A Different Kind of Daddy Issue

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Dear Darla,

So I take it that things are getting a mite serious over there. Good for you. I trust you are smiling at him brightly?

That apparently being the case, let me compare and contrast two different kinds of daddy issues. When a father has been a good father to his daughter, as yours obviously has been, despite being a great blessing, it nevertheless creates a unique set of challenges. When a father has been distant, or abdicating, or abusive, this creates another set of challenges—what are popularly known as “daddy issues.” As your dad has been a strong father, both to you and your siblings, this does not remove the possibility of something going wrong—it just changes the nature of what could go wrong.

So let me begin with the situation that you are likely to encounter, and then I will compare it to the other kind of situation, the really sad kind.

A father has an entirely different relationship to his daughters than he does with his sons. It is not the case that he just has generic “kids,” and provided he treats them well, everything will unfold in exactly the same way. No. He is a man, and he is a man with sons and daughters. A good father is modeling for his sons what they should want to be like, while he is doing something very different for his daughters. For them he is modeling what they should want a future husband to be like. A similar thing happens on the other side, with mothers and daughters and mothers and sons. In this case, he is modeling the kind of man you should want, not the kind of man you should be.

The paradigm for all of this was established in the Garden of Eden, long ago.

“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”

Genesis 2:24; cf. Matt. 19:5 (KJV)

Sons leave. Daughters are given. This means son “detaches” from his father in a manner that is very different than how a daughter detaches—although they both are separated from their families of origin in order to form a new family unit.

When the apostle Paul is writing about the different requirements for the sexes in the course of a service of worship, he says this:

“Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.”

1 Corinthians 14:34 (KJV)

As the law also says. But where does the law say that?

The most likely candidate is found in Numbers 30, the passage that talks about how to manage it when a daughter or a wife has made a vow to the Lord. I won’t quote the passage at length here, but it is worth looking up and reading through carefully (Num. 30:3-16). In that passage if a woman vows something to the Lord, her father has the authority to abrogate that vow when he first hears of it. But if he hears of it and says nothing, then her vow stands. This shows how even an abdicating father is held responsible. His inaction is treated by the law of God as action. If this young woman then marries, the same principle carries over to her new husband. If he hears of it, and says nothing, then the vow stands.

This shows that there is an analogous relation between a father and daughter and a husband and a daughter. Both a father and a husband are heads, and at a wedding that covenantal headship is transferred.

“But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.”

1 Corinthians 11:3 (KJV)

If the head of the woman is the man, referring to her husband, if we place these passages together, this means that her father was her covenant head before she was married.

“And why are you bringing all this up?” you might be asking. “I’m in love, and so why the deep theology?”

Well, this is all going to be enormously practical in just a few months. The stronger and tighter your relationship with your dad, the more of a challenge it will be transferring that allegiance to a different man. Not only that, but a different man who is thirty years younger than your dad, and that much more inexperienced, and who doesn’t have the same kind of deep account with you that your father does. About the only thing he has over your father is that he can probably run faster.

But it is not hopeless. What he has going for him is that this whole thing is apparently a design feature. God intends for this to be done, and so when it is done right, it really is glorious. But there are ways in which it can be done poorly, ineptly, or not at all. So it is a father’s task to have his daughter’s emotional bank account full and topped off. But he has to do this in such a way as enables her to transfer it all to another bank.

If he does this right, he is giving a new and inexperienced husband a head start, and time enough to learn the ropes. The new husband can draw on the account that the father established. But if dad is the wrong kind of alpha father, he is going to have trouble letting go, or his daughter might have trouble letting go, or both, and this is how the poor daughter becomes the rope in a tug-of-war. One of the temptations that comes to strong fathers is the temptation of viewing strong sons-in-law as competition somehow. This is the set up for all kinds of problems.

When your dad gives you away, he is such a gracious Christian gentleman, I have no doubt that he will do it right. But sometimes daughters don’t have their father’s wisdom, and they compare their husbands to their dads in the wrong way. And there are fathers, and I am afraid that I have seen them, who give their daughter’s hand ceremonially during the wedding, but in no other way. They don’t really let go, in other words.

A young couple needs to fix it in their minds that they are establishing a new covenant household, one that as households go has the same rank as the households they grew up in. The household of “the kids” is not an annex to or extension of the households of the groom’s family, or of the bride’s. After the wedding, we have three households, not two-and-a-half. You don’t want your oldest child to be sixteen when he experiences his first Thanksgiving in his own house.

I know your folks very well, and I know that they are committed to this principle that I am describing, and so I know they are not going to be difficult. But this should still be one of your expectations for Trent. You should be considering whether or not he is the kind of man who would shield you from your well-meaning in-laws, or if your folks were being difficult, from them as well. If you were getting undue pressure from his mother, or from your father (which we obviously do not expect), he is the kind of man who will step in between. Will he be the kind of man who would say, “Mom, we really want to hear your concerns, and we will consider them, and pray through them. But you really need to bring them to me, and not to Darla.” Good fences make good neighbors—and a good man is always a good fence.

Compare all this to the other kind of problem. If a young woman has the other kind of daddy issues, she can’t get away from home fast enough. Or at least it appears that way. But she has a vacuum inside, and she is looking for a way to fill it up. It is a vacuum that is shaped like an authoritative male head, and so she takes her father-void, her father hunger, with her. This is why she so easily latches on or clings to a man, or to men, to anyone that she thinks might be able to fill that void. And so she goes off to empower herself through pole dancing, or some other way of disappointing her father. Of course, there is no shortage of men around, but none of these men can fill that void, and a good two thirds of them don’t even want to. They just pretend to want to in order to get her into bed, and then they are gone like the whistling wind. And just like the whistling wind, they never call anymore.

But in a healthy situation, as I said above, the father of the bride is giving the new husband a head start. He is beginning a new venture in the establishment of this household, and a godly father has been the financier, a venture capitalist. When a secure daughter transfers her allegiance to her new head (which is not the same thing as transferring loyalty, affection, or respect), she is doing something that should come naturally. She loves and respects her dad, as always, but her allegiance has been transferred. She is a naturalized citizen of another country now. A woman used to carry her father’s name, and now her last name is the name of her husband.

When feminists kick at this, thinking they are subverting the patriarchy, they are not actually keeping their womanly name. They are doggedly sticking with their father’s name, and their grandfather’s, and their great-grandfather’s. They are being narrowly patriarchal in this. A Christian maiden is brought up knowing that a woman is not bound to one male line forever. She knows that each new generation of daughters is privileged to bring new life to a new line.

This is God’s design. A woman is supposed to take her husband’s name. This is not a quaint Anglo Saxon custom; it is fully biblical.

“Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.”

Genesis 5:2 (KJV)

God created them male and female, and placed his blessing upon that, and called their name Mr. and Mrs. Adam. All the LGBTQ+ business is nothing less than hostility toward the blessings of God. You should therefore relinquish your father’s name, and you should do it with joy. When your dad gives you away, it is so that you might take a name other than his, and that should bring him great joy. How could it not? It is God’s design.

“With gladness and rejoicing they shall be brought; They shall enter the King’s palace. Instead of Your fathers shall be Your sons, whom You shall make princes in all the earth.”

Psalm 45:15–16 (NKJV)

Your uncle,