Seeing the Light

"A codependent feels their value is predicated upon a willingness to devalue themselves" – Eric Roberts

I am doing okay.

I am feeling that now, after nearly three weeks since I heard from my daughter, that I am recovering from the pain of our latest exchange. I feel okay about myself and how I handled it and the decisions I am making regarding the future.

I reflected a great deal on our three year reunion (technically, it is nearly six if you count the fact that she found me before I found her but she did not contact me) and much to my surprise completely overlooked our "anniversary" date of June 28th. The day passed without emotional incident.

I have spent alot of time analyzing my own behavior and expectations and interestingly was able to draw from my therapy and past work with codependency. I realized that much of my feelings, reactions, expectations with my daughter were very frighteningly similar to those that I have had in other one-sided or hurtful relationships. Common themes in those relationships, like the relationship with my daughter, are:

  1. Me focusing on their needs and feelings and believing theirs matter more than mine
  2. Consistently putting aside my own hurt feelings and rationalizing and defending their actions – no matter how poor, abusive or justified they might be. 
  3. Believing that I deserve their poor treatment of me because either I believe I caused their problems or I am supposed to be able to fix them and I am unable to.

I reread some Melody Beattie and also picked up one of my favorite books on boundaries – Boundaries and Relationships: Knowing, Protecting and Enjoying the Self by Charles Whitfield.

I still feel a bit shaky and anxious but the overwhelming feeling is a positive one and a belief that I do not need to be accepted or wanted by my daughter to feel whole or believe I have value as a human being.

I assign that to myself. She does not.

While I will likely continue to be sad that my daughter chooses to not have a relationship with me or her brothers, I must continue to believe that is a reflection of her and her choices and not me or mine.

She has given me many clear signs that I have foolishly ignored or avoided or simply did not see. She has never written me unsolicited. She has never asked any questions about her story, her first family or even her medical history. She has not responded to any emails or drawings her brothers have sent her. She has not acknowledged them. She has never mailed me anything via USPS. She has only once acknowledged a birthday or holiday. She has repeatedly said she is not wounded, does not want or need a relationship with me.

I don’t state these things to highlight her behavior but rather to show how dense I was. In light of all that and more, I still wrote to her even when she gave clear signs she would prefer I didn’t. I relied on common reunion thinking and believed, perhaps correctly, perhaps not, that she was "testing" me. I followed that reunion bible teaching of staying in contact even when gifts were refused and emails went unanswered. In the end, I fear I did nothing but make myself into what appeared to be a neurotic, clingy mother who could not take "go away" for an answer.  For certain, I continually set myself up to be hurt. 


I was looking at our relationship through glasses colored by my adoption work with others. My years in adoption search, support and reunion have provided me with access to a significant number of adoptees and mothers that want to know each other. I have helped close to fifty adoptees or mothers reunite and watched from afar (or even up close) as they struggled through those relationships. I have talked to them late on night on the phone or computer. I have comforted them and they have comforted me. My view of adoptees and mothers was limited to those that consciously wanted to know each other and were working hard at getting through the roadblocks of reunion. I therefore struggled with why my daughter might not be like them. It had to be me, right?

Again, no.

I see that now. Her last email was so, well, it was something. Lets just say that it contained the final ingredients I needed to put this reunion dish on the back burner. I will no longer stir the pot.

I get it now, M. I do. I will leave you alone.

I realize the appropriate thing to do is to let her know I wont be in contact anymore and as she has indirectly requested, I wont send her any more presents. (I am instead working on developing a scholarship for young, single moms using the funds I would have normally spent on her).

The words haven’t quite formed yet in my heart and therefore my head and fingers are unable to craft them. I hope within the coming weeks I will find the words. The general theme will be that I am not leaving her but respecting her apparent wishes and should she ever want more contact,  I will be here. I will suggest a contact schedule (perhaps once a year?) and hope she agrees with it.

I am confident the words will come.

There is a great deal lacking in my life but words are usually close at hand.

4 Thoughts.

  1. i think that stepping back like this is very healthy, and by that i mean good for YOUR health. You don’t need the abuse, the cold shoulder, and being treated like trash. She has no idea what she’s missing and you deserve better. My guess is that her adopters have laid the “us or her” trip onto her, either overtly or by tacit hints, looks, and comments. And thus she treats you like sh*t and you don’t deserve this. and believe me, she IS treating you like this even though she masks it in cold politeness. would she treat her adopters the same way? i think not.
    amazingly enough, it was once i stepped back myself and refused to take almost the same type of sh*t that my son decided that a relationship with me was something he wanted. He could no longer take me for granted, that i would ‘be there’ no matter what type of abuse was sent my way. things got better from that point onwards (at least for a while until his adopters abused him beyond belief, but that is another story)
    good luck!!!

  2. I did the same thing Suz. I looked to the reunions I helped to facilitate as a sort of guidebook. That was a huge mistake. In every one of those reunions I somehow managed to overlook THE crucial formula for any measure of success in reunion: TWO willing participants.
    I guess I just couldn’t bring myself to believe that my own mother was one of the “small minority” that didn’t want contact. SURELY it must be something I am doing wrong! So if I just work harder, be kinder, more understanding, take the disrespect….surely she would come around! Only it didn’t work that way. As a matter of fact I just opened myself up to more and more pain.
    At some point I realized I was the only one who could stop her from hurting me by simply (not that it was easy) walking away. I could only do that when I understood I could still love her, I just needed to do it from afar.
    I’m proud of you Suz. xoxo

  3. OMG, the codependent stories I could tell. And I did not grow up in an alcoholic family. Just one where it was everyone’s job to make my mother happy, which was impossible. I totally get what you are doing to reclaim yourself and quit worrying about/defending everyone else. Me too. BIG HUGS!

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