How You Love Differently When You Grew Up With a Single Mother

You are consumed with a strange, irrational jealousy when the one you’re dating answers a phone call from the parent that you didn’t get to grow up with. You hear how effortlessly the conversation goes, you feel how unconditional the love is. You want this. It feels dirty, like a secret that you don’t even want to admit to yourself. You’re not ready, so you will always try to keep this part of you hidden. You wonder how many times you've regurgitated the same script when someone asks about your family. None of your secrets will spill out very easily. 

You hate that you have to hang on to a handful of moments. Like precious gems in a treasure chest your memories with the parent you didn’t grow up with get locked up tight. A handful of moments are the only thing you have of them. They are everything. When you finally begin to trust someone, you slowly share these moments, “dad always gave me the last scoop of ice cream. Always.” You feel that shield you spent years crafting slowly coming down. But when you finally start feeling safe, happy, too often you sabotage your own happiness out of a reluctance to trust it. 

That’s how you protect yourself. If someone breaks your heart, it’s like an old wound being ripped open again, the pain is unbearable. It bleeds from deeper within. In those moments where you feel that someone broke your trust or abandoned you, the wound on your heart will bleed the pain from both their neglect and your parent’s neglect. So you’ve made a promise to never let yourself be in that state. You love cautiously. 

On the outside, you’re unapologetically strong. You make your move, you take risks and you would never sit on the sidelines in hopes that things would just come to you. You go for what you want and you are not afraid of hearing “no.” But on the inside, rejection is your deepest fear. You’re an enigma. Although you learned your strength from one loving parent, you also learned rejection from the other. No matter how soon you feel love, you won’t say it. You are never the first to say, “I love you.” A part of you won’t ever let yourself feel that vulnerable. 

When the person you just started dating makes a promise, you’re already expecting them to break it. When you watched one of your parents break their promises again and again, innocent until proven guilty isn’t really a luxury you can have. It’s like you’re almost just waiting for something to go wrong, for your big love to end in shambles, the way your parents’ love did. How can you not if you’ve never seen otherwise? 

No matter how badly you were burned, you still believe in that one person who will prove you wrong. That one person who won’t make happily ever after feel so terrifying. The person who will take the time to figure you out, not letting you deflect and bite back with sarcasm. Not letting you self-deprecate, whispering ‘I will prove you wrong’ in your ear and actually showing you. This is what having it all means to you.