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#130 The Dance of Mutual Recognition

The father-daughter is relationship is tricky. It might be the most challenging of all the parent-child relationships. This is in part because it has the potential to be sexually charged and yet it still demands the guidance, support and caring of  any other parent-child pairing. A daughter wants and needs an intimate and engaged relationship with her father. Of course, she wants him to think she is attractive but not as an object of sexual desire that even hints at being out of control. As I have heard too often in my office, a young girl does not want her father to behave toward her in ways that make her his consort or sexual possession. But at the same time she desperately wants him to love her and respect and admire her as a woman. Tricky? You bet!!!

Sadly enough my father had only the briefest understanding of how to parent a daughter. He knew that he had to provide for us and I am so grateful for that. But he was gone a lot and preoccupied when he was home–working on law briefs. Much of the time it seemed as though he didn’t see me at all. The moments that I had with him were precious. I remember doing a ballet turn and falling on the stage. He was the one who told me it was the best I had ever danced. He loved to show my report cards all around the court house. When I was in college he wrote me an encouraging letter–but only one. Of course, I still have it. He and all men after him were a mystery until I was well into my adult life. I have always thought that God blessed me with four sons so that I could learn to love men.

The ballet is a good metaphor for the ideal father-daughter relationship. It is my favorite type of dance. In a typical pairing the man is the support partner and the woman is featured. Yet the male role is incredibly important. He must be strong and flexible. He must be attentive to his partner’s every move. She must be strong as well. The man cannot hold her in the beautiful lifts if she is not also helping to hold her body in appropriate ways. They are attuned to each other and they are fully aware of the others’ importance. It is a dance of mutual recognition.  It can also be a father’s most precious and enduring gift to his daughter.

#130 The Dance of Mutual Recognition

Ellen Toronto, Ph.D.

Dr. Ellen Toronto is a licensed clinical psychologist/psychoanalyst in the state of Michigan.

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APA Reference
Toronto, E. (2014). #130 The Dance of Mutual Recognition. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 26, 2020, from


Last updated: 22 Dec 2014
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