New relationships can be scary for different reasons. They are new, exciting, emotional, and incredibly amazing all at once. The beginning months of getting to know one another is the place where most people figure out if they are going to be able to be in this relationship long term, or if they aren't terribly interested in investing their time or life into this person. Usually, this is also the point where you tell your significant other tidbits of information about yourself that you may not share with other people. This is part of the act of building trust in the relationship and allows each individual to feel solid in the foundation they are constructing as a unit.
When it comes to adoption, when is the best time to discuss your connection to it? Perhaps you are with someone who already knows, but doesn't know the bulk of what it means to be connected to adoption. Perhaps this person has no clue. Perhaps you have never told anyone before. In any scenario, telling someone that you are a part of the adoption world, and what it means to you leaves you in a vulnerable place. For adoptees and birthparents, there is a point in each relationship, even friendships where it's almost pertinent to disclose your involvement in adoption. Not so much for full disclosure, but mainly because it is an integral part of who you are, and sometimes can explain your reaction to specific scenarios. Timing Timing can be an important part of sharing your adoption story. Or it could have nothing to do with the equation. Make sure, no matter when you do share, that you are ready, and willing. Don't do it during a moment when the other person is distracted. This could potentially lead to feelings of rejection or feeling as though you weren't heard. Comfort Are you ready to share this information? Are you comfortable opening yourself up, and telling this person what adoption means to you? Some adoption stories aren't necessarily written with fairy tale endings, and it's important that you are able to express your feelings without feeling like you are being written off, or negated. Be Patient Most people don't have full experience with adoption, except what they have seen in entertainment or media. Be patient when you have to explain about the commonalities like open adoption, adoption reform or other items that you have just lived with. Explaining this can also be helpful in having this person understand your point of view, and where your feelings come from. Set Boundaries Some birthparents or adoptees aren't fully ready to discuss their adoption experience. It should be encouraged to discuss your place in the adoption world with your partner, or friend, but if you don't feel like you are quite there, express that. Some have admitted to only telling their partner the basis of information, and ending the conversation with a simple promise to continue the communication on it later. Make good on that promise but don't overwhelm yourself. Expect Nothing Don't expect a grand reaction. In fact, a reaction that incites a large display from your partner could be overwhelming for you. When you set up your own boundaries, make sure that you share them with your partner. Perhaps you thought they would react in an excited manner and they didn't- having preset expectations can only lead to misunderstanding. The truth is, this piece of your life is a big deal, but it's not something that needs to be made into a spectacle, one way or the other. Be Yourself Most important of all, is that as you share this information with your partner, you are true to you. If something is an prominent piece of your internal puzzle, make sure you say that. If something is difficult for you to discuss, explain that. Don't push yourself to discuss something you are not ready to discuss, and don't feel as though you need to make your adoption experience something that it is not.
There is no right or wrong way to discuss your adoption experience with a new partner. Some will choose to do it in a structured way, others will have it happen naturally, but neither is better than the other. The truth is, as long as you are opening this door to communication with this person, you are allowing for information to flow freely between you. When something comes up with your adoption experience, you have now got another ally who has heard your story intimately, and would likely be willing to do his or her best to listen, or help.
Adoption colors much of what birthparents and adoptees do in their lives, and it can often be the source of issues in some relationships, without even knowing it. Having this active awareness of yourself, and sharing this with your partner can help have success in the future.
Credits: Danielle Barnsley-Cervo
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