A few years ago, my father posted a Facebook post telling the cyber world that he had met the last love of his life. He explained that he had been allowed to love five women over his lifetime, and this woman was the last of his great loves. I remember staring at the confession on the screen and the picture of my father’s tan arm around a blonde woman who looked very similar to many of the women he had been with over his life. Looking at his smile, I wondered if he was somehow more capable than I was of loving multiple partners throughout his lifetime.
I had been raised a Christian who was taught divorce was wrong, and my father’s sexual escapades were even more a disgrace to the teaching I knew. But for a moment, I let myself wonder if I had been more open to the world, could I have had the excellent roller-coaster ride of having five great loves? I felt jealous that my domesticated, committed marriage would never yield me such experiences.
I closed my laptop and shook my head. I had to admit my dad looked happy, and he sounded delighted with how he had chosen to love so many. Sadly, I hadn’t seen my father in a few years; we don’t spend much time together. He doesn’t visit and has yet to meet all my kids. Somehow my father’s capacity to love is limited.
My grandmother used to say, “Sweetheart, imagine you are in a desert and thirsty when it comes to your father. You have an empty jug for water, and you see your father in the distance, but he only has a thimble of water to give you. He gives you everything he has, but it only fills your jug up a thimble’s worth. So, you have to keep walking to find more water. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you; it’s just that all his love for you only fills you up slightly.”
For a long time, I wanted my dad to choose me and my siblings to be some of the great loves in his life. Yet I always came up thirsty, even in the seasons he tried to pick me. It seemed like all he had to give me was adventures but never his whole heart.
With my dad, we never had a relationship in the deep.
My entire life, whenever I would visit him, there was always a woman there that he was more interested in than me. Once I married and had children, I longed for him to be a grandfather to them, but he was always playing tour guide to whoever was visiting him.
My children’s laughter breaks through my thoughts, and I enter my backyard and see my husband and three kids playing on the trampoline. They immediately begin begging me to join them. I concede. I make my way into their made-up game and soak up the moment. It would have been nice to have four other lovers over my lifetime, but those would have taken me away from the incredible loves I have right here. It might just be that I have more than five great loves over my lifetime.
Christy Bauman, Ph.D., MDFT, & LMHC is committed to helping women come into their true voices. She offers meaning-making and storywork consulting. She is the author and producer of Theology of the Womb, A Brave Lament, Documentary: A Brave Lament, and The Sexually Healthy Woman. She is a psychotherapist, supervisor, and adjunct professor who focuses on the female body, sexuality, and theology. Christy is co-director of the Christian Counseling Center for Sexual Health and Trauma with her husband Andrew. They live in Brevard, North Carolina with their three kids: Wilder, Selah, and River.