The Well Magazine Fall/Winter 2013 - Page 13

S By Rhonda C. White ome of the fondest memories I have as a child were “Game Night.” One day a week, I think it was on Fridays, my father and I had our special time—just me and him. During these hours we would play board games like Master Mind and Simon. We would wrestle, go to the drive-in movies or roller skate in the basement. We attended Summer League professional basketball tournaments at the Illinois Institute of Technology campus or Chicago State University. Sometimes we just listened to music on 45s, 8-track tapes or vinyl albums. My father had our game nights down to a science. At the time, my father was obtaining his Master’s degree in psychology and I believe he got the game night concept from studying for one of his classes. I am sure I was a guinea pig. And I can tell you now that it was an experiment that worked. I don’t think I remember what we did as much as I remember the fact that it was our time together. I can’t remember how long of a period of time this went on, maybe they ended when he passed the class or maybe they went on for years. However, what I do know is that those times were special and they made a lasting impact on the expectations that I placed on my male relationships. And regrettably I can recall at about twelve years of age, the emotions and the empty space that developed when those games nights abruptly ended. The bottomless pit that was created and the pain that I felt as a young girl, when the special time with my father ended, was something that I carried for a long time and still can readily recall even now. To lose a best friend, my first love, at such a young age, without explanation or even the benefit of being able to express my own feelings regarding our separation deflated me of most of the esteem and self-worth that had been built. From that point on I lived with the chains created by the dysfunctional relationship with my dad that resulted. I blamed him for my emotional handicaps. As my parent’s relationship and my relationship with my dad dissolved, so did my security and validation. Because of the emotional absence of my father, I went through my teens and early twenties seeking the love that I thought I had lost. I can admit that I did not suffer as many women do without their father; however, the emotional damage was substantial enough that I led a reckless and destructive lifestyle for many years, including promiscuity, lewd- ness and drug and alcohol abuse. My father’s absence had left a void inside of me that I tried to fill with all the wrong things. While I have yet to find a formal definition for the “daddy void,” Dr. Paul Meier, founder of Meier Clinics, a national organization of Christian counselors, seems to describe it well: “Every newborn baby needs the love of a mother and of a father, and later—for meaning in life and enjoyment of life— needs to learn to love herself and to have a personal relationship with the Creator,” Meier writes. “If the father is missing from that equation—due to death, divorce, workaholism, separation, or just an inability to love correctly—then logically certain developments of personality will be altered unless father substitutes can make up for it.” I believe whether your father was completely absent or just emotionally distant, that your relationship with your dad heavily impacts who you are as a woman. In fact, I propose that every relationship you are involved in has been impacted by the one you had or didn't have with your father. We base what we believe about ourselves on some level, on what our fathers believed about us. If you were abandoned by your dad, then you could believe you are not worthy of love. If you were rejected by him, then you could think there is nothing you can do to win love. If you were abused by him, then you could think everyone should be able to abuse you. If you were cursed by him, then you will essentially curse others. But if you were genuinely loved by him, then you are automatically equipped to genuinely love yourself. An earthly father's true love is an exact portrait of God's love for His children. It wasn’t until years later that I came to grips with the selfinflicted damage that I had caused myself because of my “daddy void” and broke the chains that were holding me. It wasn’t until I was married for a few years and began to struggle, contemplating separation and divorce, that I recognized that the same triggers that were causing me to stumble in my marriage, were related to the struggles I had as a young girl with my daddy void. Every time I felt like my husband was abandoning me emotionally, every time I allowed myself to feel like I was not good enough or that I had not done enough in my marriage, I went right back to that twelve-year-old little girl, who felt emotion- It wasn’t until years later that I came to grips with the selfinflicted damage that I had caused myself because of my “daddy void” and broke the chains that were holding me. CONTINUED ON PAGE 32 Fall/Winter 2013 The Well Magazine 13