To P.F.V. With Love (A Message For Young Adoptees)

It’s four in the morning, and I can’t sleep. I’m thinking about P.F.V. He was my dearest friend in high school, the person who got me through bad breakups and rough times with my adoptive parents. He was always there for me, the steadfast one, my white knight. The time we dated was one of the happiest in my life. But I screwed it up, and twenty years later I continue to be haunted by that.

He was tall and handsome, with dark hair and the brightest blue eyes you’ve ever seen. We met, of all places, at a church retreat, which was ironic because neither of us were particularly into church although we went to the same Catholic parish. I was at the retreat because my adoptive mother insisted I be confirmed, just like she insisted upon controlling everything else in my life. But in my own rebellious way I brought a copy of Heinlein’s Stranger In A Strange Land along to keep me company. (Which I was reading, quite honestly, for the science fiction and not the sex. I prefer The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress.) This boy and I started talking science fiction and it was instant chemistry. He played a cherry-red guitar in the church band and could do a mean version of the bass line from Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain. I’ll always picture him with a gray cap on his head and an extra pick stuck through the strings. He was a tinkerer and could solder just about anything, which impressed me because I was always more of a software girl. He made me earrings out of old computer parts. I still have them. He became my confidant, my best friend and later my boyfriend–wonder of wonders for the geek girl who never got the guy.

Our breakup wasn’t his fault, it was mine. There was this one incident that shouldn’t have meant anything, and yet. thinking back on it, I think it was the catalyst that drove me to push him away. We were at a big celebration with his family, who had always been very accepting of me. By this point we were high school seniors and considered ourselves engaged. A picture was to be taken of his entire family, his parents and many brothers and sisters and their spouses. I posed, too, but his parents took me aside and gently explained that it was a family picture. I walked away, brimming with tears. He tried to console me, but somehow at that moment everything changed, not that I understood it at the time. I suddenly realized subconsciously that even if I married him I would never be truly part of his family, truly part of ANY family. My adoptive parents had always been horrible and I had no way to find my birth family who probably didn’t want me, either. The wound cut deep, yet another rejection. A scant few months later I broke up with him in the worst possible way, cutting him out of my life so completely there would be no turning back.

Time gives one perspective, as does the research I’ve done over the years on what it is to be adopted and the crazy things adoptees sometimes do. But mostly, it was finding and losing my birth mother (again) that really crystallized this situation for me. I understand now what happened, and although it changes nothing, maybe young adoptees can learn from my experience and stop themselves before they make horrible mistakes like this.

I wish I’d known, growing up, about the impact of adoption on my life. I wish I’d realized that I was pushing him away out of fear of being rejected myself. Apparently it’s something we adoptees sometimes do, sabotaging our relationships with the people around us. Now, I don’t think all adoptees sabotage relationships, and I’m sure non-adoptees have issues with relationships and other aspects of their lives, too. But I think, as adoptees, we don’t always consider the impact being adopted has on ourselves, especially when we’re young. Knowing these things now doesn’t excuse or condone what I did. I can’t even offer him an apology because I don’t think what I did can be forgiven. I betrayed him, betrayed our friends, ran away to college in another city and into the arms of the first man I found there, in what was perhaps a subconscious attempt to recreate the “sins” of my “wanton” birth mother as she had always been portrayed by my adoptive parents. I guess I wanted to prove that I was horrible enough not to deserve someone as good and kind as him. In many ways I feel guilty even writing this, like I have no right to remember him at all.

Later I legally changed my name to the one he called me, Triona, in honor and in penance, so that every time someone speaks my name I am reminded of what I did, and who I am. I don’t feel I have the right to look him up and find out if he had a good life. I hope so. I hope he was able to move beyond the messed-up girl he once dated and find happiness.

Wherever you are, P.F.V., I’m sorry and I wish you the best, always.


  1. You brought tears to my eyes. What a touching story. You never know. . .he may be watching or looking. If so, then you have said what you needed to say without justifying yourself in the least. I can understand how that incident must have set you off.

    You know, it’s true that losses magnify other losses. Had you not been adopted you might not have recognized the threads. That is also just an observation, not a justification.

  2. Thanks, osolomama. I just wish I had known then what I know now about how adoption has affected me. I suppose anyone could say they wish they knew more in their youth, but I can’t ever remember talking about adoption or having a role model who was adopted, when I was growing up. So a lot of things blindsided me when they set off how I felt about being adopted. Still do.

