Daddy issues: Seeking approval in relationships

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As many of you know, I had issues with my father growing up. I never got his love or approval and that really hurt me. It messed me up, even.

For the next 6 or so years I would obsess over trying to make my boyfriends happy. I’d spend money, time, and effort, and make grand gestures to try to receive that love. I wanted approval. I wanted confirmation that I’m a good person. I figured that if I kept doing these big things for them there was no way they could leave me or reject me. There was no way they couldn’t love me.

The thing is… even if they’d jump up and down and cry of happiness (which of course, they didn’t)… it still wouldn’t have been enough.

No man will ever fill that void. And why should he? That is a dad-shaped hole that really won’t ever heal. 

Andy and I had a bit of a speed bump there yesterday. The art installation didn’t go as well as I had hoped. He loved the thought behind it and admired how hard I worked, but he was a little bit shocked and felt very weird in the limelight around onlookers that knew it was him in the posters. These aren’t things I knew in the moment… so to me it registered as it always had in the past.

It reminded me of my exes to be honest. I felt like I had landed another guy who didn’t appreciate the things I do. I did what I told myself I’d do in a situation like this.

I contemplated whether or not this person was right for me.

And that made me extremely sad. I wanted to be alone. I didn’t want to talk about it. I wanted to shower and lay in bed and cry. I didn’t know how to tell him. I didn’t think we could bounce back from this for our picnic and fort plans. Andy knew something was wrong and I’m not one to lie about whether or not I’m alright, so I told him the truth.

He was deeply saddened that I was in pain over it.

I wanted to shower. He wanted to wait for me in my room. I wanted to lay in bed. He laid there with me. I wanted to cry, he held onto me in silence for about half an hour while the tears took over.

Then afterwards, when I was calmer, we talked about it. He felt so bad about his reaction, and I felt so bad because I felt like I was completely off with my gift. I cried some more and told him that I just wanted to give him things I knew he never had. I wanted him to know that I realize there’s a third person in this relationship and that it is a different situation. I wanted him to feel loved and cared about.

And he said, “Why would you think I don’t? You make me feel that way every day. Every moment that I’m with you I feel that way. It makes me so sad that you don’t believe I appreciate you. I do. Everything you do for me is noticed and appreciated.”

And I realized that this whole thing was a pretty painful misunderstanding. I looked back at this time I’ve been in Austin, and I really thought about it.

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In this short amount of time Andy has made me feel like the most special and beautiful person in the world. He has sacrificed sleep and time for me, he’s juggled me, his son, work, and school, and has managed to make me four amazing gifts from scratch. He’s met my friends, shamelessly told his family about me, planned an amazing birthday for me, and understood my ongoing battle with depression. He’s listened to my problems, my woes, my fears, and has separated them from the person that I am. 

I realized that by just being myself and letting him in I made him feel loved. I never needed to do any of the things I did. I don’t need to make super grand gestures, or look perfect every time we hang out, or hold back on the person that I am. Seems I never had to with him.

When I was growing up I missed out on my father’s love, and it really affected me. I spent hours and days on gifts, surprises, and grand gestures trying to get that same love and approval from my boyfriends. when I didn’t get it I was devastated. I wanted people to know how great of a girlfriend I was. I wanted concrete proof that I did things for them and that I cared.

I enjoyed people coming up to me and saying what an amazing girlfriend I am more than I enjoyed seeing my boyfriend happy. 

But the thing is… yesterday when I was putting up the posters at the outdoor gallery, I turned to my friend that was helping me and told him,

“I would rather have people not look at my work at all than look at it and like it. This isn’t about any of them. They don’t have a clue.”

Even before I knew what Andy’s reaction was going to be, I didn’t feel the need to have anyone tell me what a great girlfriend I am. I only cared about what Andy would think.

I don’t feel like I have to do these grand gestures for approval anymore. Of course there will be days where I want to do something special, but it will always be for the right reasons with Andy.

As a girlfriend I’m loving, caring, affectionate, respectful, and mindful. As a person I am creative, goal-oriented, independent, funny, bright, and strong.

