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Why do I always attract the wrong guy or repeat the same relationship patterns?


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It has been a long time since we hosted our last discussion of "Ask the expert" series. In my opinion it is a very helpful project and we should try and host such discussions more often. This is why I invited Shari Jonas, the author of Father Effects: How Your Father Influenced Who You Are and Who You Love, to be our next guest author which she kindly accepted.


Please feel free to post your questions for Shari, she will probably start answering them this Monday or Tuesday (April 19-20).


About the author


Shari Jonas graduated from McGill University with degrees in Psychology, Human Relations and Family Life Education. She's the author of "Father Effects: How Your Father Influenced Who You Are and Who You Love" and the newly released "link removed". Her personal journey with her own father daughter issues, combined with years of research on this most important relationship is an inspiration to all women who want to understand their father's influence, break negative relationship patterns and find happiness.


Author website: link removed


ENA Exclusive Offer: The FatherDaughterEffects eWorkbook link removed

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Hi Shari - Thanks for coming to ENA! I have a question for you related to the father issue and relationship patterns. I'm turning 30 in a few months and just about every part of my life is going well, but the love life. I have tons of friends, hobbies, and a full life. (I'm also finishing my PhD so my love-life is on hold for a while).


My dad passed away from cancer when I was a pre-teen. My dad and my mom had a good relationship overall, and I know he loved me very much, he was always a doting and involved father. However, he's not been present in my life for almost 20 years!


I notice I tend to attract men (and be attracted to!) men who are emotionally distant. They tend to be intelligent, good looking men with friends, but who don't really seem to 'let others in.' or if they do, it's most certainly not me. On the other hand, I tend to be warm and have lots of empathy and can talk to and relate to just about anyone. The relationships usually start off promising, and then after a few weeks or months they suddenly disappear or just lose interest. I am not clingy or over-emotional. People usually tell me I am an independent, grounded person.


So how do I break this habit when I graduate and start dating again in my 30s!? I know I will make a good partner for the right man.


Thanks so much


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Hello! Welcome and thanks for coming here and answering our questions!!



I've heard of this father influence on daughter theory many many times, but have remained skeptical. I think it's fair to say that fathers have a fair amount of influence on their daughters and some probably will influence their choices in their romantic choices, but how do you know that the father-daughter relationship is the root of the problem? How do you "diagnose" or determine something like that, when you look at someone's relationship pattern?



Once one can figure out that it is indeed the father who is the root of the problem. How does one go about fixing it? Personally for me, I don't have the healthiest relationship with my father. Actually, there's no relationship as he doesn't care about me at all. Romantically speaking, I have every problem under the sun and they are all contradictory. I go from being completely desperate to being completely distanced/independent, scared of being not good enough to thinking he's not good enough, etc.. Is this related to my father? What can I do to improve my romantic relationships?


Thanks for you time,


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Hi Shari,


I was actually born under two very neglectful, selfish, abusive parents and as I have gotten older I have run into anxiety problems and relationship wise I attract abusive partners emotionally or physically. I don't know how to fix this seemingly unfair predicament. (unfair in that I miss out in love from parents and then my future? with a partner?) What can I do besides counseling which I have been off and on doing for years.


Thanks for any advice.

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Hi Shari,

I worry about marrying someone that will be sexually abusive toward our children. I don't want to be in a relationship where I'm constantly suspicious of my partner, but I don't want to be blind toward anything either. How do I make sure that doesn't happen?


Also, all of my significant relationships have been long distance. I can only get close to people who live far away or who I know will be far away soon.

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My question is:

If someone recognizes the way his or her relationship with the father has impacted relationships, but repeats the same relationship patterns, do you think the person should examine the triangular relationship that existed between the mother/father/child?


In my own case, that helped me more than just looking at the father/daughter relationship. I came to realize that witnessing my father abusing my mother was far more damaging to me than any abuse or neglect I experienced first-hand with my father. Not only did I feel powerless to save my mother, even though I was put in that role of playing mediator, but I lost my mother in the sense that she couldn't protect me or nurture me. She was so bonded to my father that she neglected her children. I grew up not understanding what healthy emotional attachment looked like or felt like until I was in a healthy relationship in my 30s. I was engaged to that man, but we ended up not getting married. I'm in my 40s now and have never married. So I still wonder if my parents' relationship is affecting me, even though I'm estranged from my father and am no longer close with my mother.

