Magnetic Partners

What pulled you together may be pulling you apart.

Adult Adoptees in Relationships: Eleven Red Flags to Avoid Future Abandonment

Who would knowingly marry someone who was going to leave them?

After counseling countless adult adoptees in couple's therapy I've found that far too many are susceptible to choosing partners who will eventually abandon them. The choice is usually an unconscious one. After all, who'd knowingly marry someone who was going to leave them? But if adult adoptees can come to the realization that they may have a tendency to replicate the adoption process of being "given away," they might be better able to avoid choosing a partner that will someday leave them. If you're an adult adoptee here are eleven red flags that may indicate that a potential partner "may" one day put you back up for adoption:

  • 1. If one of your partner's parents abandoned the other...or your partner. We learn from our parents. If there's a history of abandonment in your chosen partner's family of origin he or she may be more likely to replicate it.
  • 2. If your partner avoids or runs from stressful situations. Do you remember the saying: "When the going gets tough, the tough get going"? Well in this case "get going" may mean "going out of town...fast"
  • 3. If your relationship has been repeatedly "on and off." You'll be particularly vulnerable if your partner is usually the one who suggests ending it.
  • 4. If your partner has a history of ending relationships. There are many people who've never been broken up with—they've always initiated breakups—they've always beat their partners to the punch. These individuals tend to have a need for control and are much more likely to leave you when they tire of the relationship.
  • 5. If your partner has a history of quitting in other contexts: jobs, school, or projects. People who don't finish things are less likely to stick around for the long haul.
  • 6. If your partner "threatens" to end your relationship with relative frequency. This is what I call "bringing a knife to a gun fight." Abandoners have a tendency to do this. You might be having a heated discussion with your partner and all of a sudden he or she suggests a split.
  • 7. Partners who rarely tell you how they feel. Some are passive aggressive—and that's dangerous enough. But many just keep things in until they explode or grossly overreact. The result: they end the relationship—you feel blindsided—and it's too late to fix it in part, because they won't let you.
  • 8. If your partner is angry about a prior injustice, he or she may be more likely to displace this anger onto you.
  • 9. You're more at risk with a partner who has a tendency to "lie." Why? Because he or she might not be honest with you about his or her commitment to the relationship.
  • 10. If your partner hasn't quite recovered from his or her former relationship—particularly if it was a long-term relationship. Old ties die hard.
  • 11. Partners who come on unusually strong and are extremely seductive may be practitioners of a seduce-abandonment dynamic. The seducer lures you with a blitz of affection, compliments, and passionate sex, but as soon as he or she conquers you—and you're under control—you're dumped!

Although some of these signs may not resonate with all adult adoptees, being more vigilant about potential losses may help to prevent replication.

Stephen J. Betchen, D.S.W., is the author of the book Magnetic Partners.

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