My parents are divorced. After sixteen years they called it quits, unable to make it work. They gave it the ol’ college try, though—went to counseling and made a few attempts to patching things up. But in the end, they just couldn’t hold it together.

But here’s the funny thing, despite the fact that their marriage came crashing down amid a slew of arguments, in my memory bank, the good times far out weighed the bad.

As a matter of fact, the overwhelming majority of my childhood memories are positive—vacations, family pizza nights, trips to the beach, my dad telling my mom she still looked gooood. It all seemed to be going well, until the end. Maybe my parents were just great at hiding their problems, but as far as their relationship went, they did a pretty good job of showing us (at least on the surface) what a good marriage looks like.

I began to think about what kind of relationship role models my parents were when I tuned into the latest episode of Oprah’s Lifeclass. Although Sunday’s show focused on why women have such trouble getting along with one another, one incident involving a woman in the audience made me wonder about the effects our parents have on how we relate to others.

During the show, one audience member was in tears about an unresolved issue with a friend. When she realized she never learned to set the proper boundaries to protect herself, spiritual guru Iyanla Vanzant asked her who taught her to allow others to infringe on her boundaries. After the woman admitted that her mother was the one who modeled questionable relationship boundaries, she cried inconsolably, finally admitting her parents had failed to teach her how to properly love.

How do you find the peace to move on after a betrayal? Watch as an audience member unexpectedly breaks down—and relationship expert Iyanla Vanzant helps her break through the pain caused by another woman.</p>

Her meltdown made me think back to Rihanna’s confession that her relationship with her father affected her how she related to men, particularly Chris Brown. During her Next Chapter chat with Oprah, Rihanna admitted that in order to forgive Brown and let go of her anger, she needed to heal her relationship with her father. Although she said that her dad was a great father, according Rihanna her father was a horrible husband, which shaped how she related to others.

It seems intuitive that our parents’ relationships may affect how we deal with others, but it’s not always the case.

So let’s talk about it. In your experience, Clutchettes, have your parents served as good relationship role models?

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  • K

    i have only two memories of my parents even being in the same airspace and that was outside the house taking pictures for my highschool prom (i dont think they spoke one word to one another and again they breathed the same air at my highschool graduation and again i dont think they spoke one word to one another. ill be 30 next month and to this day I have no clue what happened between them only that they were together for a period of about 5 years 2 years in hightchool 2 or 4 yearrs after college started. id have to say no they werent good role models because whatever happened between them (which i dont think im ever going to find out) 27 years post relationship, they both seem a little bitter, you would think theyd be over it by now but they never communicate, they never even speak of one another, its like the other doesnt exist, im just the bastard seed memory they are forced to deal with

    P.s. im talking about up to my 18th birthday, i realize that now it would be pointless as they have nothing to talk about,

    • Mademoiselle

      Re: “bastard seed memory” <== that broke my heart

      Don't let their issues ferment in your mind like that. It takes a silent but real mental toll. It sounds like they both remained involved in your life in spite of their animosity towards each other, which makes me believe you're more than just something to "deal with."

      Also, it might help to ask them (privately, non-confrontationally, and without any intent to intervene) what the feud is over so you can at least wrap your mind around accepting their decision to live their adult lives (meaning the life that has nothing to do with you) the way they do.

    • K

      thanks for the encouraging reply mademoiselle its a lot more issues i actually talk to neither & neither one could care less that we dont speak, my dad showed up for occasional birthdays, holidays etc, id estimate growing up i saw my dad 2-3 times year with maybe 2-3 phone calls in between. i grew up with my mother but spent majority time with her parents. my mother and I have never gotten along. anyway this is too much for a little post lol, I just wanted to let you know those words werent from no where but I do sincerely appreciate your kindness it brought a smile to my face in a hectic day

  • No, actually they turned me off on marriage and committed relationships early on despite them working through most of their problems (and they were a LOT) and still continue to go strong today they are not a “relationship” example for me. But I did learn what I will and won’t allow in a relationship, what kind of man I don’t want, and what would be my personal breaking point…let’s just say my mom is a better woman than me on that front…

  • Downsouth Transplant

    Same here never knew they ever had any issues until my nosy brother broke the news to me at 17yrs that the wind in the house was a clear indicator we will be children of divorce soon, we made plans if our parents split up, i would go with my dad him my mother the older two boys whatever they were in college, he had evidence something was going down and my mom seemed a little off but a week later my dad brought flowers they went for dinner and on vacation the next day without prior notice just two of them for 3 weeks, i said that is not a divorce kind of vacation, years later i asked my mom about that season as we call it she told me she was contemplating leaving my dad but he promised to do better & they compromised never told me what the issue was but said it weighed heavily on her heart enough that to this day my dad worships the ground she walks on and will shout it to anyone how much he adores her, she does love him but is a very reserved person. So Yes they modeled a good relationship but sadly I have followed my own sometimes rocky path:)

  • Shaun

    Oh God. I never saw my mom and dad together at all. My mom and dad split when I was too young to know. When I finally talked to him I was seventeen and then he died when I was nineteen. I had no relationship with my father so I learned about relationships from my mother and her boyfriends and how she treated us. Even though my mom didn’t know how to really deal with having young kids and being a single mom and my pops not really ever stepping up to care for us, she became frustrated and mean as we got older and just angry. I stayed away from home as much as I could to stay out of the line of fire. In hind sight, I know my mom was just dealing with her problems based on how she learned. For me those things between my dad not physically being there and my mom not being there…mentally and emotionally…I had to learn a lot on my own. I was married for fifteen years and we r now divorced. He has moved on and is remarrying and I am still single. I know tht my broken marriage opened those wounds for me and forced me to deal with feeling rejected and loveless. It was painful for me because I did not know how to love a man at all. I had no father. And I blamed myself. I am no longer in tht place and am glad tht I am still single after a year of being divorced because I could not imagine sharing my emotional baggage with another man. I had to fix me so tht I would not blame myself for everything and accepted responsibility for what I wanted in a relationship and what I could also bring to one. It was a tough road. But definitely worth it for own growth.