The #1 reason men don’t NEED their fathers

Zackary Henson
6 min readFeb 22, 2022


I’ve spoke a lot recently about either being fatherless, or the perspective of being without one; the struggle with understanding our relationships with them and finding the silver lining to our challenges with or without them.

And just as I think that I’ve gotten a path fairly well cleared away with my own father, another challenge steps in to stop me…or worse turn me into darkness; that place I go to question my worth and whether or not my views and values are valid among the world.

I haven’t yet figured out if my relationship with this man is going to withstand these two things: the finite undetermined time ahead of me, and my own stubbornness to walk my path, sweeping the complications of our relationship to the side.

In our my recent talk that usually starts like any other, updating on family issues and individual goals, we got into deep emotional talks about what it means to live and what’s important. And among the back and forth of what we both felt, he blurted one sentence that not only bothered me, it forced me to hold back with all my power from a very bluntly placed “fuck off”.

As he was talking about his own journey to build an on-the-road lifestyle and basically becoming nomadic, he mentioned(and has many times) our relationship and how rocky it’s been. He mentioned how much he misses me and how much time he’s missed with me. And among the purge, he said, “you may not realize it, but you need me.”

Look…to understand my rage, you also have to understand the background. And even if it’s not enough to understand and you still feel as if I’m inconsiderate, so be it. Our emotions sway everything we do, and through many years of suppression or acting only for validation, they can effectively sway the righteousness of our own story. I get that.

The mind is a crazy thing. Our experiences are endless, but somehow we easily remember very little of it. What we tend to remember are the things that rocked us emotionally, with no favoritism toward whether it was a negative or positive experience. And for some reason, what I remember most about my own father are the things that made me afraid, that made me feel hurt, and that made me feel that I was making him angry just by being myself.

I’ve spent very little time with my father. Since the age of one, we’ve probably spent two years total together…and I’m now 34. I have random memory of him scolding me an belittling me for forgetting my shoes and my boarding pass, which made me miss my flight. I remember his intoxicated rage canoeing down the river while simultaneously fearing that we would lose control. And I remember him threatening me for not working outside with him in 90 degree Southern heat, and set me off to do his laundry which I’d never done, and burned all of his clothes by adding bleach before there was water in the machine…

What has perplexed me all these years, is that I remember these so clearly. Yet, I KNOW we had good times. He taught me to drive at age nine, we swam in creeks and fished constantly, and we shot pistols and rifles at everything that was a tin can or a bottle. Yet, emotionally, I was constantly in a state of unease. I was timid, afraid to do things that would upset him, in fear of his anger.

To his defense, my father had a lot to be on edge about. A man that only knew labor as a trade for currency, he was always stretching himself. He worked long hours for little money in most of his jobs. He borrowed money, traded favors, constantly did odds-and-ends, and was always in toxic and damaging relationships. My father had a lot of reasons to be full of stress and on edge.

It’s taken me a lot of years, but I’ve finally found myself in a position that can forgive him for who he was, and where he was. Rarely do we ever ask for the challenge that we go through…but, it’s about how we handle that challenge and how we can minimize or at least change those challenges in a way that suits us. Every moment we have, we get to decide to react or respond. And yes, there’s a difference.

The truth is, that as long as I was without a father figure because of a very fragile and many times broken relationship with him, I had to find my own way. Not because I knew I had to, but because I didn’t understand any other way to make my way. I’m not saying I turned into a vicious, hard, unstoppable force of man. Far from it. Quite the opposite actually. I struggled. I became timid, accommodating, and naïve. I didn’t know how to make decisions. I never took on challenges unless I knew what was on the other side or someone to tell what was there. But with that, I also found my ways of keeping myself from overall harm and unnecessary difficulty. I became kind, considerate, empathetic, and curious in a way that no one could see. I watched. Anyone and everyone. I sat back in the dark corners in a way that definitely kept me from many forms of growth, but also gave me the ability to watch human behavior in a way to manipulate my relationships that never put me in a TRULY bad place. I survived.

I’m definitely not saying that I was better off without my father. Of course not. I could have — we could have — learned quite a bit from each other. Who knows. But, what I’ve gained, I learned on my own. And furthermore, as I started REALLY taking on my self growth at 28; learning self-awareness, self-care, self-love…all the self stuff…I pushed past what I could learn from my father. Not that I couldn’t learn from him at all, but no longer as a father figure.

What us men have to understand, is that at some point, regardless of how healthy our relationships with our fathers may have been, there is an inevitable necessity for us to become equal to our fathers. The necessity for us to become mature and self-driven men. We may ‘need’ them because of the amazing love they give us and the lessons they teach us, but to truly go from boy to man, we have(and they) have to become something that is no longer in need of the adolescent disciplinary and directive father figure.

Our growth is ceased when we don’t evolve into an equal to other men. We have to step out into the unknown and find our own power, our own resilience, and our own adaptivity. We have to spend enough time out in the cold and unforgiving land that eventually gives us the epiphany, ‘no one is coming to save us’. We are the only ones that can find true glory for ourselves. To return home before our time may give us peace and stability, but it is also surrender. It is falling back under our father’s wing in fear of our own life and our own failure. To return home as men, we first have to survive the wolves, find our own sword and shield, and be hardened by the paths trodden and the battles won.

We have to become our own heroes. We have to listen to our own faint whispers of imagination and direction. We have to find our own individual reasons to live.

And to all the fathers that think their sons need them, you are hurting your sons. You are holding them back from their individuality and authenticity. You are keeping from them their own creative power and ability to be self-sufficient and thrive. Your sons are meant to become men that stand by you, that build empires next to you, and that can look to you for perspective and support…not safety and protection.

Men, we don’t need our fathers. We may want them in our lives, which is healthy and powerful, but to need them is to leave your own potential on the table. It means that the wolves in the wood you need to face will never let you find your way to the top of the mountain. They will forever scare you and force you back behind your father’s walls.

Stay strong. Find your way. Be the men you are supposed to be.



Zackary Henson

Writer who questions everything. Self, Behavior, Perspective, Connection. Truth and love.