My Achilles Heel

For as long as I can remember, I have loved the spotlight. I am and have always been an outspoken, never-shy performer. Whether I had a stage or not, I found a way to get attention. But in all the attention and applause I received from people, it never satisfied the attention I craved from my father. I wanted his undivided focus on me. I wanted to know that he valued me. I wanted to know that I mattered to him more than everything and anyone else in this world. I wanted to know that I was special, loved, cherished, beautiful, and wanted by him. Not knowing this left an unsatisfied place in me.

Once I was married, this yearning for my father’s attention was unintentionally transferred to my husband. I wanted my husband to gush over me the way my father hadn’t. Marriage was my opportunity to get a taste of what I didn’t experience growing up. Of course, I never said this out loud, but my actions and complaints revealed the desires of my heart. I yearned to hear my husband say I was smart, beautiful, a great cook, the perfect wife, and the list goes on.

The little girl in me, who had spent a lifetime looking for her daddy’s validation, was attempting to get from her husband everything she had missed. She was an unwanted stowaway on my marital journey that I didn’t detect for some time. And she continued to impact my marriage for years.

Whereas it’s natural for a wife to want her husband to compliment her, it’s not healthy to be dependent on his words. His words shouldn’t have the power to define who she is and what she’s capable of doing. When a woman finds herself dependent on the affirmation of a man to function, she’s in a dangerous place. It’s not the responsibility of a husband (or a boyfriend, for that matter) to give his wife what she didn’t receive from her father. He is not designed to do this, nor is he capable of filling this crater-sized hole in her soul. I didn’t know this when I got married. I had to learn what should’ve been obvious: my husband is not my daddy.

It took me years to accept this truth. I’ve made several fruitless attempts at trying to get my unmet childhood needs met by my husband. What I failed to realize is that God has already affirmed every woman through His word. His affirmation is greater than anything any man could ever offer. Every father-wounded woman longing for affirmation must be willing to make the Word of God our source and sustenance.

God has already affirmed every woman through His word.

My husband loves me deeply, and there are times when I’m showered with love, but it’s not God’s intention for my husband to become the man I wanted my father to be. Inherently, that’s flawed thinking. Husbands play a different role than fathers in the life of a woman. A husband should be a loving partner and the other half of a cohesive unit, and a father is a parent who guides a woman into adulthood. There are some things a husband can do in the life of a woman who was not fathered, but a woman shouldn’t go into marriage expecting her husband to be who her father wasn’t.

As women who didn’t receive what we needed from our fathers, we must make the time to grieve this loss in our lives. Doing so requires that we tell the little girl inside of us to pack her bags and leave for good. She can’t coexist in a healthy and whole woman of God.

This may be hard to do, but it’s necessary. Every father-wounded woman must accept the reality that her childhood is over and never coming back. We’re not little girls but grown women. If we’re going to move forward in our growth and development, we’ll have to accept the reality of what we didn’t receive as little girls. We must be willing to acknowledge the ways our father wounds have impacted our relationships with the opposite sex and then purpose to make healing choices. For me, this involved examining not just my thoughts but also my emotions. (This is no small task.)

When God was dishing out emotions, I think He gave me an extra dose. I’ve always had supersized highs and inconsolable lows. I feel deeply and can easily get lost inside my emotions. Consequently, scrutinizing my feelings is difficult. When I did stop and think about what I was feeling when I was feeling it, I discovered anger was also impacting my marriage. Sometimes unresolved anger with a parent is redirected toward a spouse after you say “I do.” This was the case for me.

Shortly after we jumped the broom, anger seeped out of me like hot steam. My husband became an easy target because he was male and close by. In an effort to have a healthy marriage, I had to comb through the tangled mess of my emotions and identify the root cause of my anger.

I was forced to examine my feelings. Just like with my thoughts, I had to evaluate whether my feelings were based on truth or lies. It took counseling, journaling, and much prayer to say, “I’m angry because . . . I feel rejected because . . . I’m hurting because . . .” What I discovered is that sometimes our feelings are indicators of what’s right and wrong, but sometimes feelings, though very convincing, don’t represent truth at all. Sometimes feelings completely go on a rogue tangent. There are times in our lives when our feelings are misinformed, illogical, and detrimental to our behavior. That’s definitely been the case in my life.

I had to learn not to redirect undealt-with feelings and emotions regarding my father’s absence toward my husband. To do this I needed to resolve unforgiveness with my dad. (We will cover this in detail in chapter 6.)

These critical lessons have drastically impacted the overall health of my marriage. It’s made me less needy, more secure, and a better wife. Thus, my husband has the freedom to be the man God intended him to be for me and not a daddy replacement. I had to choose to interact with my husband not as a wounded girl but as a healthy and whole woman. This choice was the beginning of going to God to get my needs met by Him and not depending on my husband.

Allowing God to Meet Our Needs

I may not know or understand why God allows women to experience father wounds, but I can say God is able to meet our unmet needs. He may use a spouse to do it, a book, the Bible, a message, a counselor, or someone or something else. He’s God. What He chooses to use is not a detail we need to know. What is vital on our healing journey is knowing that God, and not another human being, is our source.

If you’re not married or in a dating relationship, please don’t check out of this conversation. We’re all tempted to get our needs met by another person. This is especially true if we have wounds from our fathers. We must be aware of the temptation to make other people our source and guard our heart against it. No human being is capable of easing the pain that a father wound produces in the life of a woman. The ache of a father-wounded daughter is healed only by the infinite love of God. We are to look to Him—and only Him—as our source.

The ache of a father-wounded daughter is healed only by the infinite love of God.

This is easier said than done. People can sometimes feel more tangible than God. We can see, touch, and hear them. I’ve wrestled with God’s ability to meet my unmet needs for most of my life, but I’ve also discovered time is a great teacher. Attempting to make people our source over and over again will only lead to disappointment. Human beings (every last one of us) are flawed, and even with good intentions, we can’t consistently be what another person needs. But God can, and He is able to handle our raw and unfiltered truth.

Choosing to make God our source requires honest communication with Him. We must be willing to be brutally honest about what we’re feeling when we’re feeling it.

God, I’m lonely (yes, even in marriage).

I feel unloved.

I don’t feel valued.

I’m angry.

I’m hurting.

I feel rejected.

I feel wounded.

These are just a few of the conversations I’ve learned to allow myself to have with God, my heavenly Father. I expanded my list of things God was concerned about to encompass the intimate details of my soul, and over time He met my needs.

Sis, before we were born, God envisioned, fashioned, and placed His seal of approval on us. We are His idea and we always have been. With infinite wisdom, He gets us and loves us deeply. What we need is found in Him.

The truth I had to realize was, though my father didn’t affirm me as a child, God affirms me through His Word, and He alone is enough. Period. This is true for me and it’s also true for you.

Excerpted from Overcoming Father Wounds by Kia Stephens. Published by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Copyright 2023. Used by permission.