Familial Boundaries

For those of you who don’t know, I was adopted at 14 years old. My bio family was unhealthy and I was taken in by a family who attended our church at the time. While it would be easy to make this post about the first 14 years of my life, seeing that I have healed and processed those years, I have decided to focus this post on life after adoption.

Being adopted so late in life came with a whole host of challenges. I was forced to change schools, learn new family norms, and decide how invested I was going to be with my now, two families. It was difficult.

On top of the everyday stresses, every major life event became a trigger for extreme anxiety. It was impossible to please everyone. Senior year of high school I was nominated for homecoming court. It is tradition to have your parents walk you down the football field at half time. Seems like a simple thing but I remember crying on my way home that day crippled from the stress of having too many options and none that felt right.

My wedding, while a joyous occasion, was another stressful event in which I had too many family members and not enough boundaries. I didn’t know what role a brother, whom I only saw when our shared mother was having a manic episode, should play in our ceremony. Especially when all of my adoptive siblings were very invested in the day.  Inviting my bio family felt like inviting a group of familiar strangers. Thankfully we got through the day without too much drama.

 

I can remember after the wedding my brother in law posted one of the family pictures taken at my wedding on Facebook and I awkwardly had to ask him to remove it because it didn’t contain any of my bio siblings. This life just kept getting more complicated.

As I looked to one day having children who would share in this mess that I called family, I wanted more for them. I wanted less stress and cleaner boundaries. I didn’t want to have to explain why they had so many grandparents, aunts and uncles that they never saw. And why every birthday party was strained and made me a nervous wreck. I was tired of trying to juggle all of the people who felt like they had space to speak into my life. I needed more simplicity.

After much prayer, consideration and professional counseling I decided to separate myself completely from my bio family. This was not a rash or reactive decision but one out of a desire for less mess and more peace. It was and is not easy. But it has been so worth it.

I am a true believer in fighting for your own health; emotional, physical and mental. This decision effected all three for me. No longer do I have to run every Facebook picture through a long mental list of “who will this offend.” No longer do I have to make time for people who aren’t actually a part of my life. My days are no longer thrown by comments, calls or crises from people with whom I happen to share DNA. I fought for my peace, safety and security and the reward was great.

Boundaries are hard! Cutting unhealthy people out of your life often breeds a lot of judgement from those who have not walked in your shoes. I felt harsh, unloving and weak. But what I have learned is that I am better able to extend forgiveness when I am no longer being hurt. I learned that forgiveness and reconciliation are two different things and they don’t always go together. I think the creation of healthy boundaries are not understood because so few people set them. We stay in situations that bring us grief and that threaten our peace because we forget that we have the opportunity to make our futures different.

So here I am, post boundary setting, begging you to set some healthy boundaries of your own. Your mental space matters. Make steps into health. You won't regret it.