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I Didn't Have A Close Relationship With My Father But I Don't Claim 'Daddy Issues'

How we can learn to ditch the "daddy issues" label and call it what it really is.

Her Voice

I've never accepted the term "daddy issues". It has always rubbed me the wrong way because it automatically puts a permanent stain on a woman's forehead. It seems to provide a convenient excuse for any failed relationship where there's no apparent wrong-doing on the man's part, whether it's really the woman's fault or not.

In the past, I also wasn't into applauding men who were present for their children, either. It seemed weird to clap for fathers who did what they were supposed to do, after all, we don't do this for mothers. But I realize that part of my thinking could come from a place of mild resentment considering I didn't have the most ideal relationship with my father.

I must say that I'm now in awe of those same fathers. It's that fascination that made me tune into the OWN special They Call Me Dad earlier this month. The show put a spotlight on male celebrities who play an active role in their children's lives. Men like author and filmmaker, Bishop T.D. Jakes, gospel artist Kirk Franklin and musical entertainer and renowned DJ, Derrick "D-Nice" Jones, talked about their journeys from youth to fatherhood and demonstrated how they show up for their kids.

The men also made the distinction between father and dad––the latter being more than biological.

And their children, particularly their daughters, explained how they viewed their dads in their lives. Third-year law student Ashli Jones sees D-Nice as her advocate and real-life superhero while Woman Evolve founder Sarah Jakes Roberts sees Bishop Jakes as Liam Neeson's character in the movie Taken, traveling across the world battling bad men to save his baby if he had to. Both the dads and their children describe the paternal role as protector, guide, and provider.

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I grew up in a single-family home with my mom and I saw my father usually on Friday nights. He was my board game partner, popping the plastic bubble on hours of Trouble, and my card game teacher, showing me strategy on everything but Spades.

It took a few years to learn that this wasn't exactly normal and I'm not just referring to youth who live in two-parent households as normalcy. In fact, this was complicated. My father was actually married and lived a few miles from the home where I lived with my mom. Truthfully, I didn't really know him, know him because there was a huge part of his life that I was excluded from. This fact became more evident after my mom passed away and I moved to my grandparents' home two backyards, a road, and a front yard away from my father's house.

It's when I had to acknowledge that that's not a world I was part of. I wasn't exactly welcomed in his house, at least in the beginning. I didn't get to meet paternal family members when they came to town. I attended the same school as my cousins and we knew each other but the kinship was unspoken.

While I was born out of a less than ideal union, I don't accept fault but I still can't help but feel that some parts of me are incomplete and not accepted.

I'd never use the words "superhero", "protector", "guide" or "advocate" as the young ladies in the OWN special did. And while "provider" would be a fair descriptor, what does that really mean? As Bishop Jakes said, it's about the presence, not the presents. I couldn't even say I felt defended. That was another thing that became quite clear and turned an amicable relationship into a deteriorating one near and at his death. Many times I question why I even bothered to show up at all.

I'm not trying to judge, express guilt, or point any blame, though. I get that parents do the best they can at the moment. But the actions or inactions of absent parents do inadvertently put us in precarious positions and get used against us daughters in a demeaning way during adulthood, particularly in intimate relationships.

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I repeatedly made poor decisions in men, specifically choosing those who were emotionally unavailable, which I talk about in a separate article. And I also had the habit of staying in those "situationships" long beyond their expiration dates. It's like I was determined to make them choose me back.

Hearing Kirk Franklin say that dads are the first men to teach women love and self-worth last week prompted me to just Google "daddy issues". It wasn't that I was owning the label or anything. But I was owning my failure in relationships. I'm at a place where I can write all day about them. I'm just leery of blanket diagnoses.

I already knew society would say, "Yep, sis, you have classic 'daddy issues'." Society would also assume that I'm attracted to older men, I call my partner 'daddy,' I'm clingy and jealous, I crave attention from men and I need reassurance of love and affection. It's the standard answer, more so than "mama's boy", which doesn't carry the same stigma. A quick Google search of "mama's boy" required me to scroll and click around before I found articles.

However, for my search, it really wasn't about the men. Ultimately, I still attracted and tolerated the wrong ones. Now I only wanted to dissect the term for my own benefit because I was curious and I want to open myself up to a healthy relationship.

I knew my intuition was on point––when I chose to listen to it, that is. What I found is that this so-called "daddy issues" rhetoric is stereotypical and sexist and it doesn't only apply to women.

Here's what I learned about it specifically:

1. The Term "Daddy Issues" Isn't A Disorder, It's Disrespectful

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"Daddy issues" isn't even a condition or disorder listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). In fact, Houston-based psychotherapist Amy Rollo told Healthline that she and many other experts don't even believe in daddy issues and that they see the phrase as a way to minimize women's attachment needs. An article in MindBodyGreen goes a step further to say that it belittles a woman's relationship struggles. Quite frankly, it's lowkey disrespectful and the more appropriate way to tackle it is to recognize and understand one's attachment style, which is explained here and discussed here.

2. Daddy Issues Aren't Gender-Specific

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The first "daddy issue" originated between father and son. Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud came up with the "father complex", which described "someone who has unconscious associations and impulses resulting from an individual's poor relationship with their father." Freud initially believed this father complex only affected men. The term didn't apply to women until later and then it stuck. And while modern-day attachment issues are almost always directed to father and daughter, they could actually be son and mother issues and grandparents can be added to the mix as well.

I can admit that I needed to do some internal work before I even considered entering a relationship. I would've repeated a toxic cycle indefinitely. I also can't argue that my relationship with my father didn't play a significant part in who I was attracted to. I gravitated towards whatever was familiar or whatever was wounded. That's also our way of changing the plots or endings to our ongoing narratives.

But misused and misunderstood labels like "daddy issues" are harmful. Women aren't the only gender trying to reconcile what we didn't get from absent parents to what we can't give or don't receive from our partners. Men do, too, all the time. A more helpful approach is to drop the "daddy issues" label and call it what it is.

Many of us, men and women alike, have difficulty forming healthy bonds with potential significant others. But with a little reflection and a whole lot of healing, we can all learn to form secure attachment styles, and perhaps then we'll finally find a true protector, defender, and real-life superhero in our partners.

Are you a member of our insiders squad? Join us in the xoTribe Members Community today!

Featured image by Shutterstock.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

This article is in partnership with Staples.

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