1. Reminders of what they are without them will be everywhere. They’ll look on with jealousy at every father hugging his child. They’ll swallow the lumps in their throats when they see Father’s Day posts or birthday dedications. Because it’s something that feels so close, yet absolutely unattainable.
2. They probably spent a lot of time looking for love in the wrong places. Maybe they’re looking for all of the things they didn’t get at home. Maybe they’re looking for someone to just notice they’re there. Maybe they’re looking for ways to fill the void, knowing that no matter how hard they try, that will never really happen.
3. They will probably take less than they deserve, and will fight to preserve things that aren’t worth preserving. Because tiny moments feel fleeting and fragile, and they believe that something is better than nothing.
4. When the one man who is supposed to stay walks out, justification for abandonment becomes a permanent tattoo on their veins. Bad behavior and “not enough” is the only normal they’ve ever really known. They may assume that when people treat them poorly, whether that be a significant other, a friend, or anyone in between, that’s just how relationships work.
5. When they finally find a man who loves them in all the right ways, simple things become bigger than anyone could ever understand. Kisses on their forehead or tucking them in if they’re feeling sick are moments loaded with a realization that they’ve never had a man care for them in that way. And that realization will be both beautiful and heartbreaking all at once.
6. No matter how much you believe you’ve proved to them that you’re never going to walk away, understand that this will always be their fear. They’ll always have a dark space in the back of their mind whispering that this, too, is conditional. So, after a fight, if their cries ring a little bit louder and their panic seems misplaced, remember where they’re coming from. The best thing you can do is promise you’re here for good.
7. They may try to keep up with their dads. They’ll reach out, they’ll compromise their needs, they’ll defend him when people tell them to give it up. And even though they know better, they will get their hopes up anytime they pick up the phone, or send a simple text. And they will feel just as naive and bitter as they have every other time. It’s a vicious cycle that, for some, will stay with them their entire life.
8. They’ll always be searching for answers they know they probably won’t ever get. “Why wasn’t I good enough? Why didn’t he want to stay? What do I have to do to turn this around? Is this just who he is?” Rationality will try to explain these matters away, but her heart won’t ever let the questions go.
9. They may feel guilt. They may have a sense that the responsibility for mending this relationship is in their hands, even if they aren’t the ones who chose it. They’ll battle between the desire to have a relationship with their father and the idea that the obligation of mending the divide isn’t something they should have to battle alone. They’re under no illusion that life lasts forever. In fact, they feel the years pressing on with a pressure unlike any other.
10. More than all the hardships and betrayals, more than the heartbreak and distrust, they will love harder than anything. Because they know what it feels like to feel unwanted by the one person who was supposed to want you more than anything in the world. And they would never want to make anyone else feel that pain.