My grandmother had a pillow with the embroidery, “So much of what we know about love, we learn at home.”
This pillow has been passed down in my family, from my grandmother to mother, and then to me, much like the love lessons it embodies.
I grew up surrounded by love. My mother kissed me before bed and my father gave me hugs and my brothers taught me the meaning of friendship.
But I was lacking one major thing – role models.
I never saw my dad kiss my mom’s cheek after she came home from work. I never saw them dance in the kitchen while they cooked dinner. I never saw my mom compliment my dad or sympathize with him after a long day or laugh at his jokes. I never saw them in love.
My parents divorced when I was six years old. Therefore, nearly every memory I have of them involves a distorted reality of two separate parts of what once was one.
So much of what we know about love, we learn at home. And in my home, I saw broken promises, betrayed loyalties and abandoned relationships.
This has stayed with me my entire life. It has affected the way that I form relationships and build trust with people. It has made me feel lonely, isolated and misunderstood.
It has pushed me to strengthen my independence. It made me stubborn about resisting help from other people. It made me feel like I could never truly rely on anyone else, like I was the only person I could count on.
I used to think it ruined me. But upon closer inspection, it made me so much more.
So much of what we know about love, we learn at home. And with two homes, I saw twice as much love. And the harder I looked, the more it seemed to multiply.
I saw brothers stepping up to be the role models and support system a six-year-old girl needed. I saw friends extending their hands and their homes to me. I saw aunts and uncles filling in the cracks of my broken foundation.
I saw my two parents, separately, continue to love and raise me in a way that I know they couldn’t have done as a pair.
I saw just how many places love could stem from. Home doesn’t have to be the four walls that you sleep in each night. And love doesn’t have to be contained to specific roles or specific people.
I used to think that my parents’ divorce taught me that love doesn’t exist. But in reality, it taught me how abundant love is. Love can come from anyone if you’re willing to open your eyes to it.
So much of what we know about love, we learn at home. And my parents taught me some valuable lessons.
I learned that it’s okay if two people grow apart.
I look at my parents now and I can’t fathom how they were ever married. They are such different people with different visions for their life, and I admire the strength it took them to accept that and decide to separate.
A failed relationship is not a failure. It takes a tremendous amount of strength to leave a situation that you know will shatter your world and the world of the people around you, in the hopes that things may get better.
It was scary for them to risk everything they had for the chance of a happier future. My parents had a routine; they had stability. They were comfortable. But they weren’t happy.
So they accepted the hard reality that their relationship turned them into people that they didn’t want to be. And they did a difficult thing and made the changes they needed to in order to leave the toxicity.
My parents showed me that it’s okay for a relationship to run its course. They had a good thing going for many years. They gave each other happy times and loving companionship and support during tough times. And they gained three amazing children from it. But they also knew when to quit.
They did a courageous thing to separate and I truly feel fortunate to have them as role models.
So much of what we know about love, we learn at home. And my home taught me that happiness is attainable and should be fiercely sought after. It taught me that if you ever find yourself feeling less than that, you should do what it takes to find it, even if it means taking a risk to get there.
It taught me that love does not need to fit into one specific narrative for it to be valuable. It taught me that love will pour in from places you never even imagined if you open your eyes to it and you allow yourself to feel it.
So much of what we know about love, we learn at home.
And I will forever be grateful for what I’ve learned.