Yes, Virginia, It’s Better To Be Alone Than Miserable

Photo by Sandie Clarke on Unsplash

Love is great, but happiness is best.

My parents are miserable. They’re miserable because they’re together with each other and there is no more love between them. They don’t hate each other, they’re more like roommates that fight and complain all the time, and they’re in failing health.

My sister and I grew up in a normal dysfunctional family.

Some people would say, “They’re like an old married couple! How cute!” Yes, they’re an old married couple. My mother is 83 and my father is 78, but it’s not cute and they should’ve divorced 30 years ago. They’re not happy with themselves and each other.

I love my parents, they’re great humans individually and love me and my sister deeply, they just don’t love each other anymore and it’s quite clear for all to see.

I don’t know when the love died between them but when it did they did what any old school, religious, European couple does in situations like this, they stayed together for the kids.

My sister and I grew up in a normal dysfunctional family. My mother joined the Jehovah’s Witness cult when we were very young. My father, on the other hand, was a heavy alcoholic. I’m not sure if one thing contributed to the other but they were related.

There were fights (massive blowouts), passing out on the couch, religious righteousness, and lecturing. We had a pretty good life on the outside, a great neighborhood to live in, food, house, clothes, and a yearly vacation down to the Jersey Shore. On the inside, it was pure chaos.

Instead of waiting to die, they might’ve been ecstatic to live.

We never said “I love you” to each other. I think we all understood it tacitly but I certainly didn’t hear my parents say it to each other.

It wasn’t until I was in my early 20’s that I realized they were miserable. My sister and I talked about how they should get a divorce. We thought it should be “now or never” since we’re both out of the house now and their excuse for staying together for the kids became moot, but it never happened. They stayed married and became more miserable with each passing year.

Little did I know that their dysfunctional relationship would imprint itself on my sister and me. I couldn’t navigate relationships well and had to deal with some heavy cult deprogramming over the years, but I realized something really important along the way

Love is great, but happiness is better. It is better to be happy first before you find love and be in love. It is better to be happy and alone than to be miserable and in a relationship.

My father is in very ill health. He’s barely hanging on these days and I’m sensing he’s looking to die to get away from my mother. I love the man dearly but how sad is that? Each one blames the other one for their misery.

I imagine what it would’ve been like if they did divorce those many years ago. Maybe my father and mother would’ve had a shot at another relationship, one that made them truly happy?

Instead of waiting to die, they might’ve been ecstatic to live. Either on their own or with a new partner. Granted, this is a nice dream but it’s made me realize a few things about my relationship with my wife along the way.

Don’t just say “I love you” perfunctorily, say it if you mean it. Then show your partner the love you have for them. There’s a big difference between mechanically fucking and ‘blow the socks off’ making love.

Kissing is important. Not just for you and your partner, but for others that might be watching too. We have two children and we like to steal kisses now and then. Unknowingly, we’re signaling what a healthy relationship (in our case hetero-normative) means to our children.

Another big thing is focusing on your happiness first. When two (or more) happy people come together and bond physically and emotionally, it can make for some explosive — in a good way — experiences. In our case, it shows to our children that your happiness comes first and anyone that tries to steal it from you is not someone you should become entangled with.

Yes, relationships are tricky and messy sometimes, but they shouldn’t be hard. Relationships are like gardens and happiness is the work you put into it. You build a garden, till the soil, and then you get to choose what to plant in it. You nurture the vegetables and flowers till they bloom and bear fruit. Along the way, you remove the weeds, water the garden, and eventually harvest (love).

My metaphor becomes so much sweeter if your partner(s) feels the same way you do and together you enlarge the garden. This is definitely something you should ponder on.

Now, plan your garden and get dirty.

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