Saturday, November 24, 2012

Love and Marriage—Day 24 NaBloPoMo

Once you get the Lost Daughters writing juices going, it seems as if there’s no stopping us! Below is an excerpt from a lively conversation on just a few aspects of today's prompt.

Love. As an adult adoptee what are your thoughts on marriage, love, and family? What are your thoughts on sex before marriage and common law marriage? If you're an interracial adoptee do you think it matters of your partner is the same ethnicity as you are? Have you ever been in a relationship with another adult adoptee? If yes, what was that like? Was it harder or easier than other relationships you've had? If no, would you ever consider dating another adult adoptee? Do you think it would be easier or harder?

Laura Dennis - I think most of us are a little bit "older," and are not in the dating pool right now. My thoughts on love are related to secondary rejection, as was addressed earlier this month. Perhaps we could chime in on how our adoptive-ness relates to our love life and marriages?
Personally, when I told my husband about the "not wanting to be rejected, and yet pushing my significant other as far as possible, just to see whether he'd reject me." Well, my husband said, "Other adopted women are saying that? It makes so much sense to me."

Others' thoughts?

Sex before marriage

Jenn - I'm game! I'm currently engaged, and it's definitely something that has come into play in our relationship. I want to get married. I want to start a family. And I want to do things the "right" way. I always felt growing up that my natural parent's didn't and I wanted to do better. I didn't have much to go on about them, but that's one thing that I always picked up on.

I think that sex before marriage happens and I think that we need to better educate people about how to be safe about it.
My fiancé is not adopted so he has a hard time relating, but I think that's a good thing. No two adoptees really feel the same way about everything and I think it would be hard if he was in a different place than me. If I dated an adoptee who felt as though adoption was the best choice for them and had no desire to search and couldn't respect my decision to do so, I probably would have a hard time in that relationship. Instead, my fiancé supports me no matter what because I'm going through it and he doesn't have firsthand knowledge.

Rebecca Hawkes - My baby-scoop era teenage parents were treated as if they had done something unforgivably shameful, but I refuse to let anyone put that shame on me. So my parents were teenagers who had unmarried sexbig deal. The real shame, as I see it, was in how they (and especially my mother) were treated once the news got out.

I did once have an adoptee friend with whom there was some potential for romance, though the relationship never fully developed. We were in our early 20s. He had no interest in searching, ever; I wasn't ready yet, but I was inching in that direction. I've always wondered if our "adoptedness" would have been an issue if we had gotten together. I suspect it would have.

There’s more than one “right way” to create a family

Karen PickellI'm very open to all variations of "family." For example, I have close friends who I consider just as much a part of my family as my adoptive or bio relatives. My definition of family is people who love each other, period. There doesn't need to be any blood relation or even any legal document, in my opinion, to make two people family to each other, and I think I feel this way because the family I grew up in was basically formed by strangers coming together.

If you think about it, every family begins with two strangers coming together. That's not to say that I don't think biology is important, just that it's not the only way to be a family.

Rebecca Hawkes - I think I have a very flexible definition of family, too, and I'm sure it's rooted in my own adoption. But I also have a keen appreciation for biological family and tend to recoil from clichéd statements such as "'parent' is a verb."

As is almost always the case for me with adoption-related stuff, it's complicated. My adoptive parents are my parents in spite of the lack of a biological connection, and yet my biological parents are still my parents in spite of not getting to parent me. The one does not negate the other. I guess you could say I have a "both/and" view of family rather than an "either/or" view.

Karen Pickell - That's how I feel, too, definitely "both/and."

I tell people all the time that I have two mothers and two fathers. After I reunited with my birth mother, someone asked me if it was strange to suddenly have another mother. I told her, no, because I always knew I had two mothers.
Also, I do use the argument of, "If a mother can love more than one child, why is it so hard to believe a child can love more than one mother?"

Jenn - I'm the same in that I accept people into my "family" very easily. I guess I don't get caught up with labels because I'm tired of being labeled myself. When a new boyfriend or girlfriend comes around in my extended family, I often reach out quickly because they become "one of us" very quickly to me. I don't always wait for them to have a ring, something that my other relatives are a bit more cautious about. When I was at school, I lived with another family. They have become a part of my extended family and I accept them as such. We didn't need a legal piece of paper or biology to live like a family does.

Dorothy Sands - Testing the relationship is a staple. Trust is ridiculously difficult. Young love and my early friendships were intense. I continue to struggle with a healthy balance within my relationships ... Romantic, family, whatever, the overall challenge is trust.

The 'dysfunctional' thoughts of thinking that I will be left must be battled, especially if other stress is going on in my life.

Rebecca Hawkes - My current marriage is huge for me in terms of my psychological well-being. It's not so much the marriage itself, which I view as symbolic, but being in a committed relationship with someone I trust to stick with me through the ups and downsand even through the times when I get knocked sideways (as in reunion) that is so valuable to me.

It took me a long time to get to this place, though.

Sex Education

Deanna Doss Shrodes - I may be the odd person out in this discussion but nevertheless we have all been asked for our input, so here goes. I realize it is difficult at times to decipher the tone behind someone's comments. So hopefully you'll believe me and take at face value when I say there's no judgment behind my words, and I'm simply speaking for myself, not trying to provide fodder for debate.

