By Liz Westermann, LCSW
Now that you have made the decision to adopt, you are hoping that maybe the process will be easy and stress free. As you begin to fill out the applications, you realize there is an onslaught of more paperwork, fees, home study visits, and then……the waiting. With the hope that adoption brings, feelings of powerlessness and anxiety can overtake many couples and put strain on the strongest relationships. Women and men often complain of not being understood and supported. Here are a few tips on how you can keep you marriage alive during the journey of adoption.
Vent to someone else
Men and women handle stress in different ways. Generally, men tend to want to “fix” things and help their wives feel better. When they cannot the powerlessness sets in. Sometimes men may be afraid to say the wrong thing and therefore retreat and say nothing, making their partner even more upset. Women need to talk about their feelings and the strong emotions they have. Rather than putting the pressure on your husband to help with the emotional piece of this journey, find a trusted friend or relative who has gone through it or is currently undergoing the adoption process. Vent you feelings to them. Or, join a support group where you will feel validated, less alone and empowered.
It’s easy for couples to retreat and isolate themselves from each other when they feel stressed. Remember what it was like when you were dating and how much you loved to spend time together? Create time each to week to enjoy each other’s company and just be a couple, not a “couple waiting to get the phone call about a child.” It could be as simple as taking a walk, seeing a movie or a dinner out. Or, schedule a long weekend getaway or vacation. Separate yourself from the adoption process for a while.
Listen to understand, not to reply
“When you talk you are only repeating what you know. When you listen you may learn something new.”
– Dalai Lama.
Are you someone who is preparing your response while the other person is talking? You are not alone. