I have often heard that we marry our mothers or fathers. For some strange reason, be it consciously or subconsciously, we go on a search for what we know.
Even if what we know is dysfunctional.
My father was not actively involved in any of his children’s lives. We saw him and knew him, but we did not have a close relationship. I like to view him in two ways: Good Dad and Bad Dad, terms I constructed during childhood that have never left me. Good Dad was my father before our parents separated. For my older brother and me, he is a pleasant memory of what life was like with two parents. Good Dad came home, spent time with his family and by all accords was happy with his life. By the time my two younger siblings appeared, Dad was different. They came at a time when we were watching the evolution of Bad Dad. Bad Dad felt something was missing. Perhaps the opportunity to live before he felt swallowed up by responsibility. This version of Dad was selfish and concerned with being everything except a husband and father.
When I started dating my husband, I was not concerned about a long-term relationship. Presumably, neither was he. Nor was I concerned with figuring out if a person reminded me of my father. I was just getting to know someone. Sure, there were times my then-boyfriend reminded me of my dad, but I did not take note. Fast forward 14 years, two kids, and a host of shared responsibilities later, the similarities between them became apparent. They are good similarities, though. My husband reminds me of Good Dad. He is present, active, funny (if dad jokes count), hardworking, and a disciplinarian. He comes home to his family and looks ahead to our future. Although these qualities are great, I found myself waiting for the shift. The day when my husband would go from a man satisfied with his life to a man more concerned with what he may be missing.
It is an awkward way to live, waiting for—or rather, dreading—the moment you will see a switch. I saw the switch as a child. Although I did not know the inner-workings of my parents’ marriage, I did know the aftermath of two people having drastically different views of marriage and parenthood. I did know what it was like to see one parent come and go while the other stayed and struggled. I did know what it was like to be disappointed by broken promises and lies. Most importantly, I knew what it was like to see a parent change right before your eyes.
As a child, I could not figure out if my father became someone different or if he became a lesser disguised version of himself. As an adult, I still have not figured it out. I just knew I did not want that part of history to repeat. I did not want my children to experience the same. Parents sometimes have a desire to give their children what they did not have. What I wanted to give mine was a sense of stability. However, in working to do that, I was placing an unnecessary burden on my husband to prove he was not the same man as my father. Regardless of if they have similar tendencies, they are two different people, and to judge one by the actions of the other is unfair. Neither my husband’s personality, nor our marriage needed to be analyzed; it was my faulty way of thinking. Time and self-reflection made that revelation possible.
To my dear husband, who has stuck by our family and has been my rock for so many years, you do not have to prove you are not my father. Your actions have already made that point clear.
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