Whenever I bake cookies using a cookie cutter almost all of the cookies come out in the shape of the “template” I’ve selected for them-gingerbread man, snowman, angel-whichever. If I use a dented cookie cutter, I get cookies that come out with the same flaw. Imagine that we all carry around relationship cookie cutters that hold our likes, dislikes, hopes, aspirations and expectations for relationships and we apply them to each person we get involved with in relationships. Now imagine that one primary factor determines whether or not that cookie cutter or template is dented for young ladies in relationships. What would it be? I call it, Daddy-love.
Last semester, as I sat on an all women’s college campus in a room full of young ladies describing the various experiences they had already had with love, I thought to myself,
“How could so many of these beautiful, amazing young ladies have such sad stories about the young men they have dated? How are they picking their partners? What do their cookie cutters for relationship partners look like?” Though each story was different, I could tell that most of the struggles that they were dealing with (poor communication, infidelity, relationship abuse) came from a flawed cookie cutter.
This led to more questions: Who told them what to expect from love anyway? Television? Movies? Music? Where did they pick up examples of male-female interactions? Home? Church? Friends? Whose job is it to show them how a man is really supposed to treat a woman? Steve Harvey? I kid.
I think the first model of how a man should treat a woman in a young lady’s life is her “Daddy.” Maybe not her biological father, but that significant man in her life that made her feel special as a daughter while she was growing up. The one who loved her because she was “daddy’s little princess” who he would do anything for. The one who claimed to have a shotgun ready should any young man hurt her in any way…ever!
Daddy-love is not to be confused with other love because it has a way of becoming a permanent part of her psyche that always remains no matter how many men she dates. I think of it as a base for young ladies to launch from. If Daddy-love has been applied, she has her self-esteem intact; she understands that her beauty is beyond skin-deep; and she has confidence in who she is and who she’s becoming.
Clearly, not all young ladies grow up with this influence. Far too many girls and young ladies are living in homes without the benefit of a strong and healthy love relationship between mom and dad. In a perfect world, kids learn how to treat the other gender by watching the way mom and dad treat each other. The world we live in is far from perfect so it’s no wonder that so many young ladies and eventually women find themselves entering relationships that they hope will complete them or somehow satisfy that deep longing in their hearts to be loved. The truth is, they are already complete and they are already loved. No outside relationship can accomplish what a strong internal relationship can.
To compensate for the potential absence of Daddy-love in a young lady’s life, I recommend a daily dose of self-affirming messages that establish the truth about her:
· I am easily lovable and I am capable of amazing
· I am a beautiful person and I deserve true and
· I realize that I get to DECIDE who I will and will not
· Everyone does not deserve access to my wonderful
· I choose to be treated with respect and honor in all
· Love is my choice and I am always free to move on
if someone misunderstands how to love me
These messages help build a young lady up from the inside and can help develop a strong sense of identity as she experiences love and life through her relationships. Having strong platonic friendships and healthy mentor relationships with male coaches or professors can also fill the Daddy-love gap in building useable relationship cookie cutters.
A young lady from that session wrote me a thank you note after she repeated some of the messages above and found the strength to leave an unfaithful boyfriend. She found that change is a choice and she could remove a dent from her cookie cutter. Good choice.