I'm seeking advice from adoptees who have suggestions on how I can be supportive and from spouses of adoptees who have gone through similar situations. The love of my life is adopted, and I just want help him in any way I can/should. He's figured some information out recently, and I can see so clearly that he's bothered by it despite his denial.
I'm sorry for how long this post got - I don't know what's relevant for the help I need and erred on the side of too much information. Overarching questions/advice needed are at the very bottom.
He's known since birth that he's adopted. His birth mother got pregnant very young and the birth father was even younger. It was an open adoption - he's even in a picture with her at her college graduation when he was 2. After her graduation, his adoptive parents and his birth mother stopped communicating. On the other hand, his birth father filled out the adoption paperwork and was never heard from again. He had never seen a picture of him and never knew what he looked like.
His adoptive parents and grandparents are the most wonderful people I have ever met. He acknowledges that he had a great childhood with them and if anything, they may have overcompensated with him since they had a child of their own years after his adoption. His parents had him to go therapy once he was old enough to understand what adoption is, and according to his parents, the therapist told them she didn't think there was any need to continue with therapy after a few sessions because she felt he was well-adjusted and clearly understood his situation.
He had never mentioned any adoption-specific issues to me in our eight years together other than wishing he knew what his birth father looked like, and I think that was only ever twice. He speaks fondly of his birth mother even though they aren't in contact. He found her on Facebook many years ago (never friended her), and he looks at it from time to time. Her kids look almost exactly like him, it's crazy! He looked for his birth father but never found him. He never expressed interest in a reunion of any kind with either parent.
I've always figured he was harboring some pain, but he consistently told me he was fine. He's very open with me about his feelings with everything else. On many occasions, I've suggested therapy, mostly for things not related to his adoption (some anger issues - is this common for adoptees?), but he always shoots me down. He puts on such a strong, confident exterior, but I know him and I know when it's an act.
Current Situation
About two weeks ago, we were moving some of his childhood things from his parents house to our house because they're moving and trying to clean. It was so cute watching him go through all of his toys and pictures. Part of these childhood things included his adoption records. They were never a secret to him, but I think this was the first time he ever looked at them closely and really read through. Aside from medical information, the forms asked the birth parents open-ended questions about a bunch of things, including the nature of their relationship and why they were giving him up for adoption. While I'm sure they were well intentioned with what they wrote, the clear theme was "I have a bright future" with a half-hearted side of "it's what's best for the baby". I watched him take a shot to the heart, and he still continued to tell me he was fine.
Upon further reading, we discovered abortion was very much on the table. His maternal grandparents actually insisted on it, but she wasn't able to because she was too far along. She discovered she was pregnant VERY late in the game. I watched him take another shot to the heart, and he still continued to tell me he was fine. "I'm sure the large majority of birth parents consider abortion," he said. "I've always figured that was on the table for me too."
As we went through his birth father's family and medical history, he mentioned again wanting to know what he looks like. I asked him if he wanted to take another crack at finding him, and he shook his head yes. It clearly bothered him, so I made it my mission above anything else. I'm sure I looked insane with my 20 different internet tabs, documents spread all across the desk, and scribbled on post-it notes scattered about. But finally, I found him. Despite his adoption paperwork including identifying information, his birth father was very difficult to find, which is a whole other story I won't get in to.
Before I told him I found his birth father, I wondered if it was the right thing to do. I found that his birth father is quite successful, as is his grandfather. He's married with young kids, and they are truly a gorgeous family. After a lifetime of not knowing anything about his birth father, was this going to upset him? Is ignorance bliss? After debating myself for a while, I decided he'd be just as upset if not more so if he one day knew I had this information and never shared it with him.
As I shared the information, I tried to keep things positive and light-hearted, like pointing out that he's going to be a total silver fox and joking that he must have gotten his height from his mother. I showed him pictures of his grandparents, uncles, cousins, etc. - I found them all. He definitely had tears in his eyes but didn't cry (at least in front of me). He was obviously and understandably affected - he saw his birth father for the first time in his life.
Now, nearly every other day, he makes a comment that suggests he needs to talk about this with a professional.
- Starting a conversation with "His parent's definitely wanted the abortion too" and continuing with "You think I'm like a family shame secret that they never talked about again?"
- "Do you think I'm the reason he doesn't have a Facebook?"
- "I wonder if his wife knows about me."
- "I'm going to need to work out and make some more money before I meet them."
That last comment was most concerning to me and the reason I committed to seeking help for a few reasons, but mostly because I honestly don't think his birth father would be open to it. I have NOT said that to him. I can absolutely be wrong about that, but many things suggest otherwise. I know it will eat at him until he decides to make contact, which might not be for a long time (we've already discussed that if that day should come, going through the agency is the best option). I'm petrified of him being rejected. It'll tear him to pieces.
My Questions
1. Adoptees - Are there boundaries you wish you would have communicated or did communicate with the people in your life when you were going through thoughts of reunion?
2. I know it's totally his decision whether or not to make contact, but what's the best role for me considering my concerns? Is my honesty more harmful than helpful?
