Father-Daughter Codependence © Martyn Carruthers

Online Relationship Coaching, Counseling & Therapy

We help people manage parental fixations and enmeshments.

Continued from: Daddy’s Princess – Part 1

Patterns of Love vs Patterns of Need

It is right and wonderful that parents love their daughters – as daughters. But if a father loves his daughter as a special friend, or worse as a substitute for a partner, chaos and suffering will follow – perhaps for generations.

Few girls can resist lonely, needy fathers – even angry, aggressive fathers. If a daughter feels that her mother does not appreciate her father enough, she may be irritated with her mother and try to give her father the love that her mother seems to withhold.

A mother may react to this betrayal with anger, depression, anxiety or psychosomatic disease. Some mothers leave their families – perhaps not knowing why. They tell me that they would get sick or go crazy if they stay.

Women who fixate on their fathers may be unable to
maintain a partnership with men – unless a man
acts like a substitute father … or a substitute son!

If a father treats his daughter as a special friend, or as a special enemy, his marriage may be the first casualty. His daughter can become the other woman in his life. Entangled daughters often seek immature men as substitutes for their fathers. A family may not confront this issue unless the daughter becomes depressed, addicted or suicidal – and maybe not even then. See Teenage Girl in Trouble.

Such covert emotional incest can escalate to sexual incest. Father-daughter sexual incest accounts for about 30% of all child sexual abuse, although covert emotional incest is far more common. Or, if a daughter lacks an authentic father, a daughter may create a fantasy father, and bond to her fantasy.

Although she may be Daddy’s Princess, every princess wants to be a queen.

My parents never took me seriously … I was their baby. Since our sessions my family started treating me as an adult. Also, I started a relationship with a man who treats me like a real woman – for the first time ever. The last seven months have been wonderful and we plan to get married. Toronto, Canada[/pullquote]

If one parent tries to alienate the other in the mind of their child – this can lead to another set of unpleasant consequences, Parental Alienation.

Princess in a Dark Tower

After emotional incest, a daughter may suffer conflict. Part of her may communicate to Father: “YES – I’ll be the special child-woman that you need!” Another part may say: “NO – I refuse. I withdraw or rebel until you accept me as your daughter!

The daughter may become moody and depressed. She cannot enjoy a healthy childhood – or later partnership. She may become fascinated by drugs, sex, New Age ideas and leaving home. (See Troubled Teenage Girl). If she perceives one parent as a victim, she may identify with the perceived victim and feel chronically angry.

If a father expects his daughter to fulfill his needs, this confusion may lead to physical incest. The daughter’s consequences may then include depression, suicide, psychosis and drug addiction. She may want to punish all men.

People entangled with their parents are often obsessed
with being special. Love is not enough – they want adoration.
Entangled adults may become angry, anxious or depressed
if people fail to respect how special they are.

A need to be ‘special’ is a common cause of
troubled relationships and emotional conflicts!

If her parents do separate, the daughter may express her mother’s anger to her father. Such a daughter may avoid her father until adolescence, when she may feel compelled to meet him. She may reject her mother and want to live with her father, or seek a partner who is like her father. (She may “protect” her father against other women).

I tried to show my ex-wife how much I loved her, but she always compared me to her father.
I could never compete with him and when I stopped trying we split.

A bonded daughter may seek immature older men (substitutes for father), or avoid partnership – either by withdrawal (perhaps into a career, drugs or fantasies) or by shallow romances. She may only be attracted to unavailable men or she may decide that she is lesbian. Her risk of depression and anxiety increases as she ages.

Daughter’s Rebellion

If father-daughter super-bonding is sanctioned by family and culture, a daughter’s attempts to escape may incur both family and community wrath. The combination of parental, family, community and religious pressure can be extreme. Many women leave – some by suicide – rather than conform.

When enmeshed daughters rebel against their fathers, the daughters may take passive helpless-child roles, aggressive dominant-mother roles, or conflicted passive-aggressive roles … for the rest of their lives.

Such daughters may rebel against all men. They may avoid partnership or only relate to immature men. They do not understand why their relationships “go bad”, and they may distract themselves with work, food, alcohol, etc.

Parent-child codependence is normal in southern Europe. My mother wished so much to be with my older brother, and my father was angry and dissatisfied. I was sent each day to ‘humor father’ after work – Mom told me how to please him. I said Yes and No to Father, as you describe and followed the patterns that you describe. I’m not sure that I’m not doing it still. My mother wanted to be with my brother, so, there was no betrayal, I think. Macedonia

They may unconsciously minimize male attention with obesity, or with unattractive complexions or smells. Are they adult-girls? Are they child-women? Are they their mother’s rivals? Who are they?

Emotions of Bonded Daughters

A daughter who receives her father’s inappropriate love will often experience strong,  emotional conflicts and negative emotions:

  • Sadness about her lost childhood
  • Anger about emotional pressure from men
  • Fear of being rejected by men (can’t say “No”)
  • Anxiety of being controlled by men (can’t say “Yes”)
Daughter’s Relationship Cycles

I had more boyfriends than any of my friends. I thought they were jealous when they said that I would never be happy with one man. By 34 I had had over 80 boyfriends. I was SICK of it – but any man was boring after a few weeks. Since our sessions … I have been married for over a year … I have a wonderful husband and a tiny baby girl. Thank you. Poland

Following emotional incest, many young women follow a sad pattern:

  • She meets a man who reminds her of her father
  • The man becomes increasingly demanding and moody
  • She finds herself acting overly compliant or controlling
  • One or both may feel trapped, and seek distractions or affairs
  • She may sabotage their partnership and end it, and/or
  • They may create a codependent relationship, and/or
  • They may create or adopt a baby in an effort to re-create intimacy

Does your helping professional even recognize emotional incest?

My wife kept saying I was like her father. When I suggested that we get help,
I thought she would explode. Since our sessions, we have changed enormously.
She rarely acts like a little girl now – nor does she try to mother me.
Instead she is the woman of my dreams.

When you have suffered enough … we are here.
We help people untangle emotions and entanglements.

Daddy’s Princess – Part 1 . Teenager in Trouble

Categories: Articles