Dudes, Dads, and Dating

If you know me in real life you know that I grew up in a pretty homogenized community. Everyone I knew lived on a street like mine in a house like mine with some pets or siblings and two parents. We might have occasionally fought with our parents but we loved them, they loved us, and they were always there. When I was a kid I thought everyone’s life was like this.

When I got older and became boy crazy started going to all-ages parties and meeting people who didn’t come from a place called Whitehills I began to realize something weird – a lot of these people didn’t have dads in their houses. Or they didn’t know where their dads were. Or they hated them. Then I started to get that my little milquetoast world was a bit of an aberration.

Back then (as now) my friends and I would date guys and the guys would do effed up things – blow us off, cheat on us, refuse to talk about their feelings, the usual dumb stuff guys do. But no matter what the guy of the moment did, the explanation was always a variation on a theme; his father left him so he doesn’t trust anyone. Or he grew up with a single mother so he doesn’t see the value of relationships. Or his father left him and he never got over the hurt so he cut himself off from feeling anything for anyone ever.

The thing was that whether the explanation came from a reassuring girlfriend trying to pat me down after a boy did something mean to me or from the offender himself trying to explain his shitty behaviour, it always did two things to me: left me feeling sad/guilty and left me feeling like my hands were tied. Because really, when someone tells you that they don’t know how to treat you properly because they didn’t receive proper treatment from a parent, what can a girl who is blessed to have a father who loves me like crazy and is always there for me really say? Get over it? Not a good enough excuse? There’s really nothing to say to that and it kinda left me feeling like I hadn’t a leg to stand on.

Anyway, I hit my twenties and moved away from home. And whereas as a child everyone I knew grew up in a home with two parents it seemed that suddenly no one I knew did. So much so that these days when I hear a man say “my dad” it throws me off  in the same way that hearing him say “my ovaries” would – it seems wrong.  But even though the phenomenon of “fatherless men” seems to have become the norm,  the correlation between it and egregious behaviour no longer seems to exist. Or at least no one’s talking about it.

Why is that though? Are we too old now to accredit our behaviour to our less-than-ideal childhoods? Or is it just so obvious that no one needs to point it out anymore?

Unlike my normal posts, I have no firm opinion to foist on you to share on this one…I’m just interested in hearing everyone’s thoughts.

So what do you guys think – is it only the presence or absence of our fathers that impacts our behaviour in relationships or can I pin some of my shit on Mummy does everything in our childhoods dictate our choices in relationships? Like I said I’m lucky to have a great dad that I adore, but his greatness is definitely not reflected in the relationship choices I make, so does that mean that we’re only affected by “bad” dads?

Speak on it in the comments.

bag lady. digital nerd. beauty junkie. shoe whore. i'm a sucker for big words and box-fresh kicks. know a little bit about a lot of things and have something to say about everything.

Comments 19

  1. Darling Nicky says:

    What a great topic to explore. Fatherlessness affects "boys" differently than it does girls, and the part where the boy is to learn the correct way to treat and behave towards women is skewed depending on who is left to teach the lesson. If by circumstance, the boy is left to learn from his (single) mother, if she doesn't think really carefully about what the boy needs to hear, she will say the things like "Do not get this girl pregnant", "Make sure she's not a golddigger", and did I mention "Do not get this girl pregnant!". I think the advice that fathers should/would give if they were around, is how to "treat" a lady with respect, but still use your swag to get the girl. Fathers would have the convos with their sons that go like "When a girl does this, than you do this". Moms don't have those convos. My boy asked me some advice the other day about his girl, and in under 5 minutes, the words, "Do not get this girl pregnant" escaped from my worrisome lips. Then I realized what I was doing, and re-worded. "Son, when a girl tosses her hair, and kinda leans into you a little bit or puts her hand gently on your arm, *sigh* she probably would appreciate a little kiss *puke* or something". The boy said, "Thanks Mom" and smiled.

  2. maxfab says:

    This is a great comment and exactly what I was hoping for because I know that my upbringing doesn't really allow for the kind of perspective one needs for this topic. My father was there and he doesn't have sons so I've never really known much about the relationship between parents and sons….

