There are all kinds of red flags in life. There are little incidents that stand out as we grow up that can tell us a lot about ourselves if we don’t become obsessed with being defensive and instead open our minds to try to get a more objective view. If we can teach our children to do this we may spare them one of the biggest mistakes people have made probably throughout time.
True story…I remember a discussion with someone who was to be my husband in a few months. We were discussing the matter of fidelity and the life time commitment. During the discussion he said that while he couldn’t look into the future, that he had no crystal ball, as far as he could tell we would be together for our lifetimes. Now that, my friends, is about as big of a red flag as there might be. I was crushed. I thought first of all, how could he belittle the discussion- okay I took it as belittling me- by the whole crystal ball thing? I was stunned. Why would he want me to marry him? WHy would he want to marry him if he wasn’t really marrying me? Needless to say quite a discussion arose. Eventually he recanted what he had said. Should that have been enough? Of course not. There needed to be much MUCH more deep reflection and consideration. Of course not me…I didn’t want to seem harsh , demanding, high maintenance. Now I look back on that and think, “Was I brain dead?” It’s so clear to me now. And it explains how it is a love once so passionate became so mundane and with a spouse so withdrawn from intimacy. There were numbers of other things that forewarned me but I refused to give them credence. Sure I delayed it and he delayed it…but eventually we went ahead. The funny thing was how so many have said anyone who knew us knew we always were meant to be, that we always had belonged together. Surely in those days there was a chemistry. There was a strong friendship.
I think back to the days of my parents. Divorces were few. My parents fought like cats and dogs much of my childhood- or so I thought. Now looking back the reasons are more obvious. She had trust issues (possibly from experiences- I don’t know.) . He was an alcoholic with PTSD from WWII as well as some brain injuries no doubt. (Numerous concussions during war.). Theirs was a convoluted psychological study. They never got therapy . Their last year of marriage seemed smoother than the some total of what I had seen. Had they found a key, had they evolved, or had they felt that ticking of time which was soon to part them between life and death? We will never know and I could never bring myself to ask my mother. People by and large held to their vows as far as not leaving each other…though their other vows may not have been fulfilled. Was it because they couldn’t bear to see themselves as someone who would desert another or leave someone behind? Was it simply where their integrity held fast? We are after all human and constantly prove our imperfections. But we also have this desire to be better than that, to be kind and compassionate and good… unless we’re psychopaths or so narcissistic that we are all about our gratification with little if any concern for another.
SO what is happening in today’s world? Well we went through the times when prenuptials were considered just wise legal thinking. But what did that say? For some it said, well I don’t have a crystal ball, so I am protecting what is MINE. To others it said that the reality was that half of all marriages just do not make it so it was being realistic in an attempt to avoid bickering down the road. My thinking is that people might be wise to make a contract like a prenuptial when living together. Isn’t marrying supposed to cause us to give the best of ourselves? Isn’t that where we dig deep down to levels of maturity and understanding beyond any depth we ever knew we had before? It seems it became a destination instead of the journey that living life really is.
So in today’s world, I look at my kids and feel more hopeful. My son and his wife are a couple who have proven themselves to be committed to each other. Their journey has taken them through life threatening illness and financial distress, career changes and It has taken commitment and love and compromise and growth. Any people who go through cancer know that while that person experiences it as no other person, the whole family experiences going through cancer from their own perspective. This is not something that just goes on for the crisis treatment ,surgery times. This follows them. They have done marriage better than most. It is clear in their eyes when they look at each other. My son talked with her parents before proposing. This wasn’t just a matter of practice. This was a process both he and her family took seriously. Her mother had one question. “Would you die for my daughter?” Does this seem extreme? I don’t think so. I think it sums up what’s required. Wait. Not saying a spouse has to die for another, but if you know that you would be willing to die for this person, then how much does it take to rise above whatever else comes your way? It gives a point of comparison. He also talked with her dad and her sisters before asking her. This was very wise.
My daughters have shown more wisdom in finding their choices in life. They learned that they are complete just the way they are. They realize that relationships are to provide that type of journey through life and not to validate them as women or people. They built their careers through their own efforts and have their own leisure interests, some shared with partners, some not. They know balance better than I ever have. Oh they aren’t perfect- none of my kids. And their outlooks surely aren’t. But I think they are way ahead of the curve in that they have less fear about their place in life. I am proud of them. I do more learning from them than they know. Of course they have been my greatest facilitators in learning from the time they came to be.
SO what the heck am I saying? I’m saying that we as parents owe it to our kids to be open and honest enough to talk with our kids. We need to be placing the emphasis on the important stuff in their development and not how to be the hottest thing, the best looking, the one with a boyfriend/girlfriend throughout high school. We have to teach our kids to figure out who they are. What their strengths and weaknesses are and what they can do to grow is really important before bringing a relationship into the mix.
So much emphasis in the media is superficial with kids pretending to be in adult relationships has left youth with a messed up idea about reality. It’s sad how the emphasis on what’s important is so misled by parents. How many kids have so many activities that they don’t have time to know themselves? How many families are that? How many spend any time together? How many work together on projects around home or anywhere as a family? How many discuss values? How many live them? We need to do better for the future generations! We need to hold ourselves accountable. We need to not be afraid to be unpopular, redefine cool in our homes, and to encourage and to nurture our children leading them, guiding them as they find their ways in life. then let us listen, hear our kids’ concerns. As adult children, let us listen and offer advice when asked. We need to be their sounding boards when asked. We need to remember they need to be allowed to make their own way in life. They have earned the right to make their own mistakes. There is an exception to all of this. When they are choosing self destructive or illegal ways as their paths, we owe it to them to be very honest and open. Then we leave it in a power greater than ours.