But they also tend to love smarter. They’re less likely to believe in “happily ever after” and know to keep their expectations about love reasonable. Below, kids of divorce open up about how their parents’ divorces have impacted their own love lives.
1. Not trusting that partners mean what they say and will actually follow through.
“I find it hard to trust they’ll keep coming back, which can lead to neediness if I leave it unchecked. My dad, who I adored, and who adored me, had a habit of trying to please me by making promises he couldn’t keep, and this means I often have doubt that anyone will stick to what they say. I used to keep my expectations too low to avoid the disappointment I expected to follow.” ― ReeRee Rockette
2. Fearing commitment and always making an exit strategy.
“Being a child of divorce taught me that ‘happily ever after’ does not really exist. I was always the cynic in the back of the theater who couldn’t buy into the idea of the couple riding off into the sunset. I knew that real relationships were layered and full of complexities. Growing up and watching the layers of a marriage peel off taught me to create walls and manage my emotional investment well. No matter how serious things became, I dated with an emergency exit strategy in place. My fear of heartbreak and divorce has made commitment both terrifying and difficult. So, despite the trail of broken hearts I’ve created, I find comfort behind the walls that keep me emotionally guarded.” ― Phoebe J. Mikneah
3. Being too much of a people-pleaser.
“As a child of divorce, I became the ultimate people-pleaser. Every relationship I have been in focused on me trying to please the other person with little to no regard of myself and my own needs. I didn’t know how to ask for what I wanted or needed out of a relationship and then became upset when I didn’t get it. Then, I would never be the one to end a relationship out of my fear of abandonment, no matter how unhealthy it was. These are the core issues I still face in my thirties. Even though I am aware of them, it is a hard habit to break when it is ingrained in your psyche. The only way I’ve been able to overcome these struggles is by taking the advice of many relationship experts and to date myself. It felt selfish at first but now I am learning to do what makes me happy and not worry as much about trying to please others.” ― Adam Petzold
4. Dealing with abandonment issues.
“My parents’ divorce and the initial absence of my father caused me to develop severe abandonment issues not only within my love life but also within my relationships with friends. I found myself constantly double checking on the state of these relationships. I was very sensitive to little things that should not have mattered, such as needing reassurance that they loved me or still liked me. I found myself living in fear of offending someone or doing something that would cause them to not want me. These insecurities became severe during my college years and caused issues within my multiple attempts at relationships for years. It wasn’t until I truly did some soul searching that I recognized that the insecurity and paranoia had come from the trauma the divorce had caused me. It was only then that I was able to resolve them and became involved in a healthy, now long-term, relationship.” ― Jeaiza M. Quinones
5. Seeking out spouses with the same issues that broke up their parents’ marriage.
“I saw my mom in a relationship with a narcissist and didn’t know any different. They divorced when I was a child, but I remember it very well. I married one at 19 and we divorced nine years later, but it took several years to be brave enough to do so. I am a better person now but it took a lot of mending.” ― Lindsey Gail Wright
6. Struggling to discuss feelings.
“I struggle to discuss feelings and important issues in relationships. But it mostly taught me there is a way out and that I don’t have to put up with crap from a partner.” ― Tash Smith
7. Holding on to the idea that love must be difficult.
“When surrounded by tumultuous relationships, children yearn for the balance that is key in every relationship. The rocky and inconsistent behavior of watching two adults quarrel can sometimes result in this idea that love must be difficult or a battle in order for it to be considered love. This is commonly felt amongst children of divorce, which may cause them to recreate this behavior in their own love lives. The crucial decision to disown this pattern of dysfunction and develop a new set of ideals, boundaries and perceptions of love is fundamentally what helped me survive and thrive in relationships.” ― Zoe Bernstein
8. Coming on too strong.
“Seeing my parents divorce made me realize how badly I want a happy ending. I’m a hopeless romantic by nature and by my own admission, and that desire can come off stronger than intended when dating. Some people in my life seem to think that I have a ring in my pocket at all times, just waiting to give it to someone, but that’s not the case. I just know that I’d rather have one woman in my life than deal with the headache and drama that comes with dating different people.” ― Mike Zacchio
9. Not undestanding what behaviors are normal in a relationship.
“I grew up in a family of yellers. If we were stuck in traffic, my dad yelled and slammed his fists repeatedly against the wheel. If my mother burned dinner, she shouted in frustration until my brother or I came to comfort her. Now I realize they were taking out their frustrations with each other out on things they couldn’t control—broken ovens, car accidents. When I first started dating my future husband, we hit massive traffic on our way to a concert. I prepared myself for him to start shouting and yelling, just like my father. And... he didn’t. Instead, he invented fun car games for us to play while we wound our way through the inevitable cluster of cars. Only then did I realize that yelling like that, over such trivial matters, wasn’t normal.” ― Emily Balliet
10. Pushing people away.
“I think [the divorce] was the subconscious beginning to the unknowing wall of protection I built around my heart as a teenager and young adult. Once anyone got too close, I pushed them away first so nobody could break my heart, except me.” ― Jayne Schroeder