Confession: I Don't Want My Parents' Relationship

Mrs. & Mr. Cleaver

A college-student contributor friend of ours, who wishes to remain anonymous, has a confession to make:

I have never met two people who love each other more than my parents. They get a pre-work coffee together every morning. They never get sick of talking to each other. They complete each other’s sentences. They even complete each other’s puns.

Growing up with them was like living inside a slapstick comedy routine. Dinner is a running line of jokes, and most nights when I eat at home I laugh so hard I snort and choke on my food. Unlike many of my friends’ families, my parents rarely argue, rarely raise their voices above a “frustrated” tone, and give my brother and me the sort of near perfect support usually seen on heartwarming family dramas.

But when I find someone who I want to settle down with for the rest of my life, I don’t want to be like them.

I was 16 when I realized that I’d never once heard my parents tell each other “I love you.” Not when my dad went to Chicago on a trip for two weeks, not before they head off to work, not on their anniversary. I’ve never seen them kiss, either. Or hug.

I’ve asked my older brother, and he confirms he’s never seen this, either. It’s not that they’re resistant to saying it. My mom tells people she loves them all the time. My dad is always up for a hug or a pat on the back. But they just don’t do it with each other. It seems like they’ve never really been the types to do that, either. Photo albums of their early dating years don’t show any pictures of the two of them physically expressing their love.

Back when I first started noticing this, I thought it was some apocalyptic sign that their marriage was doomed. Where was the romance, the chocolate, the flowers, the unexpected kisses? My dad bought my mom flowers once and made a huge show of it and it just left all of us feeling awkward. It felt so unnatural.

I’m the last one to want to think about my parents’ sex life, but on the outside it seems pretty dead. I mean, my mom is asleep in their bedroom by 8, my dad is asleep downstairs in front of the TV by 8:15 and, when he eventually makes his way upstairs to go to sleep, he’s passed out snoring within moments. The only noises emanating from their room at night are the TV and thunderous snores. Not exactly a setting for passion or romance.

I’ve gotten close to asking my mom about this on several occasions, but I always stop myself. Not only because I don’t want to talk about sex with my Mom, but because I already know the answer. For them, there’s nothing missing. They both have the perfect companion. They’re perfectly in sync: same sleep schedules, same taste in movies and music, same passion for teaching and learning, same taste in radio stations. Their relationship isn’t about passion, it’s about happiness.

I know there are so many different types of love and companionship in the world, and my parents’ relationship falls more comfortably into the realm of “best friends” than it does “passionate love.” But it makes me wonder: do they feel like something’s missing?  I do. I know I’m the type who needs that love, that physical expression of closeness. I need the flowers and the unexpected kisses (chocolate would be a nice idea, too, future boyfriends). While I know my parents love each other, I need a relationship where I am in love with someone, too.

This will probably change as I mature. It’s practically scientific fact that you can’t keep someone’s heart constantly aflutter during a lifetime together. But for me, right now, I can’t imagine life without that spark. And I need it just as much as I need someone who can complete my puns.

One Comment

  1. I don’t think there are many people who want to have the same kind of marriage their parents have (or had). She’s not her mom, she’s not her dad, she has different needs and want different things in a relationship. As unusual as it sounds, there are also people who aren’t much into physical contact without it meaning they are missing something. It’s good for her to know what she expects from a relationship, now I think she shouldn’t feel too much concern about her parents’ marriage.

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