Nobody comes to a relationship with a clean slate. We're all products of our past relationships, and those of our parents, our grandparents, etc., etc., etc.
Take Lindsey and Jack, for example.
Jack's mother, Eleanor, was married to Jack's father, Jim. When Jim walked out, she married Jim's brother, Alex. She divorced Alex and married Chuck, who adopted Jack. Chuck died, and Eleanor remarried Alex, Jack's uncle. They're still legally married, but they don't live together. Got that?
Lindsey's family is a whole different thing. Her parents have been married for almost 30 years, and both sets of grandparents were married over 50 years.
"I've always had strong marital values," says Lindsey. "Having a long, lasting, loving marriage was very important to me."
Lindsey is 26 and had a baby when she was 20. She's been working at a grocery store for seven years.
Jack is 27. He got married right out of high school to Stacy. They have a daughter, and they're separated.
Lindsey says Stacy isn't "the brightest bulb."
"She gave Jack their daughter during their divorce and when he refused to let her see the girl, she didn't fight it. Now she has two boys. One lives with her aunt and uncle and the other lives with her. She doesn't keep a job for very long. She also doesn't pay child support for her kids who don't live with her."
Jack told Lindsey that Stacy wanted an open marriage. When he said no, she ran off with another man. But one of Stacy's friends told Lindsey that Jack was verbally abusive.
Lindsey and Jack met through Jack's mother, Eleanor. Lindsey and Eleanor worked together at the grocery store. Jack had only been separated from Stacy for a few months when Eleanor "kind of pushed him to come in" and ask her out.
Lindsey says the relationship was "a rollercoaster of good and bad." The good was their son. The bad was Jack's arrest for domestic violence.
"We split because of that," Lindsey says. "We tried to fix things while we lived apart."
That didn't work. They're getting divorced, and Jack has a new girlfriend. Lindsey says she's seen her picture on Facebook and "she looks so much like Stacy they could be related."
Lindsey is determined to learn from her mistakes. She made that her New Year's resolution.
"So far, my friends are very impressed how I've grown as a person," she says. "It takes a big person to admit their own shortcomings."
One of the things Lindsey has acknowledged is her procrastination. "I'm horrible at making sure laundry is folded," she says.
And she's learning to express her emotions. "I hold everything in, but I've been learning to lean on my friends and get things out, even if it's just to vent. So far things have been going very well with that. I've also taken up painting as an outlet for my mixed emotions. And I read a lot. Losing myself in books helps."
With the upcoming divorce, Lindsey has been under a lot of stress, and she's on anti-anxiety medication. "I told my doctor that as soon as my divorce is over, I want to be off of it within three months."
Have your parents' relationships affected your relationship? Send your tale, along with your questions, problems and rants to [email protected] And check out my e-books, "Dear Cheryl: Advice from Tales from the Front" and "I'll Call You. Not."