down and behave like she used to before”.

              Another possible scenario is that of avoiding relationships totally, or of avoiding the engagement of one’s emotions. Examples here abound: the maiden aunt, who dedicates her life to her nieces and nephews, or who becomes a teacher and dedicates her life to her career; the nun, who dedicates her life to God, or the prostitute, who, although she may engage her body, rarely engages her emotions. Another example is that of the eternal seductress, who needs to remain in control by seducing the man and never actually involving her own feelings. A slightly more difficult to recognize version of the same scenario is played out by the woman who consistently has relationships with married men who never leave their respective wives for her. On an unconscious level this suits her just fine because it gives her the perfect excuse never to have to commit herself totally.

              The core of the matter is, of course, that the self-confidence and recognition so avidly sought must be found within oneself rather than in the outer world – at least initially - in order to be of lasting and true value. The world of emotions that is avoided out of fear or because one never really learned what love is, must first be found in oneself (i.e., it is necessary to love the self before one loves another). The task of accomplishing this, requires that the individual become aware of him or herself (by observing the self, the self-talk, and all emotions that occur, good or bad, since all of these serve to give clues about the true self), and that absolute honesty about oneself be employed in this process. Let the reader be warned: this process is not a simple weekend project; it must be ongoing throughout life; it must become second nature, but it will pave the road to finding inner self-confidence and love for oneself, which will in turn lead to the abolishment of the need for finding these things in another. This is one of the roads to inner freedom that psychological knowledge offers.


Case Studies

              The clinical case studies that follow are not exhaustive as there are many more types of fatherless women and motherless men than those discussed here, but this will give you an idea of some of the backgrounds of people whose childhoods missed out on having an intact and healthy relationship with the parent of the opposite gender, even when that parent was trying his or her best.

              Obviously as we've already seen throughout this book, one of the problems is that the parents often have many unresolved issues from their own childhood, and if they don’t have the benefit of information such as this, then of course, these parents may not even know that their way of behaving is dysfunctional, and are most certainly not consciously working on changing their behavior, thought patterns, and manner of reacting.


Clinical case studies of the background and pattern of fatherless women (the details of each of these case studies are found in the book)


·       “Liz”: “The Caretaker”

·       “Michelle”: “Daddy’s little girl - as long as you adore me - another kind of betrayal and rejection”

·       “Robin”: “Daddy never saw her - as though she never existed.”

·       “Janine”: “Blind love and betrayal of the girl through the mother” 

·       “Marilyn”: “Love is pain; pain is love”

·       “Maya”: “You are so precious and wonderful, only I know how to love you”


Adult Men Raised Without a Mother


              As we've already discussed in the case of girls and women, boys and men who are raised without a mother, are not necessarily motherless. Rather, it is the mothering that has somehow run amuck and left these boys, and later their adult, masculine self in a vacuum of sorts.

              Mothering can go astray in many ways, and we'll examine some case studies further on in this chapter. As a general rule, a mother who does not mother her sons well, may have any number or combination of the following issues:


·       She did not have good parenting herself.

·       She never learned how to love herself.

·       She probably has poor self-esteem (no matter how accomplished or physically beautiful).

·       She had poor role models; indeed, her own mother may have been cold and unfeeling.

·       She may have little access to her own feelings due to all of the above.

·       She may be both emotionally unavailable and very needy.

·       She potentially lacks a self-reflective capacity.

·       She is potentially reactive.

·       She has poor boundaries.

·       Due to her emotional unavailability coupled with neediness, she may be emotionally volatile in the sense that her son never truly knows when he can depend on her to be there for him, as she is so busy fulfilling her own unmet needs out there with any number of people, events, possessions, etc., and thus lacks the psychological wherewithal to be there for her son.

·       She may have numerous addictions, although not necessarily to substances.

·       She may be chaotic on many levels, or conversely, she may be a control freak or perfectionist in rigid, controlling ways in order to recapture some measure of serenity in a world that never felt safe to her.


