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Doomed by 'Daddy Issues'? How to Update Your Rubric for Relating

Updated: Apr 1

This week, 'Therapy Begins with T(ea)' steeps on the term 'daddy/mommy issues' (and how they affect our romantic relationships today) & offers a body based check-in to explore your own rubric for relating .

daddy issues mommy issues attachment styles

Therapy Begins with T(ea) is a weekly newsletter based on the themes that come up in my sessions as a therapist who specializes in imposter syndrome, attachment styles in romantic relationships, and our psychological relationships with money. Each week consists of a 'steep' in thought reflection, an accompanying body based check-in, and tea card intentions for the week to come.

'Steep' in Thought (3-5 min)

What are 'daddy' issues?

You’ve heard the phrase before, right? And its sister, ‘mommy issues.’ Both are used (disparagingly) to attribute a person’s romantic behavior in adulthood to a dysfunctional relationship with their (usually other gendered) parent in childhood. Overused, reductive, and obsolete (just like Freud himself), the phrase ‘daddy/mommy issues’ tends to diminish the meaning of how our earliest relationships do affect us long-term.

And that’s because our first experiences of relating -- which are often with our parents -- set a rubric for how we learn to relate to others generally. To our (inner) child brain, our relationship with our dad represents how we relate to, and what we can expect from, men; the same holds true for mom (forgive the gender binary here). These can be positive or negative generalizations and this rubric is by no means set in stone (despite ‘daddy/mommy issues’ having a throw-your-hands-up-and-shrug mentality to the phrase), but since these early relationships form our attachment styles, they are powerful.

Our rubric for relating

We can end up re-enacting those dynamics and activating those wounds in our romantic relationships in adulthood - in how we act and in the partners we seek. As I mentioned last week, we then overfocus (and over rely) on attachment instead of connection & intimacy.

A very important note: not all harm is done on purpose and being a parent is an impossible task. Whether your parents caused active harm or you feel discomfort at the thought of ‘blaming’ great parents who tried their best, the focus is more about you than it is them -- understanding young you better and integrating that insight into more fulfilling, safe, happy relationships now is where your agency as an adult comes into play. It’s how we heal and grow.

If you want to reflect more on your own rubric for relating, check out this week’s full body check-in below.

Full Body Check-In (2-4 min)

Take this first breath in reaaaaal slow. Hold the air inside you for a few extra seconds and then let it all go through a deep, audible sigh. Now, inhale again and focus on the exhale this time, breathing out as slowly as you can. Repeat this breath cycle 6-8 times, as many as you need. In slow, out slower, repeat.

When you’re ready, start to think of young you. Let images & memories come forward; sift through them. What were you like? What characteristics and personality traits do you associate with young you? Stay here for a few minutes and just reflect.

Begin to think about how young you felt towards your parents/the family members who raised you. How did you feel around them? How did you act? How did they act around you? What did you learn about safety, love, and worth? Stay here; reflect on any emotions or thoughts that come forward.

Ask yourself, what is my rubric for relating now? Does it feel similar to what I learned and saw as a kid? Does this rubric help me have happy, safe, & healthy relationships as an adult? Breathe out.

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