1. You constantly worry that you’re wronging one parent by appeasing the other. If you have a go-to parent, you feel like you’re betraying the other. Once you’re in your 20s, there’s no longer custody battles and a mandate to stay at a specific parent’s house, instead you control who you want to see and when, which comes with an entirely new set of challenges.
2. You shy from commitment. Your 20s is filled with commitment in every form – half of your friends are talking about marriage, the other half are talking about people they might hook up with from the bar last weekend. You’re uncertain which category you fall into because you’re scared to commit to being a relationship person (even if you’re in a relationship).
3. You’re guarded when it comes to love. You know what it feels like to be abandoned, or watch your parent be abandoned. When you’ve been hurt by the people who were supposed to love you the most, you need to protect yourself, and so you’re guarded when people approach you or want to pursue you.
4. Realizing that your parents connection is fading because you were the only thing that brought them together is a strain in your 20s. As a kid, you always knew it was coming. After you and your siblings graduate college, what other major event is there until someone gets married? Is that really going to be the next time they see each other?
5. Emotional stability – especially in relationships – isn’t your norm. You grew up surrounded by endless bickering and without an example of a strong, healthy relationship. In your 20s that shows because you don’t have a healthy example of love to look up to.
6. You get in your own way. You used to take your concerns out picking fights on a playground, and not much has changed. Except now you have real relationships that you need to make sure you’re not ruining them with small arguments and a restless personality.
7. You rely on your sibling(s) in a way that only someone who grew up with a sibling full time, but each parent only part time, does. And when you move away, and no longer see them every day, it changes your relationship. It’s hard to see the most secure relationship in your life evolve, and you learn to continue to support each other, even when you don’t live under the same roof.
8. You’re constantly trying to give back to your parents and show your appreciation for them because being an adult on your own is not as easy as they made it look (or is exactly as hard as they always said it was).
9. Your hesitance to trust surfaces more and more as your relationships get more serious. Growing up it was only apparent if your parent started to date someone, now it appears when you’re starting a relationship.
10. The separation anxiety you had as a child, especially if your parents got divorced when you were young, creeps back into your life and you aren’t entirely sure what brought it on, but you know the feeling all too well.
11. You’re stuck between being a closeted romantic and not believing that love can last. You want to believe in a love greater than anything you saw from your parents, because you know that was the flame that caused their marriage in the first place. But you’ve also seen how easily that flame gets extinguished, which doesn’t inspire much confidence.
12. You have relationship paranoia – and a little bit of life paranoia. If everything is going exactly as it should, you’re waiting for something to go wrong. You’re not used to smooth sailing, you’re used to working through problems as they arise.
13. You struggle with the concept of marriage – when half of your 20-something friends have wedding fever, it’s hard not to think about what you want for your future. Maybe you’ve written off the idea altogether. Or you want a marriage that will allow you to raise your children in a 2 parent home – a marriage you’re not fully convinced exists.
14. Your 20s is about building your own life, and if you’re a child of divorce, you jumped into independence before your peers were ready. You didn’t want to stay home after age 18 because you know how hard your single parent(s) worked to raise you, and after high school or college, you were unwilling to be a burden any longer.
15. You feel overwhelmingly guilty for making decisions and taking your own needs into consideration. Even for basic things, like choosing to live by yourself, or with friends, instead of living with your single parent. The constraints of vacation days, living in a new place and just general life in your 20s gets in the way of the amount you’re able to see your parent. And while you’ll fight to make time for them, you’ll never feel like it’s enough.