3. Any anti-therapy/counseling adoptees out there that eventually decided to give it a try? If so, what motivated you to go? Did you find it helpful?
4. Totally different note - has anyone ever asked the birth parents (via agency) for an updated medical history? His birth parents were so young when they completed the forms originally that there really wasn't a whole lot of information - even their grandparents were still pretty young. I've researched this question and haven't found a thing.
Thanks so much to anyone who reads and/or responds. I love him more than anything in the world. Your honesty is completely welcome with me no matter what it is.
Hi Rachel!
I am the spouse of an adoptee and the last year from my own perspective has been an absolute nightmare.
The absolute most biggest thing I can suggest is protect yourself and make sure YOUR boundaries are respected and protected by you and your partner.
In all of these reunions and supports it has become so obviously apparent that there is so little support and resources for the spouses of adoptees and that it there is little room for what we may want/ need in all of this.
Especially when your relationship was before the Birth parent.
Hi Rachel,
As an adoptee, it means a lot just to know that someone is doing anything to understand my situation better. So tell him how you are trying to help him in the most loving and encouraging way you can. Unfortunately, you can’t make someone talk about something if they are not ready to admit feeling bothered by it. Up until recently, I denied my adoption had any effect on my life. I just wanted to be normal, and not the stereotypical girl. “Oh, she’s adopted?” No wonder she has problems. I’m working on not being ashamed of being adopted, but it takes time. And it stinks. You want to help your spouse now. You see this is obviously a problem, but time does go by quicker than I thought. I first started thinking adoption might have been the reason for so many of my life decisions 9 months ago, but I wasn’t ready to talk about it until now. It feels like only yesterday I was starting to consider this idea, but I needed all of that time to accept the pain adoption has had on my life.
It makes it harder to consider that adoption was painful when your adoptive parents gave you a great childhood. It makes me feel like I am ungrateful for my adoptive parents, even though I know being adopted put me in a better situation than my biological parents could have given me. So I stuffed all of my feelings about adoption deep down and tried to be as normal as I could. And I pulled it off for a while. I could probably fool a therapist if I wanted to, too. Again, it’s about being willing to accept that part of you. Making someone go to therapy does not mean it will actually be therapeutic. I support encouraging therapy and not leaving people with any room for excuses to do therapy, but in the end, it is about how willing the person is to really engage in therapy and dig up the stuff that we have hidden deep down.
I can confirm that I have anger issues. I am angry that my birth mother could look at a baby she just birthed and give it away. No matter the fact that it was best for me, it still hurts. Do not dismiss that pain. Do not try to sugar coat it. At least for me, I already know all the mushy gushy sunshine and rainbows perspective of adoption. “But you were chosen!” Etc. I get it. But I would rather you acknowledge my pain. And try to empathize as best you can.
Ugg, I hurt for your spouse. That sounds really painful. Having a suspicion confirmed like the fact that he might have been aborted makes the pain 100x worse. You try to consider the what ifs and the worst-case scenario for things like that, but getting them confirmed is just another level of pain.
I think you were right that if you kept this information that would have been more painful. It would have affected your relationship with him, and he wouldn’t want to feel like you hid things from him too like his birth parents did. Also, I applaud you for pushing through and finding his birth father. I would feel so loved if someone went to all the trouble for me to find my birth parents.
Wow, those are such hard questions to be asking yourself. It hurts so much that he thinks he has to be a better version of himself for his birth family to love him.
I agree I think it would be immeasurably painful to be rejected by my birth parents, but just remember your role in this. As long as you are by his side through it all and support him no matter what that will mean the world. Tell him that you are terrified. Share your feelings. This is just as much your story as it is his now. It will be way better to walk through this together than to mourn/grieve/etc in your own corners. The only way you can open up to each other about how you are feeling about this situation is if you both feel comfortable with each other to show all the emotions that this brings up. Out loud tell each other and encourage each other that you want to be able to express every emotion. And try your best to really show with your body language that you are okay when the other person cries. Don’t try to put up a brave face in front of each other. That will build walls. It is okay to fall apart. And it will be emotionally taxing. Make sure you don’t have any further obligations that will make you rush through everything. Take a nap afterwards. And tell each other how proud you are of each other for every step you take together and that you are in it together forever.
I think your concerns are valid, so in the most loving way, reminding your spouse that you will be there no matter what, share why you think his birth father might not want to meet him.
I hate therapy. It makes me feel broken for needing therapy, and I just want to be normal. It is like pushing a beach ball under the water, I can just push my pain down with my own strength for a time, but at some point, it will come out of the water. Will it fly out of the air when no one is expecting it, or will be gently float to the surface? Therapy should make it easier to float to the surface. I think I have been to 4 different therapists in the last year and each therapist helped me with what I needed at that time, but I wasn’t ready to really address my adoption until now. Finding the right therapist is its own battle. So don’t force it, just encourage.
I hope this helps and let me know how things go! I wish the best for you and your spouse!