How My Father Issues Impacted My Marriage

Reaching out 

As I’ve hinted at in my last two posts, I didn’t have much of a relationship with my father growing up. He was like a stranger to me in many ways. He was a workaholic pastor who wasn’t home much and, when he was, he didn’t know how to reach out or connect.

When I married, I brought both a fear of connection and an obsessive need for connection with me. Since I didn’t really “get” men this only complicated matters. The only real view of men I had was through the eyes of my messy married mother. She was discontent in her marriage and made this known to me and my sibs. I internalized this to mean that …

Men could not be trusted

and

It’s always important to get the upper hand with men.

This gave me a protective, and yet combative, attitude when it came to relating to my husband. I would run from him, if I sensed he was displeased. And then I would turn right around and run at him, if I felt he would not back away. And to be clear, my husband hardly ever “backs away.” He’s got this colossal bravery that pushes him to do incredible things when every one else stands on the sideline. And he’s also got this colossal bravery that sometimes simply asks for trouble.

It took a lot of years for us to figure out how to deal with conflict in a way that was constructive—notwithstanding the occasional “I’m-so-exhausted-I-don’t-want-to-be-constructive” kind of fight every now and then.

All of these tendencies I’ve mentioned can be traced to my smoldering, bitter attitude toward my father.

Now, it didn’t happen overnight. I think God revealed my attitude to me a little here, a little there over a series of years and through a variety of experiences—mostly difficult and painful. But God worked with the willingness I gave him at each juncture. And the fact that my husband worked on what God revealed to him too, added momentum to our relearning and to God’s redemption.

Here’s what I would say to you, whether you have “father issues” or not, please be open to what God wants to reveal to you and heal in your life. If you’re having problems with your mate, believe me, you’ve got issueswhatever they are! So get the process started by praying a prayer like the one found in Psalm 139:23-24 …

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” (NLT)

And as God reveals your issues to you, surrender them to Him, one by one. Then do the work God asks you to do on your own heart.  I promise, you won’t regret it!

Photo credit by andrew and hobbes (Flickr)

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  • I could have written this post. My father was completely absent and my mother was an alcoholic who had a penchant for dating abusive men. I learned to believe that men would always leave and that I should never, under any circumstances, surrender my control to them. It’s been a hard, uphill battle for me, this marriage of mine, but I’m thankful that God is there to humble me and teach me!

    • I’m so glad that God has walked along side you in this battle, Dusty. I don’t know how people do it (recover from childhood wounds) without His help. I will pray for your healing journey. Thanks so much for coming by and encouraging me!

  • I could have written this post. My father was completely absent and my mother was an alcoholic who had a penchant for dating abusive men. I learned to believe that men would always leave and that I should never, under any circumstances, surrender my control to them. It’s been a hard, uphill battle for me, this marriage of mine, but I’m thankful that God is there to humble me and teach me!

  • Beth, I think you have such solid insights here. Tim Keller once said that marriage is a new beginning – a re-birth, in many ways. A way to learn from our earlier challenges, and re-do under God’s headship. And that’s just what you are doing – how wonderful!

    • That’s a great insight, Ann. I love Tim Keller’s writing. And yes, I wouldn’t be able to follow Christ closely without Him taking me back down the path of my childhood to finding healing. I’m so glad He’s taking me there and healing as we go. And thanks so much for your smiling face to encourage me!

  • Beth, I think you have such solid insights here. Tim Keller once said that marriage is a new beginning – a re-birth, in many ways. A way to learn from our earlier challenges, and re-do under God’s headship. And that’s just what you are doing – how wonderful!

  • i am glad that you have a husband that was not willing to back down, especially as you worked through these things…you def bring lots of insight of someone who has lived it…and in that i think many find comfort and healing…

    • Yes, he not only doesn’t back down sometimes, but he doesn’t give up on “us.” And for that I am so grateful. And yes, I definitely want God to use the pain of my past to help others find healing. Thanks for coming by, Brian. I always appreciate it so much!

  • i am glad that you have a husband that was not willing to back down, especially as you worked through these things…you def bring lots of insight of someone who has lived it…and in that i think many find comfort and healing…

  • Carrieburtt

    It is a gradual process isn’t it?….What a wonderful post Beth! I can relate to your story in many ways, and appreciate your brave honesty. Your story can help others with their struggles as well.

    • I feel as if God has done so much to heal me along the way, but He is still working and healing. I’m so glad that He never gives up on me! Thanks so much for coming by and blessing me with your sweet words, Carrie!

  • Carrieburtt

    It is a gradual process isn’t it?….What a wonderful post Beth! I can relate to your story in many ways, and appreciate your brave honesty. Your story can help others with their struggles as well.

  • i so so get this……my heart nodding at every word.
    thank GOD for faithfulness wrapped in skin:)
    sending love and care
    as you heal and help heal,
    Jennifer

    • It feels good to know that I’m not alone in this, Jennifer. I will pray for you on your healing journey and thanks so much for coming by. I truly appreciate it!

  • i so so get this……my heart nodding at every word.
    thank GOD for faithfulness wrapped in skin:)
    sending love and care
    as you heal and help heal,
    Jennifer

  • H Copple

    Awesome post, Beth!! So very true!

    • Thanks so much, Heather, for your ongoing support. It means a lot to me! 🙂

  • H Copple

    Awesome post, Beth!! So very true!

  • i understand this for different reasons. i’m adopted with an amazing adoptive father, but an entirely absent biological father. my issues were different but so much the same.

    i felt this deeply

    • I’m sure that you would feel this deeply having been adopted. Oh, there’s got to be so many questions and wounds coming from that place. I will definitely pray for you in this, Rachel!

  • i understand this for different reasons. i’m adopted with an amazing adoptive father, but an entirely absent biological father. my issues were different but so much the same.

    i felt this deeply

  • Diana

    This is good stuff, as usual, Beth. I too can relate to a Dad that ‘couldn’t relate’ to my sister and me, and was way more into his work than he needed to be. I’ve forgiven him, which is a good thing, but am still working on areas in my marriage that are a result of my lack of a relationship with my dad. And now that I have 2 boys to raise, that adds other issues to the table! ugh. Oh how we (I) need Jesus!! Keep up the good work, and let’s chat sometime about this issue!

    • I would love to “chat” sometime about this issue we share, Diana. Please email me, so we can set something up. Thanks also for sharing a bit about your own experience. I will pray for you in this. 🙂

  • Diana

    This is good stuff, as usual, Beth. I too can relate to a Dad that ‘couldn’t relate’ to my sister and me, and was way more into his work than he needed to be. I’ve forgiven him, which is a good thing, but am still working on areas in my marriage that are a result of my lack of a relationship with my dad. And now that I have 2 boys to raise, that adds other issues to the table! ugh. Oh how we (I) need Jesus!! Keep up the good work, and let’s chat sometime about this issue!

  • Kimberly Witt

    This is very insightful. Really. God DOES want to heal us, reveal His purpose to us. But we need to be willing to listen and then roll up our sleeves and get to work. Thanks for sharing your heart! -Kim @ likethelove.blogspot.com

  • messymarriage

    I’m so glad that God has walked along side you in this battle, Dusty. I don’t know how people do it (recover from childhood wounds) without His help. I will pray for your healing journey. Thanks so much for coming by and encouraging me!

  • messymarriage

    That’s a great insight, Ann. I love Tim Keller’s writing. And yes, I wouldn’t be able to follow Christ closely without Him taking me back down the path of my childhood to finding healing. I’m so glad He’s taking me there and healing as we go. And thanks so much for your smiling face to encourage me!

  • messymarriage

    Yes, he not only doesn’t back down sometimes, but he doesn’t give up on “us.” And for that I am so grateful. And yes, I definitely want God to use the pain of my past to help others find healing. Thanks for coming by, Brian. I always appreciate it so much!

  • messymarriage

    I feel as if God has done so much to heal me along the way, but He is still working and healing. I’m so glad that He never gives up on me! Thanks so much for coming by and blessing me with your sweet words, Carrie!

  • messymarriage

    It feels good to know that I’m not alone in this, Jennifer. I will pray for you on your healing journey and thanks so much for coming by. I truly appreciate it!

