Summary: We are created with a longing that only a father can fill.
In premarital counseling we spend a lot of time talking about the future bride and grooms parents, and focus a great deal on the dads. We spend time talking about their relationships, favorite memories, the ways that they were disciplined, and what they like and don’t like about their parents. We have a strict rule of confidentiality and over time the couple learns to trust me and we can talk pretty openly. In all the couples I have counseled over the years I have noticed that there are two types:
The first type will go to extreme lengths to protect the name of their families. Their family would make the Cleavers look dysfunctional. Their parents never raised their voice, took them on 5 family vacations a year, spent every meal together, and every Christmas they got a pony and every birthday they got a puppy.
The second type takes this opportunity to talk about every deep dark secret. In this confidential environment they discuss the fact that all their parents did was yell and scream at each other and the kids, the only vacation they ever went on would make a great horror movie, and it was underwear and socks every Christmas and birthday.
It is my hope that through these sessions that we will all understand that like it or not, each person bears the indelible stamp of a father, a person whose impact we rarely escape.
Ken Druck and James Simmons in The Secrets Men Keep discuss six major secrets men have. At the top of the list is that "men secretly yearn for their father’s love and approval." This is often without their conscious knowledge behind the drive many males have to prove themselves. The authors say:
It may surprise us to know that the most powerful common denominator influencing men’s lives today is the relationship we had with our fathers .... Of the hundreds of men I have surveyed over the years, perhaps 90 percent admitted they still had strings leading back to their fathers. In other words, they are still looking to their fathers, even though their fathers may have been dead for years, for approval, acceptance, affection, and understanding.
Last summer I was standing in our friends Sears store in Bay Minette, when a rather large man came in the store and was looking around. He said that he just wanted to look so I just stood and watched him make his way around the store. He looked at chainsaws, grills, washing machines, and made his way back to the TV’s, and he came to a stop when John Michael Montgomery’s video for the song Letters From Home started. I thought that it was rather interesting that during the first two verses the man was completely unaffected, but in the third verse there is a line where the dad in a letter tells his son that he makes him proud. At that moment in the song our rather large friend turned and walked quickly out of the store, with tears streaming down his face. What a powerful moment.
But men aren’t the only ones with a yearning for their fathers. In her book Like Father, Like Daughter, Suzanne Fields presents the results of her interviews with hundreds of women. The central thesis of her research was "Daddy hides, and we forever seek him, only occasionally flushing him out of his hiding places."