8 Effects of Emotionally Distant Fathers on Sons

It’s always worth reflecting on the effects of emotionally distant fathers on sons.

Maybe you are that son. It’s always a worthwhile endeavor to face this kind of demon, and understand why you are what you are as a man.

On the other hand, you could be the father, but, unlike your father, you would like to know better, and nurture this once-in-a-lifetime kind of relationship you have with your son, and make the most out of it. And, in turn, raise a man who will continue the legacy of a good father.

Emotional availability is a maker of a good relationship. Your material needs may be met, but no doubt, the quality of your relationships contributes to your overall happiness.

However, as a culture we are more comfortable talking about how men fail at fatherhood than how women do at motherhood.

There are different ways fathers could be emotionally distant from their sons: through divorce, death, absences due to employment or military service, addictions, incarceration, and chronic physical or mental illness.

It might be a stretch, but you could say emotionally distant fathers could be as bad as physically absent fathers.

This is where the term “father wound” comes from. The father wound is like a hole in one’s soul that seems impossible to heal, for it should have been prevented with a strong, loving, and empathic father.

It’s sad to think that many men feel a sense of loss or grief when thinking about their relationship with their father when this relationship is thought to be the most important relationship in the life of a man.

It’s even said that it’s not typical for a man to treat his father as a friend and source of emotional support. The world definitely needs to talk more about this.

Related: 24 Signs of a Bad Father-Son Relationship You Must Watch Out For
effects of emotionally distant father on sons

8 Effects of Emotionally Distant Fathers on Sons

1. Being stuck in a perpetual state of adolescence

Recall the days of your youth when you could absolutely go carefree without having to worry about what tomorrow’s going to bring. Just living in the moment!

Sons of emotionally distant fathers are at risk of being in this state for a huge part of their adult life. Why? Because they had no role models that guided them as they transitioned into their adulthood.

I’m not discounting the efforts of feminine role models. I have a deep respect for them who have raised venerable men.

However, in general, the masculine traits inherent in a father are by nature what the sons see and learn.

2. The son’s capacity for self-esteem/self-worth and intimacy is severely affected

The son will have a harder time maintaining relationships in general (friends, parents, siblings, relatives, colleagues, bosses), but there’s emphasis on his being a poor candidate for marriage.

Throughout his relationship with his father, he would constantly question why he’s always feeling down, that something’s always wrong.

As a son, you needed the assurance from your father that you are enough, and that there are solutions to problems.

3. The message that the son should hide his feelings and motives from others

Culturally, it has always been this way (although the landscape of fatherhood is slowly changing).

Society “accepts” silent men as it is. That perhaps it is how it should be.

But as you know, bottling up your emotions is bad for your wellbeing.

And that is exactly the message emotionally distant fathers tell their sons without saying it. By doing this, the sons develop some emotionally unhealthy issues they would think are normal.

Related: Why Are Fathers Mean to Their Sons? (10 Reasons!)

4. Being more idle

Young men who grew up without a dad are nearly twice as likely to be idle compared to those who grew up with an actively involved father.

Being able to spend time on things you like, or believe in, is a recipe for a content life. It can lead you to your purpose.

And as the saying goes, “An idle mind is the devil’s workshop.” There’s a higher chance that the son will commit unhealthy and dangerous things down the road without the guidance of an emotionally available dad.

5. Anger issues

An emotionally attuned father knows that part of his son’s development is being able to handle uncomfortable emotions.

These ugly emotions, even though tiny when each occurred, can explode like an atomic time bomb down the road because he never learned to deal with them, shrug them off, and move on.

The son, also having low self-esteem, will then resort to anger for most of his frustrations and disappointments.

Being stoic and indifferent to problems as they arise are good qualities a father can teach his son. Problems are a part of life that simply need to be attended to!

6. Anxiety, depression, and risk-taking behaviors

Emotionally distancing from a son is a form of emotional abuse, which brings about all sorts of nasty things, including anxiety, depression, and risk-taking behaviors.

If you notice these patterns, you could reflect on the relationship you had with your father.

Related: I Don’t Want a Relationship with My Parents

7. Sense of unworthiness

“You’ll never be good enough.”

That’s one of the messages your emotionally distant father told you.

Without giving you any praises or forms of validation, you have always struggled to find out whether you were fairing well, especially in things you cared about.

You might have worked hard and aced that exam, interview, or promotion, but your father did not show any kind of support or appreciation.

Imagine going through that throughout the life you shared with your father. It’s not a surprise that you’re always feeling “lacking.”

8. Perfectionism

There’s always something to improve—and you’ve learned that this is the only way to somehow seek approval from your emotionally distant father.

It has become normal to you to do all things “perfect,” even though no such thing exists.

Instead of enjoying work (and life) and just being good enough, you always strove for “perfect.”

Of all the subtle messages an emotionally distant father implies, this is one of the worst. Doing things can feel like prison even if you undoubtedly have superior skills to go about them.

Related: I Resent My Parents for How They Raised Me (9 Tips)

How do you heal from an emotionally distant father?

The first step is to acknowledge you have such a father, that you have the father wound. A lot of affected men are in denial or simply accept what society “expects” from men. It is high time we acknowledge what we need.

Note your triggers. A trigger could be anything you see, hear, feel, or even smell, that easily reminds you of the father wound.

Identifying these triggers can help you manage them. You could list them down and create a plan for when they arise.

The objective, for now, is to avoid them until you’re fully healed—when you’re absolutely apathetic towards them.

Get in touch with male figures you respect in your life. There’s nothing better than being with your male role models, friends, and acquaintances that you look up to and who can enrich your life.

You are the five people around you. Treat that father wound with positive men. It’s never the same, but it’s definitely an upgrade!

Then there’s therapy. You may ask, “Should I get a male therapist?” The answer to that is that it highly depends on your life experiences.

I would choose a male therapist, but that’s just me. There could be no difference between a male and a female. If, for example, you were severely abused by your father, then you may prefer a female therapist.

You choose the therapist who you think is best for you, regardless of their gender.

I am a fan of Stoicism, the practical philosophy that advocates minding things that are only within your control in your pursuit of happiness in life. It’s also a fundamental principle used in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

I encourage you to look into Stoicism and arrive at a stage in your life where the father wound becomes nothing but a memory you are indifferent to. By then I hope you’ll be on your way to your best ever life yet!


Image Credits: Photo by Jhonatan Saavedra Perales on Unsplash

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