So you are 100% on board with the adoption process, you are ready to submit your application and get started creating your profile, but your partner isn’t as enthusiastic as you are. What do you do?
“It is common for people to be in different places about adoption, yet it is something we do not often talk about,” says Jill Smolowe, an adoptive parent and author of an adoption memoir, An Empty Lap. “That makes the person suffering through it feel alone. I thought my marriage was flawed in some fundamental way when my husband and I couldn’t agree, and yet I struggled in isolation.” In this blog post we will explore some tactics to handle adopting with a partner who is reluctant about the process.
Reluctant Partner v. Reluctant Relatives
Imbalance can be frustrating when you are ready to have a baby in your arms, but your partner continues to raise concerns about parenthood. As Adoptive Families explains, reluctance to become a parent often centers around what must be given up, or anxiety about meeting expectations. Ask yourself and your spouse these hard questions, knowing that some may be unanswerable until you’re living with the changes a child brings. Many spouses aren’t reluctant about parenthood but parenthood through adoption – maybe it’s all the infertility treatments that have taken a toll emotionally, financially and physically that adds to a partner’s reluctance. Bottom line, really try to get down past the symptoms and to the root of the fears and concerns where they can then be understood better and addressed.
Questions to Ask
- Age: Will my age negatively affect my ability to parent? Will I have enough energy? Enough patience? Enough love?
- Money: How can I save for a college education when I need to save for retirement? Will we ever get to take a vacation again?
- Time: Will a child be too disruptive? Will I have to curb my work hours? Do I want to?
- Family: Will my parents reject a child who comes into the family through adoption? Will my children from a prior marriage resent me for starting a new family? Will I repeat my parenting mistakes?
- The unknown: Who will the child be? What genetic surprises might be in store? Will I be able to love an adopted child as much as a biological one?
The key is to acknowledge your spouse’s concerns and fears, and take them seriously. Join a support group for couples considering adoption. Hearing other’s reservations may help both of you consider different angles and explore what’s fueling the reluctance. Speak with your social worker to find ways to balance out the concerns – for example if your spouse is mostly concerned with openness or how to fill out the profile key, don’t push them to accept a situation they might ultimately be uncomfortable with, there needs to be a balance of both partners’ needs and wants.
Announcing to your family members that you will be growing your family through adoption, sometimes you will be faced with hesitant or unenthusiastic reactions to the news. It can be a shock to have loved ones question your adoption decision and it is important to remember that they most likely are coming from a place of caring and have the best intentions.
The Power of Education
- Share the research you’ve completed for yourself about adoption and educate your loved ones on the steps in the process.
- Gift your family members books about adoption.
- Suggest that your relatives attend a support group or meeting with your adoption social worker so they can ask questions and learn more about adoption.
Waiting for your relatives to come around might be a tactic you will have to implement if your family isn’t supportive during your waiting period. Many families find that if there were doubts in the minds of their family prior to placement, once their child finally comes home those doubts are erased.
Communication is Key
There are no magic answers as one adoptive mother explained.
“What worked for us, may not work for you. We kept the lines of communication open; talking about it more than he wanted, but less than I wanted. I asked his permission to share my research with him. I tried to understand his concerns more than I tried to convince him. After about a year, he became more comfortable with the time and financial commitment. He loved me enough and valued my happiness enough to take the risk. We compromised on what special needs or disabilities we were willing to consider. And we slowly moved forward. For what it’s worth, our daughter has been the apple of his eye from the moment he first held her, and he says he has never regretted his decision for one minute.”