The choice to adopt a child is a decision reached after much deliberation and discussion, and it is often a choice that is made progressively over time with a myriad of emotions in tow. There are likely times that one partner in a relationship feels a pull in that direction for some time before broaching the topic with their spouse. When that conversation occurs, it can feel pretty defeating if the idea of adoption is not immediately received with a positive affirmation. It may take some time for a spouse to get excited about the idea of adoption, and in some cases, they may never warm to the idea. Here is what you can do if your spouse is feeling unsure about pursuing adoption.
1. Consider the reasons why adoption feels right for you.
If you are considering adoption, think about what is drawing you in that direction. Perhaps you feel like you were always meant to be a mother or a father, but fertility has been a roadblock to those dreams. If you are a spiritual person, you may feel like you are being called to adopt. Maybe carrying another pregnancy would be dangerous, but you want your family to grow. Perhaps you know a family member or friend that is not in a position to raise a child, and you know your family could provide the love and security that the child needs. Maybe you feel called to adopt from a country that is near and dear to your heart. Whatever the reasons you are considering adoption, be able to articulate those feelings and desires clearly to your spouse.
Occasionally, knowing how serious and committed you are to adoption can help ease some of your spouse’s reluctance. Those dreams you have or maybe reimagining may not necessarily be what your spouse has envisioned. Your spouse may need time to grieve what they imagined the future would look like, but your draw toward adoption may, in time, meld with your spouse’s dreams. Give him or her time to consider what life would be like if your passion or calling became theirs as well.
2. There’s a difference between being unsure about adoption and being opposed to it.
You want to say “yes” to growing your family through adoption, but your spouse doesn’t exactly feel the same way. Try to step back for a moment and consider your spouse’s perspective and level of interest. Is your spouse unsure about adoption, or is he or she ardently opposed to it?
Unsure means that there is uncertainty or a lack of confidence. Opposition means that there is resistance or an aversion to it. It’s important to distinguish whether your spouse feels uneasy about adoption or refuses to consider it. It is natural to feel uneasy about a process you know very little about or to have questions that create some anxiety about what the future would look like.
Pay close attention to how they speak about adoption. When you discuss it, does your spouse use phrases like, “I just don’t know…” “There is so much unknown…” “How can we be sure…” “What if…”? Those phrases are usually indications that your spouse has some legitimate fears about how adoption could influence your family unit. If your spouse is speaking in absolutes (“We could never…” “We always said…”) or envisioning the future in rigid, non-negotiable terms (“I just can’t imagine…” “How could we ever…”) they may actually be opposed to adoption, and it may be significantly more difficult to have an open dialogue about your desires and future dreams for your family.
That is not to say that your spouse will never be open to adoption, but it may mean that they need months or perhaps years to ruminate on the possibility. Uncertainty, on the other hand, has the potential to be eased by hearing others’ stories and becoming more educated in the different ways adoption can be realized.
3. What are the reasons for your spouse’s apprehensions?
When considering adoption, some apprehensions are pretty typical. If your spouse is unsure about moving forward toward adoption, one step you can take to progress the adoption dialogue is to do your best to empathize and understand exactly what fears exist for him or her.
There could be financial concerns about the affordability of adoption or the resources it would take to add another child into your family unit. Your spouse could be worried about potential medical abnormalities or unknown genetic issues that may arise from either biological parents’ backgrounds. She may be anxious about whether she will love an adopted child as much as her biological children or worried he may show favoritism inadvertently. Your spouse may worry about raising a child that could be so very different in personality and interests from you both. He or she may feel unqualified to properly care for a child who has experienced trauma. Your spouse may also be worried about fielding future questions from a child about his or her biological family. These apprehensions are valid and acknowledging them can lead you both to begin your search for information together.
4. Do your research together.
There are so many sources online from a variety of perspectives in the adoption triad (adoptive parents, adopted child, and biological families). As you and your spouse continue to share questions and apprehensions, hop online and see what you can learn together. Together is key. Sending your spouse articles and pictures about adoption in an attempt to educate them when he or she is clearly still uncomfortable with the idea is only going to create a divide. Ask your spouse if they would like to find some answers to your questions together.
