When I got married, I was smitten, kittens, in love with my husband. We were attached at the hip and absolutely loved being in each other’s company. We had been friends for a few years before we even started dating because we both worked at a group home together. I became quickly infatuated with him as I watched him, teach the boys we worked with how to catch a ball or how to self-regulate in high-stress situations. We were in unity; we were one. Then, about a year into our marriage, we decided to foster one of the children that we had both worked with in the group home.
Parenting children from trauma comes with a huge learning curve. I spent hours on the phone with specialists, doctors, teachers, etc. I felt as though I had an infinite amount of paperwork to do. Then, there is the time and care that goes into loving a child who desperately needed it. I still loved my husband, but I had decided that caring for this child was more important and that my husband was a grown man who could care for himself. After four years of being foster parents and even adopting our sweet girl, my husband and I split up and I left him.
Now, children are not to blame when a couple decides to part ways; there are underlying issues between both spouses and sometimes children can intensify those issues, but they are not the cause. I wanted to make that clear because I don’t want for a single second for someone to think that foster care/adoption is the cause of some divorces.
My husband’s and my story has a happy ending, after being separated for almost a year and days away from divorce, I believe the Lord brought us back together in a miraculous way. While we were apart, we worked on our own traumas and past and were able to heal old wounds that had led us astray from each other.
We had the privilege of renewing our vows and our daughter who had already lost so much before her adoption didn’t have to go through another loss of having divorced parents.
Here are some things we are doing differently now to care for our marriage now that we are embarking on the journey of fostering again.
1. Date Nights
Date nights are so important, before a couple even decides to foster or adopt they really should have a safe person they can trust to watch their kids. Make it work into the budget, we got rid of all our streaming services so we could have date nights with each other. Make it happen at least twice a month. Date nights allow couples to remember why they like each other and gives them intentional time to connect.
Put the phone away after a certain time at night. For a while, the phone was my go-to method to fall asleep. I would scroll while my husband fell fast asleep beside me. Not only would I be mindlessly scrolling to a highly addictive device, but I would also stay up way too late and miss out on coveted intimacy with my husband. Now, when we come to bed, we both put our phones away and fall asleep talking to each other. Sometimes it’s the only time in the day when we will get to talk to each other. We will laugh, go through our day, and save the more serious discussions for other times. We try to avoid conflict and just be playful and lighthearted before bed. We also put the phones away when we are spending one-on-one time together.
Take breaks in between taking placement of a child. There is a mountain of grief involved when saying goodbye to a child you cared for. Although reunification is always the goal for fostering, it still hurts when the privilege of caring for a child you become attached to ends. This can be extremely difficult, especially when you get a call for a child desperately needing a home. But your family and your marriage need time to grieve and reset. Go on a trip with your spouse and kiddos, take time for everyone to express their feelings, and spend time in prayer for what’s next and how long that time and break should be.
Get counseling. The classes for fostering and adoption can bring up a lot of heavy stuff. They talk about sexual and emotional abuse, grief, and loss. It’s a lot to process and seeing a counselor with both spouses present can help a couple work through some things that may be triggering. A counselor doesn’t have to come into the picture when things are in crisis mode. We seek counsel regularly almost like getting a check-up from the doctor. When we first came back together, we saw a counselor once a week to gain some tools for a healthy marriage. Now we see our counselors less frequently, but they are there when things come up. We are Christian, so it’s also important to us that we have Christian counselors that have the same morals as us.
Put your marriage before everything. Now, hear me out. When you are on an airplane, during the safety talk they say for you to put on your oxygen mask before your child because you are no good to your child if you pass out from lack of oxygen. During the foster and adoption process, the marriage can so easily be put on the back burner; but if the oxygen is beginning to be cut off from your marriage, you won’t be able to help the children that come into your home. It is so important the two of you are on a united front. A house divided against itself can not stand. That may look like asking for respite or reaching out to the state and filing for special aids in the house if you have a child that takes a lot of extra time and care. It may even be saying “no” and taking that break in order to reconnect. My husband and I have found we serve and love our children so much better when we are walking side-by-side in unity.
Our children in the adoption community have lost so much already, it is our duty to provide as much of a stable environment as possible. No marriage is perfect, but putting time and effort into a marriage can make it a really good one. Having strong marriage equates to raising stronger kids.