Your Husband Can’t Be What Your Dad Wasn’t
Learning to separate who your dad was and who your husband is
I don’t mean to be gender exclusive in how I styled the writing here. It’s written to a wife with a husband. The concept of projecting your father issues onto your husband is something I’m actively working through (from two different dads). I sometimes project my mom issues onto him too, so it can go both ways.
Let’s talk about your dad.
He didn’t really fit the bill when it came to fathering you. You feel bad admitting that and you’d never ever tell him to his face. Well, you don’t really tell him much to his face because you don’t really talk to him.
Your dad was checked out, distant, and never knew who you were. He would have never been able to name your favorite school subject. He had no clue who your friends were, and you have no memories of playing with him as a kid.
You kind of had a dad growing up, but he wasn’t really there.
Then you went to college, and found your man. He was a really good man, nothing like your father. You saw that right away.
Then you married your man. Everything was perfect, especially your man. He was everything your dad was not. So you kind of put him up on a pedestal without even realizing it.
A few years passed and then you had kids. Your man was an incredible father. It was healing to see him play with your babies, because your kids were getting what you never got.
But then life got busier than you ever imagined it could be. You were both running on fumes.
Things got hard, really hard. You were overwhelmed.
Your husband didn’t seem so perfect anymore. Minor mistakes were intolerable.
You got mad at him. Really mad. You raged at him. But in the back of your mind, you knew. You knew he was a darn good husband and a darn good father.
This became a pattern. There was usually something very specific that triggered your anger.
But he was tired, too. You were both tired.
Every time, after you calmed down, you could admit to yourself that you overreacted, but you just could not let go of this new found anger towards him. You felt like your husband let you down. He didn’t hold up his end of the deal. He wasn’t helping you enough. He left you alone, with all the work.
But here’s what’s really going on:
Your dad let you down. Your dad didn’t hold up on his end of the deal. Your dad didn’t help you enough. Your dad, left you alone, with all the work to father yourself.
You have an incredible husband. He really loves you so much and he’s trying really hard to love you the way that you need to be loved. But he can not be to you what your dad was not.
Part of the problem is that your husband truly is wonderful. The unhealed parts of your heart are greedy for pain relief. His wonderfulness seems like a fabulous fix. The unhealed parts of your heart covet your husband’s wonderfulness to make everything better again.
It was easy to believe the lie that your husband was perfect because he was everything your dad was not. The truth is that your husband is not perfect. He will make mistakes. He will let you down. But he’s not your dad. And he can never, ever be your dad to you. That’s not who he is. Your dad is the one who left you helpless, not your husband. It was your dad who abandoned you, not your husband. Try to separate the two people.
You can’t use your husband to fill the gap your father left. Your husband’s love is healing, that is very true. But his love can not fill the shoes your dad left empty.
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February 26th, 2016 at 10:04 am
Dr archer, I look forward to your e mails. They are so informative. I only wish we lived near you so could become a patient of yours. I also like how you include your family in your updates. They are such a very good looking family, I bet you are so proud of them.
February 26th, 2016 at 11:07 am
Archer, please know that this “issue” is not gender exclusive. These issues cut straight to abandonment issues that i deal/am dealing with currently. Never having a mother has left me feeling empty, worthless and forever searching for a mother and see a pattern which “forced” my wife to “fit” that role. Thank you for your bravery in sharing. <3
February 27th, 2016 at 4:33 pm
I hope you know your Dad is very proud of you…