Becoming a parent is a huge decision. If you are considering growing your family through adoption, you may be excited to begin the process. However, if your spouse isn’t sure about adopting, you may have to put your plans on hold. As a married couple, big decisions should be carefully contemplated and agreed upon by both partners. You wouldn’t consider buying a new home without your spouse’s input, and neither should you pursue adoption if your spouse isn’t completely on board with the decision. Honest and open communication will be key in determining how to proceed. It’s worth mentioning that in many cases, one parent will be more excited about adoption than the other, especially in the beginning. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t want to adopt. Perhaps they are just being cautious. After all, there are many questions to ask and many scenarios to prepare for. When approaching the idea of adoption with your significant other, the following suggestions may be helpful.
1. Share Your Reasons for Wanting to Adopt:
If you have always dreamed of becoming a mom or dad, raising a child can be a fulfilling and joyous experience. If you have struggled with infertility or miscarriage, those dreams can seem to crumble before your eyes. These scenarios can be truly devastating. It is important to take the time to grieve and to heal. Even when faced with these difficult circumstances, hope is not lost. Becoming a parent is still quite possible! Adopting a child can be just as rewarding as having a child biologically. It’s all about love. If you are willing to provide a stable home and a caring environment for a child, chances are you will make an amazing parent.
Some couples choose to adopt even when they already have biological children. Others choose to adopt rather than trying to conceive. Some have a heart for children in foster care- wanting to provide a permanent, loving home for one or more children who need one. Whatever your reasons for considering adoption, make them known to your spouse. Explain to your partner why becoming a parent is important to you. Share your hopes, your dreams, and the emotions you may be feeling. Talk to him or her–not at them–and express exactly how you feel that adoption will be beneficial to your family.
2. Be Patient and Listen with an Open Mind
If your spouse is hesitant to consider adoption, he will likely have valid reasons. It is important that you are willing to listen to his concerns. It’s difficult to be patient when you want something so badly, but your spouse’s thoughts and feelings are just as valid as your own. Prepare to listen to his concerns with an open mind and try not to cut him off or become upset when he is speaking. Let him know that you care very much about what he has to say, and take it all into consideration.
Perhaps your partner is still grieving. Miscarriage and/or infertility can really do a number on a person. Your spouse may be having a difficult time letting go of the idea of having a biological child. She may be concerned that she won’t be able to form a bond with a child that isn’t hers biologically. She may be worried that she will hold resentment or that her grief has built a wall that will make loving an adopted child more difficult for her.
Your spouse may be concerned about the adoption process. Adoption can be costly. Is this a financial commitment you are prepared to make as a couple? You will have to find an adoption agency that meets your needs and often an attorney to make sure things go smoothly. There are background checks, home studies, and numerous classes to attend. All of this can seem daunting and a bit intimidating.
Your spouse may be worried about what others will think. When couples adopt, they often face questions from friends, family, and coworkers. Even when well-meaning, some questions can come across as rude and uneducated. It can get tiresome having to explain things over and over.
It could be that your spouse doesn’t know what to expect. If you adopt an infant, will he or she be healthy? If you adopt an older child, will she have a trauma history? What if the birth mother changes her mind and the adoption fails? Speaking of the birth parents, what will they be like and how will they be involved in your family’s life? If you adopt a child of another race or ethnicity, will you know how to properly care for them (both physically and emotionally)?
These are all very common concerns. There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking questions, and, to be honest, it would be silly to jump into such a life-altering decision without a bit of caution. Listen carefully to your partner’s words and try to understand his reluctance. Try to remember that just because she isn’t 100% certain about adoption, it doesn’t mean that she is totally against it either.
3. Do Your Research
We often fear what we don’t understand. Doing some research can help to calm anxiety about what all is involved in the adoption process. Consider the questions your partner is facing and be honest with yourself about your own concerns. Research the adoption laws and requirements in your state. Take a realistic look at the costs of adoption, whether through an agency, an attorney, or through the foster care system. Learn about the adoption tax credit and any assistance that may be available to help you. Check your employer’s policy about parental leave when adopting a child. If your partner is willing, go speak with an agency for a no-obligation information session or request reading material on the subject. The more information you have, the fewer unanswered questions remain.
4. Talk to Those Who Have Been There
Consider speaking with parents who have already adopted children or are in the process of adopting. They have likely felt very similar emotions and asked lots of the same questions you and your spouse may have. While every journey is different, there will be similarities as well. Their experience can help to guide you as you navigate this new territory. There are support groups available for adoptive parents and foster parents. If adoption feels very foreign and unfamiliar to your spouse, speaking openly about related topics can help to normalize it.
If you don’t personally know anyone who has adopted a child, it may be helpful to find an online support group. These are often very casual groups where members can post what and when they want to, without having to sit face to face. This can make questions more comfortable to ask. Some people also find it easier to type their thoughts instead of trying to speak them out loud. Encourage your partner to explore the group. Even if he isn’t comfortable posting, he may find understanding and education among the posts. There are likely several stories of reluctant spouses, each with their own reasoning and each with their own decisions.
