What Relationships Are Like For People Who Were In Foster Care

by Jessica Wendroff

Being taken away from your parents and placed in the foster care system at a young age can produce lasting, detrimental effects that can carry over into adulthood and infect future relationships.

The Northwest Foster Care Alumni performed a study, which concluded that 54.4 percent of alumni had significant mental health problems, including depression, social problems, anxiety and PTSD.

These results are due to foster care’s disruptive nature between a child and caregiver.

In turn, foster care children tend to struggle to attach, or become overly attached to caregivers. Sadly, attachment issues are deep-seated and tend to transfer from caregivers to partners.

As a result, foster care survivors tend to push people away, either through distancing or smothering others.

Those who distance have a lack of desire for a relationship because they fear being hurt and abandoned, so they prevent bonds altogether.

Others want to secure a relationship so badly they accidentally push partners away by suffocating them with neediness.

Unfortunately, I am one of those people who has excessive attachment issues.

I believe foster care is responsible for my possible adult separation-anxiety disorder. It took me years to understand why I acted how I did in my relationship; I was extremely needy and clingy and could never understand why.

Then, I began to think about my roots: I was taken away from my parents and placed into the foster care system when I was 8 years old.

Being ripped out of my home and relocated damaged my sense of identity. Being without my parents for a long time messed me up, but I didn’t realize how badly until I started to date.

Overly-attached thoughts can plague, poison and subconsciously kill relationships by placing too much pressure on a partner.

I hope other excessively-attached former foster care children can benefit and save their relationships after reading the following 10 unhealthy thoughts we commonly think:

You isolate your partner from his friends

Being in foster care can leave a person wary of separation and fearful a partner could leave and not come back.

In order to ensure your partner is safe and will stick around, you always want him or her by your side, in your view. You want your partner to be with you 24/7, 365.

You never get tired of him or her, and you're practically addicted to his or her smell, touch and love. Even if you are not interacting with this person, you still want his or her there to feel comforted.

You feel sad when your partner makes plans with friends because you fear the friends will negatively influence him or her and lure attention away from you.

You may love this person to pieces, but your partner's love for you will be in pieces if you keep him or her glued to your hip. Your actions leave your partner feeling cut off from friends and family, resulting in resentment toward you.

You can only keep someone on a tight leash for so long before he or she starts to gnaw at it.

You need constant validation and reassurance of love

You don’t just like texts or calls from your partner — you NEED them. If you don't get them, you will freak out with anxiety.

Thoughts like, “Did he/she lose feelings?” will plague your mind at any and all times, even if it has only been a few hours of no contact.

You need your partner not only to show you he or she cares about you through actions, but also to verbally confirm his or her feelings.

Even if this person thinks you should feel loved, you still need frequent daily reminders, which can make affection more of a tedious chore and less of a loving gesture.

You are extremely jealous

Every time your partner walks out the door, you worry he or she might leave you for someone else. Because of this mentality, other people become threats to you. Paranoia engulfs you when your partner is away.

You are so obsessed with these thoughts, you check your partner's phone, messages and email regularly. God help this person if he or she likes a "scandalous" photo on Facebook.

Unsurprisingly, strip clubs and porn become out-of-bounds. Green eyes of envy are not cute, and if you're not careful, your partner will vanish faster than you can imagine.

You find it difficult to trust your partner

It is very common for people who have been in foster care to have trouble trusting others because they have often been mistreated, emotionally and/or physically.

A partner can repeatedly prove to keep his or her word and prove he or she loves you, but you still won’t feel completely able to trust this person or cease questioning his or her love for you.

Said sense of distrust is very frustrating for both you and him, and will surely be a source of your relationship's downfall.

You have trouble sleeping alone

You need your partner next to you at night. This person is more essential than any blanket, pillow or teddy bear. If he or she isn't there, you toss and turn for hours on end, and may not be able to get any sleep at all.

Your partner’s presence normally makes you feel secure and safe, but his or her absence leaves you immensely lonely, restless and worried.

You may also experience nightmares.

You are afraid or unable to leave toxic relationships

Separation traumatized you at a young age, so you will avoid it at all costs. You will stay in unhealthy relationships, just so you don't have to deal with parting ways. You never want to cut ties; you can barely handle life without your partner for more than a few hours!

You care about this person so much, you would rather stay and be miserable than leave and deal with being alone.

You experience severe anxiety

You question everything when your partner is not around. Thoughts like, “Does he/she love me, or does he/she just say so?” play like a catchy song you hate, on repeat in your mind.

You know you’re tormenting yourself, but you can’t silence the thoughts. The torturous broken record never stops, which leads to fits of anxiety.

Like going through withdrawal, this feels like an anvil weighing down on your chest, rendering you unable to breathe when your partner has been away for too long.

You make your partner your world

You sacrifice everything and anything for your partner and begin to avoid doing activities alone or with other people. This person becomes more than a partner in crime; he or she becomes part of you.

Your partner is another ligament, and without him or her there, you feel incomplete and distressed.

You feel incapable and become afraid or hesitant to do things on your own, like go on trips for long periods of time or partake in new experiences.

You lose yourself

You are so used to being with your partner and doing what he or she likes to do, you neglect your own hobbies.

You forget how to be independent and don’t know what to do with yourself when you’re alone.

You don’t know who you are outside of your relationship anymore, and you don’t love yourself properly because this person's love has eclipsed all you formerly felt about yourself.

You lose your partner

A person can only take so much before feeling burnt out and eventually leaving.

A partner can give and give and give, but it still might not be enough for you. You smother your companion with doubts and create an unrealistic standard for him or her to live up to.

A partner can give you compliments, time, fidelity, trust, love and affection, but you will always want more. You have an insatiable appetite for this person that is impossible to appease.

You don’t intend to hurt him or her, but slowly, your partner will start to feel drained and unappreciated. This person is exhausted from your constant uncertainty and neediness, and finally calls it quits.

Please keep in mind the thoughts and consequences listed above are very extreme, but are also very real to 6.6 percent of people. Many don't realize the strains they put on their partners until it is too late.

The first step to recovering from these obsessive thoughts and habits is to recognize they are unhealthy. Next, you must actively improve your state of mind. Develop and nurture your own identity, interests, friendships and independence.

If you don't, you risk onerously burdening your partner with the responsibility to fulfill your need for happiness.

Only you are responsible for filling your needs and emotional voids. You have to come first, so you must make yourself your top priority. You have to learn to be the center of your universe and love yourself inside and out.

You can love someone to the moon and back, but you have to remember to be the sun.

Loving yourself may be the hardest action you ever perform, but it is worthwhile; it's the foundation for future relationships.

A person's roots can be ripped out and damaged, but they can also be replanted and replenished. Insecurities can improve if you have a positive attitude and embrace who you are. Constantly remind yourself a partner is a want, not a need.

You must grow separately and then intertwine with another, rather than intertwining from the start.

Learn to give your partner space to breathe, and do the same for yourself. Focus on your career, image, hobbies, family, friendships and goals. Remind yourself that just because your partner doesn’t see you every day doesn’t mean he or she loves you any less.

Disorders are like demons; you can’t see them, but they very much affect you. Everyone has his or her own demons, and for some, those demons are born out of the foster care system.

Hopefully, adult separation anxiety disorder is not the name of your demon, but if it is, I wish you nothing but the strength to overcome it and learn to love yourself — and others — the correct way, complete with space and trust.