Growing up, my mom was in the hospital a lot with all sorts of illnesses, and my dad worked strange hours in order to take care of our above-average-sized family (I’m one of eight kids). But despite it all, they both managed to show us children that they genuinely loved us, and I am so grateful.
However, I hardly ever saw their love for each other. I’m sure my dad was struggling a lot interiorly with the stress of taking care of both his mob of kids as well as his own wife, but somewhere in the chaos I think he lost his romantic flame with our mom. Signs of affection were not very clear or obvious between the two of them, and I had little to no understanding of how a husband should interact with his wife. If you are married you should show physical signs of love to your spouse right?
This is what I call my father wound. Some people have father wounds that are deep, and some of them can be something terrible that a father did. I really sympathize for those who have been hurt physically or mentally by their fathers. But even though my father wound doesn’t hurt me like that, I’ve seen it manifest itself in a very challenging way.
Recently I went on a date with a woman, and it didn’t end up working out. Okay, no big deal. I told myself. But in my mind, I felt like I really butchered the possible chemistry, and after thinking about it a little longer, I came to the conclusion that I didn’t really know how to or feel comfortable initiating physical contact with her because I didn’t see an example of it from my father. I was afraid of it. I was afraid it would be too early, or too strong, or too awkward
Some men who read this may be laughing. Maybe they see this as “no big deal” because they are THE man and women have always loved them. But I would venture to guess there are some men out there like me who have a father wound too. For me it was a misunderstanding of or lack of understanding of physical affection and touch. I don’t even know how physical touch is one of my love languages because I don’t really know what that experience is like. But for others it could be going deeper with people in conversation because they never really had a good, deep conversation with their father. Or perhaps it’s not knowing how to be motivated because their dad wasn’t driven to provide. Or maybe they don’t know how to be a father because their father left them and didn’t show them.
We all are affected by our parents’ relationship and our childhood experiences, but we also have the opportunity to grow and overcome the wounds we have. Two things that helped me in this process of healing my father wound have been: ,
- Self-reflection. It may not be an easy task. Like I said, mine didn’t really manifest itself until I was older and dating. It may take some time, but I think it’s worth investigating so that you don’t bring those wounds into future relationships and leave others to deal with the consequences.
- Sharing my hurt. When I noticed my own wound I thought to myself, “how do I go about healing it?” I don’t see a simple answer or solution. But once I was able to pinpoint it, sharing it with someone who we find to be wise, trustful, and who truly seeks our good is essential (someone older than you who has overcome their own wounds in life) was extremely helpful. From there, healing can begin, and growth can be tracked. I know it’s possible because I believe in love, and love can overcome all hardships and struggles if we are willing to allow it to.
Men especially grow up modeling the things their dad does until they decide it’s time to be a bit more independent. Some things, though, stick with us for longer than we would like. So, as I look upon my life now, I am honored to see that I have so much in common with my dad. I truly am his son. And I think he’s an excellent man who does love his whole family, including my mom. But, he’s not perfect, and none of our fathers, try as they might, are. So here’s to growing, healing, and loving the imperfect people in our lives, including the ones closest to us.