I was 14 years old when my parents told my twin brother and I they were separating. My mom moved out the following day, and six months later she filed for divorce. They took
turns picking us up from school until my mom moved four hours away and my dad then took on the role as primary caregiver until we went off to college. I rarely noticed my young adulthood life was different from the army of other young adults whose parents divorced during their childhood, but occasionally I was reminded. Like the first time I watched Father of the Bride and realized that if I ever got married, my parents would not sit beside each other on my wedding day. Or when my first heartbreak came and the intense feeling of loneliness was all too familiar, and in a way, something I was able to easily accept. Navigating the world of relationships is challenging for anyone, but for those who come from divorced parents, their approach might be slightly different.
1. Communication is vital
We saw first-hand just how crucial communication was to making a relationship work, and just how important it was in making it last, and we’ll be damned if we don’t try to communicate as best as we know how. So, for our partners it’s important that we be upfront about our needs for strong communication and in return they can understand where we’re coming from.
2.It’s easy to be cynical
It’s easy for us to question everything in our relationships because we saw a lot of uncertainty ourselves. Hannah* junior at Notre Dame, offers, “My parents are divorced and I hate to be the cliché kid who’s cynical about love because of it but I really think it did affect me. I’ve “dated” and “talked” to guys but never been in a serious relationship and I’m not a psychologist or anything but I think because of my parents and other family members divorced, I just don’t have a whole lot of faith in the idea of true love or investing a lot of time in something that could so quickly just be gone without you being able to do much about it.” Regardless of how much we want to believe in happily ever after, the thought of it not working out can often plague our minds.
3. We’re attentive
There are relationships that we all have that make us ask questions about ourselves, and then there are relationships that we fall into that magically answer those questions. For those who have seen divorce up close and personal, the drive to be a partner who shows up every single day and makes it clear they are invested fully in the relationship is very important. And above all else strives to be a partner who leaves nothing to the imagination.
4. Distance doesn’t bother us
For many children of divorce, distance and travel are second nature. Two Thanksgivings and two Christmases are a way of life. *Rebecca, a senior at NC State University says, “My parents divorced when I was seven, and it wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized how much I could handle in my long distance relationship. While my boyfriend at the time struggled with not being able to see me regularly, I uncovered that my ability to cope with his absence for week long periods, maybe stemmed from my own parents’ separation, because I too, had to split my time between them.” Regardless of the cookie cutter relationships we’re told exist, relationships are hard work, and making time and putting forth effort to overcome obstacles is a daily hurdle, but we have to keep in mind not everyone has the same experiences we have.
5. We’re fighters
We’ve seen love at its best and its worst, and we have to choose daily to remind ourselves that love is worth fighting for. *Carrie, a junior at UCLA offers, “My boyfriend and I both come from divorced parents, and we were very open from the beginning about our insecurities and struggles with relationships. However, after a few months of dating and then ultimately falling in love with each other, we know love is different for everyone, but it’s worth it.” Holding steadfast to what you believe about love will help you overcome any of the doubts or fears you may have. Children of divorced parents have seen love completely bruised and beaten, but we’ll be damned if we don’t fight like hell to hold onto it when we find it.
You’re right to want love and a healthy relationship, but you’re wrong to accept someone else’s definition of what those words mean. The love we have to believe in is the love of the bathroom floor. The love that greets us at our messiest and helps us find the strength within ourselves and stand on our own two feet. Co-dependence is not love, and when you find someone who makes you feel strong enough to stand on your own two feet, invite them to your own bathroom floor. There’s beauty there. Your parent’s divorce is not a punishment so do not wear it as a scar, but rather a badge of honor and enter the battlefield with courage and a tender heart.
*Names have been changed.