Look… There are countless marriage resources out there. Books. Blogs. Videos. Therapists. Retreats. Cruises. Even board games. We’ve done most of these and most are really, really good (except for the board games… we haven’t tried those, so I’m not sure). All of these resources present great ideas, all of which are theoretically legit. But as you know, finding time and meaningful ways to connect and enrich your marriage through the rigors of adoption isn’t as easy as these “less entangled relationship scenarios” (that’s what we call couples without kids).
As adoptive parents in the process, your time is monopolized by all the paperwork, the deadlines, and the fundraising. And once you’re home you’ve got doctor appointments, therapies, and the slow, methodical attachment routines. Then there’s the ever-cautious re-integration back into society and work, not to mention the energy drain from the emotional and spiritual strain of it all.
If you Google “How to Reconnect With Your Spouse,” you’ll find 486,000 websites that all pretty much offer you the same good advice. But almost all of them are impractical or impossible for adoptive parents. Because, let’s be transparent here… regular date nights are a joke. And how in the world do you find quality time? Spiritual time? Emotional time? Some even suggest abandoning the todo list for a day and come back to it. So, unless these list writers are offering to come to the house and pick up the slack, this advice seems suspect.
There’s this comedian we love, Jim Gaffigan. He says, “We just had our fourth kid. If you’re wanting to know what it’s like to have four kids, imagine you’re drowning… and someone hands you a baby.” It feels like this, right!? There’s no escape plan. No way of getting out alive. We’ve been left here to die. Find a nice shady spot and lay down because this is where it ends.
You feel ill-equipped to raise this new one, and if you’ve got others at home, you feel guilty for leaving them to fend for themselves. On top of all that, you’ve got a marriage that needs some attention. Not to mention the friends who probably won’t see or hear from you for weeks. It’s a lonely wilderness full of hidden majesty.
All the “5 Ways to Improve Your Marriage” articles only exist to stress you out and add to your feeling of failure and impoverished worth. Stop and listen.
You now live in the tension of a world known as “Attach and Let Go.” You’ve gotta find a way to attach with your new addition. That’s the most important thing. But to do that, you need capacity. And to increase capacity you can either get a bigger pipe or reduce the amount of things flowing through that pipe. Maybe you’re not at capacity. Maybe you’ve done the hard work of saying no and cutting back to create a space to bring home your new child. That’s impressive. But in my experience, most people who feel like they have space – that they can say yes to just one more thing and still manage their lives and adoption – are actually living in the margin.
And please realize margins aren’t in place to define capacity. Margins are a safety zone so when the river swells your house doesn’t flood. If you’re living inside the margin, you’re risking your own wellbeing. And unless you are aware of your margins, you may not even know you’re in danger. There are seasons where this risk is necessary for a short time. But it can’t be the norm.
Here’s how you regain the margin to help you keep your marriage healthy through this season.
During this time when your focus for sure needs to be on finalizing documents, arranging travel, the last fundraising push, or scheduling specialists, therapies, appointments for IEPs, and more, you marriage is going to take the low priority. That’s probably okay for a season. Most marriages can handle taking the backseat for a bit with little to no collateral damage.
Here’s some advice though. If you’ve got big things in your marriage, don’t sit on them with the hope of dealing with them when life is less crazy. See a counselor soon. If not this week, please do so before you bring your kid home. Chaos has a way of wearing life thin. And when times are thin those thorny issues will quickly and easily surface without asking your permission.
Ask for Help
You need people. You and your spouse can’t do it all. And even if you could, I’m not sure you should. If you’ve got people in your neighborhood or your church or in your community, thank God for that! Celebrate with God for His mercy in placing you near people who will be there when you need them. However, this isn’t always the case for everyone. We’re lucky to have people near us. But we also have a deep community of people on Facebook, on Instagram, and on the Prayers of a Village website. These aren’t just surface-y relationships either. These are life-giving relationships with people who are or have been where we are. Don’t ignore the social media aspect of connection. Some of your dearest people may live hours away from you.
And here’s the thing about your people. They want to help. They love you. They’ve been there for you through the process. They’ve not abandoned you. They are looking for ways to support you. Sometimes all they need is a little guidance. Make a list and when someone asks, offer some suggestions. It for sure feels awkward if your relationship is new, but for those who’ve been with you through it all, when someone asks if they can babysit and feed your crew, don’t overthink it… just give them a date and time and a hug and then grab your spouse’s hand and run out of the house.
God models rest for us. He doesn’t need rest but he shows us how to rest. He crafted and breathed and walked and dreamed and then… He rested. And He taught us to rest. He made the animals to need rest. Plants need rest. People need rest. Even our marriages need rest. Rest reminds us how weak we are. And as much as we don’t want to admit it, we need to remember how weak we are. This is by design.
Because we need to know how powerful our God is. That even when we rest, our God is at work. I know it feels counterintuitive, especially in light of your todo list and the strain on the cords of your marriage. But do yourself a solid and take time to stop and rest.
Your marriage is the most important of all earthly relationships. It’s the strongest of all relationships. It’s the only human relationship built on a covenant with Creator God.
When life gets hard, remember you and your spouse aren’t the only parties involved. Your God is present and He can and will bind you together even when what you’re walking through feels like it’s pulling you apart.