I’ve been thinking a lot about how my kids view the relationship between their father and me. As teens, they just watched us go through a divorce. They remember when we were happy, and they also remember when that changed.
There are evenings when they want to watch old family movies from when we were together, and other times when they say they are happy they have two places to live.
My almost 15-year-old son has been making comments lately about how he doesn’t want to get married or have kids. While I realize he is a teenager and he will probably change his mind as he grows up or if he meets the perfect partner, I still want him (and his brother and sister) to know some things about marriage and relationships even though what they just witnessed may make it hard for them to believe in a happily ever after.
I want them to know what they saw between their father and me — all the good, all the struggles, all the laughter and resentment — was the real deal.
Wild attraction and the “you can do nothing wrong, I’ll love you until I die” phase doesn’t last.
Being in love means you love someone despite the things you don’t like about them.
You accept and love them even when they do little things that drive you bonkers, like the strange sounds their body makes and chewing loudly and always forgetting to add a new roll of paper towels to the damn dispenser when they use the last one.
Love means you are able to move on and work through the big things, like if they snap and say something hurtful, forget your anniversary, or are rude to the cashier at the grocery store because they are having a tough day.
It means you are able to make it through hard times and find each other again because the love is still there and you are growing together.
But there are relationships that drift too, and sometimes you can’t come back together no matter how hard you try — and that’s okay. Because love doesn’t feel forced, or soul-sucking, or empty, even if you are going through a tough spot.
I want them to know just because you end a marriage or relationship, it doesn’t mean you have failed, or that the relationship wasn’t valuable, or it didn’t teach you some amazing things.
It doesn’t mean you don’t have what it takes to “make it” with another person or you aren’t capable of love.
Meaningful relationships don’t always last forever. You grow apart and want different things and can’t find your way to each other any longer, and there are times when it’s better to walk away and set the other person free so you can both experience the growth you need.
I need my kids to know the relationship I had with their father was one of the most meaningful relationships I’ve ever had and he will forever be cemented in my soul because we grew up together, birthed three kids, and then knew and loved each other enough to let each other go before our marriage took us down.
As hard as it’s all been, there was so much learning and changing and growing and love. I regret none of it, and if that’s not evolving, I don’t know what is.
Being in a relationship and committing to a partner doesn’t always mean forever — there are no guarantees in this life, and we are trained to believe if it doesn’t last, we’ve failed and aren’t good enough.
It’s simply not true.
I’m not saying I hope my kids get married despite the fact their parents got a divorce.
And I’m not saying I hope they don’t because I know all too well how it can all fade away, and it’s incredibly painful and I never want them to go through it.
I only need them to know that however they choose to live their lives, if they are being true to themselves, I will support them.
Maybe they will get married once, three times, or never.
It really doesn’t matter to me. What matters is they treat people fairly and with kindness, and this includes themselves.
What matters is raising kids who know their limits, their boundaries, and when they are robbing themselves of living their best life to make someone else happy.
It’s important they know they can be happy with a partner and without one.
It’s important they know that happiness can be fleeting and they aren’t less of a person if they need to make a hard decision to end a relationship.
I’ve learned these past few years the best thing you can do is show up for yourself even if feels so much easier to fall back into something familiar and less healthy — and all I want is the same for them, no matter how that looks.