Some sources can tell you how to get started with the adoption process. Others describe different types of adoption. There are powerful adoption stories from birth families, adoptive families, and adoptees. If you or your spouse think of a question, there are plenty of resources out there that can speak to those concerns or fears, so be willing to explore those what-ifs that emerge. Use discretion though, because there is such a high volume of information out there, it can get overwhelming pretty quickly. Research in small bursts with your partner. You don’t have to have all the answers right away. As with everything else related to adoption, it is a process that takes time. As you learn more and more, different questions will emerge.
It’s one thing to research articles and blogs that are written about adoption by authors you don’t know, it’s another thing to connect to your own family and friends to find that they are connected to and touched by adoption. You may think that you don’t know anyone associated with adoption, but you would be surprised. When you openly discuss the idea of adoption and your apprehensions about it, you will be amazed at the stories that bubble to the surface.
Personally, my husband and I initially believed we were alone in our adoption journey. However, as soon as we began talking about it with those around us, we were genuinely surprised by how many people around us were connected to adoption. I’m an educator, and one of my colleagues said, in passing, “You knew we adopted our daughter, right?” I had no idea and it gave me such comfort knowing someone close by had experienced it. Another colleague, I found out, was a birth grandmother who was able to keep in touch and visit her granddaughter. Later, completely by accident, we connected with a family we met at church that happened to be from near our old hometown. It was through this connection that we found our adoption lawyer, who led us to identify the social worker who would conduct our home study. We wanted to try for a private adoption for a couple of years before attempting to use an agency, and we had a couple of friends and coworkers that had previously used different agencies and were able to explain to us what that experience was like.
As you hear adoption stories from people linked directly to your life, you realize that you are not alone on this journey. This network of people can be a tangible reminder to your spouse that there is an adoption community within reach.
6. Listen closely to people’s stories.
Getting that network and adoption community around you can be energizing, but it is important to ground your excitement in the realities that surround adoption. It is beautiful and redemptive, while also heartbreaking and traumatizing for those in the triad. Grief and gladness are coexisting. Listening closely to stories about adoption can help you and your spouse feel better prepared for those realities.
Before our family was built through adoption, we read and listened closely to those that had experienced closed adoptions and the decision to search for biological families or not. We listened to boundaries that some families had for the open relationship with biological families whether they visited or just sent pictures with a short update. We heard five or six different titles for biological families before landing on our choice of “First families.” We listened to foster families close to us that we’re learning to cope with the unpredictable nature of the child welfare system.
Those stories can help you navigate the what-ifs when they occur, opening a dialogue between you and your spouse so you can problem-solve situations beforehand. They can help you empathize with the variety of perspectives that you may encounter in your adoption journey, further easing the looming unknown for a spouse apprehensive about adoption.
7. Continue the dialogue supportively and respectfully.
Again, the decision to adopt may take a significant amount of time. You cannot change your spouse or force them to understand your perspective. It’s important to keep the dialogue open in a way that your spouse continues to feel heard and validated.
There are incredibly powerful emotions at work when trying to make decisions about your growing family and the hopes and dreams that may or may not be an attainable reality. Keep a level head when discussing such a passionate topic. It’s alright to be on different wavelengths. If you are, it doesn’t mean your spouse doesn’t love you or understand you. It doesn’t mean that they will never come around to supporting the idea of adoption. It doesn’t mean that you will never adopt. It just means that you are at different stages of comfort with the unknown. As you continue researching, networking, and speaking with one another honestly, you will progress on this journey together. This time of waiting can create challenges in your marriage, and maintaining supportive communication can help you and your spouse lean into one another.
8. Move forward together.
Eventually, you and your spouse will make a decision. You both may decide to say, “YES!” to adoption, but, for some, the answer will be “no.” The reality is that you and your spouse will have another day together after that decision has been made. If the answer is no, there can be such grief and devastation. For your relationship to remain healthy and fulfilling, you have to choose to walk together into your future. As stated previously, decisions that are this weighty can really have a significant impact on your relationship. Becoming bitter about not seeing eye to eye with your spouse can consume all your joy. Placing your hope in what you wished for can blind you to the sweet moments you are surrounded with. It may not be what you had planned, but your relationship with your spouse can still be beautiful and blessed.
Are you and your partner ready to start the adoption process? Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98 to begin your adoption journey. We have 130+ years of adoption experience and would love to help you.