“I still feel like I have to take care of me. I feel like I never want to depend on anyone because that’s what my mom did, and look what happened to her.”
Rachel, age 28
Growing up in a divorced home, a girl is forced to face life’s realities far younger than many of her peers. But on the flip side, the divorce experience arms her with great strengths. The vast majority of women from divided homes describe themselves as independent, steadfast, loyal, and conscientious adults. They are hard-working, trustworthy, and self-reliant – and pride themselves on these traits. Divorce caused them to grow up fast, and as a result, they have become responsible and resourceful women, able to handle the blows life gives them, regardless of how painful they may be. They may be self-assured and autonomous – confident they can take care of themselves while others can’t. The truth is that self-reliance is a double edged sword. While it has many virtues, it can rob women of true intimacy and the type of partnerships they desire.
Self-reliance must not be confused with self-confidence. There are many self-reliant women from divorced homes who work hard, have successful careers, and competently raise their children, but their self-esteem remains low. Many women from disrupted homes are self-reliant to a fault, putting far too much pressure on themselves. They bring self-reliance to a new level because they are unable to rely on anyone. Reliance on others can be healthy and affirming. The problem is that as children, divorce may have presented girls with searing loneliness. As children, daughters of divorce may have felt that all they had was themselves, so they over-functioned to compensate for what their surrounding environments lacked.
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