7 Things I Learned About Dating From Watching My Parent’s Marriage Fall Apart

When I was 17-years-old, my parent’s marriage fell apart. My biological mother had an affair and left my dad to take care of two teenage girls. I’d like to think that the downfall of their marriage was sudden and unexpected, or that it was a mistake, but it was none of those things. As cynical as it sounds, I think their marriage was destined to fail.

The way that my father loved my biological mother at the time was way better than she was loving him and way better than she deserved. I’m honestly so happy that their marriage didn’t last. It wasn’t fair to my father that he wasn’t being loved properly, and it wasn’t fair to my sister and I that we had to be around that type of toxicity.

My parents were married for 18 years, and my biological mother decided that her happiness was worth more than faithfulness to her marriage and responsibility to her family. A lot of people grow up wanting a relationship and marriage like their parents- it’s natural because it’s the first form of romantic love that you encounter as a child, but that was the opposite for me.

I learned early on in life that if I wanted any of my future relationships to be successful, I needed to do the opposite of how I saw my biological mother towards my dad. There were times that I wished that my parents had the type of love that I wanted when I was older, but no matter how hard I would try to want that, I knew deep down that it was a one-sided love, and that’s not what I wanted. I learned everything I know about love from watching my parent’s marriage fall apart: some of it good, some of it bad, all of it real.

1. My relationship is not my parent’s relationship.

I have been dating my boyfriend for almost two and a half years now, and I remember making him promise me that we would not end up like my parents. I made him promise me that we wouldn’t love each other the way that my biological mother claimed to love my father, and I made the same promise to him. It took me so long to believe that not all relationships have to end the way that my parents did because what my mother did to end her marriage was traumatizing to everybody in my family. I still have to remind myself that the love that my boyfriend and I have is our own kind of love, and it’s nothing like my parent’s.

2. Just because my mother had an affair doesn’t mean that every man I date will cheat on me.

This was the hardest thing to try to learn and believe. My trust in anything and everything went so downhill after we found out about my mother’s affair, and even though it’s been years after this happened, I’m still trying to learn how to fully and properly trust people. I’ve been telling myself that you can’t be living in fear forever even if somebody hurt you really badly, and you deserve to let go and put your full trust in people, and I still don’t know how accurate this all is, but it’s better than letting my biological mother’s affair torment me for the rest of my life.

3. I need to love with everything that I have, no matter the outcome.

The way my father loved my biological mother was one of the only good things I learned from their marriage. While they were together, he loved her with everything he had, the way he loved everything with all he had. Still, now, he never loves anything halfway, and that’s rare. Without realizing it, my father taught me that it’s not worth loving anything partially, because you have all the love in the world to give, so you might as well.

4. It’s possible to find love after heartbreak.

Seeing my father heartbroken after learning about my biological mother’s affair was enough to deter me from ever wanting to be in another relationship ever again. Seeing him move past that though, changed everything. He has learned to trust and love again and it’s the most inspiring thing for me. Even after my parent’s divorce, he always tells my sister and I that it’s not worth the stress of not trusting your partner if they’ve never given you a reason not to trust them. He took a failed relationship and heartbreak and learned from it and used it to move on, and I didn’t realize how possible that was until I saw him do it.

5. I am definitely not my mother, therefore, I won’t act like she did.

I knew this way before she ruined her own marriage, but this solidified it for me. If you love somebody the way you say that you do, you wouldn’t do this. I am nothing like my biological mother, and I’m thankful. I learned to take the mistakes that she made and remember the effects that those mistakes had on her family and daughters, and I use it to make sure I never make the same mistakes she did. The day my parent’s marriage fell apart, I vowed to myself that I would never let my family fall apart the way that my biological mother let hers fall apart.

6. Both people need to really want to fix any problems, no matter what happens.

I really believe that as long as both parties in a relationship are 100% willing to sit down and fix whatever problem they’re having, they can get through anything. I think the failure starts to happen once one person stops wanting to fix things. Once the apathy is there from one side of the relationship, it’s really hard to make things work. This was another thing that my boyfriend and I promised each other early on in our relationship. We promised each other that we would always be willing to fix whatever problem we were facing, and I think that that’s a big factor in the success of our relationship.

7. I learned what love isn’t.

I learned everything about what love was not by seeing how my biological mother treated my father. Neglecting your partner isn’t love. Blaming your partner isn’t love. Being unfaithful in a relationship is definitely not love. It doesn’t matter what you say, or how much you claim to love them, if you cheat on your partner, you don’t love them.

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