Continuing family connections

This page looks at how Family Relationships can develop after the initial meeting with a birth relative. The majority of relationships following a reunion between adopted people and their birth relatives continue to develop after the initial meeting.

The positive benefits of seeking a family connection

The honeymoon period

Genetic sexual attraction

Finding the balance

When one person wants the relationship to develop faster

Remember you have support

The positive benefits of seeking a family connection

Many adopted people describe the contact and reunion experience as being positive and enriching with close and enduring relationships being developed with birth relatives.

Adopted people have said that the contact and reunion experience has enhanced their sense of identity and brought many personal benefits including ‘mental wellbeing’ and ‘closeness.’

The majority of birth parents are also pleased to have been contacted by the adopted person and have said that the reunion has been a positive experience.

A lot of adopted people fear that their adoptive parents may be upset by the contact and reunion with birth family members. However, a study of Adoption Search and Reunion experience showed that the majority of adoptive parents said that in fact it had brought many benefits and the outcome had been good despite initial concerns about the outcome and whether their son or daughter would be hurt in the process.

Nonetheless, the nature of relationships can vary significantly and a range of difficult issues can arise which are worth discussing here.

The honeymoon period

It’s common for many adopted people and their birth relatives to encounter an initial honeymoon period following their first meeting(s). This is typified by frequent contact and is a period of great excitement and discovery. Depending on the situation this period can also involve introductions to other birth relatives and friends.

The amount of time the honeymoon period lasts varies from relationship to relationship but over time most relationships settle into a slower rhythm and less frequent contact is common.
During this early period, it’s tempting to focus on nurturing this new relationship to the exclusion of other elements of your life. This relationship with your birth relative is a new and untested one, but because of your biological connection it can be easy to invest heavily and, as previously said, sometimes to the exclusion of your existing family and/or partner.

Genetic sexual attraction

A sensitive aspect of reunions, which needs highlighting, is the possibility of Genetic Sexual Attraction. While it may not happen very often, we know that it can happen and it is therefore crucial to know about this phenomenon in case it happens to you.

This is where the complex emotions discussed above take on a romantic or sexual dimension in the absence of clear boundaries developed over time in a shared environment. Nobody knows exactly why this occurs or how common it is (despite some alarmist reports in the media) but it is an established phenomenon which can occur.

This can sound like a scary topic but really describes a fairly common set of feelings and emotions that can lead to difficulties if people misunderstand what is happening and act on intense emotion. You are meeting a stranger who may look like you, sound like you and even have similar mannerisms, which can lead to a strong bond between you.  You may have been wondering what they would be like for many years so when you meet it is common for people to develop intense feelings at the outset and to find themselves thinking about their birth relative to the exclusion of others.

If you feel these emotions, try not to worry as these feelings aren’t uncommon.  It is important not to act on the feelings or to form a sexual relationship and to remember that these obsessive feelings will pass in time.

Finding the balance

The key factor to consider with ongoing Family Relationships is to ensure that you find a balance regarding what you both wish to get out of it. It doesn’t really matter if you wish to see each other every day or write to each other once a year – the important thing is that you both feel comfortable and happy with the contact arrangements you have.

Therefore try to be as open as you can with each other to prevent any misunderstandings so that you can settle in to a relationship that you both enjoy.   

When one person wants the relationship to develop faster

Sometimes a situation may arise when one half of the new relationship is more committed and enthusiastic than the other about getting to know their new relative and wants to go at a faster pace.

This is why it is important to talk openly to your birth relative at the start of your relationship journey. By talking about your expectations and hopes and laying the ‘ground rules’ at the beginning, it can make it easier later on to raise subjects that can be difficult to talk about.

This might include, for example, letting them know that you need more space and time to develop a relationship, or if something has upset you during your communication with one another.

In any relationship there will be ups and downs and where compromises need to be made to ensure that you navigate and develop your relationship in a way that is comfortable for you both.

Remember you have support

While we know that many relationships following a reunion can develop close and enduring bonds that continue through the adopted person and their birth relative’s lives some unfortunately can run into difficulty. There may be a major fall-out and disagreement along the way, which can be upsetting, and cause a great deal of distress for you both and perhaps other members of your family too.

At such times, don’t forget to seek support and advice from your support network or speak to an adoption advisor or your intermediary, as they may be able to help you to manage a way forward and see if it can be resolved.    

  • Was this helpful ?
  • Yes   No

Our Voices

Elizabeth’s story: my journey as an adoption foundling

Elizabeth, a foundling, opens up about her journey discovering her background, who she was and meeting her birth relatives for…

John-george’s story: tracing my records as a care leaver

Tracing records and family origins can be a daunting journey for adults who grew up in care. Here John-george shares…

Julia’s story: my experience with adoption and how FamilyConnect will help fill the gaps

Julia Feast OBE, describes her experience working with care leavers and those impacted by adoption and how our new FamilyConnect…

Introducing our new FamilyConnect website

David Holmes CBE, Chief Executive Family Action introduces our new FamilyConnect service, helping adults who have been adopted or in…
View more