Growing Up With Divorced Parents Taught Me How Not to Love

When I was 5 years old and started kindergarten, I was "Star of the Week" and got to decorate the wall of the bulletin board with photos of my friends and family. I got to bring in items and tape them up to present the things that made me "me." I remember feeling proud and confident as I presented my photos and my prized possessions to my class, but I was met with some stares and confusion. I had told my peers in room K-115 that I had two homes: my mom's house and my dad's house. I was a child of divorce.

My parents got divorced when I was 3 years old. For 95 percent of my life, I grew up with them apart. I have no memories of them together, in love hand-in-hand. In all honesty, I can't even picture what my parents would even be like together — I just know them apart. And seeing how they were apart, I can't even imagine how they made it work together.

I don't want to love someone with ultimatums and restrictions. I don't want to love someone with a sharp tongue.

Growing up in a small neighborhood where gossip travels faster than the wind, it seemed like everyone knew about my parents' business. People talked all over the neighborhood about their public disagreements, outbursts, and arguments. For a child, it was embarrassing. I didn't want to invite both of them to my softball games, and I never wanted them to run into each other at dance class. And God forbid they both came to parent-teacher conferences.

My parents disagreed about a lot of things, as do most couples whose marriages end in divorce, but with three daughters, they were tied to each other for life. Learning how to coparent and make things work should have been at the top of their priorities lists, but sometimes when you have so many problems, everything becomes white noise.

Watching my parents' relationship has taught me a lot of things, and the main thing it's taught me is how I don't want to love.

I don't want to love someone with ultimatums and restrictions. I don't want to tell them they have to give up their hopes, dreams, or goals to be with me. I don't ever want to hold someone back from everything they want in life. I want to push them toward it all.

I don't want to be with someone who I feel like I can't trust. I want to be able to share everything with someone and know that I can always confide in them, without worrying that one day they will throw it back in my face like a sucker punch. A healthy relationship is one where no conversation is off the table — not money, sex, children, friends, what have you.

I don't want to love someone with a sharp tongue. I don't want to fight dirty and use someone's weaknesses as ammunition to one-up them. I don't want to use someone's past to hurt them during a fight. I don't want to love someone "despite" what they have been through.

I don't want to love with conditions. I don't want a love that depends on whether or not we get somewhere, do something, or have the validation of others. I don't want a love that can end if things aren't accomplished or things aren't where we "need" them to be. I know that no love is perfect and there will be challenges no matter what, but it's about being on the same team.

Looking back at my parents' divorce, it was really hard when I was a kid. But now that I'm an adult, it's showed me everything I've ever needed to know about how I don't want to love, and I'm grateful for that.