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22 Habits of People Who Grew Up in 'Broken' Homes

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The phrase “broken home” gets used a lot to mean a lot of different things. But what does it really mean?

The truth is, there isn’t one definition. For some, growing up in a broken home meant physical or sexual abuse was present. For others, growing up in broken home meant living in a household that didn’t “look” broken from the outside, but was emotionally painful or neglectful. For others, it might mean something else completely.

No matter what your definition or experience was growing up in a broken home, your feelings are valid, and they matterWe wanted to know what “habits” people who grew up in “broken” homes now experience in adulthood, so we turned to our Mighty community to share their stories with us. Below you can read what they said.

No matter what your experience growing up was, it is important to remember you are never alone and there is help available. If you need support right now, reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

Here’s what our community had to say:

  1. “The ability to mediate. I was always the go-between for my parents who refused to speak to each other. Now I am an attorney.” — Jenn S.
  2. “My mind learned how to dissociate from my body when I was really young. And now I still have no control over it, it can happen from anything — from a really loud noise to someone just touching me on the shoulder.” — Arianna J.
  3. “I apologize constantly. Even for things that are not my fault. I am always scared that people are mad at me… and I cry only when I am alone. I feel shame to cry in front of people because my mom used to send me to my room and said she didn’t care to see me cry.” — Isej C.
  4. “I always feel like I’m letting people down when I don’t do something right. Or when they slightly raise their voice at me. [I] always have to be a people pleaser and make them happy when I am not.” — Aliyah W.
  5. “Blocking out the world around me. I grew up around my mom and my stepdad fighting every night. They would yell and yell over silly stuff. It didn’t help either that they were both drunk. Every night when we’d come home, I’d go to my room and do my homework or whatever while not hearing them yell. At first I’d blare my music in my ears but over time, I didn’t even need it to not hear a thing. It’s useful but it also sucks because I’ll uncontrollably do it and you can talk to my face and I’ll be zoned out.” — SaFire Z.
  6. “I have intimacy and abandonment issues. The intimacy thing isn’t just with men, it’s with friends and family too! Everyone always leaves me so I don’t get close or open myself up to people. I’m very secretive over trivial things because I’ve made a habit of protecting myself above all else.” — Amber B.
  7. “Anytime I sense conflict, including or around me, I notice my body becomes jittery and I start to shake. My first instinct is to run and hide, make myself as small as possible, cover my ears and squeeze my eyes shut as hard as I can.” — Lily S.
  8. “I cringe when I hear the words, ‘I promise’ and ‘trust me.’ I’ve gone into a complete meltdown over those words. My best friend is the only person I will let say those words to me. From anybody else, they can ruin a perfectly good day.” — Ashley B.
  9. “I still get nervous when I hear my husband turn the deadbolt. My brain still thinks I’m going to be in trouble with my parents for something small like eating in the living room or not doing the dishes correctly or if they were just pissed off that day.” — Liz B.
  10. “Unknowingly and naturally taking on the responsibility of caretaker for everyone around me, especially those close. Feeling the need to help, change, motivate or ‘better’ them and then feeling like I let them down if I’m not able to or if they refuse to accept help. Taking on and feeling every single one of their burdens or emotions as my own.” — Veronica K.
  11. “I have to make others happy. I want others to be happy with me. I can’t stand contention.” — Rhea C.
  12. “I’m guilty of always thinking that every fight with my husband is going to be the last straw. I was raised thinking that all men leave. My home was so broken growing up that it took years of therapy just to become a halfway ‘normal’ adult.” — Debbie E.
  13. “I can pack a bag in like 0.9 seconds! My mom and stepdad fought all the time and I was always on my toes on whether or not he was gonna kick us out. Now, I’ll leave quick to keep from being told to leave…” — Amberly A.
  14. “I don’t take anyone’s word on anything. If your actions don’t sync with your words, I can’t trust you. People I’ve dated get annoyed with me for ‘not letting things go’ when I call them out on patterns of behavior that are problematic for me.” — Alexandra H.
  15. “I will not let anyone ‘parent’ my daughter. Not my family, friends or boyfriend of eight years are allowed to reprimand my child. I was extremely abused, from a severely broken home. I do not want anybody to harm my child that I have become extremely hypervigilant around her and will not let anyone have the chance to hurt her.” — Jennifer D.
  16. “I moved from place to place to place… I was also homeless for six years and addicted to drugs because I couldn’t find ‘home.’ My habit was seeking ‘home’ in places just as messed up as my childhood.” — Constance A.
  17. “I notice everything. The slightest change in tone of voice, body language, routine. I don’t miss a trick. I’ve managed to work through a lot but, this is something I can’t shake and it is exhausting.” — Jaclyn R.
  18. “It is hard for me to accept when I become part of a family, it doesn’t matter whose. I always see myself as an outsider even if you show me you like me as much. I always question motives or what if you dislike me and I will be an outcast once more so I put myself outside that line so that when it does happen it will not hurt because I was prepared. I also prefer to have the ‘home court advantage,’ [meaning] I have my own party at my own house — you visit my place. Everything on my turf, that way I am not on anybody’s mercy when I need to get away.” — Mollie D.
  19. “I’ve only recently (like in the last few days) realized these things are linked, but when in a relationship or even just dating, I always prepare myself for it going wrong and them leaving. And having had a conversation with someone about it, realized it was related to my mum leaving when I was a child.” — Amy M.
  20. “I always plan my escape route. When I walk into a room, and especially relationships. I’ll know how to get out, before I get in too deep. And if I get out, I will emotionally disassociate from the other person. Cut them right off and out. No looking back. And it tends to be easy, as I have planned for it since day one.” — April S.
  21. “I’m desperate to keep harmony. Everywhere. I will do whatever it takes to make everybody happy even if it means I have to do things I don’t want to do or say things I don’t mean. I’m also very unstable and cannot settle easily, I have the constant urge to change my place of living. And I am absolutely terrified of the idea of having children because I believe that I could never ever be part of a perfect family — so I’ll never ever have children myself, to save them from growing up in an ‘imperfect’ family.” — Sonja L.
  22. “Cleaning is my habit, a good habit but because of my childhood and what I went through behind it, is a ‘bad habit.’ I constantly have to clean, and over-clean. When my stepdad would verbally abuse my mom he would tend to throw stuff, break stuff or make a mess of things, spit and punch walls/doors. Me and my little brother would have to clean it up. On top of that, he made me clean everything and over-clean constantly since the age of 7.” — Ashley A.

What’s a habit you have because you grew up in a “broken” home? Join the conversation below.

If you grew up in a "broken" home, what's one habit you have now because of your experience? Your answer might be used in a piece on The Mighty. #TraumaSurvivors#MentalHealth#Depression#Anxiety#BorderlinePersonalityDisorder#AbuseSurvivors#MyFeelingsMatter

Read the responses, and reply yourself.

Getty Images photo via Grandfailure

Originally published: November 20, 2018
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