Research tells us that divorce is a cycle. Judging by my own experience, it seems to be true. My parents divorced when I was quite young, and my brother recently finalized his own divorce. I’ve been in a relationship for nearly four years, and so far, so great, but thinking of the future sometimes scares me. What if I’m eventually next to repeat the cycle? If I ever reach a truly rough path in my marriage, will I know where to turn other than divorce? Do I even know what a healthy relationship looks like? 

I’m coming into a stage where I feel it’s time to take agency over my life; I can and will be whoever I want to be. That includes who I am as a partner. We tend to think of our parents as role models, a label which tends to carry the connotation that they’re good ones in every aspect.

That is a misinterpretation of the term, however. Our parents are simply models for various roles—ones we may or may not want to fulfill should we get the opportunity. I don’t at all seek to discredit my parents. They raised me well, and taught me many great things. They taught me the importance of being a good person and giving back to others. They taught me that today’s steps should be adding up to tomorrow’s goals. They taught me that it’s important to provide for your family. But they did not teach me how to love; that’s something I’m learning as I go, mostly by turning negative examples into my own positive actions. 

I can’t predict the future and what my relationship ultimately will amount to, but I can put my best efforts forward in striving for success. I am grateful for the knowledge I have gained from my parents, but when it comes to love, I am more grateful for what I have learned not to do.

For those of you finding your own way through romance, maybe you can learn something from my parents too.

Keep dating.

As too often happens with creatures of habit, somewhere over the years, my parents settled into a routine. They felt content with being in love with each other, and forgot to keep falling in love every day, or at least every now and then. Sometimes when we’ve exited the “honeymoon phase,” we forget the work we put in to get there. Even after years, I make it a point to ask my girlfriend out because I want her to know that I’m still working for her love. I know she’s not looking to be impressed, but that doesn’t mean I can’t try to wow her in the same ways I did in the first months of our relationship. 

Treat your partner’s problems as your problems.

My parents seem to disagree on the issues in their relationship; one has complaints, and the other doesn’t think those complaints are a big deal. As a result, those issues go neglected, and only continue to fester beneath the surface.

While I don’t always agree with my partner on the issues she’s having, that doesn’t mean they aren’t important to me. They have to be. Relationships are like three-legged races. If my partner’s shoelace is untied, I’m not going to win the race by dragging her behind me after she trips. We’ve both got to stop, her shoelace has to be fixed, and then we can move forward as a team. By choosing to ignore issues in a partnership, the path to success can be hindered, or destroyed altogether.         

Accept your differences, don’t just tolerate them.

Night and day—those are the words I would use to describe my parents. Unfortunately, over the course of their relationship, they mostly have tolerated one another instead of accepting their differences. Whereas acceptance says, “I am cool with who you are,” tolerance says, “I put up with who you are.”

My biggest takeaway from this aspect of my parent’s relationship is the importance of understanding and respecting my partner’s perspective. I try to remember not to project my own thoughts and opinions onto the potential actions of my partner. Just because I would do x in a given situation doesn’t mean that my partner would do the same, and I shouldn’t be so quick to demand that she does. We are different people. I’m certainly not a pushover, but I choose to embrace our differences because true acceptance is long-term; tolerance is temporary.

Know when to let it go.

My parents are better people without each other; as hard as that is to say. When they’re together, it’s only inevitable that glares, nagging, and talking over one another will ensue. Despite openly declaring unhappiness, no one is making a move to change or leave. It’s simply convenient for them to be together, even if it isn’t conducive to their happiness.

A friend of mine once said, “I tend to look at divorce as kind of a good thing. It means two people decided to be happier without each other as opposed to being miserable for the sake of being together.” I realized that future plans can’t be based on loose suggestions that your partner is going to change tomorrow; “tomorrows” add up to days, months, and years. If I want to be happy, I have to take control and be realistic because the only thing that’s guaranteed is what’s right in front of me. 

Marriage is a long way down the road, and whatever eventually results from my nuptials is even farther away. I’m not ready to say I’ll break the divorce cycle, but I’m going to try. No matter what, I want my parents to know that they are my role models, even if that sometimes means showing me who I don’t want to be.




READ MORE  What happened when I got cold feet