The father-son relationship doesn’t seem to get talked about. We don’t even hear much about “masculine relationships.”
However, there appears to be a sad trend—men’s issues with careers and relationships could be traced back to the lack of relationship with their fathers.
I’ve split these 24 signs of a bad father-son relationship equally into two parts:
- Part 1: The signs you see in your father or the relationship itself, and
- Part 2: The signs you now see in yourself as an adult man
Why are these important? Because if you want to live a fulfilled and happy life, then you need to address these issues.
As a man, the relationship you have with your father is thought to be the most important relationship you’ll ever have.
Of course it would be unfortunate if you have these signs I’ll be talking about, but it would be much worse if you have no idea about them or, worse, stay in denial.
Let’s get to it!
24 Signs of a Bad Father-Son Relationship You Must Watch Out For
Part 1: Signs You See in Your Father or the Relationship
1. Your father is constantly being critical.
Criticism per se is not bad. Depending on the context, criticism can be invaluable.
But your father would look for faults in your every move and decision. If he intends to “toughen you up” with this attitude of constant criticism, then that’s not exactly what’s happening.
2. Your father always acts as if he’s the boss.
He always thinks he’s right.
Say something reasonable that debunks his idea and he’ll meet you with insecurity, instead of learning and growing together in a respectful conversation.
He always has to project that he’s the superior one between you, when healthy father-son relationships are supposed to look like you’re two best friends.
3. Your father does not teach you “man stuff.”
It’s one thing to respect him for knowing how to fix stuff in the house, maintain a car, or even lift weights.
The thing is, he just doesn’t mention anything about them at all. Good father-son relationships allow each other to experience his world.
4. Then he shames you for not being able to do man stuff.
This is mind-boggling. It’s as if he wants to appear the “superior” one when it’s exactly kind of the opposite. Good fathers teach their sons these basic man-stuff skills.
5. Your father would not tackle anything that deals with emotions.
Because of this you’ve grown emotionally distant from him. There were no casual talks, only “serious” talks.
It’s then not uncommon for you to hear him say things like, “You’re too sensitive,” or, “Stop crying!”
6. Your father thinks only women are instinctually capable of loving and nurturing.
This could be a reason you struggle to take care of yourself on a basic level, like dressing up, proper hygiene, or even talking to women.
Your ability to love and nurture is not necessarily a feminine-only trait, and you should embrace it!
7. Your father does not care about your lifestyle, interests, or hobbies.
He would rather be in his own little world, and perhaps, be there for you only in a life-or-death situation.
But beyond that, he just does not care. Therefore, it would be frustrating to tell him about anything exciting that’s happening in your life.
8. Your father compares you with other sons.
Lacking basic life skills, he would not think twice to compare you with the sons of his friends or colleagues. Bonus points if you’re the same age.
Comparing yourself with others is a pointless and sometimes dangerous thing to do. Unfortunately, only you know that fact.
9. You and your father have absolutely nothing in common to engage in.
It’s okay to have no common interests or hobbies.
However, it’s a bad sign if you can’t engage even in a conversation with some level of pleasure.
He might not care about video games, for example, but a good father will at least try to see it through your eyes and feel it through your heart, if that game’s storyline is existentially affecting you.
10. The way you communicate with each other is just horrible.
Communication comes with unwritten rules we should abide by. Rules on respect, empathy, tone, and a lot more. Father-son communication is even found to have a stronger negative effect on the son when compared to the father’s absence.
11. Your father still treats you like a young boy.
And therefore the verbal and emotional abuse you suffered when you were a kid barely changed.
His respect for you is just not there, even as an adult man.
He acts as if you are that clueless person (again) devoid of skills who will never learn.
12. Your father subscribes to toxic masculinity.
You always feel his inappropriate behavior about homophobia, misogyny, violence, or aggression.
He thinks males are the better gender when the truth is that both complement each other.
He has some unresolved anger that has brought him there.
Part 2: Signs You See in Yourself as a Man
1. You seem to inflict mental and emotional pain onto yourself.
This is a risk you have coming from a bad father-son relationship.
Feelings of shame, guilt, and helplessness. Sometimes you even feel you don’t know yourself, you don’t have an identity.
2. You long for a father figure.
This may not be obvious. But you may feel a bit jealous when you see a father and a son happily hanging out, or even those you see in movies. You wish your father was like them.
3. You have problems with authority figures.
You have developed an irrational dislike and mistrust towards literally superior male figures in your workplace, church, or city.
You react negatively to small criticisms from these figures. You’ve been conditioned that being toxic is the only way, that being that “kid” does not deserve healthy treatment.
4. You’re not motivated to see your father.
We’re talking even the minimum here, like a couple of hours.
There could be a lot of things to catch up on, but the thought of talking to your father does not excite you or, worse, you don’t see it as a pleasant experience.
5. You rationalize his toxic behavior.
Your father is most likely a toxic person. You know how awful he can get on a regular basis.
However, it’s a bad sign if you don’t find yourself calling him out especially on really bad behavior, and instead you rationalize them, for reasons of self-preservation like “keeping the peace.”
6. You lack emotional connection with others, especially your family.
You don’t find your familial relationships meaningful. To you they are only there because you lost some cosmic lottery. Even relationships outside the family are a drag to maintain.
7. You struggle with motivation and resilience.
There’s a feeling of emptiness that stays with you, for seemingly no apparent reason.
This is brought about by the lack of emotional support and guidance that should flow between a father and a son.
8. You don’t respect your father.
You don’t have to necessarily like him. There could be things you don’t have to agree with him at first, but you appreciate later on—this commands respect.
However, if literally all he’s done has affected you negatively, then that respect could be lost.
9. You’re always looking for validation and brotherly love from your male peers.
You’ve become insecure about decision-making (big or small) that you have to take on others’ advice as if you cannot stand on your own.
Seeking help is okay. But you have this insecurity that permeates all areas of your life.
10. You think that you—not your father—should mend the relationship.
This is quite a controversial take. But remember that your parents brought you into this world and therefore they are responsible for your wellbeing.
It’s great that you want the relationship to improve, but if you believe it is solely your responsibility to do so, then that’s not a good sign.
11. You’re not proud to show or tell him about your life’s work.
It could be anything from a promotion to a passion project to your career struggles.
You feel there’s no point in doing so because you’re anticipating how he’ll downplay all of that, anyway.
12. You manifest aggressive, violent, and risky behaviors.
Your father has not invested in you to become a man who can regulate and understand his emotions. A good enough father guides a son not only with things seen, but also those unseen.
- Hendricks, L. A. (2010). Father-son relationship quality and associated adolescent risks (Magister’s Thesis, University of the Western Cape, Belville, Cape Town).
- Pitsoane, E. M. (2014). The role of the emotional father-son relationship in the self-concept formation of adolescent boys in secondary schools (Doctoral Thesis, University of South Africa).
Image Credits: Photo by Matheus Ferrero on Unsplash