Our parents are often our role models for relationships, for better or worse. No matter how much I rejected my parents’ toxic relationship as a template, I’m sure messages of how a couple treats one another were deeply embedded in my psyche.
Today would have been my mother’s 83rd birthday. When my mother was a young woman, she had multiple prospective suitors. She and her girlfriends volunteered to entertain the troops by attending USO dances for soldiers stationed at the nearby military base. She was a fetching, slender, curvy, well-dressed beauty, so caught the eye of many. My father wooed her in person then through letters from his front-line encampment in the Philippines.
Many men had been interested in courting her. Knowing this, and that my parents’ relationship was tumultuous even from the beginning — including fighting on their wedding day — near the end of her life I asked why she agreed to marry him.
“Because he looked so handsome in his uniform” she replied.
“Didn’t other soldiers look handsome in their uniforms? Other men who weren’t so quarrelsome? Who treated you better?”
She said he looked the best to her, even more so than officers who were sweet on her.
Was this the primary husband-choosing criterion for a 21-year-old, naive, Kansas farm girl? She was smart — she skipped second grade — so why would she not think how her life would be with this contentious man who got fired or quit all jobs within 2 weeks in their first 4 years of marriage? Did she not think beyond his uniformed looks for other signs of future happiness?
How much of your parents’ mate selection decisions are you prone to repeat? Are you conscious of why your parents chose each other, and how that may impact how you choose potential mates?
My mother quickly regretted marrying the man who looked so handsome in his uniform. He seemed to always be threatened by her superior intelligence and his low self-esteem surfaced in his frequent bickering with her and others, resulting in lost jobs, wrecked friendships, and strained family relationships. But after we kids came along, she felt trapped as a divorce attorney she visited painted an even more dismal picture of her life if she left him. She never did get the confidence to leave the toxic relationship.
How have your parents’ relationship dynamics affected your romances? Even if you consciously reject what you don’t like about their interactions, might there be some subliminal messages that surface when you’re dating?
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