Lena was an anomaly in our kindergarten class. Not because she was a bit bigger than the rest of us. And not because she wore those cool tennis shoes that light up at every step. No, she was different because sometimes she was picked up by her dad and sometimes by her mom. Lena's parents were still together! In my circle of friends, that was a big deal. It's still a big deal. For me, Lena and kids like her always had a mystic aura -- they'd traveled from some far off country in which unicorns still existed.
About half of all divorcees in Germany have children who are minors. Even though some studies claim that children of divorced parents are generally less successful, suffer more from depression, and have more health problems, my friends and I who are children of divorce are actually doing quite well.
We rarely notice that we are different. Except when we meet people like Lena -- and, when we fall in love. When your first heartbreak isn't because of your first crush, but because of a divide between your parents, the way you perceive and manifest love changes.
1. We are more careful about love.
'La Vie en Rose' -- those rose colored glasses Edith Piaf sings of, which soften the hard edges of love-- were stripped from us when we were only children. We walk through life conscious of the hazards in love and relationships. When we let someone into our life -- which doesn't happen flippantly or often -- we do so with awareness and gravity.
2. We give up far too late.
When others might have thrown in the towel long ago, we walk the extra mile to save our relationship. We believe that love is worth the fight -- perhaps, because we think our parents didn't try hard enough.
3. We are hopeless romantics.
Our hope for a true, perfect love somehow has a foothold in our souls -- as does the doubt that such constant love can even exist. And when we barely believe in such love, our deepest wish is that our cynicism be discredited.
4. We're bad at breaking up.
Deep in our heart we are convinced that true love never dies. With the same ferocity we secretly hold out on a whisper of hope that our parents may eventually get back together. Thus, we delay declaring our romantic relationships lost. Our hope for reconciliation never dies. Although...
5. Indefinite love terrifies us.
The thought of actually spending forever with someone, which is our romantic heart's desire, scares the crap out of us. Certainly, we learned early on that romantic love doesn't need to be forever -- no matter how intense and earnest it may be. And besides, we've seen firsthand the painful end of a romantic relationship.
6. We question everything.
Even if we know we're loved; we need to hear it, see it, feel it. It may be exhausting for our loved ones, but we require this constant validation to remind us that our love still exists. We question everything in a relationship -- we don't want to live through any uncomfortable surprises.
7. We have ridiculously high expectations.
In the beginning, when love first stirs in our hearts, we gravitate towards a search for imperfections in our prospective mate, rather than focusing on their strengths. Thus, we don't give many people a fair shot -- the risk is just too high, and disappointment is often inevitable.
8. We're a little bit crazy.
We learned early on that love and madness go hand in hand. Love can bring out the best and the worst in us. Thus, we justifiably think any weird behavior is only natural -- both in the positive or negative sense of the word. After all, children of divorcees love living in extremes.
9. We fear loss - which influences the way we engage in relationships.
We hold on to everything: people, memories, illusions -- everything that we can grab hold of. Even if our partner never intends to leave us, and even if we've never been on the receiving end of a break-up -- the fear of being left alone, which we constantly feared as children, manifests itself in our grown-up psyche.
10. We communicate like it's our job.
In relationships communication is the alpha and omega -- we children of divorce learned that early on. Back when we stood at the front-lines of our parents war-zone, we saw what a lack of communication can lead to. We experienced first hand how our parents talked behind each other's back, each slighting the other's character.
So you may find that simply saying "no worries" or "fine" can suddenly snap us wide awake into a DEFCON 1 awareness -- because we want to know the truth now, even if it's uncomfortable or brutal.
11. We're very attentive, and enjoy taking care of you.
Children of divorce understand early on what it meant to be a caregiver. Instead of being cared for and comforted by their parents, they've had to take care of their parents during painful times. We do the same for our partners when we're adults.
Whether we drop off a meal without being asked, send sweet messages before bedtime, or leave everything and come running when our partner needs help, we try to always show our loved ones how much we love them. Perhaps we also fear that our love will die if we don't do these little things.
12. We are secretive.
We saw how hurtful our parents were with one another, so we swore never to allow ourselves to be hurt in the same ways. That's why our hearts are never quite open as you might think.
13. We're not easy partners.
The steep requirements, the desperate need for validation, and desire for constant transparency render us, children of divorce, not the easiest of partners. But in return, we love with everything we've got.
This post was originally published on HuffPost Germany and has been translated from the original German.