My mom first told me my father had “saved” her at my grandmother’s (third) wedding. My aunt had unintentionally traumatized my siblings and me by dropping the ill-timed news that my mother had been married before she was married to my father. To a 5-year-old, your mother being married before does not seem possible. Marriage is only supposed to happen one time. Divorce is not something you can understand. And so, the story was drafted to fit the temperament of a herd of small children: My father was a knight in shining armor. He was very wealthy. My mother was damsel in distress being held captive by an evil man. My father saved her. It was a fairytale.
Strangely enough, the story hasn’t changed all that much since the version I was fed as a little girl. As I got older, I learned more of the gritty details. I picked up stories of my mother’s ex husband’s constant philandering, how my mom was the sole breadwinner, how her husband would spend her hard earned paychecks on other women. Pretty gruesome stuff.
My parents met at a benefit. My dad had a table. When he saw my mom, it was love at first sight. I learned that my dad pretended to be my mom’s friend for quite some time. He obviously wanted more, but was waiting around for my mom to figure it out. One day my mother called him crying. Her electricity had been turned off. Her husband was supposed to pay the bill, but hadn’t. My father called the company, paid the bill, and had her lights turned back on. Spoiler: They DID fall in love.
The only bizarre detail was something I learned during my teenage years: That my father hadn’t saved my mother in the figurative sense, but in a very literal sense.
Over sliders at a neighborhood restaurant he told me how my mother’s ex husband was refusing to give her a divorce so she could marry my dad and be happy, “I just gave him a bunch of money and then he said yes.” My father hadn’t saved my mother in the figurative sense, but in a very literal sense. My dad literally bought my mother’s ex husband off so he’d GTFO of the picture. To a 15-year-old, this is the epitome of romance.
This story has been the foundation for me since the beginning of my understanding of love. It was the basis for how I understood relationships.
I assumed that you go about your life and then one day, a handsome wonderful man will save you and make you a princess the way my father had with my mother. For the majority of my adolescence, I wanted a man who would give me a grand lifestyle, buy me lots of clothes and jewels, and worship me. Forgive me, I was just a child and hadn’t entered the Women’s Studies section of the library yet.
I didn’t realize how hard I’d have to work for everything I have and how rewarding working hard would be until I experienced it.
It wasn’t until college that I was able to sort out all of the problematic implications of this kind of thinking. It’s not my parents' fault. They fell in love. My dad had a lot of money. My mom wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. There is nothing wrong with this. They have a beautiful life together (even though the money is gone, which is another story for another day).
I didn’t realize how hard I’d have to work for everything I have and how rewarding working hard would be until I experienced it. When I was first on my own, paying my own bills, and working my way through school, I thought this whole thing would just be temporary until my prince charming came and saved me. At 21, I wound up dating a very rich man who turned out to be an abusive rapist. That was a wakeup call for me.
I realized my parent’s beautiful love story had absolutely nothing to do with the money. It had nothing to do with being taken care of and it wasn’t about saving anyone or giving them lots of things. I had been looking at the whole thing the wrong way. It was about love. What made their relationship so special wasn’t all the bells and whistles, the crazy stories or the unbridled romance of it all.
It was the hurdles they overcame to be together because they couldn’t live without each other.
It was the hurdles they overcame to be together because they couldn’t live without each other. It was coming together because it was true, overwhelming, consuming, lifelong love. To this day, with the bank accounts empty and the lavish life gone, my parents are crazy in love. My dad brings my mom breakfast in bed every morning. They make out in front of me and siblings (which was gross when we were kids, but is kind of sweet now).
Now that I’m in a relationship with the person I plan to marry, I can see how my parent’s relationship and love story is still impacting me today. My partner isn’t extremely wealthy or powerful. He isn’t some grand person from some grand family. Nevertheless, he is perfect. He is heaven. He’s compassionate, loving, empathetic, and he adores me. He loves me the way my dad loves my mom. If he had to, he’d pay off some evil jerk to save me. I’d do the same for him.
In the end, my parents wild and adventurous love story had very little to do with the novelty of the tale and so much more with true love. Now that I’ve found it, I’m never looking back. Not for all the money in the world.