Overcoming Commitment Problems in Adult Children of Divorce

Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images

As an adult child of divorced parents you may be reluctant to commit to a relationship, fearful that you will only end up getting hurt if you take a chance. While divorce can happen to anyone who takes the risk of getting married, you are not destined to repeat what happened to your parents.

Fear of Commitment

Fear of commitment is typical for adult children of divorced parents. Some people deal with that fear by making a personal decision to avoid marriage. You might be able to avoid the loss and heartbreak of divorce that way, but that doesn't mean you will be emotionally safe. By holding a part of yourself back and avoiding any chance of commitment, you will only create relationships that are unsatisfying and unfulfilling for both you and your partner.

Overeager to Commit

Although fear of commitment can sabotage your relationships, the opposite extreme can be just as harmful. Some people try to overcome the trauma of their parents' divorce by proving that they can get married and stay married -- even if they really shouldn't. If you're overly eager to commit to a relationship and determined not to break up no matter what, you could end up trapped in a relationship that doesn't work. While divorce is painful and traumatic, a lifetime married to the wrong person is not a very appealing alternative.

The Value of Fear

Excessive or irrational fear can paralyze you, but a healthy sense of caution can save you from making a major mistake. You can even use your fear of commitment as a tool to help you pick the right partner, and then to have a happy and successful marriage, states Elizabeth Joy LaMotte, author of "Overcoming Your Parents' Divorce." Instead of making a vow to never get married so that you'll never get divorced, use your fear of divorce to put the brakes on when you feel carried away by your feelings for a partner. Examine the relationship carefully before you decide to commit.

Avoiding Bad Choices

When you're thinking about making a serious commitment, examine the relationship first for warning signs. Four major patterns exist that you should look out for, according to Sharon Brooks, author of "If Your Parents Divorced, Will You Too?" People with divorced parents may be too eager to please their partners due to fear of abandonment. They may get involved with people they have no real connection with solely to avoid feeling alone. They may get involved with people who have a lot of problems because they feel a need to rescue or fix someone. They may get involved on a superficial level without real intimacy.

Passing the Test

If you can see any dysfunctional patterns or major warning signs in your relationship, you should listen to your fear of commitment because this relationship is not yet ready for it if it ever will be. If you make a habit of checking for warning signs and this relationship passes the test, you can set aside your fears and take a chance with confidence, knowing that you have made your decision with the appropriate level of caution.