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Hi, I seem to attract men who turn out to be untrustworthy and liars. Except they string me along for a while before I stop giving them the benefit of the doubt. These men are typically selfish and don't really have concern for my feelings, but they pretend that they do for many months. They pretend they want what I want just to keep me there. Then, the pretending seems to slip a little and I decide they aren't being honest and I leave. Most of them have bad tempers, road rage, etc.


My relationship with my father is kind of a blur to me. My dad worked many hours when I was a child. I remember my mom used to use "wait til your father gets home" as a threat for when she thought we were misbehaving, so there was fear. On Sundays, I remember laying on his belly watching westerns. I was also a very shy child and often hid behind my dad's leg or had him carry me around. Everyone said I was daddy's little girl. I worked for him while I was in high school. When I turned 19 and started dating, we developed problems. I couldn't get out of their house fast enough.


How would that be connected with the men I attract?

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Hi Shari,

Most of my relationships have ended because the men I dated either cheated or lied to me. I feel it will be very hard for me to trust another man after giving all my trust to my ex. After he broke up with me I found out while we were together he visited dating sites looking to meet someone else.


Prior to this last relationship, I never made any man a priority in my life, but with the recent ex I seem to have put him above my friends and family. I believed in what he told me, I trusted that he wanted to be with me and promised we would make it through any issue. He convinced me he wanted to have a family and kids which I very much wanted also.

I always used to tell him, I'd forgive him anything except cheating. Our relationship was rocky, but overall we got along well, however when we ended up fighting it was as if we went to war. We would end up swearing and verbally abusing each other. I felt like in the very beginning he put me very high up on a pedestal, constantly complimenting me, telling me I was beautiful and that there was no woman that he could ever be as attracted to as he was to me. One thing he told me many times was that my tears meant nothing to him, I felt that he thought I was trying to manipulate him by crying. I honestly was not. I was a strong individual with everyone except him. I felt like he got the better of me and when I truly broke down it was because I couldn't hold it in.

Since he broke up with me, I have been working on myself and getting my life back on track, but I feel that any man I meet or will meet is eventually going to end up lying or cheating on me.


Could it be that he truly thought I was trying to manipulate him with crying or was it his way of trying to control me? Is this an issue with me or am I just meeting the wrong kind of guy?


Thank you.


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Hi Shari,

I've had a turbulent life because of poor choices related to men. Honestly I blamed my mother for those choices for years and a part of me still does. My father was a hard working, loving man, I couldn't have asked for a better father. He was a quiet type and so am I, but he was there for me, attended events which wasn't always easy for him to get away from work to do. I'm proud of my dad and think only the best of him.


Still I've had two failed marriages, mainly because they don't live up to my expectations of what men should be. Which is, hardworking at their jobs and dedicated family men. One cheated and abused me, the other was without a job for pretty much the entire marriage portion of our relationship. I gave up thinking I could ever find a man like my dad, because that's who I wanted to find. And now I'm basically just hoping I can find someone to spend my years with, after I finish my degree that is. Of course there's always the twinge of finding someone similar to my dad. But even my mom is having a hard time finding his replacement (he passed in 2005 peacefully).


Do you think a person who has failed in marriage twice has a chance at finding a Mr. Right? Or do I again have to settle for Mr. Who Comes Along? And why do you think I originally settled for Mr. Who Came Along? I never was in love with either of my husbands, they loved that I came from money, at least the first one, the 2nd claims to have loved me but he divorced me easy enough (although he is passive aggressive) so what seems easy really wasn't.


Sorry to be so long winded. I just felt my dad was Mr. Wonderful he strived to set a good example and did so in his life and neither guy I married compared.

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My question -


I just got out of a relationship of 4 + years. We had major trust issues and always accused eachother of cheating all the time. All throughout those four years; we did that.


