December 26, 2013

Adoptees: Getting Your Spouse to Understand Holiday Triggers

Recently an adoptee asked me:   “Deanna, it seems like you have a really supportive marriage. How do you handle triggers at the holidays? What things does your husband do to help? Can you share this in a blog post?”

I agree that Larry is very supportive of me, in general.  At the same time, we still have challenges at times. This is normal for anyone -- not just adoptees. 

I am glad for the ways Larry is able to meet my needs, but I don’t look for him to meet all of them.  

My husband and I communicate a lot -- but on any one issue, his limit is about 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, I still have a lot more talking to do. Whether it’s about issues I’m having as a mother, a pastor, a leader in any of the roles I carry, an adoptee, or anything else – I need a variety of friends for understanding and dialogue. 

I’m careful not to look to any one friend for everything. That "friend" includes my husband! Placing all of my expectations on one person, puts too much pressure on them. It's unrealistic to expect anyone to meet all of our relational needs. There are times a friend may go through a busy season and be less available. And many friends have children and commitments that come with parenting where flexibility is needed.   

There are times I’m frustrated with something as an adoptee and I may talk to Larry about an issue for a few minutes but then continue processing it for a lot longer time with one of my friends in the community.

Last month I went to see Philomena with my friends from Adoptee Restoration Tampa. We went to the 8 PM showing and then out for coffee afterwards to talk about how we felt about the movie. We got home at 3 AM. I don’t think any of our spouses would have wanted to sit through the five hour conversation we had about the movie.  And that was okay…we had just what we needed at the time, relying on the comfort of each other’s company.

God provides for our needs in a myriad of ways. It is easy to get our feelings hurt when we place all of our hopes on one person, including our spouse, to fulfill all of our desires.

The fact is, some days I do need to talk about something for hours. My husband is not going to fulfill that role entirely. That’s why I have the adoptee community.

Sometimes I see adoptees practically banging their head against the wall trying to get their spouse to understand like an adoptee friend does. And the fact is, they aren’t an adoptee and they are never going to understand like one does. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a great marriage. And it doesn’t mean you’re married to a jerk. It just means they don’t walk in your shoes. They can empathize but not totally get what it’s like to be you. 

My advice is, release them from that expectation. Broaden your horizons when it comes to how your needs are met.  I promise this will be one of the best things you’ve done for all of your relationships, including your marriage.