My mother wanted to be a pediatrician. She was bright and ambitious, as well as beautiful. Her life could have been so much more, should have been so much more.
Within a few years she was working as a dental hygienist, not the career she had hoped for, but in that job she met my father, they dated for several years, and then they married. This was what my parents’ generation did – they met, they dated, they married. She took the homemaker role, while my father became the sole provider.
My mother couldn’t contain her innate desire to learn and my father never wanted to contain it either. She went back to college when I was four years old, about eight years into her marriage, and eventually graduated with honors from an excellent school.
How to Break Unhealthy Relationship Habits
My mother’s accomplishments aside, I was well aware of the difficulties in my parents’ relationship. Here’s just a taste of what I saw:
- They had few interests in common. If anything their interests couldn’t have been more divergent.
- Their approach to affection seemed out of whack. My father was either not into PDAs (public displays of affection), or my mother’s evident emotional neediness put him off.
- There may have been a lack of sexual spark between them. This is an impression that I cannot confirm, but I base it on things my mother said and my own observations.
- They spent too much time apart. My father traveled in his work, yet when he was home, he spent his recreational hours in his own pursuits – without my mother.
- While my parents appeared to banter pleasantly at times, I suspect that communication was a problem. My mother was loud, biting in her criticism, and generous only with complaints.
- Their temperaments were dramatically different. My father was affable and easygoing, bordering on irresponsible in certain ways. My mother was the stereotypical narcissist and craved the spotlight, no doubt exacerbated by my father’s lack of attention.
How to break these unhealthy relationship habits that I observed?
I vowed to never marry a man who traveled, to never be a loud woman, to never complain in a relationship, to be generous with my love in all ways.
When the Best Laid Plans Backfire
I would do everything I could not to repeat my mother’s mistakes, and surely that would increase the likelihood that if I married, it would be “good.” Better than good. I would make my husband happy.
As for the first item I promised myself – not to marry a man who traveled – my husband traveled a “normal” amount when our union began. So I entered my marriage with, what I thought, was a man who wouldn’t be absent from our home the way my father was.
That changed in Year 2 of marriage.
As for the rest, unfortunately, I went too far. At least, that’s how I see it. By accepting so much, by not standing up for myself, by never saying no when my husband wanted to go off on his own or pursue a new venture that added to the time we weren’t together, I encountered marriage troubles of my own.
My best laid plans?
Over the years, they backfired.
Parenting Patterns: The Good, the Bad, the Undetermined
I also made myself promises with regard to my parenting, were I ever to have children. There, I hope, the promises that I made and kept have offered a better outcome.
- I swore I would never try to overshadow my children or take ownership for their accomplishments.
- I would not force information upon them that has no business being told to a child, much less one’s own child.
- I would respect the boundaries of their privacy, but leave the doors open for sharing what they were comfortable sharing.
- I would support them and love them unconditionally, without cruel criticisms that damage self-esteem.
Among the behavioral patterns I would absorb – to the detriment of my health – food as anesthesia against emotional pain, and related body-image issues. I have spent a lifetime holding those patterns at bay and trying not to encourage similar distortions in my children.
She shared her love of art and books with me, which has been a legacy that continues to provide enormous satisfaction. Her love of languages was also passed along. She was a native English speaker, but also spoke Spanish and eventually, Japanese, which she began studying in her 60s.
That was a legacy from her own upbringing. Her father spoke English, Russian, and Portuguese.
My sons are still young – young men, really. I imagine when they look back, they will also resolve not to repeat their parents’ mistakes. Of course, I have no idea what they will consider as mistakes. I can only hope they will also find positive patterns applicable in any relationship – respect, tolerance, communication, love.
You May Also Enjoy