Is Loving Without Attachment An Enlightened Disorder?

Louisa Leontiades Adoptee Experience, Complicated Roots

There’s a lot written about love on this site. There’s not a lot written about love for my adopted mother. And even less written about love for my biological mother. Surprisingly, this is because I do love her. And unlike me, she has a need for privacy which I respect.

In 1994, I returned to the UK from Cyprus, over the age of consent and ready to find the piece of the puzzle that had been missing in my life for so long. To find my real mother and find out why she had abandoned me. Had I been a child of rape? Did she not care enough to keep me? Or had she been forced to give me up by angry parents?

The truth of the matter was that I was just like many other adoptees in the 1970s, unplanned, conceived outside of marriage by a young mother and simply given up almost as a matter of course, because societal shame at that time dictated giving a bastard child some sort of legitimacy, some sort of status, instead of facilitating what a baby really needed ~ motherly love. It meant I had a better chance in our world. It was for my own good (I truly believe that although it took me years).

But over the years, my biological mother had grown to be an adult. More confident in her decisions and her self-esteem. She had added herself to the list of  ‘mothers-who-want-to-be-found’ which meant that finding her…was a piece of cake.

This is not the story of how I found my mother then, because there is no story. I called the agency, they told me, we got in contact and then met. There were letters, phone calls and identifications. We shared baby photos, I met my amazing new brothers. But, no. It’s not that story.

This is the story of how and why I let those I love, like the mother I found …easily drift away from me.

It’s also for you if you do the same, but don’t know why.

It was a lady called Suzanne who helped me find my natural mother. She worked in the social services port-a-cabin at my university. She was also adopted and thrilled to help me find my natural parents amid her usual case load of student addiction and abortion counselling. We fell in love she and I, bonded over our mutual histories. We spent two years in daily contact because we were in the same town.

I would have said at the time, that the bond she and I shared was thicker than blood (after all I didn’t have any blood to compare it to). But when she moved away, she contacted me only very occasionally. I was fine with it. Because over the years, I’ve noticed that I am the same. Those who aren’t with me, quickly pass from my mind. Those who don’t make the effort to keep me in their lives, well, don’t. Because I don’t bother either. They are gone.

It’s an arrogant behaviour and not one I am proud of. It’s quite possibly why, after 2 years of intimate blogging, this is my first mention of it. It’s also because it is only now I begin to perceive that I operate differently to others. Absence does not make my heart grow fonder, only colder.

In therapeutic terms, there’s a concept called object constancy [Beyond the Borderline Personality]. Lack of object constancy occurs in adults when there is a failure to form normal attachments to primary care giving figures in early childhood. The lack of continuity (constancy) in the caregiver, means that the child learns that constancy ~ or presence ~ is not a given. In fact love, simply comes and goes, and it’s better not to get too attached. Needless to say, ‘lack of object constancy’ is a fairly common phenomenon in adoption.

For me, it means that even the most important relationships, even those I truly love have no sense of continuity in my mind…if those people are not in my immediate vicinity, my emotions for them shut down. I literally don’t care. So if a person is absent for long enough, I am unable to maintain loving feelings for them. It’s why I am so very capable of loving in the present, because it is the only thing that exists.

We all ‘get over’ loved ones absence of course. The question is how long does it take and whether you are conscious of warmly loving them despite it. In me, a week or two is enough to sever the connection whereas with others it might takes months or years.

Long distance contact, letters, texts, phone calls, emails they just don’t happen in my life. My father for example still lives in Cyprus. We have little to no contact. My adoptive mother lives in England. Again, no contact (for this and a good many other reasons). Once upon a time I wrote this off as lack of bonding with my adopted parents. But the same happens with friends, once close friends, and more importantly my biological family with whom, when I lived in England, I had started to develop a deep ~ and I thought at the time ~  lasting relationship. Turns out, not so much.

Out of sight, no longer connected. Just like it had to be with my mother, for me to survive.

It’s not that I can’t develop the most loving and amazing connections with people. I do, sincerely. But only when I am with them. I see inside their souls,I open up and can fall in love in an instant. But if they leave for periods of time, I have an automated off switch that allows me to function amazingly well, to the point where my feelings are cut. I don’t mourn. I am not miserable. Because I don’t care. And long distance love just doesn’t cut it for me. I get on with life, with the people who are physically present. I love deeply, but I do not attach.

There are wonderful people in my life right now. But they are not more wonderful than people before. They are simply present (fortunately for me Facebook is an enabler for some semblance of presence for those friends abroad and it can generate feelings in me. It’s a great long distance relationship maintainer).

I have no doubt that this is a direct consequence of my being relinquished by my biological mother, and subsequent adoption by my narcissist mother. It’s a modus operandi which has worked really well for me in the past. But now, it may be starting to cause a problem for me (and not just others). Indeed until now, I didn’t realise that it was actually a problem for others, I just assumed that they felt the same way as I did. That I didn’t really exist for them, if I wasn’t there.

But recently my biological mother said it. She was frustrated and angry although she is far too wise to create any conflict I could perceive as rejection (which was another sure way in the past, for me to shut down).

‘Just write to him for his birthday. It’s contact your brother wants, not a present.’

They don’t understand me. And I don’t understand them. Family for them is everything, no matter how we are scattered across the globe. But, you see, they grew up together.

I rarely call anyone. I rarely pick up the phone truth to be told. I have to force myself to answer texts and emails. It’s a painful duty.

Contact it appears, is important for other people to keep relationships alive. It’s not for me to keep loving them when I meet them. I just pick up with people where I leave off and expect them to do the same. It might be a month, it might be 10 years. I can recreate the magic. If they re-enter my life, then they are as brightly and vibrantly re-loved.

But of course, by them I am not. They feel neglected and hurt. Unloved.

Forcing myself as a matter of duty to contact people I don’t care about throws me in a panic. I’m not good with ‘should’. And doing something, saying something if I don’t feel it, feels like a lie.

But then there’s the alternative. Which is losing people that I know I love, even if at that moment I just don’t think about them.