Father Daughter Relationships

We all have unique relationships with our fathers, but are these unique father-daughter dynamics influencing and even taking their toll on our love lives as adults?

It’s a common cliché that girls who have issues with their fathers, grow up to be women who have issues with men.

It’s a common cliché that girls who have issues with their fathers, grow up to be women who have issues with men. But can a woman’s relationship with her father really have such a significant influence on her relationships and dating habits as an adult? It would seem so. According to experts and recently conducted studies, the nature of a woman’s relationship with her father is almost always reflected in her relationship patterns as a grown woman.


Modern psychology and research tells us that young girls and women typically look to their father for a representation of male companionship standards, which are known to transpire into the realm of romantic and even sexual relationships. 

The quality of father-daughter relationships is believed by experts and found in research, to be a huge deciding factor when it comes to romantic relationships. A recent study conducted by Durham University, UK, concludes that women who have experienced positive father-daughter relationships usually end up selecting partners who resemble, or remind them of their fathers. The research also stated that women who have negative or less positive childhood relationships with their fathers weren’t attracted to men who looked like their fathers and actually sought out partners who demonstrated strong deviation from their father’s physical features and mannerisms. 

Dr. Lynda Boothryd who authored the study says, “The results show for certain that the quality of a daughter’s relationship with her father has an impact on whom she finds attractive. We can now say that daughters who have very positive childhood relationships with their fathers choose men similar to their fathers.” At the same time however, partner appearance and demeanor are just a couple of the father-related preferences and tendencies that women subconsciously project into their romantic relationships

A research group from Rider University, USA, recently examined the importance and role of a positive father-daughter bond for building positive romantic relationships and found significant connections in the crucial relationship areas of trust and communication. The results revealed that women with good communication with their fathers also have significantly better communication with their boyfriends, when compared to women with low communication with their fathers. Futhermore, women with high levels of trust with their fathers also have significantly better communication and trust with their boyfriends. These results come as no surprise for professor of psychology, father-daughter relationship expert and author, Dr. Linda Nielsen.

“The quality of a daughter's relationship with her father is always affecting her relationships with men - either in good ways or in bad ways,” says Dr. Nielsen. “When a woman doesn't trust men, can't maintain an ongoing relationship, doesn’t know how to communicate, is sexually promiscuous, or is too co-dependent, this is probably because her relationship with her father lacked trust and/or communication.”


Poor fathering and the ‘daddy issues’ that result can have a significant impact on your ability to sustain a healthy relationship, often manifesting in tendencies that go unnoticed for years because of their habitual nature. Dr. Nielsen explains, “A poorly fathered daughter is often unaware of her tendencies because they are all she knows. She is often too clingy, dependent and jealous. She smothers men and ruins the relationship. Or she is very distant, untrusting and emotionally cold and thus ruins her relationship. The list is endless.”

A great way to see if, or how your relationship with your father might be affecting your love life is to compare and contrast past relationships, claims Dr. Nielsen. Write a list of all your past relationships, whether they were romantic and official, or sexual and casual and detail all the problems you experienced in each one. Then make a new list of all the problems or difficulties you may have encountered in your relationship with your father to date. Place both lists side-by-side. You might be surprised by the amount of father-daughter issues in your relationships staring back at you. The same exercise can be used to reveal all the positive effects of your father-daughter relationship.

If negative tendencies seem to be dictating the outcome of most, or all, of your relationships, it’s important to remember that a troubled history with your dad does not necessarily mean hope has left the building. While a woman’s relationship with her father can drastically influence her romantic life, there is no written law stating that every young girl with an absent father will wind up with nothing more than a hopeless and failed love life and indeed, not every daddy’s girl is guaranteed to suddenly stumble across Prince Charming and live happily ever after in the kingdom castle.


Every woman possesses control of her own romantic destiny if she is able to acknowledge and redirect detrimental behaviours and manifest positive progress with potential partners and significant others. “If she recognizes the unhealthy, dysfunctional ways in which she behaves with men as a consequence of her poor relationship with her dad, then any woman can change the ways she relates to men,” says Dr Nielsen.

If you do believe your unresolved father issues are hindering your love life, the best way to smooth things out with dad and foster healthier relationships, is to embrace communication and cut the old guy a bit of slack. “Fathers desperately want a closer, more meaningful relationship with their daughters, but they don't know how to achieve it. Daughters are too critical and judgmental towards their fathers – usually adopting the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy,'" says Dr. Nielsen. “These women risk growing to be unaware of what constitutes a healthy romantic relationship and not understanding how to properly relate to men.” Fortunately, this damage is promisingly avoidable and repairable. Communication remains key.

A great way to support your relationship with your father and consequently your love life, according to Dr. Nielsen, is to “ARM yourselves: Accept, Reassure, Mail”. Accept each other’s flaws and differences, reassure one another that your love and support is unconditional and infinite and always keep in touch and communicate. The ARM philosophy is a simple yet effective way of rebuilding your relationship with your father and reviving your love life all at the same time.

“Spending plenty of time alone with each other, having open honest conversations about meaningful topics, discussing and building the daughter's independence and self confidence, keeping the mother out of the relationship and not communicating through the mother are a few effective communication-based solutions, as well as dad and daughter admitting their flaws, dad teaching his daughter (and daughter allowing dad to teach her) how to love men, without being dependent on them for happiness,” says Dr Nielsen.

Consistently re-enforcing the father-daughter relationship through communication will ultimately encourage strong self esteem and confidence and healthy standards for male companionship that do not involve relying on men for happiness, paving the way for successful and sustainable romantic relationships. 

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