Adult wonders about birth mom

Q: I was adopted as I child. I can’t help wondering — why did my mom give me up? Why would any mom put her child up for adoption? I’ve been aware of the situation since I was small, and on the whole I’m very happy with my life, but I can’t get away from nagging thoughts and doubts about my birth mother; like, didn’t she care enough about me to raise me herself? How can I process these feelings?

Jim: It’s easy to understand why you’re continuing to struggle with these kinds of questions. Almost every adopted child goes through the same experience. You need to understand that under certain circumstances it can be very difficult — even impossible — for a woman to bring up a child. Perhaps your birth father was not living at the time. Maybe he had gone away and left your mother alone. In either case, she may not have had enough money to provide for you, or she might have been in ill health.

There might have been any number of reasons why your birth mother chose adoption, and felt it best to be out of the picture. It’s especially difficult if there’s little or no way to find out anything about her background, heritage or circumstances.

Obviously, we aren’t in a position to know the facts. But there is one thing I do know: Your birth mother must have loved you very much — enough to give you life and make sure you were raised in a loving home where you would be well cared for. She made a courageous choice. Maybe someday you’ll find the answers to your questions. But for now, hang on to that.

If you’d like to discuss your feelings at greater length, our counselors would be happy to help. Call 1-800-232-6459 or visit FocusOnTheFamily.com.

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Q: My girlfriend and I know we want to be together long-term. But we both grew up in broken homes, and we dread the thought of divorce if things go sour. It seems safer to just live together. We know other couples who seem happy with that approach, so why shouldn’t we do the same?

Greg Smalley, vice president, Family Ministries: It saddens me that so many people think the best way to avoid the pain of divorce is to skip marriage entirely. They say they don’t need a wedding ring or a piece of paper to prove they’re in love.

Living together outside of marriage is nothing new, so there’s plenty of research available to help determine if skipping the wedding really helps couples stay together. As a Christian, I think there are solid moral arguments against cohabitating. But even for those who don’t share that worldview, the weight of the evidence shows that the odds are against couples who don’t make a formal commitment to one another. Studies also indicate that cohabitating undermines the chances of future marital success.

It’s not feelings of love that makes a marriage endure, but commitment. Every relationship will encounter ups and downs, and there may even be times when the two of you don’t like each other very much. One study showed that married couples are 10 times more likely to stay together through difficult stretches than those who cohabitate.

Married couples are also happier on average. That’s because a thriving commitment helps husbands and wives feel safe with each other, and that enables them to build deeper love and intimacy. As the song says: “Put a ring on it.”

If you really want to avoid the pain of divorce, the answer isn’t to skip marriage altogether, but to commit to marriage wholeheartedly. That’s how you build a relationship that will last.

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Q: Is it OK to connect with former lovers on Facebook? While browsing online, I ran across an old boyfriend from my college days. We haven’t communicated for years, and I’m curious to know what he’s been up to. I love my husband and our relationship is strong, so I don’t see this as a threat to my marriage. Any advice?

Jim: Ironically, this is easier to address in the case of a troubled marriage. The more difficulty a couple is experiencing, the more obvious it should be that outside temptations or intrusions are not OK. In situations like that, the answer is a definite no.

But even when the marriage is strong, as you’ve indicated, the risks still far outweigh any potential benefits. For that reason, I’d advise you to talk this over with your husband at length before you decide anything. Your marriage is worth protecting. So be careful about exposing your relationship to threats of any kind, no matter how remote they may seem. Honestly evaluate your motives and discuss them with your husband before deciding together.

If you choose to go ahead and friend your old flame, make sure your own Facebook account intentionally reflects your healthy marriage. This will prevent your friend request being interpreted in the wrong way. It’s also important to consider what impact your actions may have on your old boyfriend’s relationship with his wife. While your marriage may be strong enough to accommodate the re-establishment of this friendship, your innocent overture could introduce a source of marital difficulty for them.

Connecting with old friends via social media can bring opportunities to share how you have respectively grown and flourished since you went your separate ways. But it can also get very tricky if it introduces tension, suspicion or jealousy — and that’s just not worth it. If you could use some help sorting this out, our counselors would be happy to talk. Call them at 855-771-4357.

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Q: Our sons are 6 and 4 years old. Like probably all parents, we want to raise them to be mature, responsible children. But we’re not quite sure how to go about that. Any suggestions?

Danny Huerta, vice president, Parenting and Youth: Maturity and responsibility are all about self-control. Some parents believe they can instill that into children by sheer force of will. In other words, by making them behave. It is possible for Moms and Dads to exert their authority and try to force their children to act a certain way — and at times, this may be necessary with young children. But overpowering your kids’ wills as a primary parenting strategy isn’t the way they’re going to learn self-control.

As your kids grow, the focus should increasingly be on helping them learn how to choose between wise and unwise decisions. The way they do that is by experiencing the consequences of their actions. Clearly lay out your expectations, then allow them to choose their own path. But make sure they know the consequences for their choices are theirs to bear. Wise decisions will earn them more freedom and opportunities, but unwise choices will cause them to lose more and more privileges.

Children will only grow into maturity if they learn to exercise self-control and to take responsibility for themselves. And that will only happen if we parents gradually take our hands off the choices our kids make and give them a chance to be accountable for their own actions.

For more tips to help your children thrive, visit FocusOnTheFamily.com.

— Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.

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