Reluctant Husband Syndrome

January 31, 2017 adopting again, January 2017 Feature - Reluctant Spouses, large families, reluctant husband 8 Comments

Choosing to grow your family is a monumental, life-altering decision. And choosing to grow your family through special-needs adoption? Even more so. Which makes this decision an understandably difficult one to make – one that is typically easier (or harder) for one spouse than the other.

This month we’re focusing on Reluctant Spouses. Or, when one of you is ready to adopt, and the other isn’t.

“Oh, my husband was like that too. It’s called reluctant husband syndrome.“

These were the first words that an adoptive mom said to me five years ago.

Long before I was married, I wanted to adopt. I had worked with troubled teens; many left homeless once they turned 18, no longer wards of the state or their foster parents. My heart broke for these kids, and it was through my experiences with them that the seed of adoption was planted.

Years passed, I met my husband, Pete, we got married and began having children. The thought of adoption drifted into a memory. However, three children and three c-sections later, with the last leading to complications, the seed that was planted so many years before began to sprout. I felt it was time to adopt, however, Pete did not.

Even though Pete was not open to the idea of adoption, I started to do as much research as possible. I would talk to adoption agencies, families that adopted internationally, domestically and through foster care.

I would pray through each step.

Which way was God leading?
What type of adoption was He calling us to?

Pete and I would talk. We prayed together. I asked him to pray about it personally as well. My heart began to bend to China and I knew.

Yes, adoption.
Yes, China.

Yet, Pete continued to say no.

After a year of research and praying, I knew in my heart that this was the next step for us as a family. Pete still remained hesitant. We discussed his many concerns.

How would we afford it?
What if the child didn’t attach to us?
How would an adopted child impact our biological children?
What if we adopt a child with RAD?
Could we love an adopted child as deeply as we love our biological children?

My answer was simple; we would get through it. Ultimately God would lead us through any challenges if He was calling us to adoption.

These were hard conversations and probably the hardest time in our marriage.

I was convinced that adoption was God’s will for our family, but Pete was not. While he saw nothing wrong with adoption, he was not sure that it was what was best for our family. Many of these discussions left me in tears. I could not understand why God would put adoption so heavily on my heart if it wasn’t what our family was called to. I wondered why God hadn’t revealed it to Pete as well. I looked at scriptures like the persistent widow and was sure that was how I needed to be. I would pray continually, and I would continually bring it up to Pete.

The kids would go to bed and I would immediately start a conversation about adoption…

I would talk about all the orphans in China that needed a family.
I would mention scriptures that mandated we care for the orphan.

Finally, about a year and a half after the initial pull toward adoption, Pete said yes. It was a half-hearted yes, but he said we could move forward. I had already researched agencies, so I submitted our application the next day. We had an interview with the agency and were accepted into their China program. We were about to write a very large check when a dinner invitation came our way. Church friends of ours wanted to talk to us about adoption. They had several adopted children.

One night, we sat down over Chinese food, and they shared their family’s story and struggles. They shared stories of RAD, counseling appointments, and a special therapeutic home that one of their children was currently in. This family was navigating through the challenges that most adoptive families hope they do not have to deal with. We walked away from that dinner in shock. I knew these things were possibilities, Pete knew these things were possibilities. However, it felt so different knowing that someone we know, a family we sat behind at church Sunday after Sunday, was struggling through the hardest of hard in adoption.

I began the next day with my mantra: “God would get us through it no matter what.”

I was still convinced, even in the face of the hardest parts of adoption, that we should adopt. But Pete took that conversation that night as a warning. He was now convinced that we should not put our family through it. We could not allow the children we already have to be affected negatively. He is the protector of our family and while I disagreed with his decision, I did understand why he said no.

The check that I had begun to write to our agency was shredded, as was my hope of adopting. I had tried my best to convince my husband that adoption was what God was calling us to, but clearly my words were not working. And clearly my prayers weren’t either.

So after three years of fervent prayer and “lively discussions” (as Pete likes to call them), I had to lay it down. I realized that I could not convince Pete no matter how hard I tried. And it was in those months after the dinner with our friends, that I realized that God was asking me to surrender my desire to adopt.

Looking back now, I can see that I was like a child who cannot wait to show his parent the newfound item of his affection. I was like one of my kids, who runs up, an item firmly clutched in his hands, and shoving it directly in front of my eyes so I cannot miss it. “Look, mommy, look at what I have! Isn’t it amazing?” Yet each and every time my child does this to me, the object is so close that I have to move back, so I can better see it and appreciate it.

I was doing this to my husband.

I was holding adoption in my hand and placing it so closely before his eyes that he really could not see it clearly. I needed to give him time to be able to take a step back from it so that he could inspect it himself and see the beauty of adoption on his own.

I realized too that Pete needed to feel God calling us to adoption even before any paperwork was started.

Adoption is hard and stressful and we needed to be united, completely. He could not just be saying yes to make me happy, or because he trusted my discernment even when he was not sure of his own. He needed to say yes because he knew that God was calling us to walk this journey as a family too.

And so I stopped.

I stopped talking about adoption.
I stopped asking him about it.
I laid it down.

A funny thing happened when I laid it down, when I stopped talking about it.