And that is why Andy loves me.

There’s no longer this aching need to replace my father. That dad shaped hole has been boarded up. But Andy has filled the part of me that yearned to be loved and accepted. That lingering feeling that I’m the only person who believes I’m good is gone.

I’m free from this obsessive need to feel loved.

I am loved.

And that is how we bounced back. He gave me my gift. It was a leather booklet with a notepad in it. On the first page it read:

Jess,

It’s only been a month and you’ve swept me off my feet. We’ve grown together so quickly and I just can’t imagine my life without you. You’re the bee’s knees AND the cat’s pajamas. I love you and all the little quirks that make you who you are. I hope you can use this little notepad to help you continue to be the beautiful and creative woman you are.

Happy Valentine’s Day

-Andy

So my Valentine’s day surprise didn’t work out perfectly. So Andy didn’t respond exactly the way I wanted him to. That’s not important. Let me tell you what is. 

1. Though he felt odd about it he still could see the beauty and creativity and effort I put into it.

2. When I reacted negatively to his reaction he didn’t attack me or tell me my feelings weren’t valid.

3. He waited for me to cry it out.

4. He allowed me to express how I was feeling when I was finally ready and calm

5. He told me that none of this changes how he feels about me.

These are all things that prove to me that what we have together is good, unadulterated, and can push through conflict.

I’m also very happy it happened because now our relationship isn’t ALL rainbows and butterflies. It’s a relationship. A real one. We can exist in our imaginary world. We can be together without anyone else around in our little fort we made in my room that had one string of beer shaped lights illuminating each crevice. We can laugh, and kiss, and play games. But more importantly, we can get out of the fort and face the real world. No one is excited for a fight. No one likes looking back on their scars and their issues. But these things are necessary because they prove to us that what we are living is real.

His gift proved to me that though his personality isn’t the same as mine, he still knows that I’m creative and artistic and loves me for it. It was the perfect gift to end that whole situation.

I made a video that shows how I made the posters and how I posted them up. Regardless of what happened I’m extremely proud of my work, and on the plus side, I saw a bunch of people taking pictures with them as we were leaving the gallery!

See when it came to my dad, I knew that he was missing out on a great daughter. I knew that I had great qualities. I knew it with all of my exes, and I know it with Andy. It’s just really nice to find someone who finally knows that about me, too. Especially without me having to point it out all the time.

After making up and making the SWEET fort (that I’m currently in as I type) we hung out, had our picnic, danced salsa (He’s learning because he knows it’s important to me), drank wine, and played the letters game.

You decide on a letter and take turns saying words that start with it. Names aren’t allowed and neither are repeats. If you look away or laugh you lose.

I distinctly remember laying on my back in the middle of the bed, resting my head on a pillow, and Andy hovering over me, a big smile on his face while we took turns, trying to make each other laugh by saying words in funny voices.

And I felt so beautiful. Not that I didn’t before. I just really noticed it in that moment. The way he was looking at me reminded me of it.

No relationship is perfect. No man is perfect. I’m certainly not perfect.

But today, sitting here in this fort that makes me feel safe and reminds me of all the things I learned in 24 hours, I feel perfect. I feel right.

I feel happy.

-Jess

P.S. Andy’s dad wants to meet me! We are all having dinner soon. I’m really excited that our relationship is actually becoming something in the real world.

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5 thoughts on “Daddy issues: Seeking approval in relationships

  1. That’s huge. I can always remember when I had a fight with my first proper boyfriend. although we were in a fight a part of me realised how huge it was that I was willing to let down the barriers, show I was unhappy and trust that he would stick around. Although not he valentines day you planned, I bet it has done a lot for your relationship and cementing it! Happy for you hun!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sabrina,
      That means so much to me! This blog has helped me hone in on my thoughts and ideas tremendously, and it brings me great joy to hear that others benefit from it. It makes my life feel like it has a specific purpose. Like everything I went through was for a reason. I’m really glad that people can relate to my deep seeded issues, and those that cannot may be able to understand through me. I appreciate you!

      Liked by 1 person

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