Have you ever wondered if your relationship with your father or father figure is normal?

Or maybe you know it wasn’t normal, but you’re not sure how it impacted you and your adult relationships.

If you suspect you have a father wound, this episode is for you. We’re starting with the basics: what a father wound is, the symptoms and causes of father wounds, and why it is painful.

Healing my own father wound has had a profound impact on my life, and I can’t wait to share more about this with

Prefer the audio? Listen here.

What Is a Father Wound?

A father wound is a psychological and emotional injury from growing up with a father (or father figure) who was absent, abusive, controlling, or not emotionally attuned/available to you.

This does not only apply to biological fathers – it applies to any father figure you had growing up. You can even have a father wound if you never knew your father.

I often get asked if there is a difference between a father wound and a mother wound.

There is, as there are different societal expectations placed on each role.

Traditionally, we expected fathers to be protectors, providers, and advice-givers, and we expected mothers to take care of daily tasks and provide emotional support.¹

These expectations are slowly changing, but if you’re an adult now, you probably witnessed them in childhood.

Generally speaking, there also tends to be more neglect with father wounds than with mother wounds.

Why It Matters

I want to raise your awareness around father wounds because if I hadn’t done the work to heal mine, I don’t think I would have entered into a healthy relationship with my husband, Vic.

My father was emotionally absent, and I found myself in relationships with emotionally unavailable men throughout my 20s.

I (unconsciously) entered into these relationships because I longed for a different outcome than the one I had with my father. I was trying to heal the original injury with someone who wasn’t the original injurer.

Only through therapy could I go back and acknowledge and process that injury.

I prefer to say “integrate” rather than “heal” because it’s not a one-and-done thing. By tending to original injuries, we honor and integrate our experiences into the unique and beautiful tapestry that is our life.

We would not be the person we are today without those experiences.

But as adults, our job is to figure out what we need to do to prevent the original injury from dictating our relationships for the rest of our lives.

When we don’t tend to parental wounds, they can profoundly impact who we are attracted to and what we allow in our lives.

What Causes a Father Wound?

There are multiple causes of father wounds.

Maybe you had an emotionally immature father who gave you the silent treatment or withheld love (or even things you needed, like money) to punish you.

Or maybe you had an incredibly hard-to-please father with standards so high, no matter what you did, it never felt like enough.

Other causes of father wounds are from having a father or father figure who was:

  • Highly critical of you
  • Someone who suffered from addiction
  • Super controlling and overprotective
  • Absent (divorce, death, abandonment, mental health issues)
  • Neglectful of your physical and emotional needs
  • Abusive (verbally, emotionally, mentally, physically, sexually)
  • An enabler to a narcissistic mother

Some people think you should just ‘get over it’ if you weren’t physically or sexually abused.

I disagree.

My father fell into the emotionally neglectful and absent category. I didn’t see it as important until I had years of therapy because I was unaware of all the ‘silent’ ways it had impacted my life.

Having a father you are simply afraid of can also be damaging.

My sisters and I grew up pretty scared of our father. The second he came downstairs to watch TV, we scattered, even if what we were watching was almost over. None of us felt safe enough to ask for one more minute.

Living in fear of a parent is not normal, yet I know many of you had similar experiences. It is important to honor those experiences, overtly abusive or not.

The Symptoms of Father Wounds

There are many ways father wounds can manifest, including:

  • Getting into unhealthy and unsatisfying relationships
  • Allowing bad treatment from others
  • Over-giving, over-doing, perfectionism
  • Disordered boundaries (likely rigid)
  • A need for control, especially if your father was domineering
  • Mental health issues (anxiety, depression)
  • Attachment trauma
  • Hyper-independence (if you couldn’t count on your father, you may feel like you can’t count on anyone)
  • Low self-esteem

When you are not treated well by the father figure in your life, you often put up with bad treatment from others. It’s not uncommon to find yourself in unhealthy relationships as a result.

Overdoing and perfectionism are often protective: if I do everything perfectly, maybe I’ll be fine. Maybe then they’ll love me. 

If your father rejected you or was emotionally neglectful, you might feel like you’re not good enough.

I’ve seen this in many of my highly ambitious therapy clients. They’re trying to prove something, but to whom?

It took me years in therapy to realize my ambition was driven by fear and a lack of worthiness because I wanted to prove something to my father.

Can you relate?

Download the guide for journal prompts to help you identify whether you have a father wound.

Indifference Is Painful

Perhaps your father or father figure doesn’t fit into the descriptions above.

Maybe he was just indifferent towards you.

Indifference can seem less bad but it can still create a painful wound.

As children, we create stories to make sense of our world.

We often blame ourselves in those stories because if our parents were abusive, believing if I had been smarter/better/prettier/quieter, they wouldn’t have treated me badly is less painful than having unloving parents.

My story was: if I were a boy, my father would have loved me. 

I believed this story until my mid-30s. With three older sisters, I was his last chance at having a boy. (He was into sports- a “guy’s guy.”)

Over time, this story became, that if I am incredibly successful, my father will love me. (Hello, ambition!)

It was less painful for me to believe I was born the wrong gender than to think my father was just uninterested in me.

Moving On Is Possible

Integrating my childhood experiences in therapy helped me recognize and repair the unhealthy patterns I had been playing out with unavailable men.

It allowed me to open my heart to a relationship with someone like my wonderful husband.

I don’t think I would have recognized Vic as an amazing partner if I hadn’t had therapy when I did.

While I’m still hyper-independent in other relationships, I know I can be vulnerable with Vic. I can tell him the truth, ask for help, and let him pick up the slack for me when needed.

Being in a healthy relationship with someone you can count on and receive help from is really healing.

I share this because if you are also dissatisfied with your relationships, there is hope.

Let me know: do you have a father wound? What symptoms resonate with you? Drop me a note in the comments or on Instagram (@terricole), and remember to download the guide to gain clarity on your relationship with your father.

I hope you have the most amazing week and as always, take care of you.


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  1. I went through therapy years ago, expecting that all was transformed. Well, guess who I married? Our relationship isn’t all bad, but I have difficulty communicating effectively, and being open and honest. I used to pride myself in being independent, capable, intelligent. My husband says I’m (always) defensive, never owning my part. He says he actually wants me to speak up, make decisions, etc. I’m trying to find the balance of knowing myself and pleasing him.

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