He loves her so much, and I want that too.
Like clockwork every single night, I get a text message from my dad. It's usually a mix of "I love you" or "I miss you" coupled with a few sentences about being proud of me (awww). But a few weeks ago, his message read:
"Your mom had a busy day today, and she fell asleep on the couch. She's so beautiful, Linds. She's been so good to me. I'm a lucky man. You'll find your lucky man one day, too. Goodnight, daughter."
Now, before you get misty-eyed (it's OK, I did, too), know this: my parents' relationship and their marriage is not typical. It's one of those stories that people write about—the kind of love that could be made into a movie (after being a best-selling Nicholas Sparks book). Theirs is a marriage that's more of a goal rather than a standard.
As a 26-year-old living in NYC who's been single for about three years now, I'm finally starting to see that my parents gave me unhealthy, unrealistic ideas about love. Maybe it's the reason I'm still single. Maybe it's not. But either way, I'm not settling for anything less than what they have. I'd rather endure countless terrible dates, bad kissers, guys who break my heart (and can't figure out how to give me an orgasm) than to be stuck in a relationship that's not as magical, loving and committed as theirs.
Even after 30 years together, they still find a way to dance together, with or without music. My dad still says my mom is the most gorgeous woman he's ever seen. Shall I go on?
Here's how my parents gave me really unrealistic views about love (and why that's just fine with me):
They met a bar.
My mom had three rules when she was a smokin hot 24-year-old in Asheville, North Carolina: she wouldn't date a guy she met at a bar. She wouldn't date someone who was previously married, and she wouldn't date someone who had a kid. Well, so much for that: my dad saw my mom from across a smokey bar, walked right over to her and asked her to dance. These days? Only about nine percent of people meet their spouse at a bar or lounge. So even though I know it's rather unlikely, I (foolishly?) keep myself open to possibility beyond drunken makeouts with guys who stumble through beer-induced sentences when I go out with my girlfriends. Because if it could happen in 1985, it could happen in 2015, right? #Hope.
My dad wasn't afraid to pursue.
It wasn't love at first sight—for my mom anyway. My dad told his friend the moment he met my mom that he was going to marry her, but my fiery, sassy mother had a different idea. She found him to be an arrogant Northerner that she didn't care to see again. But my dad called every single weekend for almost four months (FOUR!). And finally, after my mom saw a shooting star the night before, she relented: "If I go out with you, will you leave me alone?" So they did. A month later they were engaged. Two months later, they moved in together. Four months later, they married. And two years later, I came along. I asked my dad once why he didn't give up after my mom turned him down so many times. He said that, for the first time, he met someone he couldn't stop thinking about. (Again: awww.) A guy has never pursued me that hard, and I might be a little freaked out he did—sorry, Dad! But I'll be damned if I make all the first moves. At the least start the conversation with me on Tinder.
They're incredibly different—but it works.
My parents are exactly seven years and fifty one weeks apart. And while they might have the same horoscope, they are complete opposites. My father is a conservative, retired fire captain who, in his heyday, was a brawly six-foot something, sandy blonde, blue-eyed hunk who could literally charm the pants off anyone. (Even at 62, he always knows the most clever thing to say in any conversation.) My mom, on the other hand is a liberal accountant/astrologer/esthetician that believes in the power of the universe and loves the Earth. While my parents have a few shared activities (see the next bullet), they mostly see the world through two very different-colored lenses. Usually when I'm dating someone, I try to find a common ground, but witnessing the "opposites attract" success of my parents has encouraged me to step a bit outside of my comfort zone and take a chance on someone who I wouldn't necessarily deem compatible.
They're still having a lot of fun.
Sure, it's a bit annoying to get a text message from my mom at 2 p.m. on a random Tuesday that says, "Just sitting on the boat with your dad, drinking margaritas and listening to the oldies. Such a beautiful day!" But now that they're retired, they've done all sorts of things together: road trips, kayaking, themed dinner nights (complete with hawaiian shirts), dancing lessons, joining a gym, etc. Throughout their marriage, they’ve always found something to do together to keep them connected. Me? I find it hard to have fun twenty minutes into a date, but on the upside, when I AM having a lot fun with someone, I know that might just be onto something.
My dad is the original romantic.
When I was seven, my dad came home with a bouquet of flowers for my mom, and I burst into tears—upset that he came home empty-handed for me. From that point on, whenever he bought flowers for my mom, he always brought a smaller bouquet for me (just so my feelings wouldn't be hurt). I used to stumble across hand-written love notes around our house, and my dad always set fresh coffee on my mom's vanity in the morning while she was showering: simple, sweet reminders of everyday love. While I don't expect a guy to be crazy, gushy romantic from the beginning—it's hard to write sonnets at a happy hour—I do want to be with someone who can tell me the reasons he loves me without rolling his eyes.
Their love is never a question of limits.
The past decade of their marriage has been tough for my parents. My dad has had lots of health conditions, the latest being a cancer diagnosis in early 2013. He's now cancer-free, but the experience taught them that you never love someone as much as you do when you realize you could lose them. I held my mom's hand while we got coffee at the hospital, and when I asked her how she was doing she said, "I vowed in sickness and in health, and this is just the sickness part. It'll pass." My parents are both very careful to remind me that marriage isn't just wishes and rainbows and a fancy wedding (theirs only cost $500, for the record). Marriage is work. And when you promise to love someone until the day the die, you should mean it. I take marriage just as seriously as my parents do, and unless I know my love is limitless for him (and vice versa), I won't walk down that aisle.
So thanks, Mom and Dad. For inspiring me and for—sometimes—really grossing me out with your PDA. You might have the most perfect story next to Jack and Rose, but I like that your love is imperfect and that you've had to work through things and stand together, even when you felt like falling apart. I know because of you, my future husband will be very special. Because neither of you will let me settle for less.
Lindsay Tigar is a 26-year-old single writer, editor, and blogger living in New York City. She started her popular dating blog Confessions of a Love Addict after one too many terrible dates with tall, emotionally unavailable men (her personal weakness).