Monday, November 12, 2012

NaBloPoMo/NAAM Day 12: Significant Others

The prompt: Significant Others Has being adopted affected your romantic relationships? If so, how? What is your relationship like with your adoptive family? Do you feel connected to your extended adoptive family (grandparents, aunts/uncles, cousins, etc.)? If reunited, do you feel connected to your extended natural family? Are there disconnects? Explain.

For many years, I wouldn't fall in love unless I could see the end from the beginning. My "type" was a guy with COMMITMENT ISSUES stamped in bright letters on his forehead. Alternatively, I liked a situation that had an expiration date -- my preference was the summer romance. I was addicted to the falling, but I was also addicted to the breakup. I jonesed for the emotional intensity of the entire cycle.

Was I reenacting an adoption separation scenario, over and over again?

There's really no way to know for sure. I have no non-adopted self to function as the control for comparison. Certainly there are plenty of non-adoptees who struggle with commitment issues, as well as plenty of adoptees who don't. Does that mean that my own relationship issues are unrelated to adoption? I don't know.

On my blog Love Is Not a Pie, I have written about the emotional numbness that I experienced when I was younger. This occurred at a time when I was suppressing a whole range of adoption-related emotions. I didn't allow myself to feel anger or grief, and I hadn't begun to unpack the various ways that adoption had affected me. I do believe that this impacted my relationships with other people.

Today, I am partnered with someone whose recurring message is "I will never leave you." He repeats it over and over again in an attempt to get through to me. Intellectually, I fully understand that this is a person who is committed to the long haul. He gets that long-term relationships go through many phases and will not jump ship (as my first husband did) at the first inkling of bad weather. It is amazing and healing to be in a relationship with such a man ... and I don't entirely believe. I trust my husband, but I don't trust the very notion of permanency. There will always be a part of me that expects to be left.

As with many adoptees, I have a disconnect. 

Yes, I know, my first mother didn't really reject me when she surrendered me for adoption, but it's another one of those brain-heart matters that adoptees understand on the philosophical level but not on the emotional level. -- Triona Guidry, 73adoptee: perspectives on adoption
The words "rejection" and "abandonment" are triggering, controversial words in the adoption universe. On the upper level, these are words that don't resonate with me, perhaps because of my positive reunion experience. But that doesn't mean that I am without a vulnerable center. When an adoptee says that they have never felt rejected or abandoned, I understand and recognize myself in those words When and adoptee says that they have always felt rejected or abandoned, I understand and recognize myself in those words. I am both of these adoptees.

Moving on to the next part of the prompt ...

It is very difficult for me to admit that I don't feel close to my adoptive family, but the truth is that sometimes I am aware of a distance between me and them. I love them. I am forever tied to them by memory and tradition. Christmas, for example, is a holiday that happens in my adoptive parents' house; if I'm not there, it isn't really Christmas. When my first marriage fell apart in a very dramatic way, the first thing I did was pack my year-old daughter and 12-year-old dog into my car and head home to the house in which I grew up and my parents still live.

But sometimes I am aware of not fully belonging in that family. I'm aware that I don't quite fit. 

In terms of my relationship with my adoptive parents, a similar dichotomy to the one I have described in my marriage exists. On the one hand, I trust that they love me unconditionally and nothing could shake that. On the other hand, I feel that I must watch my step. I must play the role of the good child -- the good adoptee -- because my position in the family is tenuous. This second part isn't logical or supported by anything my parents have ever done or said, but it is part of my psychological makeup.

I do feel a certain degree of connection to all of my adoptive family, including (and perhaps especially) to my cousins, but on the whole I am a better fit with my biological family. That's not the experience of every adoptee in reunion, but it is mine. When I am with them, I feel at home. I sense that I am with my people. Somehow, my first mother and I have managed to avoid many of the pitfalls of reunion. We are now 17 years in and bonded by both biology and shared experiences. My reunion with my biological father is still in its early stages, but I am hopeful about that relationship as well. I have two brothers, one adoptive and one biological; I will write about them on my blog later this month when the sibling prompt comes up. I haven't met any of my biological cousins yet, but I've been told I have "about a hundred" on my paternal side. There are plans for me to attend a big family reunion next year, so we shall see how that goes. I will be surrounded by more genetic relatives than I have ever met in my life. My father has already told me that I will "fit right in." If my previous experience with biological family is an accurate predictor, I will indeed.

I'm looking forward to seeing how others will respond to this prompt. If you wrote about this subject, too, please leave a link in the comment section below. Thanks!