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Daddy’s Little Girl Syndrome: Cycles of Dysfunctional Relationships

I grew up learning to invest in men who didn’t invest in me. I always saw their value (sometimes before they saw it in themselves), but they never seemed to actually see or honor mine. It was later in my life when I finally realized this, and it wasn’t until these last few years that I realized that I didn’t see the value in myself or else I never would’ve connected with the guys I dealt with in the first place. I grew up loving the ideas of who I thought men were in my life, from so-called friends to boyfriends.

Because I was picky about who I dated, it was a joy to immerse myself in a guy I finally felt was worth my time. The problem, however, was that those guys were never ready for me. They never wanted to settle down. I was always the “good woman” who simply wasn’t enough. It was there, in that void of compromise, where I and my self-esteem unconsciously learned to chase and settle. Pitiful. Why was this the case?

With that said, let me make the disclaimer that this isn’t a man-bashing, woman-shaming article. It’s merely my attempt to zero in and shed light on an unhealthy pattern we’ve seen all our lives on television and in relationships. Hopefully this helps someone.

So again I ask, Why did I settle and chase? Where did this come from? I’ve heard many women somewhat boast and proclaim, “I don’t chase men because they chase me”. I shake my head because we women still chase by luring. We simply make the men think it was their idea. But how we dress and carry ourselves is commonly a pursuit to get a man. We long for acceptance like any other.

Back to the point. I understood my daddy’s value long before he understood it in himself. This is where it started for me. Every child understands the value of their parent before we can even talk. That bond and knowing is established early on. It’s natural to depend on the parent; for a daughter to depend on her daddy. Being a daddy’s girl should be okay and automatic. So why do I tack Syndrome onto “Daddy’s Little Girl”? Please catch this…

I’m no social scientist—no Dr. Joy Degruy (love her!), yet I’ve recognized a common dysfunctional dating pattern in women who grew up without their dads or with dads who didn’t truly invest themselves and their time into their daughters. No matter what any woman says, we all want to be daddy’s girl. We pursue our dads and their attention. We all want to be innocently treasured in daddy’s eyes. We want that feeling of being special knowing that we make him happy and bring joy to his heart for all the joy he brings.


But this is too often not the truth. Our realities are war-torn and stricken with sin, abandonment and broken promises. At best, some of us were merely tolerated and only spoken to when convenient or under some obligation or pressure.  This is where the syndrome gets added on. We allow our love interests to treat us in the same careless ways! Our dad’s did it to us first and so it’s become our norm to accept this unhealthy behavior from other men we desire to have in our lives.

We often hear people say how a woman has “daddy issues”. Well we can’t say this without looking at the initial onset of her issues which starts with the daddy, hence the label. In dating, some women, like myself, haven’t realized where or why they began having deep interests in men who didn’t reciprocate their feelings. They haven’t wondered why they always invest emotionally in men who don’t invest emotionally back into them!

Let me tell you sisters, this is a learned behavior. It’s an unconscious default pattern and until women come to observe this pattern (among others), we don’t make effective changes. We were trained from childhood to chase daddies who aren’t invested in us! Our daddies, whether they want to believe it or not, teach us how to interact with men. They teach us through their investment in us or lack thereof. But a daughter and a woman’s longing are the same—a desire to be loved by those who seem unattainable. So dysfunctional, I know. But we see it everyday.

Some may think this article is a cop-out for women making poor choices in men. It’s not about bashing our daddies but rather learning from them for the sake of doing better. This article is to tell women, my sisters, to stop making poor choices in men. Let us not be ignorant of the enemies devices. The enemy may have broken up our homes and healthy relationships with our dads, but we still have the Lord! Our heavenly Father is a Father to the fatherless. He’s our leader and example. He pursues us and washes us with His word. He renews us and covers us. He delights in us and carries our heavy burdens while His are light. The Lord desires that we embrace Him knowing that He won’t leave us nor forsake us. He won’t ignore our hopes, nor deny our feelings. He speaks with love, care and purpose.

Let us no longer suffer from Daddy’s Little Girl Syndrome by investing time, energy, money, our emotions, our health, our lives into men who have invested nothing godly and productive into us. It should take way more than decent looks, smooth talk, swagger and maybe some anointing or money to get us invested in a man. (Please note that anointing does not always make a man marriage material).

Jesus laid His life down for us. These men don’t even want to hardly pick up a phone without thinking they’ve actually done something worthwhile to win us over. Let us not waste anymore of ourselves. We are too highly treasured in the sight of God to settle for being treated and viewed as a cubic zirconia in an egotistical man’s eye. We must value God and ourselves first or we will always feel like the tail and not the head; beneath instead of above. Let us no longer act like broken little girls when we should instead operate as victorious women and daughters in Christ.


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About Essence Yarbrough

Mama Bear of two. Author of Wisdom In Red: The Words of Jesus. (Writer by grace of the Author.) Patiencepreneur.

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