Now she was my first serious relationship. I've dated many girls, but she was serious. I haven't tested myself out yet, but I don't want to be this way with any other girl. I'm afraid it might end up that way, but i want to be sure I don't, so my question is. What can I do to prevent me from passing on this insecurity to the next relationship?

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Hello Annie,

One of the many lessons we learn from having a father is how to relate to a man. This is why it is so important to have a healthy relationship with him. Having lost your father at such a significant age, before becoming a "woman", tells me that you have missed a very important stage. Let me elaborate. As young children, we take from our parents. But at one point, we become less selfish and start to give back. You were never able to experience this relationship “dance” with the 1st and most important male figure; your father. Also, we test the elements of our maturing selves with our parents because it is safe and we believe that their unconditional love for us means that we can’t fail, we can only learn. Relating to a man is foreign to you, other then just being “the friend”. Your intimacy skills need to be learned and intimacy begins with trust. You’re going to have to trust, let someone in and figure it out as you go…just like you’ve done with every thing else in your life that you have mastered. In my opinion, you are attracting unavailable men because you are frightened of the unknown; how to be close to a man, how to give and take (emotionally) and more importantly, how do you know that "you’re doing it right". You missed a part of this road map, having not had your father around for the past 20 years. And now, the “independent” part of you is keeping men at a safe distance because letting them in is so unfamiliar to you. I have no doubt that you will do well in this area of your life, one day soon. If you recognize this connection, then half the battle is won. The other half is trusting that you will attract the perfect man for you. But, you must first let him in, open your heart and you will learn as you go. Enjoy the journey!

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Hi Shari,

I am a grad student and I seem to keep attracting men who feel like they have to lie to me about who they are in order for me to want them. My current was legally married (unbeknownst to me) when we started dating. He has since finalized the divorce and we have been doing well but I don't believe I will ever truly trust him or any man in my life. This mirrors my relationship with my father which consists of him being consistent and then completely absent for months or even years. I guess I have been taught not to see men as worth my trust due to this. So, I am now considering just never marrying and I'm only 23. Any advice on this?

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Thank you for this response. I will have to think about this. It does get a bit baffling when I see women all around me getting engaged, and into long term relationships and it seems so easy. I know that I am not any less pretty or smart or nice or whatever else than any of these other women. I think that in some ways, not having a father and having an overbearing mother has made me 'too' independent. I think when I do start to open up and let the guys in, that's when they leave. I don't know - maybe they just liked the 'super independent' me? beats me. But I know from my experiences on Enotalone and from my male friends in real life that many men are looking for a real, deep relationship with a strong connection.


Thanks for your time, I will definitely read your book, it seems like it will be an insightful read!


Take care!

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Is a relationship with the father necessary?


Can a step father that comes into you life late (13) be a good substitute. I don't have a great relationship with my step father (he works a lot and isn't home much) but I definitely trust and respect him. I'd say most of my boyfriends have qualities that I like about my step father. They are stable, hard working, and men who can rough it (my step dad is a remnant of an older generation. Very hardworking, union worker, mindset of a coal miner or farmer). He's a very dependable and 'matter-of-fact' person.


However, I do not like my father. I dislike many of his traits and never established a trusting relationship with him. He's the kind of leave his 14 year old daughter on the side of the road out of anger (which he did). He's not someone I have any faith in and I avoid men with his traits. I have been trying to establish a relationship with him over the years but he just disappoints me in the end after every attempt. I have accepted that he cannot change.


I guess I just wonder if other men (like my step dad, grandfathers, uncles, and male family friends) can be an adequate substitute in my life.

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Hello Shari,


I have grown up in a house with both of my parents and they have both been amazing. I have never had a complaint with my father. He is an excellent person, he is caring, gentle, funny and super responsible, he has been the perfect father in my eyes.


The problem that I have is that I seem to jump into relationships too quickly. I meet a guy and pretty soon I find myself feeling too much too quickly. When I am doing this I do not even see it until after the relationship/dating has not worked. I meet someone and I become so hopeful way too quickly.


I was married for almost 4 years and that ended in divorce because the man I was married to cheated on me and ended up coming to the realization that he did not want to be in a "committed" relationship.


