A child of divorce is just as good at love and relationships as anyone else, but being with one can be challenging if you don’t understand us. Some days it seems like we’re experts at love, and others seem like we’re our own worst enemies. If you’re dating someone whose parents divorced when they were young, here are 8 things you should know about what you’re getting into:
- We’re not damaged, we’re just cautious. We’re not damaged, or broken, or incapable of loving someone — we’re just practical about love and marriage. Accepting that relationships can end is just part of the deal. Entering one cautiously and with careful consideration, knowing full well that they might not last, isn’t a flaw — it’s smart. We don’t buy into any myths about love and don’t see any downsides about thoroughly weighing our options and taking strides to protect ourselves. It might seem like we’re dysfunctional, but to us, it seems like the people jumping into serious romances, risking both their emotional and financial well-being, are the ones with the problem.
- We don’t respond well to fighting. We hate fighting, especially when there’s yelling involved. We might completely shut down, intensely overreact, or totally bail on the situation and go on a whiskey-fueled rampage around town. We’ve dealt with so much fighting that the whole “fighting is healthy” notion seems like complete garbage. We know logically that’s true, but it won’t stop our anxiety levels from going through the roof when we sense an argument starting. Instead of entering emotional fights, we prefer to have intellectual discussions where we can work out our issues calmly with minimal emotional response — and preferably zero yelling.
- We always have a backup plan. We always have a contingency plan for if the relationship fails. There’s not a backup man, just a strategy for what our first few moves would be as a single person. This doesn’t mean we want the relationship to end, or that we even necessarily think there’s a chance it won’t work out. It just means that in case the worst happens, we’d like to end up on our feet. We’ve watched our parents get completely screwed over by not preparing for this, and we’d rather be safe than sorry. If you dumped us tomorrow, we won’t be financially wrecked or left with nothing. We like the comfort of knowing there’s a plan and a nest egg in case we end up back on our own.
- The idea of marriage terrifies us. Like, irrationally scares the hell out of us. We’re both terrified of ending up divorced and scared of illogically avoiding divorce to the point of being trapped in a miserable marriage. Even if we want to get married, we’re still plagued with fears and doubts. Engagements might be slightly panic inducing, but if it’s right, we’ll make it to the big day.
- We’re sensitive to warning signs in the relationship. We can be slightly hypervigilant to any signs that the relationship is taking a turn for the worse. Don’t be surprised if we occasionally think that a minor disagreement is going to end in a breakup, or be caught off guard if we try to preemptively dump you for seemingly no reason. No matter how solid our relationship is, we carry around the burden of knowing that even strong relationships crumble into disasters. We can’t help but be on guard for troubles and possible impending doom.
- We have a strange relationship with compromise. We watched our parents have about a million fights over pointless crap, and were unlucky enough to be made mini moderators in order to prevent life from coming to a complete standstill. This led us to become expert compromisers for the not-so-important stuff, like where to go out to dinner tonight. You’ll probably never get in a fight with us over what show to watch on Netflix night or which lamps to buy for the guest bedroom. But when it comes to BIG decisions, we absolutely draw the line and refuse to compromise. We saw our mothers suffer because they waited to get an advanced degree for a “better time” that never came. We watch our dads suffer when they were pressured into buying homes they couldn’t really afford. We watched as someone won the argument about how many children to have, and the other felt resentful. When it comes to the big, important stuff, we aren’t willing to compromise. If the relationship fails, those huge, major compromises were all for nothing, and the person who made them ends up bitter and resentful. We are determined to not wind up angry and full of regrets if there’s a breakup, or put all our hope for future happiness on this relationship lasting forever.
- We might have a couple relationship handicaps. Depending on how the divorce went down, we may have a couple issues we’re still working on. It’s hard not to have trust issues if infidelity was involved, anxiety if the divorce was really harmful, or not to feel generally pessimistic about relationships if our parents’ marriage started out super solid. We know we aren’t our parents and our lives can be different, but these issues might creep up every now and then. Hang in there; we’re working on it.
- When we commit to someone, we’re in it 100%. If you’re lucky enough to convince one of us to commit to you, you’re in for an intense experience. We aren’t wishy-washy with commitment or serious relationships. We’ll throw everything we’ve got at this relationship because if you’ve made it this far, we must think you’re really effing special. We saw all the hurt, pain, financial ruin, and devastation that divorce can cause, and we’re going to risk that all for this relationship. Being willing and able to put our trust and happiness in someone else is kind of a BFD for us, so you better step up, appreciate the gravity of this risk for us, and not let us down. We’d really rather not go through that much heartache again.