Childhood, Dad, Divorce, Family, Father, Self Esteem

Daddy Issues

My parents had a rocky relationship. I can’t remember them being happy. My mother came from a small town and moved to Madison after high school. She married the first guy she dated and it did not turn out the way she expected it to. My mother went into the relationship with expectations that my father did not share. She assumed he would follow the rules of the church and those rules were very important to her. My father was a serial cheater, drinker, and poker player. My mother dealt with most of that but the cheating was a deal breaker. They did not immediately divorce because my mother believed that divorce was a sin. So she hung on and they were on and off for much of my young childhood.

Debbie and Armando (4 months old)

I know very little about my dad’s past. I know he was born in Mexico and that he became a citizen of the U.S. I do not know where in Mexico he is from and I know next to nothing about his family. He never shared things like that. It was very rare for him to talk about his past and sometimes his stories did not add up. It is a sad part of my story because not knowing his family or anything about that part of my ancestry has left a hole in my heart. I often wonder who they are and I wish I could ask them my questions. Maybe then I would understand my dad better, maybe if I spoke with them I would know why he seemed so broken.


My father was unreliable. He did not pay child support and that kept my mother and me in poverty. He had a habit of disappearing. He often would not show up for visitation. I would wait for him to drive up and many times he just never showed. After hours of waiting my mother would coax me into bed. As I grew older my resentment started to increase. By middle school, I became aware that he only came around when he was between women. I started to feel like a consolation prize. Our relationship became strained. When I was little I was a daddy’s girl. I loved him fiercely and forgave him for every terrible thing he did. As I was approaching my teen years I could see who he really was and it was pretty ugly.


My dad had high expectations. If I got sick or struggled with anything he would blame it on my mother’s bad genes. I was a reflection of him and therefore I had to be perfect. He was emotionally unavailable. I could get affection but I could not talk anything through with him because everything was always about him. I have come to believe that he had some sociopathic tendencies. Perfection was not about how you treated people it was about what you looked like and how successful you were.

In middle school, my dad started flirting with my friends. By high school, many of my friends did not want to be around if he was around. The church already treated me badly because of Steve Dahl, then on top of that my dad was a creep. In high school, I became aware that he was dating girls my age. At one point when I was around 16, I told him about Steve Dahl. Then the unthinkable happened, he told me that he knew it was happening the whole time. He figured Steve was tired of his wife and would eventually marry me. This crushed me and it changed the way I saw my father forever. I did not cut him off but it was the beginning of the end. My dad never saw an issue with a man having a much younger wife or even multiple wives. I have no idea where this thinking came from. It seemed to grow stronger over time.

When I was in my twenties he was sent to prison. He was convicted of molesting my little step sister. After prison they deported him. He never forgave me for not supporting him in court and I only spoke with him twice after they released him. He has disappeared from my life.

I have daddy issues. I am sure that my father’s bad parenting is partly why I was so vulnerable when Steve Dahl came into my life. Knowing that my dad knew what was going on and did nothing to help me has given me self-worth issues. Men, in general, failed me during my childhood. Whether it was the babysitter’s husband who touched me when I was in elementary school, my pastor who did not report the abuse that happened at his church, my abuser, or countless others. My only real positive male relationship during childhood was with my grandfather. This brings me to God, Yahweh, Jesus, whatever you choose to call him. He really did not show up for me either. He was silent. I felt rejected by him as well.

This story is tragic and so I’m going to try to end it on a happy note. I did get some good things from my dad. I am very tough and strong-minded, I hold myself to high standards and I’m a hard worker. I have some charm and charisma which I’m pretty sure comes from him. I’m also in a much better place spiritually. I have stopped chasing after god. I have embraced a spiritual path that feeds me and where I feel accepted and respected. At times my daddy issues bubble up and then I have to work through some new layers. There is so much more I could share about my dad and maybe I will in a later post. Sometimes writing all of this down drives home how sad it all is and it becomes too much for me to handle all at once. I’m grateful I survived my childhood and I’m grateful I am in a better place now.

Divorce, Family, Southern Baptist Church

The Aftermath

My relationships with men and god were always a struggle. My father was not someone I could rely on. He was in and out of my life over the years. He sexually abused my stepsister. She was around the same age as I was when I was molested. He went to prison and then was deported to his home country. Watching that situation unfold and hearing my stepsister’s story was like reliving what happened to me, it was heartbreaking. He blamed me for not siding with him and our last words to each other were harsh. He is lost to me.

When I think about it, it is amazing I can have relationships with men at all. My childhood was filled with predators and unreliable men and my father ended up being one too. At age twenty I got married. It was a bad idea from the start. I loved him but I knew that he would not be good for me. After my mother died I was barely holding on and I desperately wanted a family. I wanted something that seemed normal. The problem is I had no idea what normal was. After 12 years of being together, I decided that divorce was the only answer.

My mother got divorced and due to my upbringing, I felt that divorce should never be an option. When I got married I told myself this is for life and you will figure out how to make it work. I was so naive, I had no idea how hard my road would be. He was abusive in every way possible. The world saw the physical abuse and thought that was awful, but in my eyes, bruises fade, the things he said to me still linger in my mind.

At this point, I was attending a Southern Baptist church. These churches were kind of rare in Madison. Even though the church was Southern Baptist officially I feel it was more liberal than other churches of its kind. In many ways, this church healed me. Once I was able to get past the lax holiness standards and the use of the NIV. My kids enjoyed the Sunday school program and I jumped back into ministry. In the background, my abusive marriage continued. My husband was convinced by an elder of the church to attend a Promise Keepers rally, at that rally my ex-husband became born again. He was quickly baptized and I thought my prayers were finally answered.

I was wrong. We would go to church together and everything would seem ok from the outside, but once we got into the car the abuse would start. He was very good at showing the right face to the church but at home, nothing changed. I tried to get help from our elder. We went over there for dinner often and my ex-husband liked him very much. Time kept rolling on and at this point, we had three young children.

I remember the day I decided I had to leave. My heart was tormented because I knew what the Bible said about divorce and the one thing he had not done was cheat on me. I knew the church of my childhood and the church I was attending would think this divorce was sinful. It was Christmas time and my almost three-year-old son had just tried to be a human shield between my husband and me. My ex-husband was throwing holiday gifts at me in a fit of anger and I was curled up in a ball on the sofa trying to hide from his anger. My precious baby boy had stretched his body across mine to shield me from the blows, thinking about it now cracks my heart in two. At that moment I knew what I had to do, even if it cost me, my soul.

I left him and it was ugly. Our elder phoned me to tell me that I had to go back to my husband or I would go to hell. He said we could be temporarily separated as a sort of cooling off period but divorce was not what the Bible taught. This conversation broke something inside of me. Mel (the elder) told me he understood that my husband was a bully but I still needed to do what was right. Calling him a bully seemed like an understatement to me. My ex was threatening me and also threatening suicide. He told me he was going to take my kids away and never pay me a dime. Cooling off was not going to solve anything.

I went ahead with the divorce. This is also the point when the Christian god lost his hold on me. It wasn’t an instant thing, it took a couple of years. These men, these churches drove me to the point of not caring about hell or my own salvation. In my mind, I would rather burn for all eternity then suffer another day in that marriage. If god required me to suffer my whole life in order to be with him in heaven I did not want any part of him. At this point I still believed in hell I just could not bring myself to put my kids at risk in order to save my own soul.

This left me an orphan. No parents and no church. Thankfully I’m married now and I have four great kids. I have good men in my life. Men who have proved to me that I can trust and have friendships that do not always have a risk attached to them. These men are not great spiritual warriors but they ask if I’m ok and care about what matters to me. They listen and appreciate my intelligence. They make my world a better place. I am grateful for these men.