Five Ways To Overcome Strain In Open Adoption Relationships

What do you do when negativity and hard feelings bubble just below the surface?

Karen White February 23, 2017

When it comes to “family”, some open adoption relationships are easy and some have a lot of bumps along the road. What do you do when negativity and hard feelings bubble just below the surface? When conversations become strained, this makes it hard to communicate—even about the most mundane things—and can lead to further lack of communication and more hard feelings.

If you are one in a rocky relationship, here are some suggestions that may help overcome strain in your open adoption.

Try To Understand How The Other Side Reacts To Conflict
1. Try To Understand How The Other Side Reacts To Conflict

We all process situations and react differently to them. Some burst out the minute they get upset, and some have to process situations and address them later. It is important to communicate with the other side HOW you tend to react. Do you need time to process and think about things? Or do you tend to go off half-cocked?

Being able to communicate how you handle issues is a big part of addressing them and clearing them up quickly. If you know your child’s adoptive mom is quick to emotion and defense, then remember when you are addressing an issue, don’t respond to her knee-jerk reactions. If you child’s birth mom needs some space to decide how he feels, don’t take her silence as her trying to push you aside. Some of us need more time than others to put together what and how we want to say things.

Listen To The Other Side
2. Listen To The Other Side

Listening, really actively listening, to the other side can be difficult, especially when there are hurt feelings or anger. Acknowledging we all carry biases towards one another and how that impacts what we hear can be the first step in actually listening to what the other person has to say. After all, you know what people say about assuming the unknown.

Avoid Criticizing
3. Avoid Criticizing

It is always easier to see other people’s mistakes than our own. And it is especially hard to watch someone you care about make choices you don’t see as being beneficial to them. As hard as it can be, especially when relationships are strained to begin with, avoid offering ‘unsolicited’ advice. Chances are if you aren’t communicating well to begin with your ‘advice’ won’t be well received and will lead to further resentment. And definitely avoid the ‘I told you so’ response. It won’t make you or the other person feel any better. You can’t make someone be who you want them to be. Find something good to focus your attention on.

Be Sincere
4. Be Sincere

It is possible to find things you like about almost anyone. And offering sincere words will go a lot farther to fostering a good relationship and managing conflict than being someone you're not. If you made a mistake, said something in the heat of the moment or realized at a later time how something you said could have been misunderstood, offer a sincere apology. Honest, heartfelt words are much more well received that critical ones.

Agree To Disagree
5. Agree To Disagree

Sometimes, you just won’t agree with people no matter how much you want to or how much you love them. Being able to acknowledge that you will never see eye to eye on certain things allows you to gracefully avoid the subject in the future. Why add strain to a relationship rehashing old issues? All it does is damage the relationship further and prevent healing.

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Karen White

Karen White is the self-proclaimed leading authority on being "that mom." You know the one. The PTO Vice President, room mom, baseball team mom, AND leader of well-behaved kids (OK, the well-behaved part may be stretching it . . . like really stretching . . .) When she isn’t threatening to tackle one of her boys on the ball field if they don’t run faster, or convincing her 4-year-old daughter that everything doesn’t HAVE to sparkle, she is also a wife and stay-at-home mom of three. One of the three happens to have been adopted, but good luck figuring out which one it is, since they all have pasty white skin, blond hair, and blue eyes.

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