Straight From His Mouth: Did Our Parents Lie To Us?

November 24, 2014  |  

“We love to wax poetic about love that lasts forever, images of Percy and Louise holding wrinkled hands on the park bench…but we don’t know how many times Louise put Percy out of the house over the years.” — Robyn Louis aka @SkinnyBlackGirl

It’d be an understatement to say I’ve made mistakes in my personal life. I’ve often said I’m no good when it comes relationships, because “when it comes to relationships, I don’t have the patience” (#HovQuotesForEverything). Ideally, I go into every situation with a well-executed idea of what I’d like to happen with a woman. In reality, I haphazardly stumble into situations like a drunken college student and hope for the best.

To shine light in a dark place so to speak, I decided with each new experience to find a “takeaway point” to share with my future children. I won’t do to them what my parents have done to me…and what I’m starting to believe the previous generation might have done to my generation.

What’s that you ask?

Lie (either deliberately or by omission) about how relationships work.

From an observational standpoint, relationships tend to be emotionally taxing and an extremely difficult thing to maintain. Relationships are surprisingly easy to enter into, as any one of us can write multiple stories of ending up “with” people when that was hardly the objective. But I find the conversation severely lacking from the other side. The side that discusses how two people stay together, work through their issues, come out on the other side (appearing) to be squeaky clean, and living happily ever after.

On more than one occasion I’ve talked to women about the relationships of their married parents. Parents who have been married longer than I’ve been alive, whose courtship, marriage and relationship prospered the way television told us they’re supposed to. Two people met, dated, got into a relationship, fell in love, got married, had children and then rode off into the sunset. However, what these stories always seem to lack are the trials and tribulations their parents might have faced in the midst of this perfect fairy tale.The story of how their fathers had mistresses and an extra family while being married to their mothers. How mothers had been in physical altercations with their fathers because of actual/perceived infidelity. How their mother Louise had been in a relationship with a guy named Frank until she met her eventual husband Thomas and the strange case of “overlap” when Louise was dating Frank but sleeping with Thomas at the same (damn) time. Or how Martha had been aware of her husband David’s misdeeds and simply decided to grin and bear it for the love of the family while secretly resenting being put in that situation. For no reason other than the very survival of Martha depended on David because at the time, women were basically rendered invalid by society unless she had a husband.

It’s very easy to wish for marriages and relationships to “go back to the way they were” without examining why those relationships lasted in the first place. It’s seems cool to talk about grandma and grandpa’s 70-year marriage but people leave out that grandma had an 8th grade education and grandpa was abusive, but he paid all the bills and grandma liked having a roof over her head. While conflict would assuredly make for a great TV movie on a lazy Sunday afternoon, I suppose the concept of “love and togetherness“ would be destroyed by the stark contrast of realism.I wonder if it might have been in our best interests for parents to explain, or explore, these types of situations with us. At the very least, realistic expectations could have been set instead of the absurdity we keep seeing with respect to both love and marriage on a regular basis. That is, assuming some parents even bothered to try and teach said lessons in the first place (this could go either way, especially with sex, but that’ll be touched on at a later date).

The older I get, the more attention I pay to relationships. What’s interesting is what’s always in the back of my mind now when I’m assuming relationship/marital bliss are questions of what’s actually playing out in reality. Transitioning through undergrad, graduate school and almost 10 years of adult life, I’ve seen this scenario play out time and time again: two people who I assumed were happy together (and whose outward happiness I secretly despised and coveted) turn out to not be happy at all. In fact, I find out their relationship was in totally disarray and eventually it comes to an end.

That brings me back to the young women I’ve spoken to and their parents whose relationships they wish to emulate. Whenever I find myself wrapped into one of these debates, the same questions always pop up: “How much do you really know about your parents relationship? How do you know your mother/father had never once been unfaithful to each other? How do you know it was love that kept them together? That it wasn’t something like money? Or family? Or the fear of being alone? Or convenience? How do you know that what you believe about your parents isn’t a fairytale? Simply a Disney story they created because it’d end up more like Grimm’s Adventures if they told you the truth?”

I’m sure there are numerous reasons parents would keep those sorts of stories away from their kids. For one, it’d probably be traumatizing to some extent (pending on when the story is being told). Furthermore, I’m sure it’s occurred to parents to let kids learn on their own and hope they either don’t make the same mistakes or miss those mistakes entirely.Still, I do find that if Aesop can have fables to teach people basic human interactions and “do good for the sake of doing good” type stories, I don’t see why the story of my parents could be any less helpful.

As for me? While I won’t be discussing every single detail of my relationship history with my kids, I will ll answer those questions as honestly possible. Lord knows I could have definitely stood for some guidance with some of the things I’ve experienced, so I’m sure my children can stand for a lesson or two as well.

Did your parents talk to you about relationships? If so, what did they say? Have you ever learned about your parents relationships later and wish they’d have told you more? What is it that you will tell your children about relationships?

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