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How To Repair A Toxic Father-Daughter Relationship

Courtesy of Jill Di Donato

A girl's bond with her dad is key to her ability to live life as a grown-ass woman, so it's key you learn how to repair a toxic father-daughter relationship, no matter how old you are. For me, my toxic relationship with my dad stemmed from the fact that he was ashamed to be the man he really was. Aside from being my father, educator, beekeeper, and chef, my father is a gay man. I want to stress that the fact that my dad is gay did not make ours a toxic father-daughter relationship. It was the fact that he raised me while living his life in the closet that made him an absentee parent. Plus, any family dynamic that's full of secrets is toxic for everyone in the house, not just dad and daughter.

As I grew from a child to a teen, things got even trickier with my dad, which is normal. According to Psychology Today, kids need to shift their attachment during the period of adolescence from their parents, who are the most important people in during childhood, to others. This is necessary for adolescents to develop healthy attachments with their peers, mentors, teachers, and so on. As adolescent girls mature, they will form romantic relationships with men, women, or both. But because I had an insecure attachment with my dad, making it "toxic," my romantic relationships suffered as a result.

But not all hope is lost. There are many ways you can still repair a toxic relationship with your father and set your self up for relationship success in the future. These are some things that worked for me, and hopefully, they might spark some ideas on how you can fix your toxic father-daughter relationship, or at least give you hope that it's possible.

1. Let Time Heal

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Time alone isn't going to heal everything, but time is valuable because it allows for space and distance. It wasn't until I was in my 30s that I started to heal my relationship with my dad. I had to be mature enough to understand his perspective rather than just focus on my pain. And he needed time as well to get his life in order so that the healing could take place.

2. Realize Your Dad Did The Best He Could At The Time

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Though there are exceptions, chances are your dad was parenting to the best of his abilities. My dad grew up coming from Brownsville, Brooklyn, raised by immigrant Sicilian Catholics who had no understanding of who he was as a person, which, aside from being gay, was intellectually curious and kind of a nerd — not exactly the norm in his neighborhood.

Additionally, the Daily Herald noted that parents model their parenting style on how they were raised as kids. That is, unless they make a conscious effort to do things differently. You may have to cut your dad some slack and accept that he did the best he could given where he was coming from.  

3. Go To Individual Therapy

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According to NPR, and most psychological modalities, childhood experiences affect who you are later in life. A therapist who wants to review your childhood experiences is probably a good one, so be patient and do the work.

4. Go To Therapy With Your Dad

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If he's willing, and you're willing, this can't hurt. Having an objective third party to help you see things clearly is invaluable. However, as Psychotherapy.net recommended, both you and your dad must be open to the counseling in order for it to be fruitful.

5. See Your Dad As A Person, Not Just Your Dad

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This was so vital to my experience in healing my relationship with my dad. And as Huffington Post noted, when you can see your dad as a person, not only your father, you're proving that you're an adult and ready to start healing.

6. Ask Him To Listen To You

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Psychology Today reported that it's essential for fathers to listen to what their daughters have to say, at any age, in order for you to feel heard. But sometimes, you have to ask someone to listen to you. So, give it a try.

7. Let Go Of Adolescence

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You don't need me to tell you that being a teenage girl is as wonderful as it is painful. And Psychology Today confirmed that adolescence is a time when a girl's self-esteem can be "easily deflated."  Your dad might have not been sensitive to this fact; I know mine wasn't because he was wrapped up in his own self-esteem battles. But, you know what? You're not a teen anymore. Let it go and move on.

8. Accept Your Dad's New Partner

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Maybe your parents are still together. Or maybe, like mine, they've parted ways and your dad wants you to accept his new partner. The fact that he cares what you think of his new life is a sign that he's invested in your relationship. Your feelings about your dad's new partner aren't about you, but acceptance in general, helps repair the toxic mess that defined your relationship with your dad in the past.

9. Build New Memories

Courtesy of Jill Di Donato

It's never too late to build new memories with your dad. Do things together you didn't do when you were a child.