4 Ways You Might be a Control Freak in Adoption and How to Fix It

Take a deep breath and get ready to change your ways.

Amy Harmon March 30, 2016
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It can almost be comical to watch a full-fledged control freak in action. I think of the time I saw someone at McDonalds demand to speak to a supervisor because the egg on their 99 cent McMuffin was square instead of round (true story). The altercation was loud enough to interrupt, and entertain, my breakfast. It lasted at least 15 minutes after the poor worker volunteered to make this poor soul a different egg. But that could never be enough for this man. He could not stand for such an injustice. I knew at that moment that I was looking at a true control freak. And it was hilarious.

Although it can be comical to watch as a third party, those immediately involved in a power struggle may not see the humor. It can seem like control freaks believe they are better than those around them. They think their opinion is true—and the only one that matters. No amount of explanation is enough for these people. Although this description may be accurate sometimes, I think most of the time there is another story.

Most of the time, control freaks are people who have been let down. Their hope or faith in others is uncertain. And because of it, they will not allow themselves to become vulnerable to anyone. They insist on having things done a certain way (their way), so they won’t be let down again.

For those involved in the adoption world, being a control freak can ruin relationships. But just because you tend toward “my way or the highway” doesn’t mean you have to feel that way forever. Here are some ways you may be a control freak and some advice on how to fix it. And as you change, you may not be able to control the situation, but you will have self-control.

1. You can’t emotionally invest. When my husband and I were entering the world of adoption, I repeatedly heard the phrase “don’t get your hopes up.” People said this to help protect our feelings in case we met with hardship. The irony is, we had already met a hardship. Adoption was the solution for us. We had some experiences that didn’t work out, but they were just a part of the roller coaster that brought us to our son. The ups and downs didn’t devastate us. The low points were not the end of the story. In fact, the ups and downs we experienced made our story more beautiful. So go ahead and hope. Let yourself connect with others. Make friends and lasting relationships with everyone you meet.

2. You must be perfect. Whether it’s the perfect profile or the perfect letter, control freaks expect to be the best. Some of the best advice I heard going through the adoption process was this: Remember that you are not looking for someone else’s child. You are looking for your child. When you remember that, you can realize that you are not competing against other people for a family. And you can be honest about who you are, imperfections and all. Don’t worry about having the picture-perfect photo album or the best letter. Just share who you are.

3. You stress about the unknown. This is my forte. I am a planner. I like to know what I am doing when and where and with whom. One of the most difficult tasks for a control freak is to be flexible. How do you just let life happen? Most of the things you worry about won’t happen anyway. And if they do happen, worry about it as it comes up. It can help to put things in perspective. Remember that you are just a tiny spot in this vast universe and this is one small moment in your life. Sometimes the big problems won’t seem so big after all.

4. You must do it yourself. You’ve heard it before. “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” You watch people around you make decisions for their families. They decide when to start their family, how many children to have, and how many years between. It can be heart-wrenching to realize that you don’t have that choice. It isn’t up to you. You depend on someone else for your family. Maybe you are having a hard time accepting funds from friends and family. Maybe you are overwhelmed at the idea that someone is trusting you with a child. Whatever your hang up is, with adoption everyone needs help. Everyone in the adoption triad is depending on another to give them strength, and it doesn’t stop there. Social workers, attorneys, counselors, friends, family, and clergy all play a role. It isn’t easy to relinquish control, but in the world of adoption, there is no way to do it yourself. And when you think about all the people who are cheering you on, it can be amazing to be in the middle of it.

So if you have found yourself behaving like a control freak, take a deep breath and get ready to change your ways. Be prepared for a roller coaster . . . it will be the ride of a lifetime.

Now it’s your turn to chime in. What ways have you been a control freak? What have you done to give up a little control?

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Amy Harmon

Amy Harmon lives in Kansas with her husband and two boys. Each child was a miracle; the first through adoption and the second through IVF. Her family is her passion, but in addition to that she is an RN, pianist, avid reader, slow jogger and an adoption advocate.


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