Erin E. McEndree
Adoptee Week: Not Feeling Included
There are so many issues that adoptees deal with. One very common situation for adoptees is feeling left out of their bio family and/or their adoptive family. Maybe this is not a problem you deal with, but many do feel this way and I want to offer a different way to relate. If you have a recommendation for adoptees that has helped you, please put it in the comments.
Relate is the root word in relation. To relate means to have a connection as in a relationship.
When you see pictures on social media of bios or adoptive family together at birthdays, holiday party or other events having fun, is your first reaction to think, "They don't even know I exist."
Issue: You feel like you are not included.
Your mind goes into overdrive thinking about all the ways they are conniving behind your back to leave you out and hurt you. When in reality, they may not have been thinking of you at all. Why? They don't have a strong relationship with you. They may not have invited you on purpose because someone they have known for 20 or 30 years could not handle it emotionally, yet. Their relationships are stronger with people have known longer.
Trap: They are doing this to hurt you.
What do you do?
Number One: Don’t get offended. You don’t know the motives for situations. You have not been there during conversations about YOU. I've heard adoptees say they were handed to strangers. It only makes sense that when you do not know someone for decades, they are strangers, also. Now, bio think the adoptee is a stranger. It takes time to build trust. It takes memories. It takes time and many times to build a relationship that is comfortable being inclusive. And it takes longer when more people are involved. Don't get offended.
Number Two: Many people are selfish. Many people don't like change. When family seems comfortable, many people don't want to add another person to mess up the dynamic. Have you had this happen when a family member gets a boyfriend or girlfriend and they start coming to family events? Some people will never be okay with you, but being overbearing makes you seem pushy and possessive. Be OK with it. Maybe it’s not the right time. People are selfish...don't be that person.
Number Three: Take the initiative. You be the one to text, send cards, invite on outings and get together even if it is when you are driving through town. I realize this is harder when they live far away, but there are ways to connect. Be the one who is kind and thinks of others. It will finally pay off and be seen as caring.
Number Four: What are you going to do when it doesn't work? This step is so important. Decide beforehand what you will do when you see the social media pictures and you were not invited. Decide how much of it you will allow to affect you. I've heard of people setting a timer or time limit. They say, "I will think about this for an hour or until tomorrow at 9am and then I will let it go." If you really think about it, they are not thinking about you anyway so you are only hurting yourself.
Reality: Taking a different approach can change the whole relationship.
I know a person who sits in the shadows, does not interact, gets upset because she is not included and does not accept invitations when she is invited. Once, she wrote a long post about not being included, no one talking to her and not being invited to anything. I'm not sure what she was trying to accomplish, but many were really confused because they had tried to do all those things. Her reality did not match the situation. It is important to try and see things as they are and decide what part you have in it and what you can control and what you can't.
When there is an absence of relationship, an absence of time spent, an absence of memories made, there will be an absence of inclusion. Taking the initiative, over and over and being patient can change a relationship in time.
What are some ways you have been included or been inclusive that would help other adoptees on their life's journey?