Looking for Love 3. What Your Mom Forgot to Tell You

 I tweeted “Never anger a 5 foot tall Irish woman called “Mom”! last week             @CoreyKope

     Words to live by… You know, I had a long conversation with my mom about an unusual subject this weekend. Baggage.
     I asked her what her family life was like growing up and that lead into what dating looked like for her and her marriage with my dad (44 years!). Quite a roller coaster for sure, the funny thing is that her generation didn’t really talk about much of that while I was growing up.
     Her home was a powder keg always on the verge of exploding. Irish Grandpa Jim could be hilarious in a good mood, but in a rage a moment later. Mom said she felt that impossible-child-thing where it was somehow her job to keep the peace in a home where there was none. Both her folks had had previous divorces (unusual in that era) and brought massive amounts of baggage into their relationship. Grandpa and his previous wife had six miscarriages before they split up. Grandma had a daughter named Sharon and then was abandoned by her husband. They were married and my mom was born, the solution to all their problems!
     Grandpa Jim was a farmer but not a very good one. Grandma was really the bread winner. Mom was telling me that it was almost a role-reversal where her dad was the one who was around more and was the nurturer (though not a very good one) and her mom a school teacher who worked all the time and came home exhausted with no time or energy left for four girls or a husband. Mom laughed and said “It’s funny, they were great people by themselves, but together….”
     So many unresolved hurts and off-limits conversations! You simply can’t live the way you were supposed to carrying baggage like that around. Secrets. Power. Control. Shame. Flare-ups.
     Naturally she started dating way too early, and with no boundaries whatsoever from her parents. (Let me say that I will certainly be bordering on the insane concerning boundaries and expectations for my girls. Look, I don’t care who they marry…when they’re 35:)
     Eventually she began dating my dad’s cousin. Sometimes dad would hang out with them (weird). Mom suspected the reason dad was so quiet when he was around was because he didn’t really trust his cousin with her and, she found out later, had been specifically asked not to ask her out by Cousin ______ while he was dating her. Mom eventually dumped him because he wanted more than what was on the menu, if you know what I mean.
     The evening mom dumped dad’s cousin they had been at the school gym watching some sporting event so she was stuck there without a ride. (Mom and planning…). Somehow dad gets wind of the new development and walks straight over to mom. “So,” he says “looks like you’ll be needing a ride home…”. Mom described his now-familiar look as the “Kope Smug Look”. If dad is anything he’s confident, and the rest is history…..
     I know I should say “They lived happily ever after” or something, but that’s not a real conversation. This is the part that society neither has the guts or understanding to take on. Relationships and love don’t become something amazing by accident. X never marks “the spot”.
     It began. That’s all. Like it began or will begin for you one day. The first part can be magical because you have a “special song” (eye roll here), but then real life comes swinging in and you find yourself ad-libbing some very important segments. Pressure. Pain. Disclosure. Weakness. Sin. Betrayal. Joy. Children. House payments. Surprises. Horrible adventures into the unknown!
     To enter marriage having never entertained the thought of relational baggage, or understanding that your normal isn’t normal and vice versa, is relational suicide. You won’t stand a chance. Why? Because you’ll spend the better part of your married life defending behaviour you’d honestly kick to the curb if you were even aware of it. “It’s normal!” you’ll say. Then she’ll respond with what her normal is. Then the yelling starts… Blind spots are terrifying things, it’s like stepping on a rake and wondering why you’re the victim only to step on it again. Unawareness is a complicated word implying responsibility for unconscious thinking patterns.        “Stop doing THAT!”      Response: “Stop doing WHAT?”
     Mom somehow became about the best version of herself, but it was more “in spite of” her past and even in spite of herself. She realized somewhere on the road that she’d better do something about her own baggage and issues because dad could never make her whole if she wasn’t a whole person already. Over decades of intentional community and constant honesty and courage, when it would have been easier every single time to just leave, she didn’t. She stayed and she survived.
     She did more than survive, she actually won through to a healthy life and healthy relationships and a healthy marriage.
     I asked her “Straight up, how much of your marriage would you credit to Jesus and what He’s done in your life?”
     Her response? “99 percent”.
     It’s what you do with the 1% that matters I guess.
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