We’re in Bath’s kitchen and my parents are performing their usual comedy routine. By that I mean their marriage.
Although the exact details change, it’s usually about food. My dad is the kind of man who starts thinking about lunch at 11 a.m. – “But we just had breakfast,” my mom will shout.
Grown children are rarely given a close scrutiny of their parents’ relationship, but as a Covid boomerang who came ‘home’ to the pandemic, I had a ringside seat for nearly three years.
When, at 30, I left my London flat, I didn’t think I could learn anything about relationships with my parents. I was a dating columnist, an expert on romance, and they were the stable, old-fashioned backdrop to my exciting life.
Yet, to my surprise, I realized that my generation had a lot to learn from theirs and had every reason to envy them.
A new perspective on love: Lucy Holden at home with her parents in Bath
I recently stole the nest again for Glasgow, and as I throw myself into a new dating pool I notice that, much like the pans I stole from their kitchen, I brought with me a new set of relational rules.
Here’s what my Boomer parents’ marriage taught me about love. . .
Don’t give up when the going gets tough
Millennials like me have smugly assumed that the endless choice offered by modern online dating makes finding the perfect relationship much easier than it was in our parents’ day.
Now I see that it also makes us more difficult and less willing to solve problems. No one stays like my parents, and I wonder if we ever will. But I know now that I would be more likely to give someone a good chance. After all, nothing is perfect.
Meeting ‘The One’ is by chance
The rise of apps has made modern dating faster and faster, taking young people from one affair to another, in search of a perfect match.
But the more connections we have, the less likely we are to settle down. We don’t have the power to stay.
I realized that my generation had a lot to learn from theirs – and every reason to envy them
My parents met in London in the 1980s, through an ad placed by Dad in Time Out magazine. My mother was the fourth woman he met.
“It’s all about chance,” Dad told me, which freaked me out because chance seems so dangerous, and that’s part of what makes my generation slip and slide, trying to better the odds. .
Lesson learned: Don’t worry, there’s still time.
It’s the “little things” that really matter
Raised on the diet of Hollywood movies, it’s easy to think that love is all about grand gestures.
But I realized that love is actually in the respect you show another person, or how you show you are thinking of them. It’s my dad who mows my mom’s vegetable patch and she buys him fried egg crisps at a fancy wine bar because she knows he’s obsessed with fried eggs.
So when I went back to a guy I was dating and found the place dirty with no hot water, I realized that didn’t signal anyone who cared.
Conversely, a recent date arrived with a lovely scented candle, noticing how many I had in my apartment, and I appreciated the gesture.
Tall couples aren’t the clingy type
My dad is the guy who makes small-issue drama, and my mom the long-suffering partner who chooses her battles.
He is an introvert; she likes a large gathering. Do opposites attract — or would mom be happier with someone more social, less opposite? I realized that the fact that they weren’t united at the hip was one of the reasons their marriage worked so well.
I’ve seen that great couples don’t need to do everything together. My parents have many common interests, but they also exist as separate people who choose to let their lives unfold together – and I now see the value of space that allows love to thrive in the long term.
Glue of a relationship: What stood out more than anything was that ours was a humorous house (stock image)
Deliver ? Serve a meal made with love
What I also learned was how much national offerings can mean to someone. My dad is a brilliant cook who always has something ready for dinner, while I’m part of the Deliveroo generation more used to ordering.
Watching my dad made me want to learn how to cook so I could one day know how to make something amazing for someone else.
As for weaknesses, my father almost never surprised my mother with flowers or gifts, and I thought I would remember that and try to make an effort if I ever had the chance to find a life partner.
My mom’s weakness gets a little snarky, then emotional, after a few glasses of wine – a trait I have too. Dad very much understands this, however.
Indeed, I loved how tolerant they both were of weaknesses that my generation of the grass is greener might just end a relationship.
Laughter is the cement of a relationship
What stood out more than anything was that ours was a humorous house.
I started jotting down their funniest quotes and reading them out loud at night. They found these genuinely more hysterical than they had been in the actual conversations.
They spoke like a double act and I often felt like I was in some kind of country farce.
And the few things I won’t miss. . .
There are things no one wants to share with their parents. Sneaking out with a successful date was just embarrassing.
“I will never get used to how quickly young people sleep together,” my mother said. Was I ashamed of my own mother?
The worst part is when Dad told me that men are always more interested when women keep them waiting.
Nobody wants to talk about sex with their dad.
My younger brother got married this year and it made me wonder if my future might include marriage and children.
I hope modern dating hasn’t ruined me so much that I don’t stay with anyone longer than six months. But with my parents ingraining the idea of what life can mean with someone else, I think I now have a better chance of finding lasting love.