Last week I wrote about “daddy issues.” I thought the post was appropriate given Father’s Day and the time of year. You can read that post HERE.

But why is it so important that we acknowledge those “issues” and go about addressing them? 

Because they are often a driving factor in the formation of one’s compulsive unwanted sexual behaviors. I say this with absolute confidence, as through the course of the last decade of doing ministry and numerous one-on-one consultations with men, it has become apparent that a primary concern frequently discussed is the complications experienced in their relationships with their fathers.

Now addressing these attachment issues is not an easy task. It certainly isn’t something we can unpack in a single blog post. Usually that type of healing work has to be done in the context of ongoing counseling. 

However, by acknowledging these concerns and accepting their role in your life, you will be better prepared to take the necessary steps to improve your mental well-being.

Here are three of the most common father figure problems guys bring up with me:

  1. Abusive fathers.

This first one is pretty obvious. Abuse of any kind will leave serious scars and mental damage on anyone who is unfortunate enough to experience it. Consequently, wrestling with those realities is best done in the context of a counselor’s office.

One of the reasons abuse plays a significant role in our unwanted sexual behavior is that it instills in us (often during our formative years) a deep sense of distrust of both the world and others. That if the people who should love us and accept us the most only wish to hurt us, then what should we expect from anyone else?

And when we can’t emotionally reconcile these conflicting feelings, we often turn to behaviors like porn use to escape and/or detach from those feelings.

2. Emotionally distant or unavailable fathers.

This type of father is the one I hear about most from the men I help. And truth be told, the older the man, the more often I see this father-son relationship played out.

Men (and women) raised by fathers who withhold affection and affirmation, struggle to express their own emotions, or discourage their children from sharing their feelings often face significant developmental challenges. While these fathers may make for compelling characters in an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, the reality is that their parenting style can have long-lasting effects on their children’s well-being.

As adults, we may comprehend that our fathers loved us even though they did not verbalize it; however, the emotional detachment we experienced back then still has a lasting effect on us. 

Questions continue to haunt us and erode our feelings of self-worth and value. Questions such as… 

  • What was wrong with me? 
  • Why did Dad never tell me he cared about me?
  • Was there something about me that Dad didn’t like?
  • Why didn’t Dad want to spend more time with me?
  • And so on.

After all, if dad couldn’t emotionally connect with me, how will others? And when faced with the prospects of ongoing disconnection and loneliness, you guessed it… porn and sex offer a cheap and easy way to bypass facing those emotional realities.

Side note: Absentee fathers are a different father figure type but leave their kids with the same general impression and questions. At the end of the day, emotional absence or physical absence are still “absence.”

3. Fathers who don’t know how to show love in a way that resonates with their child.

Sometimes fathers may have good intentions to connect with their kids, but they might fail because their way of connecting does not match the way their children experience connection. 

Think of it as a love language compatibility problem.

If you are the kind of person who values deep conversations and quality one-on-one moments, a football game where men bond through yelling, high-fives and loud cheers may not satisfy your need for meaningful connection. And visa-versa.

Some guys bond through group activities, sports, and the like.
Some guys bond through 1-on-1 experiences.

And so despite their father’s unwitting efforts to show his love for them, children may still develop insecurities regarding their sense of self-worth, value, and lovable qualities. And those insecurities can sometimes hinder the capacity to manage emotions in a healthy manner, causing the adoption of unhealthy coping mechanisms such as engaging in sexual compulsions.

Don’t get me wrong.  Facing down these fatherly ghosts of the past may be difficult. It may hurt and be extremely painful to verbalize the questions that you have been silently carrying around for the past 10, 20 or 30+ years. 

But you need to do it. 

Because unless you face the pain and trauma that your father inadvertently (or even intentionally) inflicted upon you, it will be hard to develop into an emotionally mature and resilient individual.