There are lots of ways of defining a family and lots of ways of breaking it apart. People who experience that kind of trauma in their childhood are inevitably given different routes to maturity and love. It’s not always anyone’s fault, and sometimes tragedy hits in ways that no one can explain. That said, there are innumerable ways in which people who grew up with a single parent express themselves. Here’s why you might love differently.
- You may be less trusting. This isn’t a catch-all rule because everyone’s different, but if there’s one thing I’ve noticed, it’s that it can be harder to trust people when you’ve grown up with only one parent. Maybe the parent chose to leave and disappeared from your life out of nowhere. That’s hard, there are no two ways about it. Sometimes that’s just how things happen and people don’t stick around. That’s fine, you’re better off without them. But it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt. You’ll find yourself having a complex relationship to trust. On one hand, the parent who stayed will be there forever, but you’ll always be aware that they could leave too simply because someone else did. When you love, you love with skepticism. It takes a while to relax and to trust that other people won’t come into your life then walk right out.
- When you’re in, you’re in. That said, when you’re seeing someone and they make it past that stage of suspicion, you’re committed. You’re very self-aware and always analyze how you’re feeling. It means that you’ll be more mature than the people around you. You might find yourself saying “I love you” before your partner because they haven’t had a history of recognizing such absolute emotions. Both of you will grow together, but people who grew up with single parents have a different relationship to love.
- Love languages change. Maybe your love language was words of affirmation, but that changed. Perhaps you have grown to mistrust words. You think that they’re empty or easily faked. You have experience with people who will say what they think you want to hear, rather than things that are authentic. This means that you come to appreciate quality time or gift-giving. Things that prove, in some way, their affection. It demonstrates that your partner listens to you, meets your needs, and simply tries.
- You may be left with abandonment issues. Lots of people struggle with this, but none more so than people with single parents who watched their other parent leave them behind. It’s cruel and it’s harsh, but it’s a complex trauma that takes years to become comfortable with. You find ways of blaming yourself when partners start to drift away. It might also be hard for you to give them space when you fear that if you don’t hang on, they’ll run away. They deserve your trust, but it takes time. Try not to blame yourself or them. Be patient.
- You’re ride or die. Again, once you get past these difficult stages, you’ll be with your partner ’til the bitter end. These connections are often stronger than people who haven’t had to have honest and brutal conversations about their needs early on in a relationship. People with single parents are often more mature and need to know earlier how committed their partner is. Done right, these result in intensely strong bonds.
- The future is strange. Just as you might not trust partners, trusting or planning for the future is hard. You aren’t used to picturing yourself outside the sometimes lonely family home. Trusting other people and thinking about your needs will aid this process.
- You may engage in Obsessive love. This is what happens when your inability to manage boundaries in a relationship gets out of hand. You have to learn to take a step back and give them space. Otherwise, you will put your partner on a pedestal. They will never replace the affection you never got from your other parent. Don’t put that pressure on them.
- More mature. Your love language and ways of operating in a relationship will be more advanced than your peers. You might demand more assurances of a partner sooner than they expect. It might scare them, but if they’re right for you, they’ll make it work through all the anxiety.
- Family doesn’t mean the same to everyone. As long as we all go into relationships with an open mind and accepting of everyone else’s experiences, you can’t go far wrong.
There you are, a few ways in which people who grew up in single parent households express their love differently to other people. Be kind to each other when negotiating the tricky business of love.