Mars, Venus, and the ABCs of Fathering Daughters

by Michelle Watson Canfield, PhD, LPC

Men are from Mars. Women are from Venus.

I’m sure you’ve heard that phrase before. Maybe you’ve even read the book by John Gray, though it first came out more than thirty years ago. I find his book title to be fitting in describing women as “Venusians” and men as “Martians.”

Gray explores what those labels mean in some detail and adds lots of insightful comments about the sexes. But for now, let’s just look at the obvious:

Men and women are from two different planets.

I’ll always remember a conversation I was having with a group of ‘girl dads’ awhile back when one of the men was trying to make that very point, only he couldn’t remember the book title quite right. We all roared with laughter when he said, “Women really are from Venus and Men are from … is it Pluto?!”

I didn’t realize until later that the estimated distance between Mars and Venus is anywhere between 35 and 222 million miles, while the distance between Venus and Pluto is actually much farther than that—about three billion miles, which probably more accurately reflects the gap between men and women!

To state the obvious: We don’t think the same. We don’t talk the same. We don’t feel the same. We don’t live the same. Our wiring as men and women is different. Our needs are different. Our priorities are different.

A lot of dads start on this journey of intentionally pursuing their daughters’ hearts thinking their relationships are just going to be distant and can’t get much closer. They’ve resigned themselves to believing that the three-billion-mile gap is not only normal, but is a fact that can’t be altered.

I talked to a couple of dads recently who admitted to blowing it with their daughters. Each one is now living with relational distance as a result. They feel they’re going to have to live with it the way it is.

But let me clearly shout a message of hope to these dads and to each of you:

Yes, it can be changed …
but YOU are the one who needs to move your planet closer to hers.

Since I started that group for dads of teen and young-adult daughters, I’ve been learning to speak Martian. I guess you could say that I’m bordering on being bi-lingual!

One of the main things I’ve learned is that, generally speaking, you men don’t like too many words. You want me to get straight to the point, you want an action plan, and you want solutions that work.

Following that plan, and since we’re at the start of another school year, here’s a review of your ABC’s—three quick-and-to-the-point components of being a dialed-in dad, what I like to call “The ABCs of Fathering”:


I’m guessing that every one of you had a favorite superhero growing up. I’m also guessing that you identified with a particular crime-fighter largely because he took action. Could you even imagine an impotent, lethargic, unmotivated, and distracted version of your champion? Of course not!

It’s the same with fathering. In order to be your daughter’s superhero, you have to take action to intentionally and consistently pursue her heart. And by “heart” I am referring to her core self that feels passionate and comes alive when being all of who she was created to be.

You probably already have some ideas about what action steps touch your daughter’s heart, but in case you’d like one or two more, suggested action ideas include (but are not limited to):

Be the man you want her to marry.

The best way you can ensure that your daughter will marry a quality dude (and not a dud) is to model the kind of guy you want her to walk down the aisle to. You communicate more about her value and worth by the way you treat her than any lecture you could ever give. More is caught than taught. Let her experience in real time what it feels like to be treated like a lady by you, the first man who held her heart and the one guy in the world who doesn’t have a hidden agenda in loving her.


There is a great Proverb that says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is like a tree of life.” This essentially means that if you make a promise to your daughter, keep it. And the result of being a promise-keeping, heart-pursuing, truth-speaking, tender-loving, stay-the-course dad is a daughter:

  • whose heart will stay open (the opposite of a “sick heart”).
  • who will be a vibrant, growing, maturing, life-giving “tree.”
  • who will have greater self-confidence, more emotional stability, and succeed in reaching her life goals. (All of this is confirmed in research.)

When your daughter consistently sees and feels that she can trust you, she will internalize your positive view of her. Your steady, dependable, reliable, and faithful pursuit of her heart will yield dividends that will last long after you’re gone. She is your forever investment.

And like I often say, The harder the work, the greater the value … and the greater the reward. Your daughter is worth the work. She is your reward.

So there it is. A “1-2-3, A-B-C” formula with an action plan that works if you work it. And there’s no better time than the present to kick these ABCs into action in order to be the dad you want to be and the dad your daughter needs you to be.

Read more from Michelle at here.

Dr. Michelle Watson Canfield is a licensed professional counselor, founder of The Abba Project, a 9-month group forum for dads of daughters (ages 13 to 30), and author of Let’s Talk: Conversation Starters for Dads and Daughters and Dad, Here’s What I Really Need from You: A Guide for Connecting with Your Daughter’s Heart (both available on Amazon and Audible). She also hosts a weekly radio program called “The Dad Whisperer,” which you can access as a podcast on her website and on iTunes, Spotify, and Google Play Music. Visit for more information and to sign up for her weekly Dad-Daughter Friday blogs. You can also follow or send feedback on Facebook and Twitter.

Watch the replay of the Fathering Breakthrough Event

Join Dr. Ken Canfield and a handful of friends and partners as we give an update about our efforts to inspire and equip fathers all over the world.

There may be no more important work than turning the hearts of fathers to their children, and that’s what this is all about. We’re seeking to repair, rebuild and restore effective fathering for the benefit of children and families everywhere.

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