    Thank you for a dope first comment. Wait – this is your first comment right?

  3. Sam Sharpe says:

    I was raised by a single mother who frankly is/was the best parent I've ever come across. And it's not just me who thinks so–friends, girlfriends, co-workers, anyone who's met my mother or heard stories about my mother tells me how lucky I am. All I can say in response is "I know".

    As for my pops, as a parent he is/was f***ing useless. Did his absence affect how I view women and relationships. Of course. But I'd like to think that my mother's yeoman efforts more than made up for his slackness. Plus, I think that watching what my mother accomplished raising three kids on her own made me respect and appreciate her and by extension all women even more. It strengthened my resolve to do right by women, regardless the situation. Put this way, I know plenty of men who grew up with both parents in the house who don't know how to treat a woman with respect. Or have lots of difficulty navigating relationships in a healthy manner. Was there something wrong in their households? I don't know…

    All things considered I've been lucky. I know that many dudes who've grown up in situations similar to my own bring a whole ton of baggage into their relationships and I'm not blind to the likelihood that I'm no different. But what I do believe is that it's a lot more complicated than a simple matter of whether or not the father was in the home. To my mind, absent or not absent, parents can be divided into two categories: Good and Bad…..
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  4. melissa says:

    i thought this post would be different given the title. as in, introducing the dude you're dating to your dad. which i have much more to say about than this actual topic.

    annnnnd that's it from me.

  5. Stacy says:

    Thank you for posting this! I too grew up on a two parent home and have a loving caring will do anything for his girls and son father. It always makes me feel awkward when I talk to others and I say well my dad did this or my dad called me or me and my dad hung out and they start in with the compliments and comments about how great my dad is. When I was younger and naive I kinda thought that all fathers were like this, but apparently that’s not the case. I do have to say as far as relationships no matter how you grew up YOU have to make the decisions on how you want to be treated. Yes I have a very loving father who taught me tons of life lesson but the most thing he told me not taught me(b/c this is universal and I already knew it myself he just reinforced it) was to do what I felt was right and although I will make mistakes learn from them and move on. Its funny when ppl say that bad relationships come from not having a father in the home, no bad relationships come from a person making a bad decision to stay with somebody who is not right for them. It has nothing to do with whether or not your father was in the home, you know consciously if you are with somebody who is not treating you right and not being respectful not doing the things you want. You make the choice to stay with them regardless of the situation around. With that said I do have the unlimited support of my father and mother in whatever decision I make but in the end whatever relationship decision whether it’s bad or good is my decision!

  6. @MsEsquire77 says:

    1) Considering how late we were chatting last night I didn't think you'd get this post done. Good job!

    2) Whether you're a man or a woman not having a father or having a bad relationship with your father does have an effect on how you view relationships. However, it shouldn't control your actions and its not an excuse for piss-poor behavior. I work with abused/neglected kids and I'm constantly telling them that their future does not have to be decided by their parents' choices.

    I grew up with my Daddy and I loved him dearly so I can't imagine what it's like for people who didn't have that. However, that doesn't give you license to be a horrible person for the rest of your life. Pray, talk to your pastor, get a therapist, take up yoga, do something but don't think you can treat people any kind of way that'll fly because of your "daddy issues".

  7. Streetz says:

    I can fortunately say that I have no experience because my dad was there for me.

    Great post max!

  8. maxfab says:

    Considering the fact that you're so dope no one thinks you're a real person…I'd say you're no worse off for having been raised by only one parent.

  9. maxfab says:

    Now THAT would be a fun post. Because as amazing as daddy is, he no likey the boyfriends.

  10. maxfab says:

    Thank you Streetzie.

  11. maxfab says:

    1) Thank the lord I wake up so early – I was able to bang this out before work.
    pause?

    2) Agreed. This actually reminds me of a post I wrote called "Who Shot John?" as in – I don't care about the reasons behind your sh*tty behaviour. I'll have to bring it back for throwback tuesday.

