Life brings people into our lives for various reasons. Each person allows us another way to gain clarity and teach us lessons to become the best version of ourselves. Some people meet, fall in love and spend the rest of their lives together, some marry and divorce suddenly, others spend twenty years together, raise a child into adulthood, and then separate. Now I don’t wish divorce on anyone. It’s always a sad and difficult situation to go through for all parties involved, including any children, no matter their age. My parents’ failed relationship actually taught me a lot about love and my own relationships. At first, it was difficult for me to see how my parents separating was going to benefit me, but in the end I can now reflect on their two decades together and learn how to a better partner in my own romantic relationships.
1. Have respect for your significant others’ family and friends.
When you get together with someone it’s inevitable that at some point you will meet their family and friends. Your partners squad is made up of the people they may go to for advice, especially relationship advice, so obviously you want them to like you.
It is always nerve-racking meeting your significant others’ family for the first time. We all know it’s inappropriate to bring up politics at the dinner table. But my mom is the queen of terrible first impressions. The first time she met my dad’s parents she got into an argument with my grandfather and being the hot-headed person she is, she decided to dump an entire bowl of potato salad on my grandfathers head.
And from then on, the relationship was a bit strained. My entire dads side of the family lives in a different state and traveling the four hours to visit them became a struggle. And when my parents split, I was caught in the middle of a family divide.
So if we can all learn something it’s that first impressions really do set the stage for the relationship in the long run. However, don’t stress over meeting the parents, as long as you don’t let your temper get the best of you then I’m sure you’ll be fine.
2. Never forget the little things.
Growing up I rarely saw my parents show each other affection. But there were always little things they would do that made me realize love doesn’t have to be shown through extravagance, it can be subtle. Like when my dad would surprise my mom with her favorite dessert. Or when I would catch them glancing at one another with love in their eyes.
All of these little subtleties taught me that real love is all about action and not words. I learned that real love isn’t about the quantity of gestures or gifts, it’s about being there, day after day, showing up for the other person. Being reliable. I learned the value of stability and how important reliability is in a healthy relationship.
3. Getting into arguments is okay.
My parents argued throughout my life. They still do and they aren’t even together anymore. My mom is stubborn and my dad can be unreliable. The combination of a short temper and a lack of drive inevitabley leads to frustration and arguments. But for twenty two years my parents would argue and then forgive each other. They allowed each other to disagree. They were secure enough in themselves to let an argument come to fruition if needed.
These arguments would scare me as a kid. Divorce seemed to be gaining popularity when I was growing up. And as a kid, I didn’t want my parents to split. But looking back, I learned that having your own opinions, desires and beliefs are important. It turned out that my parents’ desires shifted as they grew individually. And that’s okay too.
Its important to be yourself. To allow yourself to continue to have your own opinions on various topics. And if your values and beliefs begin to change from your partners, then it may be best to separate. However, in the end, you will feel so much better knowing you were continually true to yourself and never allowed the allure of a relationship to alter your beliefs and values.
4. Values are the key to any healthy relationship.
Speaking of values, the glue to any relationship is similar values. For my parents, they valued family, they both wanted children and to build a family. So they decided to go for it. And not only did they try to have a family, they succeeded. Looking back at my childhood, I continue to say it was epic. I was blessed with two parents who each cared deeply about my well-being (they still do) and always put their family first.
After a week of dating they got engaged. You would think that jumping into a relationship so quickly would never work out. And even though the relationship saw it’s inevitable end, it’s important to note that the familial structure was always there, from the very beginning.
Even though my mom was a party girl before she met my dad and my dad lacked ambition, they were both searching for someone to have a family with. And they succeeded. To this day they are proud of the twenty two years they were together, and I am proud of them too.
The values my parents shared taught me that no matter your past or your little quirks or your insecurities they won’t jeopardize a relationship if both people share the same values. If one person wants a big family and the other is more concerned about their career. Then it’s best to probably part ways before the relationship gets too serious. I learned it’s important to discuss values early on in a relationship and to evaluate my own values so I know what I am looking for in a partner.
5. Appreciate what you have because it won’t last forever.
Forever is a very long time. And it’s so rare to have that epic romance that lasts forever like Noah and Allie from “The Notebook”. People don’t live forever. Appreciate what you have, who loves you and cares for you. You’ll never know how much they mean to you until they are no longer beside you. And remember, just because something doesn’t last forever, doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth your while.
Every relationship teaches us more and more about ourselves. Sometimes we create other humans from a relationship, building even more love. Parents will often say that “you can’t understand unconditional love until you have your own children”. I believe that to be true. However, for those parents who may have ended their relationship but still have children, if anything can be taken from the failed relationship, it’s learning about unconditional love. That love for a child that can only be experienced by becoming a parent. And that will last a lifetime.
Relationships are some of our best teachers in life. Even the failed relationships bring lessons with them. I hope I’ve learned how to have a healthy relationship from my parents, even if theirs ended in divorce, and I hope you can too.
As always, I’d love to hear from all of you. Have your parents’ relationship taught you about love? If so, what lessons have you taken away from watching your parents’ love unfold. Please share your comments below. I love reading your comments and feedback.