This Why We 'Marry Our Dads', Good Or Bad

"If you're used to being well-treated by your father...that's what you'll expect from other men."
An emotional Italian father weeping as he walks his daughter down the aisle.
An emotional Italian father weeping as he walks his daughter down the aisle.
Paul Schutzer via Getty Images

It is often said that a girl's relationship with her dad influences her choice of partner.

This is confirmed by psychological literature which indicates that a girl's early relationship with her father or other male caregiver shapes her conscious or unconscious perceptions of what she can expect and find acceptable in a romantic partner.

"Women who grow up with meaningful, comfortable, conversational relationships with their dads make better choices in who they date, sleep with and marry," said Dr. Linda Nielsen, a U.S. psychology professor who authored the book, Between Fathers and Daughters.

"If you have a good relationship with your dad, then you're not desperate for male approval, you've already got it. If you're used to being well-treated by your father, and you don't have to be perfect for him to love you, that's what you'll expect from other men," Nielsen further explained.

However, if you grew up in the opposite environment, with an inattentive and or absent dad, you may have a negative view of yourself and be prone to looking to men for attention, affirmation and validation. You may also be needy and demanding in relationships, according to the work ofKim Bartholomew.

Psychology professor at Colorado State University, Jennifer Harman, attested to this: "If people don't have self-worth because of early parenting, they enter into relationships where that person confirms what they already feel about themselves. It may or may not be a healthy dynamic, but it feels comfortable."

Nielsen further compared father-hunger and dating to going shopping on an empty stomach as a hungry person often makes the worst shopper. "Likewise, a father-hungry young woman will go to the dating supermarket and often come home with the worst men." She is of the opinion that without the example of a strong male character, some women fail to be as discerning as they could be, otherwise.

Sometimes the choice of partner is motivated by trying to make amends for an unhappy childhood. This is common for children who feel rejected or abandoned and haven't worked through it. "Your psyche wants to go back to the scene of the crime, so to speak, and resolve that parental relationship in a marriage," explained relationship therapist Stephen Treat.

This is why some women choose emotionally unavailable men, alcoholics or even abusers, he believes.

"You think you''ll be able to heal this way, but you're probably no more equipped to deal with the situation than you were as a child and the parental dynamic gets repeated in marriage," he added.

This is not set in stone

Therapist, Barbara Swenson said the explanations above are not foregone conclusions and are not applicable to every woman. "If you want very badly to have a different and better relationship that the ones that you grew up with, you can accomplish that if you go about it very consciously, she said.

This is why some women marry men completely different from their fathers -- it is a conscious choice to run away from anything that resembles their dads.

But it remains, "even the women that chose partners who were opposite of their dad are basing their decisions on the relationship or non-relationship, with a dad, a choice to go opposite is still a choice based on dad," pointed out clinical psychologist Jennifer Kromberg.


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