Many people may wonder, “how do I bring up adoption to my spouse?” My husband and I have talked about it for years. We have not adopted yet, but it is a topic of conversation that we have had on and off over the years. Part of that is due to the fact that we have struggled with infertility for years and we always wanted more children than we were able to have. 

There are no rules about when you should bring up adoption to your spouse because every relationship is different. Some couples may need to discuss the issue before they even become married. For others, the discussion happens during a period of infertility. Below I will discuss common times that couples begin discussing adoption. These examples will help you to make your own decision about when it is a good time for you to bring up adoption with your spouse.

Telling Your Spouse Before Marriage

Sometimes men or women go through medical issues when they are younger that ruin their fertility. It can be extremely challenging to go through those experiences, but the full impact is realized when that person starts to consider marriage. Their inability to conceive a child is no longer their burden to bear alone. Anyone who marries them has to accept the fact that they will be unable to have a child biologically. 

For couples that are experiencing this extreme challenge, we recommend that they discuss adoption before they are married. The couple can decide if they want to adopt and how they would adopt and where they want to adopt from. Additionally, there may be other options like surrogacy. Yet, before marriage, the options including adoption will need to be discussed before marriage. That way the couple can have their desires for children met even though they can’t conceive together. 

Telling Your Spouse When Infertility Issues Happen

When a couple begins to experience infertility it can be an extremely stressful time. Often a couple will have no idea whether they are fertile or not until they try to conceive. It can take several months before a couple thinks that something is wrong and it can take a year before they seek help. In my case, I tried for about a year to become pregnant, and then another few months after that I tried using the basal temperature method. When that didn’t work, I finally started going to the doctor to find out what was wrong and why I wasn’t getting pregnant. 

At this point, I started to consider adoption, but I also wanted to pursue any medical solution to the infertility problem before pursuing adoption. Many couples experience the same feelings. They go through all those medical procedures to find out what is causing their infertility and they try to fix the problem before seeking alternative solutions. 

However, the discussion of adoption does start for many couples during this time. They realize that having children may not happen the way they hoped or planned. So, the couples will start to discuss adoption. 

Not every couple struggling with infertility discusses adoption, though. Some couples feel like discussing adoption is giving up on creating their own children. They will avoid the discussion as long as possible because it makes them feel vulnerable. Infertility has a way of making a person feel broken. They look around at others who become pregnant easily and they wonder what is wrong with them. Why are their bodies not working? It is a lot to process and so if you or your spouse are struggling with the reality of infertility, you may need to give each other time to grieve, process, and accept the trauma of infertility before discussing adoption.

I learned this when we were going through the training to become foster-to-adopt parents. The instructors often discussed that a couple needed to have emotionally dealt with their infertility before starting the adoption process. Otherwise, the emotional trauma from infertility can impact the way that they foster and parent any child that comes into their home. Infertility leaves an emotional wound that can be made worse when other problems arise. I know that if we had not dealt with the emotional trauma of infertility ourselves, we would not have handled fostering very well. When you foster, you grow to love the children but they don’t always stay with you. That loss would have been unbearable if my own infertility still tormented me. 

If you are struggling with infertility, I would not recommend discussing or planning an adoption until you emotionally deal with the trauma of infertility. Once you make peace with that issue, then you will be ready to move forward with the struggles and challenges of adoption.

Talking About Adoption Due to Other Medical Issues

Sometimes people have genetic medical problems that cause them a lot of difficulty in life. They may not want to pass this on to their child and instead decide that adoption would be the best option for them. The discussion of adoption in these cases will depend on when the spouse finds out about the genetic problem. If they are aware that they have the problem before they become engaged and they know they do not want to pass it on to a child, then the discussion may happen before the couple becomes engaged. 

However, the adoption discussion may come later if the spouse finds out about the genetic issue after the couple is married. In this case, adoption and all other possibilities can be discussed. Having a genetic medical issue can be extremely challenging and lead many to choose adoption. Not everyone with this issue will feel this way, but if you are someone who does, it is better to talk to your spouse about your feelings so that you can move forward together. 

