By all counts, I had a good childhood. We had a nice house, enough money and enough food. I had my own bedroom and my parents indulged my every desire.
Importantly, my parents’ relationship was strong, a contrast to the divorces and separations plaguing other families as I was growing up in the 1970s. Having grown up in a stable, loving household, I was supposed to become a stable, well-rounded person.
But instead, my parents’ good marriage ruined my love life.
How can that be? How can two loving people in a good marriage ruin their kid? Here’s how: My parents were great together. They were soul mates. I grew up watching their interactions and thinking how cool it was that my parents were still happy together and still held hands. But their strong relationship gave me unrealistic expectations about my own search for a partner.
When I was 21, my mom was in the hospital. She told me that I’d be the luckiest woman if I could find a man like my dad. At first I said: “You mean really overprotective and prone to anxiety?” Then I realized that she meant that I should find a man to treat me like my dad treated her: Doting. Protective. Willing to sacrifice anything for her happiness and well-being. Then doing the sacrificing.
That sounds great, but how many men do you know who put their relationship first, every day? They’re probably out there, but I haven’t found one. I can’t even get a guy to keep me on the phone when his call waiting clicks in.
My mom used to tell this story about how she passed gas in public and my dad claimed it so she wouldn’t be embarrassed. The men I date are more likely call attention to my public flatulence and have a good laugh.
My mom wasn’t the only one to dole out high praise for her partner. When my mom died, the second thing my dad said to me was that he’d never marry again. He called Mommy his soul mate, and he spoke of their marriage as having been perfect. It did look perfect, too. I saw my parents fight only once, and it was a stupid argument about the dishwashe