I think I long ago reconciled myself to the fact that I have one fucked-up, complicated family. But being home for 10 days reopened my eyes to certain truths that I'm usually peripherally aware of but don't think about all the time. Though the messy nature of my family isn't limited to my parents, I'll talk about them. I can't remember any extended period where I felt like my parents were genuinely happy--especially my mother. Sure, I remember moments, but they were fleeting. I could get into pointing fingers and placing blame, but I think the root cause of their marital unhappiness is the simple fact that they're not right for each other. Their personalities, their values, the things they want, are fundamentally worlds apart.
I know I recognized this as a child. I can remember thinking to myself and sometimes even telling my mom that they should get divorced. I knew even then that there wasn't enough common ground between them. I don't know what woman would be right for my father, but I know that he isn't the right man for my mother.
She knows that too, but they're still together. Part of it is the social stigma of divorce, I know. I'm Indian, and while Indians do get divorced, it's rare and has much stronger social consequences than it might for white Americans. Part of it is her belief that marriage is a commitment that she has the duty to stick to; that is both a cultural and possibly a religious belief. Another part of it is her belief that my brother, who is younger than me and while very bright, has a tendency to get into trouble, won't be able to handle my parents getting divorced. Just to clarify, my brother is 22. So he's hardly a kid. But he seems to be getting his life on-track, and my mom is wary of derailing that process. In many ways, he's just not very mature. Especially emotionally.
At any rate, my parents haven't divorced, and I don't know if they ever will. But I can easily envision them continuing on this way until the end of their lives. It's not a happy thought.
My father loves my mother (whatever that means), though I don't think he understands her. I honestly don't know if my mom loves my dad, though. But I'm certain she doesn't like him. And that means trouble right there. No matter what little things irritate us about our partner, we always want to believe in their essential goodness and good intentions toward us. My mom doesn't have that belief about my father. Not anymore. He's treated her badly in too many ways and for too long. It was a gradual process to get to this point, but I think she's disgusted by him and his basic personality. Whenever he does something, she's suspicious and attributes negative motives to his actions. I think she's often right, but that's not the point. She fundamentally doesn't like who he is and she doesn't believe that he has good intentions.
I could go on and on about this, but I'll leave it at this: the idea of spending your life with someone you don't like is horrible. I wouldn't wish that on anyone. Gritting your teeth in order to get through day after day--that's not a life, that's hell. My mother has suffered a lot in her life, and I think she, along with everyone else, deserves a chance at happiness. While my dad might never be happy again if they divorced, I can't see my mother ever really being happy unless they divorce.
I don't know how my parents' story will end, but I know that I will never live like that. The price is too high. I like my husband, and he likes me. If that ever disappears, I'll still want for us to try to be happy--even if that means not being together.