When Family Doesn’t Act Like It

Remember that ride the inalienable bond of biology takes you on?  It will confuse people and may even piss them off; triggering alienation and manipulation like it did to Katie in the 3rd episode from my podcast Sex, Lies & the Truth.  Personally I had some very well-meaning people say very harsh and stupid things when I was discovering my DNA story.  What people say and do at this stage is not a statement about who you are; it comes from their deep well of insecurity and fear.  Please read that again.  The fifth characteristic of Parental Identity Discovery™ (PID) is when family systems will often do whatever it takes to keep the status quo, including emotionally beating you into submission.  If you hear yourself asking on a loop “how can they do/say this?”  It all comes down to this: they cannot understand what this feels like or how it affects you.  They may never understand, and in the worst situations they won’t give you the chance to explain it to them.

unknown source
Source: unknown source

The best reference is taken from adoptive families, knowing at some point their chosen child may seek to find biological relatives.  The reason for this is the innate desire to know where we come from physically as well as historically.  Our identity requires it and the drive to do so is that inalienable bond of biology.  You may experience it as a compulsion you cannot stop.  I suggest you don’t stop it, pursue it until you feel complete.  You will find obstacles along the way, perhaps even some dead ends, but finding a resolution is essential.  People struggle the longest when there is no closure.

When I sought to meet my biological father, the expected initial forms of contact – by telephone and mail – were not working.  He is a very private man with no social media or desire for much outside contact.  I knew I personally needed a resolution and had prepared myself (with the help of my genealogist) for the worst case scenario – rejection.  So I set out to knock on his door and get answers to who I am.  At first he denied who he was and sent me away, claiming the man I sought no longer lived there.  I was confused and emotional – so I left.

Ten minutes later I realized I couldn’t live with that half-assed resolution so went back and took my husband’s suggestion to eliminate the soft entry and just put it all out there.  Armed with his high school photo on my phone, I thrust it in his face asking if it was him.  Two hours of conversation later I learned he knew about me from conception, I have a brother and ancestral history that explained my unnatural preoccupation with Scotland.  The inalienable bond of biology had already told me I was of Scottish ancestry but I just had no context with which to understand it – until that day.

Rene Bohmer/Unsplash
Source: Rene Bohmer/Unsplash

On my way home that day I swear I could feel the molecules of my identity realigning, it was practically painful. Certainly confusing and overwhelming!  My known family had a very adverse reaction to this discovery and subsequent developing relationship.  The internal struggle of coming to terms with the discovery was nothing compared to the fight with people who claimed to love me, but treated me with disdain, even contempt. There were moments when I thought I had made a huge mistake in pursing the information and finding bio dad.

Then I remembered that I was the person picking up the pieces of a story that I wasn’t the author of and trying to make sense of it.  It is very hard to tell the mothers of PID/NPE children that they are no longer in control of the narrative or what happens because of it, but the simple truth is that they owned the story up until you discovered it.  Now you own the story.  You have become the innocent beneficiary of circumstance, and despite what family will say to keep you quiet, it is about you.  Now that you know, you have the right to direct the outcome.

Once you have engaged in reunion with bio family and if your known family gets hurt, I find the best response is, "I’m sorry I can’t make this better for you, I’m trying to make it better for myself and maybe you can help."  I wish I had said that.  I can’t guarantee the results of course, but I would have felt better about myself.

James Besser/Unsplash
Source: James Besser/Unsplash

One of the guilt trips I received was why I was forsaking family that loved me.  They had a really screwed-up way of showing it with the rejection, cold shoulders and manipulation.  Here’s what I did say, "I’ve had a lifetime to identify with my Italian side, now I’m learning about the Scottish side – in a very condensed period."  Again, no guaranteed results, but I did feel good about myself that time.

In the next blog I’ll explore the experience of being in reunion with biological family and the unexpected limitation of connecting at someone else’s pace.

How to handle manipulation and rejection from the ones you love
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Finding Family
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Have you been shunned by family after shocking DNA results? A few tips about managing family relationships when the lie has been revealed
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