How to Date an Adopted Person: Part 2
1. This is serious business. Buckle up. If you don’t want to throw your whole self into this endeavor, do both of you a favor and get back on Match.com.
2. Before Olympic athletes have the performance of a lifetime, they train. Consider yourself now in training for Your Most Excellent Life because in order to fully show up and negotiate life with an adoptee, you are going to have to invest completely in your own mind and body. Eat well. Go to sleep at a reasonable hour. Exercise. Meditate. Be so grounded in you that winds do not shake your leaves. Can you see how already your life is becoming Most Excellent?
3. If you love yourself and treat yourself like the treasure you are, you are going to be in better shape to love someone who, deep down, is so terrified of love and rejection that they will, at a certain point, prefer to chew off their own arm than let you see the core of who they are. There are things you can do to avoid this Chew and Run.
4. Have a therapist or smart friends who are there to remind you of your essential goodness and your intention to love wholeheartedly when things get rough or when you are afraid your partner no longer likes/loves you. Remember that sometimes you will serve as a mirror for everything your partner hates about themself. This is temporary but it can sting. If you see your own self clearly, you’ll be better able to see the passing storm, and if you breathe and stay strong, the clouds will part, and the traumatized little child your lover carries will feel seen and, increasingly, safe and at home.
5. Adoptees often have fantasies that there is a better/different life they are supposed to be living. This means that sometimes you will think everything is fine and then your partner will walk into the house, say they hate everything and want to start over, and you will feel blindsided. Breathe. Adoptees need therapy/insight/growth to understand there isn’t another life. This one is theirs. You are theirs. They are theirs. That it’s okay for them to be home in their own home.
6. This is where having skills as a lion tamer or at communication may come in handy. Beneath the belief they (adoptees) are not living the life they are supposed to (and that therefore you are not the person they are supposed to be with) is a well of heartbroken rage and grief. This embodied animal energy is Primal Wound stuff. This is Why Didn’t My Mother Keep Me stuff. Hold on. The fury is not about you. Repeat this mantra: It’s not about me. I am with someone who lost the mothership when he or she was too little to know how to shape the experience with language. Know the solidity of your body, the solidity of your commitment, the reality of your love is in your body, and that your body is communicating to the adoptee’s body: you are safe, you are loved. Skin is talking to skin. Welcome also to Your Most Holy Life.
7. Go fishing and get used to grabbing a fish that, once caught, fights the hook. The fish may be thrashing so wildly and the fish may look so slippery that you fear trying to get a hold of it. But the fish needs to be held. Be persistent. Use your words. Keep trying. The fish will calm and let you pull out the sharp barb. Many adoptees have been waiting their whole life to feel claimed and held.
8. Be willing to look like a fool. Be willing to love someone who it seems sometimes does not love you back. This is part of Your Most Excellent Life. You are learning not to depend on another in order to feel really good about yourself. Love yourself so hard you perpetually swoon at your own light.
9. Read my book You Don’t Look Adopted because then my ratings will go up on Amazon. Consider this, #9, a commercial break. Baby needs new shoes.
10. Write your own book about what it is like loving an adopted person. The world needs to know so we can talk about things long left unsaid. How can we (you) know how to love what fights and fears and longs for love when we (you) don’t yet know the truth of what goes on behind closed doors? What I’m saying is, loving is an act of community. We are in this together. You don’t have to be adopted to act adopted. (All it takes is for someone to feel unseen or rejected by a parent and BOOM, you have a recipe for identity trauma. It’s flipping systemic in our society.)
11. Look up dysregulated nervous system and figure out what it means and how it might apply to your beloved. Doing this is like being introduced to the lights on the dashboard when you are learning to drive a car. It means you’ll know that hunger and fatigue and loud noises and change may make your partner temporarily lose their cool. And sometimes more than just their cool. Luckily, for all of us, information is power.
12. This is a terrible analogy, but when you have a punching bag, you can hit it as hard as possible and it still comes back to you. As a reframe, adoptees aren’t punching when they push you away, they are acting out in terror that you will see them for who they are: small, ugly, worthless, and then you will leave, and so they are going to leave first over and over and over until finally something switches in their brain and they learn that you are not their disappeared mother. That you are their sweetheart, and that they love you to the moon and back. So while sometimes you may feel like a punching bag, think of the whole action as a dance instead, and see where it takes you.
13. Why, you are asking, would I want to date an adoptee after reading all of this? Adoptees are AWESOME. They have huge hearts and have overcome more in the first months of their lives than you may have to in a lifetime. This makes them incredibly interesting, creative, and strange in the very best ways. You’ll never be bored with an adopted person. It’s like dating one of those presents that every time you open it there’s another present inside. Adoptees just keep opening when they are surrounded by safety and love.