When I tell people my parents are divorced, I get a lot of “I'm sorry” and questions dancing around the topic of “what's it like to come from a split-up family?”
While having divorced parents was hard and forced me to grow up faster than some of my other friends, in the grand scheme of things, it wasn't that bad.
It taught me how to be responsible and allowed me to form a different kind of bond with both of my parents. At a very young age, it also taught me a lot about love and relationships.
I would see my parents date and fall in and out of love with other people. And when they did fall, I would watch them pick themselves up and move on. I would even watch my mom say no to numerous suitors just because she wanted to stay home with me and put me to bed at night.
Statistics say children in divorce inhabit a more difficult emotional landscape than those in intact families.
While I do admit I am somewhat cynical about finding love, I see kids from families with two parents who are just as cynical as me.
Understanding love and how to let someone in cannot solely be defined by whether or not your parents are together. Just because I come from a split family does not mean I am destined for marriage that will end in divorce as well.
If anything, I believe it has taught me how to be smarter, wiser and more selective with dating.
How to be alone and be okay with it
My mom was an amazing parent. She worked hard and took care of me, making sure she was always there to make me dinner.
Because I lived mostly with her when I was a little girl, she did not get to go out and meet people as often.
I never realized how much she sacrificed for me until I personally started dating. Night after night, she would put me to bed, and I never thought twice about what she did after.
What would she do after 8 pm? I never thought about this because she never voiced any resentment or loneliness.
She was always dedicated to being a mother, and never thought about going out and having a babysitter put me to bed.
On weekends, she looked forward to taking me out to dinner and staying in and watching a movie. I bet she sometimes wished she were getting ready on a date, or missed those butterflies that come during the early stages of dating.
But, she never let it show. She taught me how to be alone and happy at the same time. She taught me how to be independent and never sacrifice your loved ones just for a man.
Because of her, I have become comfortable in my skin and let good things and good relationships happen when they were meant to be.
The art of selectivity
My parents had a rule: "We must wait at least a year before introducing Jenna [me] to your significant other."
This rule was put into place in hopes of me not becoming attached to any of my parents' partners, only to see them break up in a couple of months. From this rule, I learned how to be selective about who I introduce to my friends and family.
I do this not because I fear my father would become too fond of my boyfriend, but because I want close friends and family to see how special my future beau is to me. I do this because I learned having a serious partner takes time and commitment.
By taking the time to be selective who I introduce to my loved ones, I force myself to think ahead and see if my partner is worth being a serious part of my life.
It has made me think seriously about who I choose to spend time with and if they are worth my time.
How to love and hold on to it
Of my two parents, my dad was the one who went on a majority of the dates. He was not a playboy or anything, but he enjoyed going out and meeting new people.
As a result, he had a few serious girlfriends I got to meet. They were all very nice and made a real effort to get to know me. However, they never stuck.
Even after a couple of years together, their relationship never turned into wedding bells. I would even grow attached to some of them and ask my dad why they were no longer together.
Sometimes, when he would end it, I thought my dad was making a big mistake and would never find his "one." However, last August he did.
He found the one woman he was happy to come home to every night. He found someone he could travel the world with and bring on family vacations.
When they got married, my dad showed me the kind of love a woman deserves. I now know why the others didn't work out.
By watching my dad fall in love, he has shown me what I deserve to have when I eventually get married.
While other kids had the luxury of having two parents who were already in love, I got to witness a real love story. And it was pretty f*cking awesome.