After 1.5 years I started to date another man and we got involved pretty quickly but it was mutual, except down the line I came to realize I did not feel as strongly as I thought I did and I ended the relationship. I came to realize we were not as compatible as I thought ad I did not want to hurt him by lying to him about how I felt.


I have had a great family who have always shown me love and support so I am trying to figure out what is wrong with me. Why do I always feel the need to get involved so quickly? I mean when I am alone I am perfectly fine, I go out with friends and I focus on myself and I feel fine being alone. I have noticed that this only happens when I meet someone who shows interest in me. It happens all the time. I want this pattern to stop as I want to make sure I do not keep repeating the same mistakes.


Thanks in advance for your help.

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For pinkelephant:


Hello Lilly,


There are many roots to a problem. One would never assume that there is only one cause. However, parents hold a lot of weight in the development of a child’s self esteem. When a young child is abused by either parent (mentally or physically), studies have shown that there are emotional, social and behavioral consequences. Life is very different for a child who was not been protected and unconditional loved by the very people that have raised him or her. (Adopted parents have as much of a responsible as biological parents.) There are studies, upon studies that support how much parents influence children’s relationships as adults. My own study supports this connection. To “diagnose” or determine your connection is to take a look at your relationship with your father and your feelings towards your father (which you have done). Then, compare it to the type of men you are attracting or attracted to; their personality types, how they make feel and what sort of relationships develop. You have already made the connection, although you seem unsure because your patterns are not the same every time. The one consistent theme is that they are all unhealthy. So, when you say “every problem under the sun and all contradictory”, all that is telling me is that you are trying different approaches and you’re feeling as though you’re failing with all of them. In my opinion, what has been most affected is your self-esteem (self love, self confidence, etc.) You wrote it yourself when you said, “He doesn’t care about me at all.” We ask ourselves, if our parent (in your case, your father) doesn’t love me at all, then maybe I am not lovable. Here’s how you can begin to change that “recording” in your head. Take a look at who you are and ask yourself, do I need my father’s love in order to be a loving and lovable human being? Be your own nurturer and begin to love yourself. It’s not an overnight process. It begins with knowing that you are a good person, with a kind heart, who has many wonderful qualities. This new energy will expand and in time, you will attract someone who recognizes the beauty in you. By the way Lilly, the eWorkbook has self help exercises and thought provoking questions after each chapter that help you make the connection and then get through it. Enjoy the journey…it’s worth it!

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Hello LonelyandBlue,


You are already beginning to “fix this unfair predicament” by taking the time to address it. There’s a 2 step process going on here. First, you are attracting abusive partners. Why? Because it’s what you know, it’s the personality type that you are most comfortable around. The 2nd step is that you stay with the abuser (where most people would run for the hills). The question is “Why do you stay?” The answer lies in how you feel about yourself. Do you deserve to be abused? With unloving and abusive parents, deep inside your psyche, you feel that no one will ever love you, that the only attention you can get is negative attention, in the form of abuse. Maybe (in your mind), abuse is a form of love? But, you know that’s not true. You are a magnet, attracting to you what you feel about yourself. Change starts within. You can never expect your parents to love you the way you need to be loved. But, you can expect it from yourself. Start a journal. Write down all of your best qualities. Write down all of the qualities that you want in a partner. There is a chapter in my ebook about the little girl in all of us. She carries the weight of our childhood pain. As an adult now, you can love her; you can begin to heal her wounds. In time, this self love will improve your adult self-esteem and you will find yourself attracting a loving partner. Enjoy the journey!