  • messymarriage

    Thanks so much, Heather, for your ongoing support. It means a lot to me! 🙂

  • messymarriage

    I’m sure that you would feel this deeply having been adopted. Oh, there’s got to be so many questions and wounds coming from that place. I will definitely pray for you in this, Rachel!

  • messymarriage

    I would love to “chat” sometime about this issue we share, Diana. Please email me, so we can set something up. Thanks also for sharing a bit about your own experience. I will pray for you in this. 🙂

  • I relate to this because I can see my mom in this. She had “daddy” issues and some of the same things you described is exactly how she related to my own dad as a result. Wounds of our parents can run so deep and affect us as adults. I like how you described how you have worked through this, but not only you but your husband as well. Both of you being willing to open your hearts to what God would teach you is amazing. Thanks for sharing your story!!

    • You know what? My mom had “daddy issues” too. Hmmm, I’ll have to think about the implications of all of that, Alecia. And as far as my husband, yes, I am very grateful for his willing heart. That willingness has gotten us through a lot of “messes.” 🙂 Thanks so much for stopping by and encouraging me!

  • Alecia Simersky

    I relate to this because I can see my mom in this. She had “daddy” issues and some of the same things you described is exactly how she related to my own dad as a result. Wounds of our parents can run so deep and affect us as adults. I like how you described how you have worked through this, but not only you but your husband as well. Both of you being willing to open your hearts to what God would teach you is amazing. Thanks for sharing your story!!

  • messymarriage

    You know what? My mom had “daddy issues” too. Hmmm, I’ll have to think about the implications of all of that, Alecia. And as far as my husband, yes, I am very grateful for his willing heart. That willingness has gotten us through a lot of “messes.” 🙂 Thanks so much for stopping by and encouraging me!

  • Emily Wierenga

    wow. so much of your story relates to mine, friend. you are a kindred spirit. i love how you’ve taken your broken past, and are using it to bring healing to others. bless you.

    • Yes, I’ve seen that common thread we share emerging as we share our stories, Emily. It encourages me that I am not alone in this fight–to overcome and to help others overcome. Thanks so much for your encouragement. It always blesses me. 🙂

  • Emily Wierenga

    wow. so much of your story relates to mine, friend. you are a kindred spirit. i love how you’ve taken your broken past, and are using it to bring healing to others. bless you.

  • Thank you for reminding me that we need to listen to the nudgings of the Lord and how kind and gentle He is to deal with us slowly. A little here and a little there. And how two of you both listening here and there, can really make a difference in the marriage. In our lives. I have been praying those verses a lot lately, too.

    • Yes, He is so gentle in his nudgings, isn’t He? I want to learn more of His gentleness. I’m so glad that you’ve been praying verses like that. I would have to say it’s one of my favorites and I cling to it, knowing it’s what has made a huge difference in my life. Thanks so much for coming by, Kathleen!

  • Thank you for reminding me that we need to listen to the nudgings of the Lord and how kind and gentle He is to deal with us slowly. A little here and a little there. And how two of you both listening here and there, can really make a difference in the marriage. In our lives. I have been praying those verses a lot lately, too.

  • Thank you for this. Your life is mine, it seems. I’m still learning and am trying to yield to God. Some days are better than others…

    • It’s so good to know that I am (we are) not alone, Amber. I hope that you know I will pray for you in your struggle to heal father issues. And thanks so much for your sweet words!

  • Thank you for this. Your life is mine, it seems. I’m still learning and am trying to yield to God. Some days are better than others…

  • Rallentanda

    Relationships are not meant to be easy. The state always involves some kind of struggle to a certain degree. The most important thing in my opinion is to share a similar philosophy on life and to be totally honest in communication and loyal.

    • Yes, you can tell by the title of my blog that I wholeheartedly agree that relationships are not easy and are not meant to be. But hopefully we can find hope and healing as we share our stories here. Thanks so much for coming by and weighing in!

  • Rallentanda

    Relationships are not meant to be easy. The state always involves some kind of struggle to a certain degree. The most important thing in my opinion is to share a similar philosophy on life and to be totally honest in communication and loyal.

