Wednesday, November 18, 2009

She Loves You For Your Parents

In discussing how she and her current boyfriend met, an acquaintence let me on to what I thought was an unusual but sensible gauge for whether the man she was dating was for her: his parents. Her biggest concern wasn't whether she liked her beau's folks or vice versa. Since she was looking for a committed relationship herself, she wanted to get an idea of what kind of message was portrayed about love and marriage to her boyfriend through the first example of a relationship he ever knew (and likely the only one he's seen up so close for so long). Did they stay together from his birth until now, or go through some form of separation or divorce? She had come to the conclusion that men raised by parents who stick it out in the long term consider marriage permanent and take relationships more seriously than those whose parents have parted ways, as the children of divorcees always "see a way out," as she puts it.

When I thought it over I had to agree. Of the five divorced couples I know, at least four included a husband or wife who were raised by parents who were divorced, married, separated, or had children with a different mother or father before them. But nearly all the people I knew whose parents never had a real relationship to begin with spent a lot of time in long-term monogamous relationships. I neither had the time nor energy to explore whether this "trend" has any relevance beyond my inner circle. But it has made me wonder how many women I've gained or lost due to what they saw in my own parents, and consider the importance of getting to know my significant other's old folks for reasons more substantial than my own self-security.