              Men who were children of mothers who in some major ways were not there for them, or whose mothers abandoned them, or who died at important stages of their lives, may occasionally find themselves attracted to the kind of woman who is very sure of herself, very independent, perhaps not quite as young as the women his friends are attracted to, in short, a woman who can, on some level take good care of him. Careful, I'm not saying that she does or that she will - simply that she gives the appearance of being able to do this.

              These men tend to have a yearning for warmth, closeness, and love that can be enormously attractive to women who come in touch with them. Yet, due to all the reasons we've already discussed, it often happens that when such men are given such warmth, closeness, and love, they begin to feel suffocated.

              Yet I recall two couples, both in their early 40's where just the opposite happened. The husband's mother - in both cases - had been cold, critical, forbidding, even abusive on some levels, and the adult men craved warmth, love, affection, tenderness, and yet, both had married - almost as if there were a spreadsheet formula or psychological protocol that they were following - more than once - women who were cold and rejecting.


Clinical case studies of the background and pattern of motherless men (the details of each of these case studies are found in the book)


·       “Jonathan” “You’ll never measure up to your father”

·       “Malcolm”: “Abandonment”

·       “Richard”: “Lovelessness and rejection”

·       “Damien”: “Betrayal”

·       “Victor”: “I will spoil and pamper you - but you may not grow up”

·       “Sean”: “You owe me”


Typical Manifestations of Motherlessness & Fatherlessness    


·       There tends to be a major lack of self-love, self-esteem, true 'inner' (as opposed to 'outer' or persona-like) self-confidence, self-respect, self-approval, etc.

·       They are often people pleasers in order to receive love, acceptance, affection, even respect and gratitude.

·       They are needy and insecure.

·       These people may need to control their environment in ways that others might classify as overt perfectionism, although it is important to understand that this gives them a sense of order in their inner chaos (note that this is very similar to a characteristic describing the mother of motherless men, and of course one of the reasons this pattern repeats itself in the two generations, is because the mother herself was not mothered well in her infancy and childhood).

·       They may be overly suspicious and even border on the paranoid.

·       They may feel a great need to achieve and we might easily call them 'over-achievers' because it frequently gives them a sense of self due to the approval and admiration they receive from others

·       Their fear of rejection induces them to many unhealthy behaviors, simply to ensure they will continue to be loved.

·       They tend to have unhealthy boundaries and may often have become enablers and caretakers.

·       Authority figures, ruels, and restrictions may provoke them to unacceptable behavior.

·       If they have gathered no insight about themselves - or until they do so - they may very well repeat the cycle of abuse with their own children.

·       They tend to have difficulty in emotional expression.

·       Often there is evidence of sexual dysfunction.

·       Self-harming and/or eating disorders may form part of the profile.


Some characteristics of a functionally intact adult male or female        


              A functionally intact adult may not have grown up that way. What I am trying to say, is that he may have pulled himself out of the dysfunctional quagmire that was present in his early years. He may have gone into therapy, or he may have recognized what happened to him and begun to work on himself. He may have been in a relationship that helped him to become more aware of his own issues emanating from his childhood, or he may have read a book, or taken a course at university, or participated in a workshop that opened his eyes to these unresolved matters.  

              Whatever the case, whether he grew up in a dysfunctional family, or a somewhat healthier psycho-emotional environment, he has now come to a point at which he is able to demonstrate a fair share of the following characteristics, and as you will understand, it is crucial to be aware of this in order to know what to move towards via inner pictures:


·       He/she believes in him or herself

·       He/she achieves for the sake of achieving, and not in order to be recognized or praised

·       He/she has no need to control others

·       It is easy to trust others

·       It is easy to show affection and love

·       He/she does not manipulate others

·       He/she has no difficulty being transparent (open, honest, no “mixed messages”) at all times

·       He/she knows he is responsible for everything he feels, thinks, says or does

·       He/she is aware of his reactions at all times, and knows there are always choices

·       He/she has no trouble maintaining boundaries


Please note, the full text of this chapter can be found in the book Emotional Unavailability & Neediness: Two Sides of the Same Coin”



See the preview (click the title below) to my online video course:

"Fatherless Women & Motherless Men"


See the preview (click on the title below) to my online video course:

"Freedom From the Torture of Your Thoughts"


See the preview (click on the title below) to my online video course  



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