On a first date with the last guy I dated before meeting my husband, he casually asked, in between sake shots, "So your parents are divorced, huh? You don't have all sorts of crazy daddy issues, do you?"
Why yes, unkind sir. Yes, I do.
I have to admit, this question stopped me in my tracks. I didn't know whether to politely deny the claim, or let my daddy-issue-fueled anger result in a table flip a la Housewives of New Jersey. Not one single man, in my long, dark, twisted, fantasy of a dating history had EVER used my parents divorce as a bone of contention - let alone, fodder for first date conversation.
It was always there though - the truth of my existence. Lingering in the back of my head like a bad memory was the notion that yes, my "daddy issues" had severely impacted my ability to love myself much less anyone else. And just like that - my self-confidence plummeted. My brain immediately started racing - my dating history flashed before my eyes, causing me to wince in pain - the pain that came with knowing - this one-date-wonder was probably right.
Yes, I am the product of my parents' heinous divorce. Yes, I was exposed to much more than I should have been, forced to grow up way too quickly and was left without a relationship with my father because of it. All before the age of 12. In fact, I had my own lawyer by the ripe old age of 11, and officially swore off marriage before I even had my first real relationship.
Speaking of relationships, my history with these were, um, I'm not even going to go there. I was every bit the "daddy issue" girl at a very young age; flattered by attention and looking for love in all wrong places. For every good relationship, there was a disaster, and for each disaster, there was a train wreck.
And then I met my husband.
I met my husband a few short months after the gut-wrenching date incident referenced above. He was everything I had never expected to meet. He was everything I never expected to love. More than that, he was everything that I never expected could love me. In true "daddy issues" fashion, I entered that relationship as passionately and as carelessly and as unaware of my flaws as ever before. For the first time in my 29 years of life, I let my guard down (sort of). I started imagining marriage (a little bit). And I fell deeply, deeply in love (totally).
Once I realized this patient gem of a man was here to stay forever, though, my daddy issues came spewing from my soul more quickly and self-assuredly than you could say "Find me a therapist." I was self-conscious due to my inability to trust, to open-up, and to wrap my head around sharing my life with someone when I was barely comfortable sharing my life with myself.
He was well aware of my past - and intrigued by it. He knew exactly what he was getting himself into - even when he was warned to run the other way. He stood by me each time I questioned his intentions, hallucinated a relationship-ending situation, and even when I questioned his word.
He was patient. My lord, was he patient. After each fight, I'd ask him, "Why are you even with me?" in a sobbing state of self-loathing.
"This isn't who you are," he'd reassure me. "It's just what you've been through."
It took time, on both our parts to make it work in a way that didn't scare the shit out of me and one that didn't drive him insane. I slowly but surely learned to soften and trust, and by staying true to his belief that I was so much more than the anxiety-ridden, untrusting, product of divorce that I hated myself for being.
And in turn - I learned what made me so damn loveable through all the bullshit I brought to the table. You see, there are certain qualities I've gained as a result of my troubled past and lack of a biological father relationship that, I can now say with so much pride and confidence, makes my husband one lucky dude. Seriously. I'm a better wife, and a much more confident woman now that I've learned to embrace what I once thought made me broken.
So for all you men wondering if your lady's broken home will be the deal breaker in your relationship - check out the three most endearing qualities I realized I harbored - allowing me to break the "daddy issues" curse.
Sure, any gal can be loyal. But when you've lived through the ugliest truths of adultery - loyalty takes on a whole new meaning. You become ride-or-die loyal. June Carter Cash loyal. You take pride in the fact that your significant others KNOWS they've got a good woman by their side on good days and behind them on bad. It's like your subconscious is guarding your heart by making up for all the loyalty you didn't witness as a kid, and hoping that by devoting yourself so intensely, you'll get the same in return.
The ability to love like no other.
For every bad memory I have of my parents' marriage, it makes me want to love my husband that much harder. It's as if I'm channeling my anger and fear of a failed marriage into spreading my love like fairy dust. A dust that will work its magical powers on the success of our union. I know how to love in good times and bad. I know that my soul has found something really special and in no way will I allow a lack of showing love mess that up for me. I love to show him grateful I am. I love to show my daughter what I never witnessed. I love because my heart was desperate for this outlet.
Passion to the point of insanity (in a good way).
"When I love, I love HARD!" - I vaguely remember making this bold statement to my husband on our second date, yet he remembers it very, very clearly. This may go hand in hand with loving like no other, but I know wholeheartedly that my need to love so hard, is once again, a call from the subconscious to overfeed my soul with what it lacked for so long. With loving hard, comes fighting even harder, fueled by that unmatched passion and desire to never let my marriage end up like that of my parents'. Passion and anger tend to go hand in hand, and guess what, I'm declaring this as a perfectly acceptable way to figure out what matters most to you. Do it with passion or not at all.
So yes, while my past, my truth, my reason for being who I am today could have drove my husband away, forcing me into a life of loneliness and self-doubt, it didn't. Why? Because I learned how to turn the lessons of my life into something positive. HE learned that these qualities made me the baddest chick on the block. I learned that not all men are bad, not everyone is out to hurt me, and all of us, men and women, who are products of divorce are certainly NOT all destined for a life of failed relationships and misery.
Through it all, my man and I ended up married, devoted to each other, and proudly raising a little girl to have all I didn't have and more.
And we're doing it all on my daddy-issues.