Although there are numerous studies done on how divorce affects children and that children of divorce have a higher risk of failing at marriage than children of non-divorced parents, in this day and age, divorce itself doesn’t seem to surprise us and rather seems to be the norm.
Yet after surviving our parents’ divorce, some of us get stuck in our past hurt and end up struggling with nurturing our own romantic relationships. Apart from these limiting beliefs, here are some lessons learned while growing up as children of divorce, and unforeseen positives we discovered on the road to healing and moving on.
1. We assume relationships are bound to be broken.
When we witnessed our parents’ marriage crumbling, we may have adapted a pessimistic perception about love and relationships. We may stray away from the notion of marriage altogether to avoid the possibility of divorce in the future.
Turn-around: Contrary to the uncertainty about lasting marriages, we hang in and try to work things out hoping that it will last forever. Divorce is not a viable option to us and not acceptable. We don’t easily give up and want to prove that our marriage survived and succeeded.
2. We try to avoid arguments at all costs.
We know arguments can turn ugly. We might hide from difficult situations rather than confront the issues and resolve them, just to avoid arguments or uncomfortable emotions.
Turn-around: Most arguments start from lack of clarity. We understand good communication is a fundamental part of a healthy relationship. We believe that we can work through whatever problem we’re facing and are able to build the lasting relationship with open and honest communication.
3. We doubt our mate and relationship.
We struggle with trust when working through our own relationship challenges, especially if we witnessed a breakdown of trust between our own parents. Fostering these feelings of betrayal will continue to affect us in our own relationships in the future.
Turn-around: Healthy relationships are built on trust. In order for us to love fully without disguising who we are, or holding back our true emotion, we need to be courageous to be vulnerable and trust our partners. We learn to let go of the pain and anger, and forgive ourselves and our parents. Although it may take time, we learn to empathize and understand what has happened.
4. We are immature attention seekers.
We play the blame game and act childish. We refuse to take responsibility for our own actions and blame others for everything. We act out to get the attention from our partners and, in an effort to avoid changes, we learned early on that it may be the only way we know how to cry out for affection.
Turn-around: We are aware that it’s essential to articulate our expectations, our wants and needs to our partners in a relationship. When our needs and expectations aren’t met, it leads to tension, which mounts and turns into chronic frustration and anger. This eventually eats away at the love and happiness in a relationship. The more we give our partner love and respect, the more they return them.
5. We are afraid of being alone.
We understand that our parents went through a tough divorce, but we felt alone without support from them. If one parent left, it signaled us that they did not love us and did not want to be with us anymore. We felt tremendous loss. We felt abandoned and became resentful. We need constant reassurance that everything is okay and we are safe under the circumstances. We don’t choose our love. Instead, we want to be chosen in a relationship.
Turn-around: When we enter into a relationship we expect it to last, maybe even for the rest of our life. But in reality, lifestyles change and so do people. After watching our parents’ marriage dissolve into divorce, we eventually learn to assess our own relationship values, must-haves and deal breakers. Hence, love becomes a deliberate choice.
6. We feel responsible for the divorce.
We feel our parents’ marriage ended because of something we said or did when we were young. We harbor this and feel guilty over losing the other parent in our life.
Turn-around: We form tighter bonds with our family as we are facing the challenges together and know that we have each other to count on. We are very supportive of our parents and siblings in the end. We become more compassionate. We learn coping skills we never knew we had and feel stronger as a result of what we went through. We build resilience in the face of rough times.
7. We opt out for our own children.
We know what it’s like to be children of divorce, thus we do not want our own children to go through the similar challenges. Our fear that marriage could lead to divorce leads to a fear of failure. We are afraid that our divorce might label them negatively as children of divorce, just like us.
Turn-around: We show our children that we deserve to be in a satisfying and supportive relationship. We thrive to exhibit what a healthy relationship looks like and how to express love with one another. We want to become a role model in love for them.