Marriage, family and sex are huge issues to me personally. I always wanted these things to be amazing in my life since my b-parents and a-parents both royally screwed it up. When it comes to these issues in my life, I'm all in. Marriage, for me, isn't just a piece of paper or something legal. I see it as holy
as a covenant with God and my husband. There's nothing on earth I'm more committed to. My a-parents went through a nasty divorce. It was hell on earth. Still affects me today. I learned a tremendous amount from them about what NOT to do and determined 25 years ago when we got married to work on this harder than I ever have anything in my life.

I do believe in sex education. I think it needs to start in the home but not stop there. In our house we have never had "THE TALK"... as in a one-time thing
we talk to our children about it all the time. Constantly and openly, we talk about it. We still talk about it with our young adult children. They received education at school and at church, on these issues. My husband and I are very committed to teaching on this subject in our church, and we do quite a bit, not just once a year or as a passing thing. My personal value is that sex is for marriage. I agree with what has been said here that sex happens outside of marriage. To be naive about that is just stupid although I don't believe that's a reason to give up, if one holds a value that it's for marriage. I don't just *expect* that it's what my children (or anyone) will do. I share about the benefits of keeping it within a marriage, and hope for the best.

Concerning how I respond to those who find themselves in challenging situations (pregnancy, or anything that may result because of a choice to have sex) I believe compassion and being a help to them in whatever way I can is the proper response.

I am not judging people who feel differently or have chosen differently. I am just saying, these things mean everything to me, which is why I pursue them so much.

Sex outside of marriage

Karen Pickell - While I do believe that once a person gets married, sex belongs only within that marriage, I don’t believe in getting married without having sex first. I think the commitment to have sex with one and only one person for the rest of your life is huge, so you’d better be sure that you’re compatible with your partner before you make that commitment. (There are a ton of other areas I think it’s important to be compatible in before marriage as well.)

I think sex is a basic human need. I don’t think long-term celibacy is healthy. I think we need sex, not only to procreate, but because we need human touch in order to be emotionally healthy. After I gave birth to my children, my pediatrician emphasized skin-to-skin contact with them. Of course, that contact was not sexual, but as adults we rarely experience that kind of skin-to-skin contact outside of sex.

I don’t advocate staying in a marriage at all costs (and I’m sure you don’t either). I was raised in a very Catholic family, as was my husband. In fact, he so internalized the concept that God, his religion, and his family disapproved of divorce that he stayed in an unhealthy marriage for close to thirty years. His children from that marriage (both adopted) had no model of what a loving, healthy relationship looks like.

My birth parents were both teenagers when I was conceived. They had normal feelings and urges that led to my mother accidentally becoming pregnant. Yes, they could have used better supervision and they certainly could have used birth control, but what they did was not abnormal nor was it something they should have been made to feel ashamed about. Shame is what led to my relinquishment and what keeps my birth mother in the closet about my existence.

I do mean what I said about respecting your opinions and I hope you don’t feel like I’m being confrontational. It’s just that some of what you said reminds me very much of doctrine that was pounded into me for the first eighteen years of my life that doesn’t ring true in regards to what I know about myself or the people I love. I think there’s a lot of good that’s brought about in the world through religion, but unfortunately there’s also quite a bit about religion that causes people unnecessary suffering.

More Thoughts on Religious Values

Dorothy Sands - I love the fact that we can share our common ground and continue to share our philosophies. Anyhow, the crazy part for me in my adoption reunion is that I was raised in conservative, republican home, but both my n-parents are democratic atheist. Makes for a mind bend at times! So, I don't have any right or wrong ideology anymore. I think we all do the best we can in the circumstances that we are born into. As long as we love and teach to love, all the other works out. Well, that's my two cents with a big cup of java.

Laura Dennis - I was raised a strict Catholic, but finally let go of my indoctrination when I was old enough to realize that my a-mother stayed in a bad marriage because divorce meant excommunication, and giving up on the perfect nuclear family ideal. When my a-brother and I finally helped her understand she needed to create her own happiness, long-time church “friends” were no where to be seen when she finally left my abusive father. On the other hand, incongruously, my birth mother was never told about contraception but was encouraged to get an abortion. Once she decided to "keep me," it was necessary to continue their (Catholic middle-class) community appearances, and so she was sent away for the duration of her pregnancy. The hypocrisy that I experienced within my "religious and pious upbringing" has influenced my beliefs as an adult.

So no, today, I don’t partake in religious beliefs, and I’ve found my voice and my confidence in this choice. It took me a long time to accept that I could still be a good person, even if I don't follow a religious faith. I encourage my young children to think critically about the opinions of others, including perceptions of God, heaven and death. When they are older, I'll want them to do the same when it comes to sex, sexuality, love and marriage.

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Even within the Lost Daughters community, it's apparent that we have very different views and values when it comes to sex before marriage, love, and sexuality. Expanding this respect to the other participants in adoption is just as important. We encourage you to chime in with your opinion, and  share your approach to love and marriage when it comes to adoption-related issues.
Thanks to the contributors, Jenn, Rebecca Hawkes, Karen Pickell, Deanna Doss Shrodes, and Dorothy Sands. Compiled by Laura Dennis.
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