This month we’re focusing on Reluctant Spouses. Or, when one of you is ready to adopt, and the other isn’t.
I asked my husband for his input throughout this story since he was the reluctant one.
I do not know exactly when I knew adoption would be part of my life. My mom said I spoke about it in high school. Somehow, my poor husband, we never discussed this while dating or even in marriage counseling. My husband and I did not discuss adoption until we decided to start our family and had to deal with infertility. We were blessed to have excellent doctors and to be able to conceive our first son with medical assistance. Our second son was a natural surprise.
During the time we were trying to get pregnant we discussed adoption and knew it would be an option to start or grow our family but it was only a passing thought. We did not discuss international adoption or special needs adoption at any point in our relationship, so my husband was not prepared when it came up. I asked him if I caught him off guard and he said he had a feeling it was something I would like to do, but didn’t think we actually ever would.
Time passed and as our boys grew so did my desire to add to our family through adoption. I stumbled upon an adoption blog and began to learn about special needs adoption. This led me to Reece’s Rainbow.
I continued to learn more about special needs adoption and how we could actually adopt. I initially wanted to adopt a child with a “correctable” or “hidden” need. As I learned more and my desire to add to our family through adoption grew, I began to approach the topic with my husband. I asked him about international adoption of a child with HIV. He was not open to it and our discussions did not go well.
I would mention it frequently and he thought it was the only thing I was willing to talk about. He would feel angry and I would get upset. It was an unpleasant time in our marriage. This lasted for about 6 months. I think we were both praying for the other person to change their mind.
I asked my husband while writing this what his concerns were during that time. He stated I was so excited about special needs adoption when I approached it, he saw only two outcomes. He would agree to the adoption and then resent me or he would not agree to the adoption and I would resent him.
During this difficult time I sought out other wives who had been through this situation. I found support in adoption Facebook groups. I asked for advice. They also began to pray for my husband. I was able to talk with them and take a break from the subject with my husband. I also confided in two close friends who I know prayed for us regularly.
I tried my hardest not to bring it up for at least 2-3 months. During those months I began to support other adoptive families and became an administrator for an adoption grant Facebook group. Being involved in those different ways really helped me wait for “my time.” I was able to learn more about the process and get to know adoptive families. I was able to celebrate with them when their child came home.
My birthday came and I told my husband all I wanted for my birthday was for him to sit and listen, without interrupting or getting emotional, as I told him about adoption and why I wanted to adopt. Earlier I had typed up a “presentation” stating adoption facts and how I thought we could manage the process, therapies when home, and I had a kiddo in mind who I thought would fit into our family.
I tried to be very calm and factual. I told my husband I only wanted him to hear me and for him to think about what I was sharing. I did not want him to give me an answer until he was ready. I shared the picture of a child I had in mind for our family.
I had actually shown this little face to my husband 6 months earlier. He had commented “cute” and then went right back to the TV. I told him this little guy had been waiting at least 6 months and to my knowledge no one had expressed interest in him. We discussed his special need, Down syndrome. I asked him if we could just post his picture up on our refrigerator and pray for him. My husband agreed.
I put the picture up a few days later. Unbeknownst to me my husband took a picture of his picture and started to look at his face regularly. I didn’t say anything during this time. About a week and a half later while at church my husband gave me a yes sign. I made him say it again clearly later, and several more times throughout the following week just to make sure I was hearing him right and that he fully understood what he was saying yes to.
We are now in the midst of our second adoption. This time around our communication was much clearer and we both said yes easily. I asked my husband what he thought a good approach would be for wives of reluctant husbands and he said he appreciated the factual “presentation” I did with information about adoption. He also appreciated being told not to give any answer and me allowing him time to consider everything.
Since our first adoption we have also spent time in person with many families who have adopted special needs kids. Watching them interact with their families has, in my husband’s words, “made it easier to get rid of the excuses and fear.” My husband also had an easier time saying yes to a specific country, a plan of how we could adopt and a specific child versus the big idea of adoption. He said that it helped him know that it wasn’t just some novelty to me but about the little boy we would bring home.
I think international special needs adoption is such an emotional and scary thing it can be hard to clearly communicate with our spouses our desires. When you feel so strongly about something and your spouse does not, that causes a lot of difficulties and miscommunication. But it is not something that can be done with someone who is not on board.
If you have a reluctant husband, find friends, adoptive moms, or family members who can support you. It is to hard to walk alone. I also think we need to learn to be patient. I have a cousin who waited 7 years for her husband to agree to become foster parents. They went on to adopt two sons so I know it was worth the wait.
As we both know how hard this disconnect can be on a marriage, my husband and I are both happy to speak with spouses on either side of this issue. We can be reached on FB or through our blog.