  12. sanen85 says:

    Ummm. I grew up without a father and frankly, I don't feel it affected me. *shrugs* I know that my sister and brother both were affected by not having their respective fathers in the picture. Then again, there were a lot of things at play and our mother was also not in our lives for far too large of a chunk of it. I don't want to bore you with trying to break down each of our experiences and how they are leaned on now, but sometimes I can understand it and sometimes I want to beat them for using BS excuses.

  13. MadScientist7 says:

    while i grew up with my father in the household i had a less than ideal childhood. i have never and would never blame how i behave towards women on the way i was raised. i'm an adult and i know better. when you know better, you do better.

  14. Tisha says:

    My father was not around when growing up. I am in contact with him now b/c I'm in contact with my brothers and sisters from him, if it weren't for them I would have no contact with him and be ok with it. When I was entering the boy crazy stage it would have been great for him to be there to explain what boys are thinking but I had to figure that out on my own, the hard way. I am of the firm belief that from once you are able to understand right and wrong and how your actions towards someone afffects them you cannot use the excuse "my mom/dad was not there for me" I do not buy the excuse "i didn't treat you right b/c no one showed me how to". You treat ppl with the same respect you command they treat you with

  15. MostInterestingMan says:

    Wow Max, this is a great topic and one that hits really close to home for me.

    I was raised in a 0 parent household. My moms left my brother and (playing in a park) when I was 4 and never came back. Went to live with dad, he died when I was 10. From there, it was my grandmother – who is the greatest woman I've ever known and my Aunt (father's older sister) who I am probably most like at my core. Besides them my grandmother had 2 other sisters (my great Aunts) who I spent countless afternoons, evenings and summers with. So – basically – I was raised by a crew of really old women. The impact these women have had on my life has been tremendous. They are the reason why I know so much about, and am able to easily relate to, the female species.

  16. MostInterestingMan says:

    While that part of it was a gift, I must admit, losing my parents at such a young age along with a few other childhood tragedies also had its effects. If you were to ask my wife, she'd tell you that, for the most part, I'm not really an emotional person. I mean, I'm not a stone, but you'll never see me jubilant or ecstatic about anything, nor will you ever see me depressed or overly angry. The idea of "love" for me is both a choice and an action (or, more aptly, the sum of cumulative actions). It is by no means, for me, a feeling or emotion. I wake up every day and choose to love my wife. I choose to love certain family members. I choose to love certain friends. I do not know what it means to love somebody 'just because'. I also have the uncanny ability to cut people off -no matter how close we once were – like they never existed when wronged.

  17. MostInterestingMan says:

    So, how has all of this effected how I treat women. Well, it's been both a gift and a curse. It's been a gift in that being raised by beautiful, intelligent women has given me a totally unfair advantage as far as meeting, attracting and communicating with women are concerned. I've never had problems "getting" women. I've never had problems keeping women happy. And I've never had problems communicating with women. I just know women. Conversely though, I know that I've missed out on some of the things that being more emotional provides. Foremost being, the fact that I can count on one hand the times I've truly felt overcome with happiness, and the fact that I really don't know what it means to love unconditionally.

  18. MostInterestingMan says:

    So, in sum, I think it's a man's job to look at himself and reflect on who he is and who he is not. From there, you don't use that information as an excuse to justify stuff you know is wrong, you use that information to build yourself up into the best person you can be.

  19. maxfab says:

    Most – every time I read your comments I waffle between a million reactions. But the thought that I always land on is that our upbringing is one thing, but once we reach adulthood it's really how we choose to live our lives that really matters.

    I had a "normal" upbringing, and like everyone else it did me good in some ways and in others it did me harm. And some of what I learned from my parents serves me well in my relationships, some of it not so much. But if I compare what I know about you from reading your writing and comments, to what I know about myself, it's clear that being raised by two parents is no guarantee you'll grow up to be a functioning adult.

    Ultimately I think with this situation, as with so many others in life, it comes down to the choices we make…some of us choose to allow what we've been through to stop us from doing right by people, some of us use it as a reason to shy away from people, and some of us choose to rise above it and do the best we can.

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