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Hello GreyWolf,


First and foremost, whatever you worry about, whatever you focus your attention on, is exactly what you will get. There is great truth behind the laws of attraction. Your thoughts are magnets and what you think about, what your feel strongly about, will come to you. So, let’s begin by restructuring your focus. Reword your statements. Find the inner voice that tells yourself that you will attract a loving, kind, paternal human being, for yourself and for your children. Use the most positive words to describe the best possible partner. Don’t just say it, write it, believe it, see it in your mind and feel the feeling of this person in your life. The second issue here is, “Why would you be so concerned about something so dark and negative?” Where is this fear coming from? My assumption is that you experienced this firsthand. If so, you must understand that just because it happened to you does not mean it will happen to your children. You are their protector. You surround your children with light and love. See the beauty of this in your mind. As for your significant relationships, your fear of allowing them in and hurting you (as you have been hurt) is evident. You have no trust and I understand that. But, you must begin by replacing fear of the “bad” with thoughts of “love, kindness, compassion and trust.” No one can tell you that this is an easy process. But pay attention to your thoughts. Here’s something that I do when I hear myself being negative. I have an inner dialogue that takes place in my mind (or out loud, when I’m alone). My loving, inner voice argues with my fearful, negative voice. I work through this until I shut down the fear and worry with my positive self talk. I am my own cheerleading squad. Be yours too! It’s a small step in the right direction. But, progress nonetheless. Enjoy the journey!

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Hello Stella74,


The answer to your question is yes. I have always believed that an important aspect of the father’s influence is how he treated the mother (his wife). This is a strong indication of the type of man he is because his character traits are heavily displayed in his approach to his marriage and his relationship. Therefore, we cannot separate our parents’ marriage from this equation. Personally, my 1st marriage ended because I was searching for a man opposite to my father, so that I wouldn’t end up divorced, like my parents. I was deeply affected when my father left. There was a lot of self help work to be done. In my opinion, I believe that you are still affected by your parent’s troubled relationship. It has wreaked havoc in your mind because of how you perceived your mother (the victim) and your father (the perpetrator). Your role models have set forth poor examples. But, being estranged from both your parents will not solve anything. It is not the solution. What is? Begin by separating your personality traits from your parents. Do you have the strength to stand up for yourself (which your mother did not have) and the respect and kindness that your father did not have? Identifying how different you are from them is empowering. You are not your mother and therefore will not attract (or allow) a man like your father into your life. Being different from your parents means having a different marriage. You will not repeat their mistakes if you can define what a healthy marriage is and focus on that for yourself, rather then what was for them. And one more thought…being in your 40’s is a great time to begin to share your life with someone! Enjoy that journey!

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Hello Jumbled,


When you say that your relationship with your father is a blur, I am concerned with where your memories have gone. We tend to suppress what we do not want to face. Sometimes the parent that the young child seems closest to is the one that they seek out love for because of fear and insecurity. And fear is clearly what was instilled in your perception of him (by your mother). Yet, the closeness that you had with him (lying on his belly, hiding behind his leg and being carried around by him) tells me that there are positive emotions, too. The very first question that I asked in my study was, “Are your memories of your father, positive, negative or mixed?” From there, more questions were asked and the answers were statistically analyzed. The results indicated many correlations; however most notably was that women with Mixed memories had a very difficult time establishing healthy relationships. Their judgment was most affected. To answer your question, the connection is that you simply do not know what a healthy relationship is with the opposite sex. It was unclear as a child and it remains unclear. I’m curious what you mean when you write that your relationship with your father developed problems when you started dating. Was he controlling and possessive? Did he seem agitated that you were “leaving him” to explore your identity as a woman? What matters most is that you need to focus on establishing what’s important to you, what character traits do you want in a partner and intuitively, what you know is healthy in a relationship? Honesty, trustworthiness, patience…begin to write down who you are and who you want to attract. I believe you know. This is a process of self reflection. Enjoy your journey!

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Hi Shari.


My main question is how do I get over my pattern and fear of losing a good man in my life? I've had several longer term relationships and plenty of casual, with mixed results (some good, some not so good).

I lost my father in a traumatic way at 14, and it seems that as much work that I put into myself and my personal development, it still continues to have an unwanted effect in my relationships with important men in my life. In particular, longer term and loving ones.

My relationship with my father was very good, he was a very good dad.

A few years after his death, my soon to be step dad appeared on the scene. And he was in my life for 10 years, and we grew close. And then he passed away.


