I warned y'all in my last post that I would be throwing out questions. This one has been tumbling in my head of late and I just have to ask it:
If you are married, how did the marriage (or lack thereof) that you grew up with influence your marriage now?
On a related front, if you have children, how did that marriage influence how you raise and relate to your children?
To be really specific: IF your parents divorced, what impact does that have on your marriage and your parenting?
To be really, really specific: IF your parents divorced, do you find yourself holding your breath until you have been married longer than your parents were?
I think every person, no matter how awful or wonderful their family of origin, enters adulthood, marriage and parenthood with an idea of what they want to repeat and what they want to change. I certainly did. Mostly, I wanted to change things.
My parents didn't have a good marriage. They managed to stay together for 31 years and 11 months, but it was not a good marriage. I may or may not, one day, make my best attempt at a detailed analysis, but I know that my conclusions would be skewed by limited information and my own subjective experience. But as I moved my way toward adulthood and seeking a husband for life, I already had in my mind so many ways I wanted things to be that were different from my parents' experience.
On the whole and by the grace of God and with the help of my most awesome husband, I have experienced a marriage beyond my imagination. There is nothing like sharing my life, my whole life, with my best friend. When I have been fed up on a husband/wife level, I have hung on anyway because, after all, he's my best friend and what would I do without my best friend? I know that this level of companionship was not something that my parents ever had. On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being darn near perfect) I would currently put ours at perhaps an 8.5. Room for improvement, but overall a pretty good thing.
Yet with all of this goodness given to me, I get uneasy. The other day I was thinking about how we are closing in on being married for 24 years. Statistically speaking, that's pretty good. Yet I was struck with terror. My parents were married for almost 32 years. Twenty-four doesn't mean anything, it doesn't guarantee anything. If my parents could throw in the towel after 32 years......All the marriage books and all the sermons and all the articles and all the counseling in the world still doesn't take away that uneasiness for me. In my world dads leave and moms are left holding the bag and cleaning up the mess.
That is just one example of how my personal experience still colors my marriage. Parenthood isn't excluded either.
Matt always remarks how I tend to take on more responsibility than is actually mine, especially when it comes to parenting and guilt. Only today was I able to explain to him that when I say that I feel like I've failed as a parent because I didn't do this and I didn't do that, that I'm NOT saying this because I feel he has no right or no role with my children, I am saying this because this is all I know. My father was absent physically and/or emotionally for most of my life. Other than the dispenser of the really, really hard spankings (in my tender tush experience), he pretty much had very little role in my life. In my experience it all falls on the mother (and is therefore always the mother's fault). Sometimes I even forget that there is a role for the dad in our family because I don't really know what dads do.
Again, it isn't that there aren't enough books out there to detail every jot and tittle of family life, it is just that, when the rubber meets the road, it's a case of Monkey See, Monkey Do.
I know that God is in the business of changing lives and changing patterns. But I think he usually does this by first pointing out to us that which needs changing in the first place. How can we give him the glory if we don't even know what he has done? If we aren't aware of the influences in our lives, we aren't aware enough to ask, "Am I doing what is best or right or healthy or am I doing what I know?" For some of us it is a matter of having to drive the truck out of the well worn rut and blaze a new trail.