Before I started dating my boyfriend, I didn’t think that I was one of those children of divorce who would be afraid of commitment. In fact, I didn’t think my parents’ divorce affected me in any significant way—I just saw it as a nuisance that nearly 50% of children have to deal with and eventually everyone just gets over it. As it turns out, traumatic things that happened to you in childhood apparently affect you when you’re older. Who knew?

All I knew was that my boyfriend seemed a little upset that I wasn’t reciprocating his vulnerability in the same ways, and I wished that there was some way I could travel back in time to rid myself of the problems I faced that might have contributed to my fear of intimacy. I’ve come up with the names of guides that could have helped me navigate my teen years as my parents were divorcing, and perhaps they can help other kids through these times, too.

I want to make it clear that this guide is not for the kids whose parents are still friends and kiss on the cheek every time they see each other. Those kids can go to hell. This is for the people whose parents will never ever be in the same room ever again; the people whose parents’ relationship was essentially a piece of literal shit that exploded all over you and no matter what you do, there will be small flecks of poop stuck on you for the rest of your life. Though every divorce is different, the messy ones really suck. Here’s to the kids that have to live through them.

Pomp and Shit Circumstance: How to Choose Which Parent to Invite to Graduation

When your parents are divorced, every milestone in your life flips from exciting to dreadful. Instead of worrying about what shoes look good with a boxy graduation gown, you’re mentally making a pros and cons list of each parent. My mom will probably criticize my hair and makeup all night, but my dad is terrible at talking to other parents. Let’s go with mom.

It’s also important to note that you’re going to piss off one parent either way, so you might as well piss off the one that’s worse at arguing. Regardless of what happens, you will feel terrible about your decision because both of your parents love you even though they might not be good at showing it. This feeling will pass, but it’s important to remember: It’s not your fault that your circumstances are shitty.

Don’t You Have Some Phones to Answer? And Other Disses for Your Dad’s Secretary-Turned-Wife

Ah, the stepmother. Young girls have been conditioned to believe every stepmother is evil before we even know what the word “divorce” means (prime example: Cinderella). Stepmothers can be terrible, but the real blame should be on the dad for being an asshole and choosing someone that his kids hate. Nevertheless, if your stepmother is a former employee of your dad’s, it’s your lucky day. There is an endless supply of shady jabs to make towards a woman who sleeps with her boss, and as their stepchild, it’s important to have one ready at all times.

Hits include: “Congrats on your promotion,” referring to Monica Lewinsky as her hero, and asking if she got to keep her benefits when she married your dad. If you really hate her, ask her if she was technically a prostitute.

So Your Boyfriend’s Parents Are Happily Married: How to Explain You’re Scared of Commitment Without Sounding Messed Up

You will eventually encounter a time when you’re in your first serious relationship. It can be really scary, especially since you’re still covered in the poop-flecks of someone else’s. But you have to remember that you’re wiser and more emotionally intelligent because of it; you know exactly what not to do.

That doesn’t mean it can’t be weird when you’re in a relationship- especially when your partner’s parents aren’t divorced. More often than not, people whose parents are married still see love as a purely positive thing, and finding a life partner to have a home and kids with is a goal of theirs. Imagine thinking that legally binding yourselves to each other doesn’t sound like you’re doomed?

Ultimately, if you take anything away from these guides, I want it to be this: Let yourself get hurt. And I don’t mean let your partner treat you like shit. Don’t be afraid to let yourself fall in love and feel every single emotion that comes with it. You’re human, and even though you can’t control what happened to your parents, you can control how you act in your own relationships. Treat others how you’d like to be treated, know your worth, and enjoy the ride.

If it goes poorly, John Mayer’s entire discography is available on virtually all streaming platforms.

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