4 Love Lessons I Learned from my Father
If you know me then you know that my father is one of my favorite men in the world! No one or nothing will ever change that, #teamdaddysgirl. What I know to be true is that my father was my first example of what I did AND did not want in a husband. Because of him, I knew that I wanted a man who was a provider; someone who would never stop working for his family. I wanted to parent with someone who would spend quality time with his children and teach them good values. I needed a partner who would cheer me on from the sidelines, empower me to be my best, and when things got rough, remind me that “cream always rises to the top”. I prayed for someone who was educated, who understood black history, and like a chameleon could adapt whether it was a backyard barbecue or a black-tie gala.
I didn’t realize it back then, but the blueprint that my father set before me would be the same guide that I would use when looking for my husband. It is true that in some form or fashion we marry our fathers. Sometimes it's almost identical to who our fathers are and other times it's who we wished our fathers were.
Luckily for me, I was able to disassociate my father's worst qualities from the superhero I’d created in my head. Like many families, my parent's marriage ended with a lot of bickering and arguments; some that I saw and others that I’m glad I didn't witness. Truth be told I don’t remember times when my parents were happy together. While they didn't get a divorce until the end of high school, it was quite apparent that they had been unhappy for a long time. They didn't know it back then, but they did a hell of a job of teaching me what I didn't want in my marriage. Rest assured, when I look at old photos of them when they were dating or on their wedding day, I am confident that there were times when they loved each other very much and I am certain that I was made out of love. Because they learned to put their differences aside and stand tall together as a support system for me, I don't spend my time in therapy talking about them. Their failed relationship wasn’t my issue to deal with (Parents, take note).
Over time, my father has been a constant in my life. My parent's divorce had no bearings on our personal relationship and he is still my biggest fan. In recent years my dad figured out that I was finally "grown" and started sharing more of his life history with me. It's been beautiful to learn the back story to all of the wisdom he's provided throughout the years. So today, in the spirit of love, I will share 4 lessons that my dad has taught me about love and relationships.
MARRIAGE IS NOT FOR EVERYBODY
My father has been married four times. 4 TIMES, y'all! At 69 years young, I’m pretty sure that he will never walk down that aisle again. Honestly, no one thinks he should. My father’s failed marriages taught me that marriage is not for everybody and that’s okay. Through his trials I learned that if you can't get out of your own way, its hard to truly give your all to someone else. I also learned that when you struggle with addictions for years, sometimes it's hard to be your best self. The biggest lesson of all is that just because two people love each other, it does not mean that they are meant to be together.
Whatever the case, I think mature adults who decide that they don't want to get married should build relationships with other people who aren't interested in getting married. People shouldn't feel bad for not wanting to get married. I believe that you can grow old with someone and be happy without marriage. Sounds like a win-win situation for all parties involved.
In some form or fashion,
we marry our fathers.
WHAT YOU DON'T HEAL IN YOUR PAST WILL POP UP IN YOUR FUTURE
I think part of the reason my dad didn't do well in marriage is because he never really dealt with his relationship with his own father. I don't know all the details, but my father has shared that he doesn't have many memories of his father hugging him, telling him he loved him or saying that he was proud of him. I also can't speak to what my grandparents' relationship was like in the beginning but in my teen years, we all witnessed the verbal abuse that my grandfather hurled at my grandmother. So for me, it's no surprise that my dad's wives experienced the same things from him. Who we are and what we become most often is a result of what we experienced and witnessed growing up. When we fail to name it and treat it, we often find ourselves become the people we like the least.
I share all this to say that some of us need therapy to deal with our experiences from childhood and beyond. When you meet someone who has issues with his or her broken relationships with friends or previous lovers, feeling abandoned by family members, sexual abuse, or any other traumatic experiences, you may need to take a step back. Women, there are some things that our love will not solely heal. If you really care about someone, don't be afraid to let them go seek the help that they need. The key is to make sure that you both have taken care of your past hurts before you get into a committed relationship because what you don't heal from your past, may pop up someday in your new relationship. My father has finally put those things behind him, but clearly it took a few marriages to figure it out.
LET IT GO, IT WILL NEVER BE THE SAME
After my high school boyfriend and I broke up in college, I learned a tough lesson. I remember calling my dad because my ex wouldn’t leave my house. I know you shouldn't involve your parents in your personal relationships, but I was just over it. By the time he showed up, my ex had left, but my dad sat me down on the front steps of the house and told me to "let it go"---cue the Frozen theme song. He said that no matter how hard you try, once its over, things will never be the same again. He told me that he knew from experience with my mom. That day I heard him, but in true teenage fashion I wasn’t listening. Fast forward to a couple years later, my ex and I tried to make it work again. Of course, dad was right. I was still holding on to the past hurt so there was no way that it was going to work out; lesson learned.
Now I know what you're saying. There are people who fall in love, break up, let some time pass, reconnect, and live happily ever after. It can happen... but this storybook fairy tale that you've created in your mind is not the norm. Stop holding on to the dream that your ex is going to get it together, become a better person, and finally settle down with you. It may be meant for them to do all of that, but just not with you. Keep it moving, my friend. If it's meant to be, it will.
FORGIVENESS IS NOT FOR THE OTHER PERSON
You may have heard the saying before, but it is worth repeating: Forgiveness is not for the other person, its for you. My father spent a long time holding on to all of the bad things he's done to others and things that people had failed to do for him. For many years he didn't believe that he deserved grace or mercy. After sitting in the church all of those years fake-listening to the pastor, something finally changed within him (I'll give credit to my grandmother here). The lesson was that forgiving someone doesn't change the fact that we've hurt others or we've been hurt. Yet, we can forgive ourselves and try to be the best that we possibly can while we're still here on earth.
Forgive yourself for fucking up. Carrying around your baggage will not help you heal. The truth is most people have moved past the crap that you did 5,10 or 20 years ago anyway. They don't spend their days and nights thinking of you. If you feel its necessary, call them or write a letter and ask for forgiveness. Otherwise, forgive yourself and be well.
So as a quick recap, remember:
- Marriage is not for everyone
- What you don't heal in your past will pop up in the future
- Once the relationship is broken, let it go. It will never be the same
- Forgiveness is not about the other person, it's for you.
Feel free to share or leave comments below of what important people in your life have taught you about love.