  • messymarriage

    Yes, I’ve seen that common thread we share emerging as we share our stories, Emily. It encourages me that I am not alone in this fight–to overcome and to help others overcome. Thanks so much for your encouragement. It always blesses me. 🙂

  • messymarriage

    Yes, He is so gentle in his nudgings, isn’t He? I want to learn more of His gentleness. I’m so glad that you’ve been praying verses like that. I would have to say it’s one of my favorites and I cling to it, knowing it’s what has made a huge difference in my life. Thanks so much for coming by, Kathleen!

  • messymarriage

    It’s so good to know that I am (we are) not alone, Amber. I hope that you know I will pray for you in your struggle to heal father issues. And thanks so much for your sweet words!

  • messymarriage

    Yes, you can tell by the title of my blog that I wholeheartedly agree that relationships are not easy and are not meant to be. But hopefully we can find hope and healing as we share our stories here. Thanks so much for coming by and weighing in!

  • Your post reaffirms the need for fathers. First, fathers who are physically there and second, fathers who are emotionally there. There is only one perfect father. I thank him that he is mine. I’m so glad your heavenly father reconciled you to your earthly husband.

    re, my hugging issue. Yeah, I grew up without much affection, physical or emotional. My parents are still alive and even though I tell my mother, every day, I love you. She has a hard time saying it to me. Parents, they’re only human. 🙂

    • I agree. Father’s are so important in all the ways you mentioned and yes, it is good to have a heavenly Father who heals all wounds, friend.

      And thanks so much for continuing the dialogue about your post. It’s fair to say that I have “mother issues” as well. But like you said, parents are only human. I know I’ve failed my kids so many times. There’s really no way I could, in all good conscience, harbor bitterness about my upbringing when I’m just as guilty. So I take it all to the cross!

  • Your post reaffirms the need for fathers. First, fathers who are physically there and second, fathers who are emotionally there. There is only one perfect father. I thank him that he is mine. I’m so glad your heavenly father reconciled you to your earthly husband.

    re, my hugging issue. Yeah, I grew up without much affection, physical or emotional. My parents are still alive and even though I tell my mother, every day, I love you. She has a hard time saying it to me. Parents, they’re only human. 🙂

  • messymarriage

    I agree. Father’s are so important in all the ways you mentioned and yes, it is good to have a heavenly Father who heals all wounds, friend.

    And thanks so much for continuing the dialogue about your post. It’s fair to say that I have “mother issues” as well. But like you said, parents are only human. I know I’ve failed my kids so many times. There’s really no way I could, in all good conscience, harbor bitterness about my upbringing when I’m just as guilty. So I take it all to the cross!

  • Jessica

    thanks for articulating a lot of the things i’ve felt and experienced, beth! your honesty and challenge at the end really encouraged me.

    • I’m so glad this encouraged you, Jessica. That’s what it’s all about–helping others where God has helped me! Thanks so much for your encouragement!

  • Jessica

    thanks for articulating a lot of the things i’ve felt and experienced, beth! your honesty and challenge at the end really encouraged me.

  • JosephPote

    “…please be open to what God wants to reveal to you and heal in your life.”

    Good advice, here, Beth!

    I love how you use your own experiences to share truth and hope. Your transparency in this post is truly beautiful.

    Thank you for continuing to share His healing love!

    • Thanks so much, Joe! I appreciate your support and encouragement greatly. 🙂

  • JosephPote

    “…please be open to what God wants to reveal to you and heal in your life.”

    Good advice, here, Beth!

    I love how you use your own experiences to share truth and hope. Your transparency in this post is truly beautiful.

    Thank you for continuing to share His healing love!

  • rboerner

    I’m sitting here thinking about all that I’ve read on father’s and I KNOW that I have father issues that have affected my entire life. This is an area that I also continue to reflect on and allow God to heal. I’m not trying to speak for my husband but he would say the same thing if he were on here. He also deals with Father issues. We both have a strong desire to break the crazy cycle that we brought into our family from our pasts so that our son can experience a better parent relationship. I do realize that we will never be perfect parents and we will make plenty of mistakes but God is an amazing healer! Thank you Beth for these last few posts.

