My father was absentee, but I pretty much reject any implication that I have “daddy issues” that affect my choices in men. I don’t date older men, short men, selfish men, self-righteous men, I’m not promiscuous, nor do I hate men. However when I do look back on all of the men that I have been involved with, there is one common factor: all of them were there, but not really.

My dad was in and out—miscellaneous phone calls, random visits when he’d expect me to drop everything and see him, no assistance when I called and needed something from him. But as a child, I had a step dad, so I felt I wasn’t cheated out of much. He was present for the good stuff and I didn’t really have to answer to him in the same way I would a biological father—I actually felt lucky in comparison to the strict fathers all of my friends had.

Fast forward ten years or so and I’m noticing that I’ve come across very similar patterns in dating. There’s the old high school acquaintance that I can spend hours talking to on the phone from hundreds of miles away, but only one night with in person. The guy I was “just talking to” who supposedly wanted to make sure he could trust me before he gave me his undivided time and attention. The on-again, off-again boyfriend who I had access to maybe three days a week if he felt like it, and who would disappear every two-three months. Sprinkle in a few other incognegros and you’ve got a recipe for severe unhappiness. None of these men were present; they made cameos when they wanted to, talked to me when they felt like it, and went on their way whenever it was convenient for them.

And I allowed it.

In the way that a man won’t make a commitment to a woman that he’s seeing so that if he screws up, he can say, “we’re not together,” I think I tried to work that in reverse. My mentality, subconsciously I think, was that if I get involved with men that I know aren’t completely committed to me then I can’t be disappointed because I’ll never have high expectations—I’ll just go with the flow. It sounds utterly ridiculous in hindsight.

I was always on someone else’s agenda, men who didn’t really care what I wanted from them, it was only about what they were willing to give. And I think the fact that we were not together, aside from the amazing disappearing boyfriend, was actually comforting because I could flip things to claim that everything was cool because they didn’t owe me anything without a commitment. But the truth is you don’t need a title to get your feelings hurt.

It’s not that I thought absenteeism was normal, I knew something was wrong about that type of behavior from age six, but I think it’s what I was accustomed to. My father was my father, but not at all. My step father was my father, but not really. The first guy that I was a little serious with in high school was “exclusively” dating me, and that was just a lie. From then on it was downhill. I was used to blurred lines, mock relationships, and only receiving parts of someone. I think I just thought, this is the best you can get, so I settled for the mirage of a man.

Sometimes you think having a man, or part of a man, even if it’s not the right man, is better than not at all. But I can attest to feeling lonelier in my most recent relationship than I’ve ever felt as a single woman. Sometimes you think you can avoid the headaches of real relationships when you settle for cheap imitations, but when you do that you also miss out on all of the aspects that make committed relationships wonderful. You cheat yourself out of the type of relationship you really want and deserve, setting aside your desires for a mere phantom of a man.

If I have to own up to a daddy issue, I guess mine would be a lack of expectations. When you expect and demand little, that’s what you get in return. And although demanding more doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get it, you definitely weed out the ones who aren’t willing to fulfill your expectations from the get go.

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  • FunnyBunny

    Awesome article. You just wrote my story. Absentee boyfriend, missing dad, relaxed stepdad, friends I’m ‘talking to’ and all. Thank you.

    The biggest thing I got out of this is confirmation that I’m not bugging out, and that I’m not the only one experiencing this. Now the next hurdle is weeding out the mirages and getting to the oasis.