When you examine the dynamics of adopting and, later, reunion, you find a lot of that kind of codependent need. It is for this reason that I believe adoption is a dysfunctional arrangement from the get-go. In the traditional infant adoption, this is an arrangement that calls upon the adopted child to fill the emotional needs of the adopters. Growing up with that kind of emotional pressure is damaging and a breeding ground for all manner of emotional disorders. Unfortunately, for quite a few adopted people, this kind of relationship is their model for what they think is "Love."
I have been in this kind of relationship and we are both better for it having ended. Learning about codependency and where it can lead has saved me a lot of heartache. In my marriage, today, my husband and I offer each other a whole person, not mirror images and certainly not the offer or expectation to carry the other, emotionally.
People who can't take rejection, who pine after the person who has ended the relationship and who may even go so far as to take their own lives or attempt to do so, have based their entire self-worth on the acceptance of the other. That's NOT love. Love can let go. It can be sad and hurtful, this letting go, but an emotionally whole person can face it and the life ahead with optimism.
The codependent person goes into a relationship, be it marriage, friendship or reunion, expecting emotional needs to be met by the other person. When that doesn't happen, in reunion, the road becomes bumpy and harsh. One of the most inane lines ever uttered by anyone was spouted by Tom Cruise in "Jerry McGuire" when he said to his lady-love, "You Complete Me." Whoa there, hoss! If you weren't complete to begin with, what would she want with you? But so many sighed and smiled and brushed away a tear at that sentiment.
Natural Mothers and their Adult, Surrendered Children have spent years wondering about the missing part of their family to the point that the emotional investment in the other person is huge. Reunion is based on expectations and needs, not all of them healthy. We are meeting familiar strangers, people who have their own likes, dislikes, politics, religious views, and attitudes. Not all of them are going to jibe and mesh with the greatest of ease. As I have said in an earlier post, the bond never really breaks, but it becomes very twisted and knotted. Many have referred to reunion as an emotional minefield and, when you add in the codependent expectations, you are in danger of a major explosion. We get angry and it starts a cycle of resentment and frustration. I was introduced to this model of the codependency/anger cycle when I was in treatment for my eating disorder.
I wanted to be able to offer my two lost children a mother they could respect. I wanted them to see that they came from loving, decent, good, solid people. I was unprepared for their ambivalence and the insecurity of their adopters. I felt frustrated with my children who were adults, yet kept in this perpetual, dependent childhood by the entire construct of adoption. But this was all they knew. Knowing that I surrendered them against my will was not enough to re-build their sense of self. I couldn't do it for them. Only they can do that. This is sad but true because there is enough of the mother in me that I wanted to do that for them. Standing back and letting them find their way is tough.
There is enough pain and strife in the human condition without the trauma of surrender and separation. I know now, that I was codependent and totally vulnerable when I lost my two oldest children to the Industry. I folded, collapsed upon myself and waved the white flag and one of the pressures put on me depended upon my need for the approval and acceptance of my family. I also spent years being obsessed with the father of my first born and that was really unhealthy. So I am no stranger to codependent thinking and behavior and I am not one to judge anyone for being immersed in that strange malady.
But I do look askance at those who choose to remain in such a pit of emotional quicksand. It's scary to face it and overcome one's codependent nature, but the rewards for doing so are tremendous. It doesn't guarantee that you never will be hurt or sad or miss someone.
But it usually guarantees you will survive it all. And those of us who have been battered by adoption need the survival skills.