    • I think many people have either father issues, mother issues or both. Unfortunately, I fall in that last category! But God has helped to heal so much of my past and I just want to pay that insight forward. I’m so glad these subjects have been helpful to you, Becky! You’re one of my best supporters! 🙂

  • rboerner

    I’m sitting here thinking about all that I’ve read on father’s and I KNOW that I have father issues that have affected my entire life. This is an area that I also continue to reflect on and allow God to heal. I’m not trying to speak for my husband but he would say the same thing if he were on here. He also deals with Father issues. We both have a strong desire to break the crazy cycle that we brought into our family from our pasts so that our son can experience a better parent relationship. I do realize that we will never be perfect parents and we will make plenty of mistakes but God is an amazing healer! Thank you Beth for these last few posts.

  • oh boy, beth — “a workaholic pastor who wasn’t home much” . . . that was my dad, too. except that my dad knew how to relate — he’s a phenemonal communicator. he just didn’t exert that energy into our family; he gave it all to the church. i’ve been keenly aware that my rela. w/ my dad growing up has impacted me tremendously (& my marriage), but it’s still very much a journey.

    “I brought both a fear of connection and an obsessive need for connection with me.” WOW . . . i don’t think i’ve ever articulated that in my mind before. thank you! i think i start w/ the obsessive, & then when i start to focus on those specks in the eye instead of Jesus, i shift to the fear & start to build self-protective fortresses in my heart (ones that don’t let love in — but also don’t let love out).

    really, really appreciate all of these recent insights, beth.
    thank you so very much, my friend,
    tanya

    • Yes, I agree, Tanya, my dad was also a great communicator when it came to those in his church. When it came to being open, vulnerable and interested on a personal level, he really didn’t know how and possibly didn’t feel it was appropriate with a daughter. Who knows? He grew up in a different generation since he was 43 when I was born.

      All that to say, it seems we have a lot in common, Tanya. I’m so glad that you had sort of an “ah-ha” moment even in your comment above! It’s great when God uses little opportunities like this to speak to us. And so glad you came by to let me know how the articles have been helpful! Thanks so much, my new friend!

  • oh boy, beth — “a workaholic pastor who wasn’t home much” . . . that was my dad, too. except that my dad knew how to relate — he’s a phenemonal communicator. he just didn’t exert that energy into our family; he gave it all to the church. i’ve been keenly aware that my rela. w/ my dad growing up has impacted me tremendously (& my marriage), but it’s still very much a journey.

    “I brought both a fear of connection and an obsessive need for connection with me.” WOW . . . i don’t think i’ve ever articulated that in my mind before. thank you! i think i start w/ the obsessive, & then when i start to focus on those specks in the eye instead of Jesus, i shift to the fear & start to build self-protective fortresses in my heart (ones that don’t let love in — but also don’t let love out).

    really, really appreciate all of these recent insights, beth.
    thank you so very much, my friend,
    tanya

  • messymarriage

    Yes, I agree, Tanya, my dad was also a great communicator when it came to those in his church. When it came to being open, vulnerable and interested on a personal level, he really didn’t know how and possibly didn’t feel it was appropriate with a daughter. Who knows? He grew up in a different generation since he was 43 when I was born.

    All that to say, it seems we have a lot in common, Tanya. I’m so glad that you had sort of an “ah-ha” moment even in your comment above! It’s great when God uses little opportunities like this to speak to us. And so glad you came by to let me know how the articles have been helpful! Thanks so much, my new friend!

  • messymarriage

    I think many people have either father issues, mother issues or both. Unfortunately, I fall in that last category! But God has helped to heal so much of my past and I just want to pay that insight forward. I’m so glad these subjects have been helpful to you, Becky! You’re one of my best supporters! 🙂

  • messymarriage

    Thanks so much, Joe! I appreciate your support and encouragement greatly. 🙂

  • messymarriage

    I’m so glad this encouraged you, Jessica. That’s what it’s all about–helping others where God has helped me! Thanks so much for your encouragement!