Monday, September 28, 2009

Qualities in a Mate

I wanted to address a comment I heard some years ago, which I am taking out of context. The person who said this comment doesn't read this blog (as far as I know). I think relationships are incredibly complex. Much like how parenting seems to have all sorts of contradictory information out there, I think relationships do as well.

I was talking with someone about relationships (okay, so now that I think about it, this could have been over fifteen years ago). In this person's defense, this comment may have been tailored to specific information or just that they were having a bad day. I don't know.

Their observation was "Well, (the person I was talking about)'s parents stayed together, so they have a good model for dealing with conflict within a marriage. Too often in our culture, parents get divorced without really working on the relationship. This can bring consequences for the children."

Basically, this person was implying that in looking for a partner, I should not look at someone whose parents' divorced. That's probably not what they meant to say, but that's how I heard it.

Granted, this person was very religious, and their beliefs obviously influenced their worldview.

I do not think something so complicated can be reduced to such a simple statement. I think such a statement is unfair to children whose parents divorced. They (the children) didn't choose that their parents would get divorced. Why should anyone hold them (children or adult children) accountable for their parents' actions or choices?

Why not focus on the qualities the person themselves has, not what has happened in their lives?

It's true, however, that a person's childhood and the relationships that they have with their parents DO impact their life choices. It's naive not to think that. And by watching parents interact, it informs our own (one's own) relationships. What a person thinks is normal.

But it seems to me that these types of attitudes, like my friend's above, are simply harmful to everyone. It doesn't take into account the reasons that people get divorced, some of which are very valid reasons. And may, in fact, be in the best interests of the children involved - as I noted here. I probably should have spoken up at the time and asked for clarification.

I think fear can govern the choices we make. I believe it's important to recognize when we're doing something out of fear - as opposed to honest awareness and acceptance of any situation (which can change). We don't honestly know what will happen in the future.

I admit I'm biased about this - and all of these statements are informed by my own worldview.

But I don't think that having parents who stay married necessarily mean that they (a potential love interest) are functional or good at dealing with conflict. I'm not sure the converse is true either.

That's not to say that some people who have been married for so many years aren't inspirational. Or that the relationship one's parents have or had doesn't influence a person.

I just think it's infinitely more complicated than that.

It seems to me that in any relationship or friendship, we need to be open to new information, to change but also honest and aware about ourselves and our expectations. We can challenge some of these old assumptions and stereotypes - and look for the real person inside.


Kathryn said...

I absolutely agree with you here. I knew a couple that fought about this a lot - he attributed many of their problems to her coming from a "broken home." She felt badly about this for a long time and wondered if it was true until she realized his parents, though they were together, didn't exactly have a great relationship and that, in fact, there was some cheating going on that affected the whole family. Divorce isn't always the most dysfunctional thing that can happen, and all events affect different people differently. Moreover, adversity and dysfunction are complex experiences, often leading to positive personal growth and maturity as well as some of the negative stuff.

Freckle Face Girl said...

I think about this topic quite often and I agree with you. There are a lot of factors that prepare someone for marriage. Sometimes going through a divorce makes a kid determined not to do it themselves.

I have a friend whose parents are the happiest couple imaginable. They really are like sole mates. Unfortunately, growing up in a house like that gave her expectations that are TOO high. She also doesn't have arguing/make-up skills.

Aerin said...

Thanks Kathryn - and thanks for sharing that story. That's too bad about that couple.

FFG - I think this is also an intersting comment, thank you. I think it's a difficult line - we need to put ourselves out there, to take some risks, but also protect ourselves. We also need to have reasonable expectations. I don't think marriage or long term relationships are for everyone - I might be in the minority for this opinion...

As far as divorce goes, from what I can tell, it doesn't matter for the kids so much THAT the parents get divorced, but how the parents handle the divorce (if they can put the kids first). That's just my perspective though.