Pete started to.

After a few months of no words from me, he began to say things like, “When we go to China to adopt…”

A year after I surrendered adoption, Pete initiated the adoption conversation. He said “yes,” and we officially began the process to adopt from China.

In October 2014, we boarded a plane to bring our daughter home. “Gotcha Day” was like a dream come true for us. It was a moment that I had hoped and prayed for years. For Pete it was the beginning of a deeper transformation. He fell in love with our daughter and his heart opened to the orphan in a new way.

When our daughter Felicity had been home four months, I was on our agency’s advocacy web page and saw a little boy who we met on orphanage visit day. This little boy grabbed at my heart.

Over the next two months, I prayed that this little boy’s family would step forward and pretty soon I realized it might just be us. I was a bit apprehensive bringing it to Pete. After all, it did take him years to say yes to our first adoption, and we did not have a lot of time to make a decision, since our agency only had his file for a limited time.

In just two short days, Pete was convinced that this little boy, Thomas, was our son.

Last February, Pete boarded a plane with our oldest son to bring Thomas home. This man who said no to adoption, who was worried he would not be able to love an adopted child as much as our biological children, travelled across the world, without me, to bring home our son.

He loves these children fiercely and he is the first to start a sentence with, “When we adopt again…“

We both learned a lot during the time of his reluctance to adoption:

Pete learned to take up the cause of the orphan and to embrace these beautiful children as his own. He learned that it may be hard, but sometimes God calls you to hard and a deeper level of trust.

I learned to surrender my desires for God’s timing and His plan for our family. I needed to grow in patience and fully rely on the fact that God would make a way, if it was truly His will.

I was not meant to be the nurturer of the seed of adoption in my husband and I could not force it to grow. I needed to be patient and give God time to work.

Four years ago, during that conversation with the adoptive mom, I wasn’t so happy that I was married to a man with “reluctant husband syndrome,” but today I am beyond grateful.

photos by Annie Norton Photography

We wouldn’t have the children we have today if it were not for those years of waiting.

God grew our family in His own time, His own way.

And it has brought us great joy.​

– guest post by Amy: blog || instagram

8 responses to “Reluctant Husband Syndrome”

  1. Jill Lieser says:

    Love this story❤

  2. Laura Lofy says:

    As someone in this position, I think it is helpful but also important to recognize that not all husbands will come around. I have heard many stories like this and feel that it is somewhat like telling a woman who can’t get pregnant that it will happen when she stops trying and stressing. I think those of us in this boat need advice as to how to “lay it down” and “leave it in God’s hands” in a way that the outcome may be no more children….at least that is what I need because it is a painful position to be in and hard to let go of those pulls at the heartstring that are not shared by one’s spouse.

    • Laura- I do agree! I wrote this and there is a lot of information that cannot be put into a short blog post. After I felt God asking me to surrender my desire to adopt, I took that desire and began a yearly fundraiser for an organization that cares for orphans. It was during that time and through that work, that the ache to adopt dissipated some, or at least I was better able to surrender it. There were times, on this journey, that I acted like a spoiled child toward God and God made it clear to me that I needed to take my desire and my pain and do something else instead of pray that He make a way for us to adopt. And so, I started to say, “if I cannot do what I want, I need to at least do something.” During that time, I really did not think that my husband would come around, and God had gotten me to a place of peace that adoption may never happen for us.

      I am praying for you. May His will be done in your family.

    • Laura- One more thing . . . I can offer no advice on how to “lay it down,” other than to pray for the grace to give it to God, totally. He is the only one that supply you with the strength to surrender the desire. And, it is not something that is done just once . . . . it is a daily asking for the grace to lay down your desires and fully embrace where you are as a family and a couple at this moment in time.

      Please feel free to contact me if you would like to talk to someone who has been through the same journey. I can offer you no profound advice, but I can pray for you.

      katiepetko (at)

      God Bless,

  3. Melissa says:

    Thank you so much for sharing. You have a beautiful family!!

  4. Kristen says:

    Thank you for sharing this story! I am so in that place. I ache to adopt again ( we have two bio and one adopted). My husband agreed to the first adoption but he did not fall in love with our daughter as I have which breaks my heart! He is good to her and is committed to loving her and fathering her but he struggles with not having the same attachment as he does to bio kids. So he is adamantly opposed to adopting again – it’s like trying to move a brick wall. She does not have RAD but had unexpected medical issues that caused stress for a while. We are in a good place now and she has been amazingly transformed because of love and care! The good that came from the struggles is SO evident!! I wrestle with I how feel the call of God so strongly and he doesn’t ( he is a Christian). I don’t understand. I have desperately prayed for him to long to help orphans as I do. It’s a lonely place to not be able to share your passion with your spouse. I would take any prayers for him from anyone who might read this.

    • Praying for you Kristen!! I pray that God show you why He placed that desire on your heart and what He is asking you to do with it. I pray for unity among you and your husband, and God to give you both the wisdom and discernment to know His will for your family, and peace no matter which direction He may call you.

    • Tricia Farr says:

      Kristen, my heart is with you. I have wanted to adopt for as long as I can remember. My husband is not on board. It IS “a lonely place to not be able to share your passion with your spouse”

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