Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Yahoo Motherboard: Setting the relationship example

Being February, Yahoo Motherboard has selected this twist on the relationship post: setting a relationship example.

First of all, I absolutely did the best thing I could for my girls in setting a good example when I left my X. (Ironically enough, I told him it was over on Valentine's Day. Because there was no way I could spend that day in particular pretending that it was not.) Somehow, I doubt that even the fiercest pro-marriage advocates could argue that my daughters would be better off with a drug addict in the house...when he's not behind bars, that is.

Moving on from that, in many ways, I'm not your average single mom...or, at least, the perception of what single moms want from a relationship. Well, taking it a step further, even wanting a relationship!

I thought I did for a while there. After the first year of adjusting to single motherhood, I thought it was "time" for me to get back "out there."

Yes, I'm putting annoying quotes around the annoying cliches.

I dated a couple of guys, even tried a few dating sites and met a few over lunch or drinks. All of it was blah blah blah. I had no real desire to do it. I had always hated dating; I certainly didn't like it any better on this side of my 30's! So I would walk away - or they would walk away. It didn't matter. I would always be relieved when it was over.

It wasn't my dating life that concerned me when it came to the girls; they never even knew I went on dates, just "out with friends." I kept that part of my life completely separate from the girls.

When it came to setting a relationship example, I was most concerned about how their father would affect them. I worried that Sylvia would inherit co-dependency from me. I worried that they would look at love as something you fell into, and not an action verb that worked both ways.

The one good thing that comes from having such a screwed up X is that the girls got into therapy. The one good thing about having divorced parents means that those issues get examined far earlier.

I don't care how many times my girls have seen Disney princess movies, they know there is no knight in shining armor to kiss the girl and save the day.

I joke that my problem was having a great dad. And truthfully, naivety did come into play.

My girls are far from naive.

I am glad that my girls do see a good example of a healthy, loving marriage (46 years strong) by spending so much time with my parents. They see that my dad cares very much about making my mother happy, but still enjoys his sports by watching them in another room. They see that my mom is a woman with her own strong will, and her own set of friends that still loves romantic getaways with the love of her life.

I love that my girls have a number of examples of married couples and single parents, childless couples and single adults in their lives that make up our friends and family and show my girls that anything is possible.

It is still too soon to say what my daughters' futures will hold when it comes to romantic relationships. Even though Sylvia already has one "boyfriend" behind her, she claims no interest in anyone right now (other than Johnny Depp, of course). Riley doesn't even have crushes on celebs!

Still, the most important thing to me is that they know that marriage is not their only key to happiness. And if you saw me say that to them, they'd roll their eyes and say, "we know, Mom. We know!!"



Tara R. said...

You girls will probably have a healthier expectation of future personal relationship than most young ladies. They are growing into self-confident and independent people and that will always serve them well.

Anonymous said...

Your post made me think about who Lady H has in her life that is a good example of a strong marriage. Close by we really don't have anyone!

I think no matter what examples you have, though, we all learn by trial and error. Your parents have a loving relationship yet you fell into a codependent one. And I don't think whether you date or not will have too much effect on them - especially raising girls they will see that a man is NOT necessary to be happy!

Cat said...

It sounds like your girls are learning healthy relationship habits from you and everyone you expose them to. That's one problem I have with marriage- I don't think I can believe in it anymore because I know one long-term happily married couple, and they live in Texas. I don't see how I can raise my son to support an institution that I find absurd. Religious marriage? Fine. Legal marriage? Run! But I also don't want to give him an unhealthy attitude toward commitment.... it's a good thing I have a little bit to figure this out before he starts asking questions...

Kori said...

I actually think it is a very fine line, the desire to teach our children to be independent (our daughters) and learn how to manage thing themselves without needing a man, but also asssuring them that it is totally okay to WANT one. I also think that we cannot expect or hope our children follow the same relationship patterns we WANT them to; it is okay to be against marriage, but not okay to convince our kids of that. By the same token, it is okay for us to want marriage and all that goes with it, but not okay to tell our kids they HAVE to get married. I know that for me, at least, it is a fine line to walk. You know my marriage sucked-but that doesn't mean I would never want to get married again. By the same token, though, I am NOT married and am happy-and it would never occur to me to tell my children they shouldn't get married. I guess all I really hope for is that my children find what works for THEM and care less about how the world views them-because I may end up with four kids with vastly different relationship types and probably none of them will be simialr to mine, you know?

Sarah Auerswald said...

I agree with Kori -- it's a fine line. Even being married -- it's such a strange thing sometimes when I think about it. Men are just so different from us -- they operate so differently. So difficult to relate to at times. But handy at others.

Unknown said...

Right on.

My sentiments are exactly as Tara said. And I think it's great that your girls have so many good, healthy examples of life situations surrounding them.

To be honest, I think if I had even ONE strong female role model in my life growing up then I wouldn't have bounced from controlling relationship to controlling relationship, constantly seeking relief and freedom from people outside of those relationships. Not that I'm putting the blame on not having strong female role models, I just think my life would have been dramatically different if I'd been exposed to "good examples".

Your girls are very lucky to have you and I can only hope I'm able to be a strong role model for my own.

Jeanne @ yodelingmamas.com said...

Choosing to be or not to be in a relationship for the right reasons is an invaluable lesson to teach young girls.

Anonymous said...

It's so interesting that you mention that having a great dad was a detriment, causing you to be "naive." I can understand that. On my end, my parents' relationship is also very good, and I think that has made me very very discerning in a mate. Nowadays.

Yet in the past, when I was much younger, I've been in relationships where the guy did not treat me as well as my father treated my mother, and I think I put up with it as a kind of rebellion (ie., "I don't want someone who acts like my DAD").


Anonymous said...

I think empowering kids (and adults) to trust that our real power is the power to love (i.e. see to the sacred in others and want what is best for them, even beyond, or aside from our own needs) and not the power to attract love. It sounds like your girls will be well equipped for love-filled lives as that seems like what they are living right now. Re-defining relationship success as being happy with ourselves and not about conventional (and commercialized) images of romance sometimes frees us to discover that it's the feeling we always imagined we would have in the "right" relationship that we are after, and which we might find in situations that look nothing like our former pre-conceived (and often disappointing) relationships.


Debbie said...

I am new to blogging but have always been searching for other single mom's out there. Always looking for that mom who let's me know I am not alone. That said, I found your blog via BlogHer and this post really spoke to me. My ex was a sex addict as well as a cheater and liar and other illegal things too complicated to go into here. I think everyone should be in therapy - which is also cliche, but so true. The only way I (and therefore my child) have gotten through the trauma of my divorce and then my ex's suicide was good friends, good family and a good therapist (oh yeah...and good, legal prescribed meds).

I look forward to following your blog!