Dads and Daughters
Dr. Phil talks to Chaynah about her abandonment issues.

Lonny and Chaynah have been married for only 15 months, and already she fears they are headed for divorce because of the problems she had with her father.

 

"I was 5 when my dad left. He told me he'd be back. He didn't come back. I can't understand how anyone can divorce their kids,"

Chaynah says, crying. "I have a hard time trusting my husband because I feel like he's going to go and find someone better like my dad did."

 

Lonny thinks her fears are unfounded. "I would never cheat on my wife," he says. "It's extremely frustrating when Chaynah accuses me of not being a committed husband when I spend every waking minute showing her that I love her."

 

Chaynah realizes just that. "It seems like no amount of love that Lonny can give will relieve my fear of abandonment," she says. "I told Lonny one of these days when he comes home, I'm not going to be there. If anybody's going to leave anybody in our relationship, I would rather it be me leaving than him leaving me."

"Fair representation of how you feel?" Dr. Phil asks Chaynah.

 

"Yes," she replies tearfully.

 

Addressing Lonny, Dr. Phil says, "And this is driving you crazy. True?"

 

"Yeah. It's frustrating," Lonny answers. "It gets to the point where it's offensive. Because it's not just when I go out with my friends, it's if I go to the store and it's too long. The accusations just come up."

 

Dr. Phil points out that Lonny has invited his wife to come out with him, but she doesn't want to go. Chaynah defends herself. "Sometimes they do things that don't interest me," she says. "I wouldn't really have anything to do. I'm more of a homebody."

 

"Well, it would beat the hell out of sitting home crying," Dr. Phil says. "Aren't you pretty much a bottomless pit on this issue?"

 

"I suppose," Chaynah says.

 

"So he could stay home 24/7 and it would still feel the same way," Dr. Phil tells her. "Fifty percent of the solution to any problem lies in defining it. What we've got to do here is make sure you understand what's going on here, and then I think you're going to find you have some real power to deal with this."

In a taped piece, Chaynah admits that she's been interfering with Lonny's relationship to their daughter, because she doesn't want her to become attached in case Lonny leaves.

 

"You are testing him constantly, aren't you?" Dr. Phil asks.

 

"I suppose so," Chaynah replies.

 

"You're always asking him, 'You were out picking up chicks, right? You'd rather be with somebody else, right? Well, I'll just leave.' So you get constant reassurance from him," Dr. Phil tells Chaynah. "Do you understand what you're doing when you're giving her that reassurance?" he asks Lonny.

 

"It's not helping," Lonny says.

 

"You're rewarding her for testing you," Dr. Phil tells him. To Chaynah, he says, "And you say it's because you've got this sense of abandonment from your dad, right?"

 

Chaynah says yes, and Dr. Phil points out that her father left over 16 years ago. "Does it seem odd that you're keeping that alive?"

 

"It doesn't seem odd to me," she replies. "I want it to go away. I want to deal with it and move on. I just don't know how."

"You have unfinished emotional business with your father," Dr. Phil explains to Chaynah. "You have these raw feelings. And as long as you have that raw wound, then it hurts every day."

 

Dr. Phil tells Chaynah that she needs to get emotional closure. He suggests that she try the minimal effective response

(MER). "What you have to do is figure out, 'What's the least thing I can do that will allow me to get emotional closure?'" he says. He also advises Chaynah to change her "tapes." A tape is something that plays through your head so much that it just becomes automatic. "You've got tapes about men based on your experience with your dad: They're no good. They can't be trusted. They will abandon you. Isn't that kind of how you see men?" he asks Chaynah.

 

"Yes."

 

"What I'm saying is you've decided that you're inadequate because of what [your dad] did, but you never dealt with that. You're just going to make [Lonny] pay for it. And you pay for it. And you'll model that for your daughter."

Dr. Phil has a message to Chaynah from her father, who was unable to appear on the show. He admits to having had an emotional affair — not a physical one — and says he wants Chaynah to resolve the situation with her husband. He doesn't want Lonny to suffer for something he didn't do. "I guess the thing that concerns me the most is that you say you don't even want to repair the relationship. You have no desire to repair it?" Dr. Phil asks.

 

"None whatsoever," Chaynah says.

 

Dr. Phil tells Chaynah that her relationship with her father isn't over because she keeps it alive every day. "What I want you to do is figure out what your minimal effective response is," he says, suggesting that Chaynah write her father a letter to tell him how she really feels. She may need to give herself what she wishes she had gotten from her father. "Maybe you need to say, 'Look, I am OK. I'm a loving and caring and giving person. I'm intelligent. I'm attractive. I'm a good mom. I'm going to love and protect this baby.' ... There is no greater gift you can give that baby than to protect this marriage, and yet you're seeking to destroy it."

Dr. Phil also suggests that Chaynah try to forgive her father. "Forgiveness is a choice," he tells her. "You say, 'I am going to exercise a conscious choice to forgive this man because I refuse to be locked in a bondage of hatred and resentment with him for the rest of my life. It's destroying me, my heart, my family, my marriage ... I forgive you and I'm going to start living in the here and now with my husband.' If [Lonny] leaves you, you will get through it. You don't have to worry that the world's going to come to an end if he strays on you. I don't think he will. I'm a pretty good judge of these things. He looks like a sticker to me."

 

"That's right," Lonny confirms.

 

"I think you've got to forgive your father and you've got to get in the game," Dr. Phil advises Chaynah. "I think you're so busy feeling sorry for yourself and sitting around wringing your hands about what might happen. That's a real easy excuse to sit and watch the world go by. You need to get off the bench and get in the game. You don't have the right to sit around whining and crying all the time. You need to forgive him and you need to get your butt in the game."