Almost a year ago, I found myself sitting on the patio at my parents’ house. My dad and I were talking about guys & relationships… it wasn’t the talk I was expecting. I am not sure what I thought we were going to talk about, but there we were enjoying the 78 degree Texas Christmas Eve as my Dad told me I expected too much of people and wasn’t forgiving enough.
I wanted to argue that it’s not true. I tried to point out that dating just isn’t the same in this era of text messages, booty calls and random hooking up (all of which I hate). I think it’s disrespectful to send out a mass text message and see who responds, booty calls are demeaning and hook ups are emotionally damaging. I went on to explain to my dad how I never expect more of others than I do of myself.
He agreed. (Yippee)
Then he went on to say that I am incredibly compassionate, generous, loving and devoted to those in my life. BUT, few people get to know all that about me because I’m a lot of work. He said I needed to be more forgiving in my relationships because people are not perfect. I tried to convince him that I don’t expect perfection, just common curtsey and respect. I also said I really hate feeling like the 3 year old I work with behaves better than the adult I am spending my time with after work; I am not into parenting the guy I am dating. My dad snorted at me and said guys don’t want to feel parented by the women they are involved with but did suggest picking better guys if they were acting like toddlers.
Gotta love Dad! (If only it were so easy to find good guys…)
What he told me next took me completely by surprise. My parents were supposed to get married in November, but two weeks before the wedding my dad went to my mom and asked to call it off. To say I was shocked by this wouldn’t even do it justice. I instantly imagined how hurt my mom would have been. I cannot imagine what all her thoughts were but what came next was another shock. My dad didn’t call it off because he didn’t want to marry her. He did. He just wasn’t sure they should be getting married so soon. He was only 23 and she was 24, so Dad wasn’t sure they were ready for all the responsibilities of being married. The most unusual part of all this is that Mom is generally the cautious one and Dad is the wild one. She lives in the structured world of technology with her organization and spreadsheets while he lives in the creative world as a photographer and believes in the pile system of “organizing” his office. She is the planner and he is the spur of the moment guy, so that he was the one who threw up the red flag says a lot about where he was at mentally.
I am not sure what happened between November and the beginning of May, but I know they got married and had 3 children. Their marriage was strong enough to survive my younger brother's death. Their marriage was strong enough to survive the everyday ups and downs of a relationship. When I moved to Germany my parents apparently separated briefly (I don’t have many of the details, they didn’t tell me about it my brother did) but they were back together after a month. It survived the move to Texas, both of my Grandfathers’ deaths and several job changes. Now, 31 years later they have set a great example for my brother and me, but it might never have been.
I am not sure how I would have reacted if I was my mom. Not having many of the details of the situation makes it hard to put myself fully in her shoes, but I can look at my past relationships. I can see where guys I was with walked away and safely say I don’t believe there was much they could have said later that would have convinced me to take them back. I can see where my Dad was coming from with his advice; looking at the life they have made together I see what a loss it would have been had she not been more forgiving.
Monday night I did something I felt urged to do. I sent an ex an email thanking him for something he had said to me shortly after we first met and asking for his forgiveness because at the time I didn’t see the value of what he was trying to share with me. The relationship is long over and I want to get nothing for myself from this email, but I did want to offer him something. It wanted him to know he was right. It was important for me to acknowledge that to him and then apologize for discounting his wisdom (even if he never realized I had) because in the years since he said it I have come to appreciate what he said.
It is likely not what my dad intended to come of his story, but it is a direct result of his words. Hopefully, my next relationship will also be better for the wisdom my Dad chose to share with me. Sure, initially I wanted to fight what he was saying and argue against his assessment. There were lots of tears from both of us. It hurt to hear my dad say I was hard to get to know and that I needed to be more forgiving of others and expect less. I honestly feel I am pretty open and give a lot to others. Plus, I’m still not sure I agree with the lower expectations, but I have certainly tried to offer people more chances. I’ve also made a point of telling them when they were right (even years later) because I do see it as something that is important. I know I am not perfect and I am not so prideful that I can’t admit when I’ve made a mistake.