Danielle Hanna

Hearth & Homicide Fiction

“When Daddy Leaves, He Takes a Piece of the Daughter’s Soul with Him”

While browsing articles about fatherless daughters, I ran across this interview between Oprah Winfrey and life coach Iyanla Vanzant. She discusses the three forms of fatherlessness, all equally devastating:

  1. The daddy who was physically present, but absent on a deeper level
  2. The daddy who was never there
  3. The daddy who died or left

Interestingly, I personally identify with all three forms. Technically, I began my life with my father being present (the third definition)–but he died when I was only two. Because I was so young, he feels more like the daddy who was never there (definition two). Revisiting definition one, I had a father figure in my teen years, but he also died. Finally, I had a step-father most of my life, but he was ineffective as a father (definition one).

You can read a hundred articles on the effects of fatherlessness on daughters, and they’ll rehash the same info about being X times more likely to do poorly in school, to break the law, to practice promiscuity, etc.

I was deeply interested in Iyanla’s main point in the beginning of this clip: That a father shows a woman how to have an intimate but non-sexual relationship with a man. Why is this important?

All Male/Female Relationships Must Revolve Around Sex (Apparently)

2015-03-22 Young Woman (2)In my fiction, I write a lot about young women and their relationships with men – but these relationships are almost always non-romantic. The men in my girls’ lives may be fathers, grandfathers, uncles or other relatives, mentors, or family friends. (And occasionally, my characters surprise me by forming romantic attachments.)

I found out several years ago, in an online writers class, that if I didn’t express myself clearly in the sample scenes I sent in, that everyone in the group would quickly assume every male-female scene was between lovers. And they would be confused, because there would inevitably be something-or-other in the context of the scene that made it feel off somehow.

The fact is, the majority of a woman’s relationships with men will be non-sexual and non-romantic. (Hel-lo-o!)

Girls, You’re Only Good for Sex

2015-03-22 pier (2)Lacking that intimate, non-sexual relationship – and growing up in a society that prizes sex and physical appeal – it’s easy for girls to get a strong, destructive message: They exist to give sex. This unbalances a woman’s entire perception of society, making men predators and women slaves. Women trapped in this fabric will take one of two mindsets: They will be bent on sex and beauty, hoping to never be abandoned again … or they will pull into a hole, fearing relationships with men and reasoning that the surest way to never be abandoned is to never love in the first place.

All The Kinds of Love

Father and daughter, Father's Day FiestaWhen I say “love,” odds are, you think of romantic love. I don’t. When someone says “love,” I ask, “What kind?” There are many kinds of love, and I see them all as being hugely important. In fact, they exist like levels to be mastered before moving on to the next:

  • Love between a parent and child
  • Love between a child and siblings, cousins, classmates, and friends
  • Love between a child and mentors
  • Love between lovers

My argument? You can’t skip the first three levels and expect to master Level 4. An intimate, non-sexual relationship between a girl and her father is full half of Level 1. No wonder fatherless daughters struggle with relationships.

Before a woman can form a strong romantic relationship, she needs to know her identity and value as a person.

Were you a fatherless daughter? Which of the three kinds of fatherlessness describes your experience?


  1. I fit in #4. Both my mother and father left me and my brother when I was two. Should be a total mess but somehow I’ve managed. Only hard part is I never learned girls stuff so I blazed my own trail with my kids.

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