Getting my eyes opened to the realities of divorce, marriage, blended families, and step-families.
Love isn't sacred. Relationships are work. Bastards exist. Marriage is an institution. People divorce. Innocent children get caught in the middle. Good relationships are just like well-paying jobs that you can commit to till retirement.
Raised in a Christian household, as a child, I didn't have any concept of atheism. People with no religion, really? People had to have a religion, whether it's Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam, Hindu, or anything else, right?
I eventually learned about it. I was fourteen when I stumbled upon “atheist quotes” on the internet. It helped me define what I truly believed in, and what I wanted to practice (or not practice) as an adult.
Now imagine the same awakening, only this time — very, very late at 24 — I'm getting my eyes opened to the realities of divorce, marriage, blended families, and step-families.
I grew up watching Disney. My dad was an evangelical minister; I was always at his weddings. I always thought I'd get married – in high school I'd stay up late at night figuring out what kind of wedding gown I'd be wearing someday. I didn't even have a boyfriend back then.
I thought you were supposed to fall in love and get married and live happily ever after, like Cinderella.
Then my parents' marriage started to break down. Dad became abusive, once punching me in the face, breaking plates and yelling all over the house. My mom packed bags and was ready to leave many times, but never brought herself to do so. I remember asking her to just leave dad, but she never found the guts to do so.
It was a traumatic time in my life, those early teen years. But I was too young to really learn anything.
I met my first boyfriend on Facebook. Yes, cringey. I know. I dumped him after several weeks of dating.
Then I fell in “love” again. And again. And again. At some point I ended cohabiting with a man, but I never thought of him as my husband. Towards the end of our relationship he became a mere roommate who shared rent, bills, and half of my bed.
I did ask him, one rainy night, while we were sitting at Seattle's Best, “Do you even plan to marry me someday?”
Yes, I wanted marriage. No, he didn't give me good news.
Looking back, I should've broken up with him right then and there, rather than let my sour feelings grow like cancer, until I had become so sick and emaciated and not even sure of who I was anymore.
And I still haven't learned shit.
I kept holding on to the grand vision of marriage and romance and living happily ever after. Being completely owned by a person and completely owning another. Sacred commitment. Exclusivity. Forever. Unconditional love. It might take many trials and a long list of exes, but I'll get there.
And just like the child who thought that nobody could exist without a religion, I failed to see practical reality – romance and relationships are the least absolute things on earth. Love isn't sacred. Relationships are work. Bastards exist. Marriage is an institution. People divorce. Innocent children get caught in the middle. Good relationships are just like well-paying jobs that you can commit to till retirement.
It's been all around me, all this time: my parents' dysfunctional marriage, a cousin who has two kids with different fathers, colleagues who were single parents, dating a cheating husband. And yet it stared to all sink in when I dated a guy who has kids from previous relationships.
It just shattered everything that I thought about relationships. I gave up the dream that I had as a kid. I had to grow a heart.
Being in a relationship isn't just about creating a nest and building your own world and life together. Sometimes it's about opening your heart and making yourself a part of something else.
It's not about going for your ideals, but going for it regardless of imperfection. Regardless of the struggle. No matter how certain the possibility of failure is.
I thought you meet a prince, fall in love, and live happily ever after.
But it's more like: meet a regular person, accept their flaws, renounce your comforts, and try to see the beauty in each day.
It's not about searching for what's perfect and making it yours, forever.
It's when you find something imperfect and see for how long you could hold on.
We all stumble and fall, on behalf of those who have been divorced, remarried, hating on their step-family, unable to start a family, or trapped in a loveless marriage. It's okay. Life isn't a fairy tale.
Not everyone has to have a fairy tale, just like not everyone has to have a narrative of salvation and spiritual awakening.
At some point, you just figure out what you believe in, and don't believe in.