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Wanting What Our Parents Have

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

posted by Andrew

It’s the weirdest thing.

From when we become teenagers we promise ourselves that we will never be like our parents. Many people are determined to live their lives free from the constraints that parents impose upon us and promise ourselves that we will do things differently and that our lives will be quite unlike our parents.

And that’s where it all comes crashing down. Despite our efforts to fight the possibility of being at all like our parents, in relationships we often crave the security and normalcy that our parents’ relationship offers. No matter how fragile and unstable things may seem in the world, the stability that a parent offers as well as the unchanging nature of their relationship is often something that is taken for granted.

It’s the same when it comes to our own relationships. All too often we imagine that once we are married we are going to live the fairytale, and that our lives are going to be happily ever after. Once the notion of romantic love wears off, we are faced with the reality that our relationships and marriages require work.

Perhaps this is the first dissolution of the marriage myth. Marriages in fact do require maintenance, and at regular intervals if we are going to live in wedded bliss. And it is here that we often look towards our parents for guidance as role models of an ideal marriage. What did they do to make marriage look so easy?

My own parents celebrated their fortieth wedding anniversary recently. How did they manage to keep it together for so long? I can only imagine that many parents chuckle at the irony of children looking back to parents for guidance, following the rebellion of teenage years.

But then I asked myself, "Do I want the answers to that and have that 40-year-old stability right now?"

If I had all the answers and the implicit understanding and love for and from my partner right now, what would I do for the next 30 years? What I realized was that my parents, like so many others, took 40 long years to get to that stage. And I realized that there are no shortcuts to getting there. Sure, they had their ups and downs over the years, and theirs was by no means the perfect relationship, but something special overrode all the angst and struggles that popped up at different intervals throughout their marriage.

What I realized from all of this was that it is okay to not have all the answers. It is okay to stumble around sometimes, looking for answers and understanding. Because in doing so we learn something about ourselves, and we learn something about each other. And it is learning this that brings us closer together.

I don’t want a perfect relationship. I don’t want a perfect partner. I don’t want to be perfect either. I want a relationship in which we can make mistakes, sometimes get it right, and sometimes get it all wrong. But in making mistakes we can learn and grow together.

This is real love.

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