I find myself - especially with the good ones, a man who shows he can care about me and wants to have a life with me - pulling away in ways that don't even make sense to me. And I'm quite sure it boils down to a root fear of losing someone good again - like my dad. It was so catastrophic to me at the time, and though I rationally know that I can get through a lot, I guess never having truly come to feel at peace with losing my dad has left me unsure of myself in a longer term relationship. I feel like if I commit too much, something bad will happen: it's not rational, it's just in there and feels real to me.


I'm in my 30s now, no relationship, no kids. I'd like to share my life with someone, at some point. I feel like other than this, I really could be enjoying a healthy long term relationship and not be terrified of the idea of marriage and kids - that kind of commitment seems a lot to take on, to me, and that scares me bc there is a part of me that would like that level of intimacy.


Thank you so much for your time and thoughts.

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Dear Petite,


The answer to your last question is both: It is an issue with you and also, meeting the wrong kind of guy. Although you didn’t just meet him (or attracted him into your life), you let him into your life and gave your heart to him. First, I’m going to share a secret with you; that men who cheat are not easily recognizable. This is a problem that they have and they can conceal it very well. These “cheaters” however, do have personality similarities, which I’m sure you can attest to (seeing that you’ve dated cheaters before). By now, you should have some radar for this type of men. To avoid all men, is just not the solution. There are plenty of non-cheating, non-lying men in the world. Focus on attracting a loyal and honest man into your life. Believe that you are deserving of such a man. Which brings me to the “issue with you”. You haven’t told me anything about your relationship with your father, so I will just assume that it wasn’t the healthiest. You’ve clearly recognized an unhealthy relationship pattern. Often times, we have to experience the bad, to know when it’s good. But when we keep repeating the bad, then we simply are not learning the lesson. Focus on the learning. What have you gotten out of the relationships? What have discovered about your Self? Who are you and what do you deserve? Rather then going into your next relationship with the focus of “not cheating” (as you clearly said to him that you would forgive him for anything except cheating), expect the healthy version of a relationship. Expect the loyalty, expect the respect, expect the honesty. You have it to give and you deserve it in return. Make it your mission and...Enjoy the journey!

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Thank you for your response Shari and I appreciate the help.

My relationship with my father has always been great, my father has been the most loving caring person in my life, along with my mother. We are a very close nit family and I am especially close with my parents. At times I feel that because my parents have overcome problems they had, I should also be able to in my relationships. Maybe I expect the men I date to be as faithful and dedicated as my father has been to my mother for 30+ years.


Thank you for all the help. I will take the time to think about what you have said. I definitely want to get past my fear of every man cheating on me and realize I have to work on myself also. I will be buying your book in hope that I will learn something new.


Thanks again.

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Dear Jetta,


In my article that I posted on Enotalone, I wrote that, “There are those women whose fathers were superheroes and we (all the rest of us) envy them. But, we shouldn't. When superheroes exist, the standard is set so high, that we make it very difficult for another man to fill his shoes. It's all about making this connection.” I’m glad that you’ve made the connection, to some degree. When you say that these ex-husbands didn’t live up to your expectations, I ask why you married them in the first place? Did they ever meet your expectations in terms of personality traits? You married a man without a job? How could he ever be compared to your father who was “hardworking”? My question to you is, “What were you really looking for?” Was it to find a husband who will love you like your father did? I believe you settled for Mr. Who Came Along because you were hoping to find a man to love you like your father did. A father’s unconditional love can never be replaced by the love of a husband. If you were looking for a man like your father, with the same personality traits, that’s fair. If he was a good man, then you should want a good man in your life. But a replacement for your father’s love, is an expectation that is sure to fail. Just like a woman does not want to be her husband’s “mother”, a husband does not and cannot be his wife’s “daddy”. The husband and wife dynamic is not based upon the same foundation as a father and daughters. To answer your 2nd question…yes, you have a great chance at finding Mr. Right with this in mind: It will serve you better if you seek out a man that is most suitable to your personality traits, without comparing him to your father’s. And lastly, fall in love with him for who he is. As you said it yourself, you never loved either one before. P.S I find it interesting that you blame your mother for your choices. Feel free to elaborate on that. I’m happy to hear your thoughts as I’m working on my next book, appropriately entitled, “MotherEffects”.

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