Additionally, other medical issues happen during a marriage that creates the need to discuss adoption. When a spouse is diagnosed with cancer their fertility can be impacted by the treatment, and adoption or fertility procedures may need to be discussed. It may seem insensitive to bring up a subject like this when a person is struggling for their life, but thinking of the future that you want as a couple can help bring hope during a difficult time. I have never faced this particular issue, but I have always known that I wanted a child with my husband. He has had dangerous jobs that have made me concerned for his life. I used to tell him that he wasn’t allowed to die until I had a child. It was important for me to have a piece of him no matter what. This may not be the case for you, but if it is you should be honest with your spouse. 

When You Are Considering Adoption

Not everyone who wants to adopt has medical or infertility issues. Some people have no trouble becoming pregnant, but they still have a desire to adopt. They may feel drawn toward adoption for any number of reasons. Maybe they were adopted and it improved their life and they want to give back to other people. The person with a desire to adopt may not even understand why he or she wants to adopt. The reasons for wanting to adopt are complex, but when to tell your spouse is not complicated. 

You can tell your spouse whenever you feel the time is right. You may have known that you want to adopt in the future when you were still a child yourself. So, it would be appropriate to tell your spouse that you want to adopt before you become engaged. In other situations, the urge to adopt comes after marriage and you would tell your spouse when you felt the time was right. The hardest part about telling your spouse, in these situations, is not telling them, but patiently waiting for them to decide how they feel about adoption.  

Adoption is something that both of you must agree upon because it is not easy and will require the commitment of both spouses. If one of you does not agree, then it would be best to wait until you can agree on the decision. Adoption can be very difficult for marriages, but it is essential to be united as a couple on this major life decision.

When You Have Done Some Research

It is always a good idea to research any major decision first. Adoption will require research. Some questions that you or your spouse will need to know the answers to include:

  • How long does the adoption process take?
  • Should you use an adoption agency, adoption attorney, or adopt through your state social services?
  • How much does it cost to adopt?
  • Can you afford to adopt? If you can’t afford to adopt, there are some organizations that offer grants and other monetary stipends to help with the adoption costs. You will want to research these.
  • Do you want to adopt locally or internationally?
  • How will adoption impact the family dynamic?
  • How do my children feel about adoption? 
  • What age child do you want to adopt?
  • Are there conditions to the type of child you want to adopt (ie, a child with a known medical issue or who has experienced trauma)?

Before you bring adoption up to your spouse, you may want to research these questions and others to learn more about the adoption. That will allow you to know if it is something you really want to do and it will give you the information you need in order to answer any questions that your spouse may have. This preparation will pay off in numerous ways if you and your spouse decide that you do want to adopt. Learning all these details will allow you to make plans about the child you want to adopt and help prepare you for that adoption.

Bringing Up Adoption When You are in a Position to Adopt

This section is a little bit difficult because deciding that you are in a position to adopt can feel impossible. However, many people want to wait to adopt until they can financially afford adoption and they own their own home. They may want to adopt when their children are older or out of the house. There is no one position or situation that is perfect for adoption. People who struggle financially can find ways to adopt and people with children of all ages can adopt. Knowing that you are in a position to adopt is deeply personal.

 My husband and I talked about fostering and adoption very seriously for over two years before we began the process. In our situation as a military family, we knew that we would be moving soon, and then there would be a deployment. After the deployment, we moved to a home where we would live for three years. That was when we finally felt like we were in a position to adopt. We felt it was now or never. So we started the foster-to-adopt process. 

In our case, I don’t think the timing was great and so we are not currently pursuing adoption. We still talk about doing it in the future, but currently, my husband and I are in college. Our schedules do not have room for anything extra.

That is our situation, but yours may be completely different. If you feel like you are in a position emotionally, financially, and every other way that is important to you, then you should talk to your spouse about adoption. No one can be completely prepared for all the challenges of adoption, but when you have done what you can then you can move forward with confidence. 

The most important preparation for adoption is for both you and your spouse to agree that you want to adopt. All of the other preparation to be in a position to adopt can be accomplished together.

If you are wondering, “how do I bring up adoption to my spouse?”, remember that there is no definitive right time to bring up adoption to your spouse. The above list of scenarios is not an exhaustive list and every family is different. However, I hope that as I have gone through these various scenarios, I have helped you decide whether or not you are ready to bring up adoption to your spouse. I wish you the best of luck that your spouse wants to adopt and that your journey to adoption is successful.

Jennifer Autry