- Family and Parenting
Adult Life of an Unwanted Child – Relationship Challenges
I was an unwanted child. I'm one of the lucky few though, I was spared the trauma of feeling abandoned because my adoptive parents had the wisdom to shield me from the downside. My hub Tribute to my adoptive parents is about my experience.
But I know the darker side of being unwanted. That's my husband's story.
I've heard stories from wives -- friends, acquaintances, strangers -- who find out their husbands are wrong for them after years of living together. How is this related to my topic? Because this is an important first step in life as an adult, at least this is what I observe. Before marriage we had our circle of family, relatives and friends. After that we enter a new world that requires different social skills, learning to choose a partner and live with a stranger who will become our other half. Think about that statement -- sounds like quite an impossible feat, doesn't it?
The unwanted child therefore may grow up to be an undateable adult because s/he is unfamiliar with love, the emotions and behavior that goes with it. As a result s/he developed a warped response to love, and often does not know how to show love in the conventional way. S/he may not turn out to be a doting parent or reliable provider. In fact s/he may have developed a few bad habits and addictions.
I did not understand how my husband felt some times because he would hide his true feelings or could not explain his emotions. It took me years to connect his anxiety with his erratic behaviour, like a gambling spree or binge eating. After meeting his family and hearing the stories I realize he, his siblings and cousins shared similar issues. When there was a death of a cherished family member (a close cousin, the grandmother that raised him) this changed the family dynamics and brought out unresolved issues from the past. At one point, long after these passings, he had a panic attack and had to go the Emergency (ER). At the hospital he saw others waiting to speak to a crisis worker about feeling suicidal because they were abandoned by a parent, feeling unloved. The experience made him open up a little because he could relate to them.
I must've come across as being cruel toward him, mainly for treating him like a normal well-adjusted adult. I have had to apologize to him many times for things I said ages ago. And thinking that shaming would work when he gambled our hard earned money away was a bad idea. I expected him to get over his issues so we went for couples counselling but it made matters worse. I went with the expectation that we could change ourselves and the counselor went along. She gave us exercises to do which I didn't understand and my husband didn't like, so it felt like we failed. Years later I decided to go to another counselor to focus on myself and thankfully she was honest enough to say that if my husband was an addict, he was born that way, and the decision is mine if I want to stay with him or not. It was a relief in a way to hear that, now I didn't feel the need to work so hard to make things better but to feel content with what we had.
He also discovered that his body does not provide him proper feedback, so he often does not feel hunger when he is hungry, and does not realize that he is stressed when he works too much. He has found an anti inflammatory diet to be helpful, eating small meals at the same time every day. We are not sure if this is related to his deprived childhood. No medical explanation has been provided.
A recent newspaper article ("The lasting damage of emotional abuse", see link below) explains that children of toxic parents often bear lifelong scars, will never be free of the pain, nor of the hole it left in him/her. And that emotional abuse can result in anxiety, depression, and, often, risk-taking behaviours. There's nothing to learn or fix. Even if the parent is no longer toxic, cutting ties is the only solution to moving on.
A few lessons
If you discover that your love interest had a rough childhood, you need to educate yourself as much as you can. You may also want to seek professional advice from a family counselor. The more information you have, the more successful you will be in knowing how to handle your day to day interaction. Even more important is knowing if this is the person you want as a spouse. Because some people are not cut out to be an conventional spouse. Realizing this is key, knowing that all the counselling in the world cannot change a person.
Being born into the wrong family shouldn't hold you back from your goals and dreams. Many people just don't get along with the individuals in their birth family. And it's alright to cut ties. It might be beneficial to everyone.
Leaving behind toxic relationships and family baggage is an opportunity to reinvent oneself. You can form your own niche or join a niche of like minded people.
Do things that bring you joy. There are lots of opportunities to use your skills or learn new skills. Volunteer. Get involved in a cause. Learn a new hobby. Travel. Or simply adopt a pet.
It's perfectly fine to feel down in the dumps sometimes. Allow yourself time to feel sad. Being positive all the time is exhausting and not natural. I like this phrase because it's so true: "Sunshine all the time makes a desert."
The best gift you can give this special someone is your acceptance without trying to change them. You can make them feel safe and secure if they know you simply understand.