Birth families and adoptive families are prone to extremes in the natural changing of relationships, changes that occur in any relationship but are often more pronounced within the adoption triad. How do we best cope with common changes, and how do we make the most of it?
Stage One: The New Relationship. When first meeting (or being matched, or welcoming the child), there is an elation and an excitement. There is also a bit of trepidation, as there is with anything new, but generally speaking, the thrill overtakes fears and marks the beginning of a lifelong relationship. At this point we all put our best selves out there, and we tend to see the best in the other party. Little flaws and idiosyncrasies can be ignored and we tend to exalt the other party. This is a great way to start the relationship—seeing the best in the others! So bask in the excitement, in the joy, and in the newfound relationship. Don’t let logic take over and tell you that things can’t really be as good as they appear. Enjoy the moment!
Stage Two: Settling In. This is when we’ve gone an entire week without much sleep because our previously-perfect adopted baby isn’t as perfect as we thought. Or the adoptive parent hasn’t sent a promised picture. Or the birth mother won’t stop texting. This is the point when we’ve forgotten how exciting the new relationship was and we might forget to look for the good. The flaws and the annoyances overshadow the good, and our perspective becomes twisted. We are exhausted and sometimes even wonder if we made the right choice. But no need to fear! This is a temporary phase and we can get through this! Let your mind work on it—remember that everyone is mistake-prone and that this situation is as hard or harder for the other person as it is for you. A little trick to help push the annoyance away and to regain some of the previous thrill is this: Every time something happens to “get your goat,” make yourself remember three great things about that person. (For example: The baby hasn’t slept during night hours for more than a few minutes at a stretch. So make up a lullaby and sing to the baby: “Your hand wrapping around my finger is something I’ve dreamed of for years, your eyes looking into mine are a gift, when I hear you cry, I remember that you belong to me.”) Regardless of the annoyance, there will always be at least three good things that will trump it. The secret is to make yourself do it.
Stage Three: The Solid Relationship. It’s as if the pendulum stopped swinging. No more ups and downs, not so many more surprises in the relationship. You’ve accepted his/her worst self, and they have accepted yours. And wow! You still have a relationship! Now future plans can effectively be made. You know that she’s reliable when life isn’t so crazy during the summer months—so plan your visits at that time. You’ve learned that excessive noise sends your toddler into a confused state that sets off a tantrum—so plan the party at the park where the noise can evaporate into air. This is a time to let your heart and your mind work together to solidify the relationship. Enjoy the person, but be logical in your expectations.
These few suggestions can make survival through an adoption relationship sure . . . but more importantly, it can make it enjoyable. Getting through the tough times with few or no regrets will make for a solid, happy relationship that will bless you forever.