Sunday, September 5, 2010

Adoption: The Reluctant Spouse

I read an article recently called "The Reluctant Spouse" by Jill Smolowe. It's an article posted on, which has some really good resources for adoptive parents. It had me really thinking about the many debates Zay and I have had about whether to adopt or not, whether to wait or not, whether to continue fertility meds or not, etc. Over the last couple years, I've been on board with the adoption train and loving the idea more and more. But for Zay, he constantly fluctuates from being on board to OMG, I THINK WE SHOULD WAIT. The article's subtitle reassured me that this is actually pretty normal: "Don't be surprised if your mate resists adoption even as you're embracing it." I think "embracing it" is a very good phrase to describe how I feel about it.

This has been so stressful for me! We have completely different personalities when it comes to making decisions, so trying to come to a conclusion may work one day but then his mind could change the next. That makes it difficult to navigate through a process that can take so long. There's much more time for him to change his mind a million times over. It's actually been stressful for him too, because when he used to think about what it would be like having kids... he imagined that it would just happen. That I would just get pregnant and we wouldn't have to put so much thought into it. He handles life's situations very well when they just happen, but it's taking some adjustment to learn how to accept that we may have to make things happen.

Men tend to be more reluctant when it comes to adoption than women, and no one really knows why. Maybe the woman's motherly nurturing attributes are competing with the man's territorial feelings about his family or need to "pass on his seed"? Hmmm.... I don't know. The thing is, I know without a doubt that Zay would embrace adoption once it's happened. Just like if I were to get pregnant, he would be on board 100% to be the most amazing father ever. He would do the same if someone were to hand us a baby today that wasn't biologically ours... no question about it. The problem seems to be that adoption forces you to think about it day in and day out for a long period of time... and it doesn't just happen like a fertile woman's pregnancy seems to just happen. Adoption doesn't happen until the very, very end... after your heart has been turned inside out and stomped on a few times. I can see how someone might be reluctant to engage in something like that.

So, now that I know that he's going to be reluctant up until the day that an adoption is final and that it's completely normal and understandable, I think I'm going to be better able to handle the constant changing of his mind. No need to cry my eyes out everytime he thinks we should wait. I just need to see things from his perspective and take each mind-changing moment as part of the overall process.

"...consider the kinds of issues that couples are forced to confront during the adoption process. What age child do you want? What sex? What health condition? What ethnicity? What race? How much contact do you want with birth-parents? How do you plan to raise this child? How will you speak of adoption to him? What role will the child's ethnic heritage play in her life? How will you cope with an emotional or physical disability? What will you do if your relatives don't embrace this child? And that doesn't even begin to touch on the procedural aspects. Lawyer or agency? Public or private? Open or closed? Domestic or overseas?

Such questions not only thrust the issue of "baby" at a reluctant spouse over and over, but demand repeatedly that he opt in-or out. In essence, the process requires that he try to envision the child's entire upbringing at a time when he might prefer not to think about children at all."

I don't want the words "baby" or "adoption" to become negative words in our house, but they will be if I push the issue, "thrust the issue of 'baby' at [him] over and over," or "demand repeatedly that he opt in-or out." Lately, I've been so good at allowing Zay to set the pace! I think letting him choose to take each step is giving him the chance to develop those same feelings that I've already established in my heart. :) And if I want to do this the right way, then I'm just going to have to be patient.

The article also listed some "Ideas for Helping to Ease a Spouse's Reluctance" that I think are really helpful!

"Ideas for Helping to Ease a Spouse's Reluctance
*Acknowledge your spouse's concerns and fears; try to listen with interest, not judgment.
*Air and discuss the differences between you, rather than trying to cover them up or smooth them over.
*Maintain balance in your discussions between the reasons for your spouse's resistance to adoption and your reasons for wanting to adopt.
*Don't take a spouse's initial reaction as the final word. When a subject is emotionally charged, people often say things they don't really mean.
*Give a spouse time and space to consider issues as they arise; recognize that people approach change at different speeds.
*Don't expect your spouse to react to developments in the adoption process the same way you do.
*Find a support group of other couples considering adoption. Hearing that they, too, have reservations may help both of you.
*Work with an agency or lawyer that has a solid process for exploring adoption issues; don't assume that you know all the angles.
*If your spouse isn't providing the support and encouragement you need to cope with the rocky adoption process, then seek it from a sympathetic friend or relative.
*See a marriage counselor if you have trouble navigating any of these issues. A reluctant spouse may hear questions and advice better from a neutral observer."


  1. Wow, what great insight! I don't think that people realize that these are issues. I sure didn't know. I think it would break my heart if I was in your shoes, and my husband wanted to hold off. I'm happy to see that you're educating yourself so well. You're a good wife, and you're going to be a good mom, too.

  2. @The Girl - thank you! It's been confusing and difficult, but I'm learning a lot about patience and understanding.

    Honestly, I found that article just by googling "how to get a reluctant spouse on board with adoption." LOL. That was in one of my desperate hours when I was just at a loss. And I didn't really think I was going to find anything, but I found tons of info and it was interesting to read other people's stories. It put my story into perspective, I think. I realized that things aren't so bad and we're totally normal. Two things I really needed to realize!


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