Lessons From My Parents’ Marriage

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about relationships and the concept of love, and what it means to actually like someone enough to choose them.

My parents had a traditional marriage, though, and didn’t really have a choice in the matter. Yet, they managed to stay together for 30 years. When I was younger, I wondered and how they remained together because they always had explosive fights and generally seemed unhappy compared to the Disney Channel families I grew up on. I thought it was because of cultural values preventing them from separating, but as I grow older, I realize they had their own version of love different from the movies. They didn’t choose each other, but they built a partnership through mutual support and communication, never holding back their thoughts with one another.

It still isn’t a fairytale marriage, but it’s genuine and real.

Reflecting on my own love life, I’m realizing they taught me important lessons about healthy relationships, and what love means.

1. Communicate, about everything. Even if this means fighting. 

I’m not home anymore, which means my parents really only have each other at the moment. Growing up, they always had explosive fights that left me wondering why they stayed together. But I realize now that’s the only way they knew how to express their feelings. They found healthier forms of communication now, rather than simply fighting, but constantly expressing their emotions in some way has allowed them to build a support system with each other, one where they know they can rely on the other through the good and bad times.

2. With that said, always forgive. 

Despite constantly getting angry at each other at times, my parents always immediately forgive each other. As soon as the moment passes, they start laughing and forget about why they fought in the first place, even after throwing hurtful words at each other. Forgiveness, however, takes an incredible amount of patience and understanding. It’s also a choice. You need to make the choice to forgive someone for being human and making mistakes, so long as they choose to grow from the experience as well.

3. Love comes in many different forms. 

Growing up, I used to only understand love in terms of Disney Channel and 90s rom-com movies. Growing up, I thought love was highly visible, something people could see and feel themselves. Now I understand it has more subtle qualities and people practice love in different ways, like Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages. It doesn’t have to be explosive or full of chemistry. It can be quiet and calm, filled with internal support and strength.

I love in different ways than my parents, or maybe that’s what I think. I love unconditionally and visibly, and it’s partly because I never understood their love languages and always felt a need to compensate in my own relationships. However, being away from home has let me observe my parents through a different lens, and see their relationship in a different way, one of mutual support and care.

It still isn’t a fairytale marriage, but it’s genuine and real. They chose to stay together despite their problems, not because they couldn’t walk away, but because they loved each other enough to become better people for each other and for me.

I aspire to have a relationship built as solidly as theirs, with a foundation rooted in understanding, but that also involves learning more about myself and loving myself first.