How to Keep Your Relationship Strong During the Adoption Process
It’s hard to wait for most things in life, but waiting for the day you get to bring your adopted child home might be one of the hardest tests of patience.
The process of adoption brings all the feels with it. It’s a process of hope, grief, powerlessness, anxiety, joy and everything in between. It involves a myriad of decisions, endless paperwork, scrutiny of your relationship, unknown waiting times, financial strain, hard conversations and plenty of stress. Adoption can unify couples in meaningful ways, to be sure—but the long, hard process can also cause relationship strain along the way. And keeping your relationship strong is as important for you as it is for your little one on the way.
So how can you stay connected during the adoption process? As a psychotherapist and head of couples therapy at Lasting, the nation’s leading relationship counseling app, here are my top six tips.
In couples going through this process, it’s not uncommon for one partner’s level of desire for adoption to be different than the other’s. Sometimes, one partner is leading the charge and the other is on board but more motivated by love for their spouse. These levels of desire can also change over time. Regardless of where you and your partner started, it’s healthy to do regular check-ins with each other. These can include discussing how you’re feeling about adoption, how you’re doing with the wait and what you need from each other in each stage of the process.
The adoption process includes a lot of moving parts. Papers to complete, documents to retrieve, home study visits and wellness checkups are all par for the course. Make sure you and your partner are coordinating your efforts. Feelings of isolation and resentment are more likely to crop up when one partner feels alone in the work. Plan for what needs to happen and then divide and conquer.
In order to support each other and emotionally connect throughout the waiting, make time to share in each other’s emotional journeys. For all adoptions, there are stories of hope and joy right alongside stories of sorrow and pain. For some couples, their emotional journey includes infertility and loss. Many couples bear their adopted child’s history of hardship. With all adoption, there is some form of trauma. The healthiest way to connect in these hard places is to tell the stories to each other and to process your emotional responses together.
After adoption, your relationship and life are never the same again. It’s easy to allow the anxiety and eagerness of waiting for a child to consume your current life. Don’t forget to lean into your current reality and engage with it fully. Your family will never look this way again. Your relationship with your partner will never be this way again. Your relationship with other children (if you have them) will never be like this again. Figure out ways to savor this season. Maybe it’s spending extended quality time with your other kids before your adopted child enters the family. Maybe it’s starting a new hobby or traveling somewhere you’ve been wanting to go. It’s not easy, but being present in the moment will help you connect with your loved ones in a deeper way.
Self-care is a buzz word these days, and there’s a good reason for it. You can’t take care of other people unless you’re taking care of yourself. This means staying connected with your inner world. It means allowing yourself time and space to process all the emotions that come with the adoption journey. It also means making decisions that are good for your mental and emotional health. What are you feeling right now? Remind yourself that whatever you’re feeling is normal and then seek out activities that build you up.
This can’t be overstated. It sounds so simple, but it’s often hard to put into practice. Set up regular date nights now so you can maintain that rhythm after adoption. Making your relationship a priority now will give you time to do all of the above and will also help you strengthen your connection as you wait.
Waiting for your precious child is never easy, but your relationship doesn’t need to suffer. It’s possible for you and your partner to strengthen your connection as you endure the waiting. Remember, you’re in this together!
Find more tips in the Lasting app, which you can download here.
Published November 2019