I grew up in that generation where it was normal for families to get divorced. I could safely say I grew up with a lot of people who lived with single parents. It wasn’t something crazy. Divorce happens for whatever reason. The most important is usually that it’s just better for the kids if the people are apart than together. Sometimes the person who completed you, who made you a better person together, eventually becomes someone that you become better without. Life happens.
Today, my parents have been together for 49 years. That’s insane to me. Growing up, the idea of staying together with someone for that long was nuts. How could you possibly stand one person enough to want to live with them forever? I didn’t get it when I was younger. Even now, as a skeptic when it comes to romance, I’m shocked as I realize my husband and I have been married for nearly 10 years. It doesn’t feel like it. We just get along so well that every day is a treat.
My parents’ relationship taught me some valuable lessons. For one thing, never seeing each other works wonders for a relationship. (Joking, of course. My parents worked different shifts and my dad worked a lot growing up.) That’s why our “Sunday Dinner” was so important. Even though it was lunchtime, it was called “Sunday Dinner” because my dad worked nights and that was like dinner time to him. The whole family would eat together that one day a week. The siblings that moved out would still show up, eventually with their kids, and the house was full of people. That was the time my father cut out to make sure he spent time with us. Our parents would work together to make a massive meal for all of us, and it was something that I’ll remember and pass on to my kids. It’s still a tradition today, with my family going to their house to spend Sunday Dinner with them, even though they are both now retired.
I also learned the importance of being treated well. My father dotes on my mother. Whatever she wanted, she usually got. Whether it was that expensive sweater from Ireland or a new computer, my dad would always make sure that my mother was taken care of. That taught me everything I needed to know about choosing a partner for my life. It taught me how a spouse should treat their wife/husband. There should be love and care and respect. There would be work. That married couples weren’t an ownership; they were a partnership. These are all very important things that I learned growing up watching my parents.
They also taught the value of resolving an argument. I would be lying if I said my parents never argued. They did. But they always resolved their argument. They didn’t belittle each other. They definitely fought for what they thought was right, but they never stooped. It turns out, everyone one of their fights was a good lesson in conflict resolution. There was a fight, and then there was an end. Children need to see that. They need to know that it’s okay to fight to give them realistic expectations in a marriage. Marriage is work, and it takes a lot of work to stay together for nearly 5 decades.
I’m grateful to have my parents still alive and still together. I’m grateful for the lessons that they taught me about marriage, even when they didn’t know they were teaching me. I learned that if you love someone enough to take the plunge, you love them enough to keep working at it in your own way. You can’t always stay together, and you shouldn’t always stay together. I’m not morally opposed to divorce. Families split up for their own reasons and that’s okay. This was meant as a way to applaud my parents for this long marriage and thank them for the lessons they taught me from watching them as I grew up.