Other People Just Don’t Relate Well Sometimes

Despite their best intentions, people outside the triad typically try to connect unrelated experiences to yours.

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“I know how a birth mother feels,” a man told me once. “My nephew and I were really close, but one day my brother told me he got a new job on the other side of the country and they would be moving. I miss that kid so much.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. This man honestly thought he could directly relate to a birth mother because his nephew moved across the country. Wow.

The human mind is a funny thing. When we’re little kids, everything is new to us. We spend our days exploring new shapes, situations, and ideas. Our minds are constantly being filled with concepts that are completely brand new to us, which makes the whole experience of being on this crazy world an exciting adventure. Once we become adults, though, we change the way we experience our surroundings. We no longer accept things as new or foreign. As adults, our automatic reaction to something alien is to compare it to something we already know.

Here’s an example: when people started to migrate to America way way way back in the day, they started finding animals and crops they’d never seen before. They saw and animal that was kind of like an animal they’d seen in Africa, a water buffalo, so they called it a buffalo. The actual name given to that animal is a bison, but buffalo was a lot more familiar to people, so they called it that. So, if two people were talking, and one had never seen a bison, it would have been a lot easier to picture in their mind what the animal was like by calling it an American buffalo rather than a bison because bison brought no automatic mental picture.

Enough rambling about that. I’ve found that a lot of people like to do their very best to try to relate. A lot of my friends have thought up different ways about how they relate to me as an adoptive father. The truth, though, is that my situation is very unique. There is nothing in the world just like adoption. There are some close things– being a step father, for example, isn’t very far off– but not many.

A lot of the time, though, people try to draw similarities when they’re just not there. Taking four months to get pregnant is not the same as taking four years, but people will say, “Oh yeah, we know what it’s like.” And taking four years to get pregnant isn’t quite the same as never being able to have kids. Being divorced and watching your kid grow up under a different roof isn’t quite the same as placing a child for adoption.

And yet, even though we often know they can’t relate, our confidantes are often times people who don’t know quite what we’re going through. My brothers are my closest confidantes, but they’ve never adopted. If I lay all my adoption stress on them, they’ll try to relate, but they’ve never been there. For others, it may be their mother, father, best friend, etc. They’re all people who are great for giving a shoulder to cry on but still may never fully understand it because they’ve never been there and probably never will be.

That’s why I love online social media. Hooray for support groups. My wife and I started a support group page on Facebook named after my book, “Open Adoption, Open Heart.” People ask questions for advice, tell experiences, share opinions, etc. We mediate it, of course, to keep out the jerks, but there are many different opinions, and we love hearing people who think differently than we do. We all work together and build each other up, giving support from people who have actually been there. Not only that, but people from all angles of the adoption triad are involved: birth parents, adoptees, adoptive parents, birth grandparents, etc. Being part of this circle has changed the way my mind thinks and has been one of the best things to happen to my adoptive mind.