“We don’t see you as adopted” and other misguided declarations of love

adopted child

“We don’t see you as adopted” and other misguided declarations of love.

Why is saying this a problem? Surely this is a good thing, right? Surely this means that their love for the adoptee is boundless, unconditional? Equal to the love given to a biological child perhaps?

But this statement can make an adopted person feel unseen and misunderstood.

The statement, “we don’t see you as adopted”, or variations like “to me you’re not adopted”, “we just think of you as ours” overlook the reality of the adoptee.

Even as I write this, I know there will be well meaning adoptive parents, or friends, partners of adoptees who might protest with “how is that a problem? Surely that’s a good thing”.

How can it be a problem?

The problem with statements such is that they are all about how the person who says them feels, and in no way reflect the inner truth of the person who has been taken away at near birth or older from their biological parent.

The point is, adoptees DO want to be loved without limits, but we want to be seen and fully acknowledged as individuals with experiences that have shaped and moulded us. We don’t want our start in life (however challenging) to be erased. Erased in terms of how we are seen, erased in terms of who we are.

We need to feel loved and accepted for all of who we are, including our adoptive status and the challenges it brings to our lives. To ignore this overlooks our struggles and our relationships with ourselves and with others.

We are who we are in large part because of our adoptions.

This is frustratingly difficult to communicate to non-adoptees. As one fellow adoptee said, "when I walk into a room of other adoptees, there’s no explaining to do. We all just get it."

When I walk into a room of other adoptees, there’s no explaining to do. We all just get it.

Some adoptees resist announcing their adoptive status. Maybe out of a sense of loyalty or perhaps because they don’t want to be defined by it. But it doesn’t have to be about being defined by our adoptions, but they do need to be acknowledged as significant events in our lives. Events that contribute to who we end up being in adulthood.

Saying “I don’t see you as adopted”:

  • Negates our truth / cancels our experience

Whilst traumatic, difficult, and representing loss, our adoptions are part of our experience, from before birth. Our adoptions shape and form who we are and should never be erased from our realities.

  • Ignores our frequent difficulties to love and bond

Being adopted sometimes means we will struggle to love attach, and form bonds, especially before we’ve emerged from the adoption fog. Not acknowledging that we are adopted puts unnecessary stress and pressure on the adoptee who may feel like there’s something wrong with them for not attaching/loving like they see others are able to do.

  • Ignores the difficulties of mental health that many adoptees have

By not weaving into communication the fact of the adoptee’s experience, the struggles may be put down to other contributors and overlook the difficulties associated with adjustment for adoptees.

So, if you’re thinking about adopting, or have already adopted, think about perhaps saying “I see you for all you are. I love you for all you are, and I will be there along the way in any way you need me to be”.

For the findings about steps to take to help psychological adjustment and wellbeing in the adopted person in your life, click here.

If you'd like to read the stories of other adoptees, How to be Adopted is in my opinion the best adoptee blog available in the UK.

If you're in London or the South East of England and need counselling or adoption related support, contact PAC-UK.




1 Comment

  1. Nick Turnbull on February 16, 2023 at 10:45 am

    I’m so so glad to have found this amazing , intelligent ,enlightened and supportive resource . My whole life has been one of struggle ,deep feelings of inadequacy and shame . I think I unfairly passed a lot of the blame to my adoptive parents ,and didn’t understand how severely the separation trauma had affected me and my ability to really connect with my adoptive parents. I find it impossible to understand how anyone could ever possibly believe that any child separated from it’s mother at birth or soon after could not be severely traumatized and frightened . I am still searching for ways to be relaxed and comfortable in my own skin and reduce feelings of anxiety and fear .. Like so many of us ,I have tried most chemical routes and after many many years of trying ,have come to the conclusion that all these paths just make the feelings much worse . I am a 61 year old male who so so wants to find some semblance of balance and structure ,and this site is offering me much hope ,and I am so glad that it’s an English community ,no offense to American people ,but this makes me feel much more comfortable and at home . Thankyou so much for this amazing work . Best wishes ,Nick Turnbull.

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