5. Speak with a Professional
Some people hear the word therapy and think, “No, that’s not for me.” Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! Whether you choose individual counseling, couples counseling, or group therapy, talking with a trained professional can help you and your significant other to explore your feelings. If you are dealing with grief or anxiety, you can learn coping skills. If you are struggling to express yourself, you may find it easier to speak your mind in a safe and confidential environment.
There are also other types of professionals who can help. If you have chosen an adoption agency, they will be happy to help you and your partner find answers to any lingering questions you may have. They will be realistic, yet reassuring as they help you decide whether adoption is a viable option for your family. If you are considering adopting through the foster care system, speak with a social worker about what to expect and learn about any resources (such as training & support groups) that may be available to you. Write down any questions you and your partner may have, especially those that leave either of you feeling unsure about adopting.
6. Consider Pros and Cons: How Will Adopting Impact Your Life?
Again, speak openly and honestly with your spouse as you brainstorm the pros and cons of adopting a child or children. Consider the best-case scenarios and the worst-case scenarios and decide how you would work through those situations as a team. Talk about how adopting will impact your life in many aspects.
- Are you financially prepared to adopt? If not, are you able to budget and save as well as exploring fundraising and other resources? If finances are the main reason your spouse is iffy about the adoption process, have you considered adopting a child through foster care? This is often a less costly path to adopting.
- How will this affect your social life? Having children, whether biological or adopted, definitely changes your lifestyle. Are you prepared for the changes a child will bring?
- How will this affect your family? How will you tell your parents and other relatives? If you have other children, how will you approach the subject with them?
- Is your home prepared for a new family member? Depending on the number of children you plan to adopt and their ages, you will have to make appropriate room in your home. Whether you are setting up a nursery for a baby or a room for siblings, consider what will be involved in preparing your home for a larger family.
- How will this affect your relationship? Let’s be honest. While parenting brings overwhelming joy, it also has moments of stress and burn out. Children require lots of time and attention. Sharing responsibilities can keep exhaustion at bay. If your spouse is concerned about your relationship being affected, it may be smart to plan date nights and have a trusted babysitter on standby.
- How will this affect your careers? If you choose to adopt, will you both be able to work full-time? Will one of you become a stay-at-home parent or will you seek child care?
- If you do decide to adopt, what types of adoption are you interested in pursuing? Infant adoption? Older child or sibling group adoption? Domestic or international adoption? Are you open to adopting a child with special needs? How about a child that is a different race or ethnicity than your own? Are you prepared to meet the cultural needs of a child whose background differs from your own? These are all important questions to discuss with your partner before deciding whether to adopt.
Keep the Conversation Going, But Don’t Be Pushy
If your partner feels overwhelmed by your constant desire to talk about adoption, it may only push her further away. It can be helpful to set aside a scheduled time each week to discuss it. When you speak, remember to also listen. If the mood feels tense, it may be best to let it rest for a while. Sharing your own fears about adoption may help your spouse to open up about his reasoning behind his uncertainty. Asking him about his happy childhood memories and about traditions he would like to pass down to his own children may help to spark some excitement about the subject.
Make time for each other! Take a break from talking about adoption, infertility treatments, and children in general. Date each other. Laugh. Remember what it is that you love about your partner. You have chosen her for a reason. This is the person you will spend the rest of your life with, and whether children are a part of it or not, it is important that you enjoy each other’s company. If not having children is a deal-breaker for you, then make sure you seek therapy before issuing any type of ultimatum. You don’t want to say or act in a way that you may later regret.
Remember that your partner’s reluctance may not mean “No.” It may just mean, “Not right now.” While patience isn’t easy, it is sometimes required. Don’t rush your spouse or coerce her into making a decision she isn’t comfortable with. Because it will take both of you to parent a child, you want to make sure that you are both prepared to give it your all. Your child should be wanted and loved by both parents.
In the meantime, focus on self-care. Be good to yourself. Make sure your mental and physical health are where you want them to be. Focus on your relationship. Keep the spark alive and try to really connect with each other (on many levels). Do your research. Read, educate yourself, and prepare yourself for whatever way the road may lead. Breathe and know that life has a way of working itself out in the best possible way.
Leslie Bolin is a happily married mama of 3 amazing kids. She is also the birth mother to an adult son. She is just beginning the reunion process, which makes her nervous and excited at the same time. Leslie enjoys educating others about adoption and has done her fair share of outreach, writing, and public speaking on the subject. She has an Associate of Arts degree in Social Work and plans to continue her education. Leslie enjoys spending time with her family, finding peace in the beauty of nature, and laughing as much as possible. She believes that smiling is contagious and that music is good for the soul. She is a firm believer that even the most difficult moments can be turned into something beautiful when we use our stories to help others.