  3. I think your words are beautiful and I wish there was some way for him to read them.

  4. Thanks, Amanda. I do, too.

  5. Miss Triona:
    Relationship Sabotage is definitely a part of Adoptee behavior that we don’t seem to talk about. I wonder why that is? Do we not know we do it?

    I have a very similiar story so I completely related to this and feel absolute heartbreak for all 4 of us.

    I think MOST adoptees sabotage relationships. It is just another facet of how adoption infects like a slow creepting fatal disease one’s soul.

    I had the love of my life that I know I would have married. I myself was so afraid of being left I worked on making sure that he left me first. I adored this guy, T.S., and feel such heartache from time to time over this. Not so much for the loss, but knowing that I hurt him so badly. Living with that is tough.

    Thanks for writing this. I wish I had words to say to you, but sadly if I did I would be saying them to myself.

    I think the positive that will come from you blog on this subject is hopefully this part of adoptee behavior will be out more in the open. And then…as you said younger adoptees can recognize this and catch it before they lose the love of their lives as you and I did.

    Much Love Girl,
    Chynna Girl

  6. Thanks for writing, Chynna, and I am sorry to hear about your experience. I think adoptees do have a tendency to sabotage relationships, mostly unintentionally. They say relationship skills first form within the family, but if your first experience with a relationship is being surrendered, what impact does that have?

    I would be interested in hearing from first moms if you have similar experiences, if having to surrender your child had later impacts on other relationships in your life?

    Adoption has such far-reaching and life-long consequences. I wish people would stop seeing it as a catch-all solution.

  7. http://Anonymous says

    My heart is heavy after reading this. I did so much pushing/pulling/running/chasing when I was young that it makes my head spin just thinking about it.

    I also hurt my first love. But 20 years later I did look him up. The one thing being adopted does give us is good detective skills. So I found him, married and happy and I felt a sense of peace in that. Five years later we still have contact with one another and it’s all good.

    You never know, he might need some closure from what happened. An apology, even 10, 20, 30 years later is better than none at all. I don’t know if you are married or not, that certainly could affect your decision. But if you’re not, well, you just never know. Had my 1st (and me) not been married things might have been different.

    What’s interesting for me now though, as an adoptee awake at the wheels, is that I’m doing the opposite. I’m in a marriage I really want out of (and have for years) and yet I stay because I’m afraid that leaving would just be me being adopted.

  8. Hi Anonymous–Thanks for writing. I confess I am very nervous about the thought of looking him up. As I said, I really feel I don’t have a right to barge in on his life after what I did. It might bring me closure but I’m not sure that’s worth potentially causing him pain.

    I’m married, and my husband is aware of this previous relationship (actually met him early in our own relationship, *that* was interesting). I doubt my husband would have a problem with me looking him up, he’s very understanding about the whole thing and is well aware of my feelings. He reads my blog, too. 😉

    My sympathies on your current situation. I have found myself in situations like that prior to getting married. I think as adoptees it’s important for us to forge our own identities outside of relationships with significant others, friends or even our birth and adoptive families. It’s really hard, because we, or at least I, feel like we don’t have identities to begin with so we base them on the people around us. Maybe non-adopted people do that too. I’ve never been not adopted so I don’t know. 😉 But I think it’s easy for us to want to please others by being what they want instead of being our true selves, because we’re so afraid of rejection.

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  10. Hi Improper–I’m sorry about your experiences. I can relate, especially about being teased by other kids in school. I totally agree with you about how the adoption industry messes us up, then comes back to us later and says we need their (ultra-expensive and unnecessary) therapy. That alone drives me insane! I’m not sure my friend realized that my reaction was adoption-related, especially since I didn’t either, at the time. It’s only now in hindsight that I realize where my reaction came from. Things like that happen in my life when I get all upset out of proportion to a situation and only now does the light bulb come on that says, “duh! adoption moment!” I hope he has forgiven me, although to be honest I don’t think I can ever forgive myself. Like osolomama said, it’s an explanation but not a justification.

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  13. Improper–Yeah, I got the psychiatric treatment too, merely for having a different personality (e.g. noncompliant) than the one my adoptive parents wanted. They wanted a tabula rasa but I came with my own feelings and ideas and it wasn’t what they signed up for. I have a big problem with therapists who are all about the money.

    Forgiving oneself is really hard, especially when adoption gives you the message that You Are Not Worthy. But I’ll try. 🙂

    As for APs who don’t tell the truth rotting in hell, let’s just say I hope my adoptive father, who passed on about five years ago, is having to answer some hard questions in the afterlife.