Real stories about dating and relationships in New York City. Truth is more interesting than fiction.

Learning from Your Parents – a Poll (but first a poem)

This Be The Verse

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.–

Damn I love that poem.  Always have.  It’s the first thing that came to my mind when I decided to do today’s poll and I felt the need to share it.  For those of you who were offended, get over it.  It’s Philip Larkin!

OK, now on to business.  Earlier this week I found an amazing post called What Did Your Parents Teach You About Relationships (A Discussion) in Onely: Single and Happy.  It really made me think about what my taught me about relationships.

There are some things I’ve already revealed about my parents on this , but it’s been in bits and pieces over time.  So, here’s a recap:  my parents met and married rather late for their generation (they were in their very late 20s); they were introduced by a friend of both families; they got engaged one month after they met, they were married for 40 years(my mom passed away); they fought just about every day(loud, screaming fights); my dad is absolutely lost and lonely now that my mom is gone.

Growing up I thought my parents had the worst marriage ever.   I couldn’t imagine why they stayed together or what they saw in each other, as they didn’t seem to have much in common and couldn’t stand to be in the same room together.

But then, as I got older and started to have my own, complicated relationships I started to realize that my parents had a lot in common.  They wanted exactly the same things out of life and have identical value systems.  In other words, they agreed on the really important stuff.  And that those similar visions of the world and what they wanted out of it were what brought them together and kept them together, all of those years.

That’s what I’ve learned from my parents about relationships.  That I can disagree with a guy on just about everything, but if we agree on the important stuff we’ll be able to stay together (and that disagreeing on too much of the other stuff will make life pretty difficult and unpleasant for us and everyone around us).

Sometimes I think that this realization, a few years ago, is part of what keeps me single.  Because I’ll compromise on a lot.  A lot.  But I know that deep down inside I can’t and won’t ever try to make a life with someone who has a radically different vision of the world than me.  It just seems pointless.

This is a pretty heavy topic.  Not the stuff for dates, and not even the kind of stuff I talk about with friends (who talks about their parents’ marriages with friends?).  So I figured I’d use this week’s poll to ask, is this the kind of stuff that other people think about?  Have you been affected by your parents’ Do you think the type and quality of your parents’ relationship affected the choices you make now, with your own relationships?

  • Yes. I learned a lot from my parents about relationships (from watching them) and it affected me profoundly. (47 votes)
  • I’ve thought about them and their relationship(s). But I can’t say it’s had much affect on the decisions I make. (19 votes)
  • I never really gave it any thought, so I guess the answer is no. (3 votes)
  • Not sure/other. Please explain in the comments. (0 votes)

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10 to “Learning from Your Parents – a Poll (but first a poem)”


  1. Veka says:

    I voted yes. I have been blessed to grow up in a home with both my parents still married (they had their 25th anniversary this year). My mom had been married before she met my dad but never had any kids with that guy (I’ve never met him). I’m not going to say that their marriage has always been perfect–I have seen them fight–but I can say that it has been pretty good. And they have been my role models. I am very, very much like my mom (which explains why we fight). And I am the biggest Daddy’s Girl ever. I’ve heard people say that girls tend to look to marry a guy that reminds them of their dad. For me, this is actually true. I admire my dad a lot, and he has taught me (by observing him, not by him telling me) what I want in a future husband. Unfortunately, sometimes this works in a bad way, if a father is abusive, a girl will tend to date the abusive guys. Sorry for the long comment. I guess I’m just trying to say that I think most people do learn about relationships by watching their parents, whether it be conscious or subconscious.

  2. starangel82 says:

    My parents’ relationship has effected me profoundly. They’ve gone from love (which I remember as a child), to almost divorce (in my teenage years), and then faught to keep their marriage together. Now they are happier that I can ever remember them being… it’s not a show either… you can really tell how much love and respect they have for each other. I think the dark years really taught them a lot about themselves and their relationship.

    It taught me a lot too. That some things are worth the heartache and tears to make it work. Respect and communication are key in a relationship. It’s okay to love and be extrememly mad at someone at the same time… as long as you can let go of the anger at some point.

  3. wwfchic says:

    My parents hated each other and got divorced when I was young. My dad screwed me up after that. So yeah – they’re disfunction completely changed my life.

    As far as dating – I definitely have my issues (tooooooo many to count) but I also have one thing in mind – I will not settle. They did and I won’t.

  4. Quirkyeconomist says:

    I am 100% with you that shared values are a necessity for a long-term relationship. And as you point out, I don’t think that’s sufficient for a HAPPY relationship – you need to agree on other stuff too if you want to enjoy being together day-to-day – but I can’t imagine spending my life with someone who didn’t ultimately want the same things. I hadn’t really thought about it before but my parents do have that. They also taught me how important it is to LIKE the person you are with. I’m always amazed when I see couples who don’t see to actually be FRIENDs.

  5. drumdance says:

    My parents had a loveless relationship. Not a lot of drama, but not much affection either. My mom died a couple years ago and now my dad has a girlfriend with whom he’s much more affectionate. I’m happy to see that, but it was a bit of a shock the first time I witnessed it.

    In my relationships I’ve always been more affectionate than my parents were, and I’ve always tried to be friends with my partner, not just a lover.

  6. sparklytosingle says:

    My parents have been unhappily married for years. YEARS. They used to be in love, and I remember them having a good relationship when I was a kid, but for the last 10 or 12 years, my brother and sister and I have often wondered what the hell they stay together for. We’d all be happy for them if they got divorced because we know there is so much opportunity for love and happiness out there and they just make each other miserable because they’re scared of the financial repercussions if they split up. Stupid reason to stay together, IMHO.

    So I guess in that context, my parents’ relationship has affected me in that I have seen how unhappy they make each other, so I’ve learned from them that I would not tolerate the same circumstances in my relationship – I don’t need a partner who makes me miserable and bitter. I’m better off happy and single. Other than that though, I think I’ve really made my own decisions on how to conduct myself in relationships and learned lessons for myself through my own experiences, not from my parents.

  7. TerrySimpson says:

    I LOVE THE POEM!
    Yea my parents screwed me up – they have been happily married for 61 years – had four kids, and still love each other. Always wanted what they had- don’t think it is possible in this world – always looking for it – just when I think I have it – -I run off!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Great article over at Onely, huh? I voted yes, but won’t go into details. I think my parents relationship made me do a lot of thinking about my own relationships.

  9. bbbex says:

    My parents were the perfect example of what NOT to do. Some how, some way, I am still a jerk magnet.

  10. Simone Grant says:

    Thank you everyone for sharing your personal stories. I wonder if all of our parents realize just how much and WHAT they taught us about relationships?