How Being A Child of Divorce Affects Your Adult Relationships

Being a child of divorce isn’t just traumatic during childhood—it can really complicate and damage your approach to dating once you become an adult. Here are a few things that children with divorced parents might experience in their own relationships.

  1. You’re afraid of arguing. Divorce brings out a lot of anger in people, and this can make children believe that arguing will always end in disaster or the deterioration of a relationship. But arguing, when done well, is one of the best ways to strengthen a relationship. All partnerships have their ups and downs, but it’s much better to express your emotions about them than to bottle up your feelings and carry them on your own until you break down.
  2. You go into relationships with an unhealthy amount of skepticism. No relationship can even get off the ground let alone succeed if one person goes into it expecting it to fail. The only reason heartbreak and unsuccessful relationships are worth enduring is because being sure about someone and loving them fully outweighs whatever pain might be in store. By going into relationships expecting them to fail, you’re setting yourself for all the heartbreak and none of the rewards.
  3. You don’t believe in good relationships. It’s one thing to feel pessimistic about the future and another to think that all relationships are bad from the start. This perspective puts you in an impossible situation where you’re either refusing to start relationships at all because you think they’re destructive or you’re justifying a bad relationship by telling yourself that you’ll never be able to find anything better.
  4. The idea of “forever” is laughable. You don’t have to get married or believe in happily-ever-after in order to be in a good relationship. In fact, being realistic about a relationship’s long term prospects is probably a good thing. But being overtly dismissive of the idea is a recipe for disaster. No one wants to date a person who thinks relationships are short term and ultimately pointless. Life is uncertain, and some relationships actually do last forever.
  5. You stick to safe partnerships. Watching your parents’ marriage fall apart can feel like the end of the world and make you highly risk-averse as a consequence. It makes you believe that arguing is bad, that telling your partner that you aren’t happy will end the relationship, and that being with anyone who isn’t ten times more in love with you than you are with them will always end in you getting abandoned. But taking risks in love is the only way to find something worth having. The more cautious you are, the less likely you are to find the person you ultimately want to be with.
  6. You try to make everyone happy. Sometimes a lack of faith in long-term relationships means that you’re fearful rather than cynical. You’re afraid your relationship will end, so you try to do the impossible and make everyone happy at all times. This is futile and only leads to your own unhappiness. Trying to accommodate everyone else’s wishes does not make a relationship last longer. It only makes it more miserable for you for the brief time that it actually seems to be working.
  7. You put up walls to protect yourself. There is no way to develop intimacy with another person when you aren’t open with them, and yet children of divorce are often afraid to show their true selves to people for fear of being rejected. Who you are is what makes you special and worth loving. Hiding behind a fear of rejection is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you want to find love, be your beautiful, unique self.
  8. You avoid serious relationships. You may think you’re just a casual person who enjoys having fun, but if you find yourself abandoning good relationships just when they seem to be getting serious, you’re probably ignoring an underlying problem. Just because your parents’ marriage didn’t work out in the end doesn’t meet that you are bound to repeat their mistakes. Don’t be afraid to try a serious relationship. The result might surprise you.
  9. You don’t want to fall in love. Seeing a marriage break up can be excruciating, and it can make love seem like an evil trap that will destroy us all. Why would anyone want to fall in love if the end is always heartbreak and bitterness? Why believe in something beautiful that can never actually live up to your expectations? The truth is that love is a risk and that heartbreak is painful, but the potential rewards for finding a lasting relationship with someone you love far outweighs the potential pain.
  10. You make absolutely certain that you don’t repeat your parents’ mistakes. Not everyone’s adult relationships are negatively affected by their experience with divorce. In fact, a lot of people manage to keep their parents’ relationship as a cautionary tale and go on to have strong, stable, and deeply meaningful marriages that last their entire lives. If you’re struggling with having faith in other people, remember that history is not bound to repeat itself and that you have all the experience you need to build a better relationship than the one that was modeled for you.
Rose Nolan is a writer and editor from Austin, TX who focuses on all things female and fabulous. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Theater from the University of Surrey and a Master's Degree in Law from the University of Law. She’s been writing professional since 2015 and, in addition to her work for Bolde, she’s also written for Ranker and Mashed. She's published articles on topics ranging from travel, higher education, women's lifestyle, law, food, celebrities, and more.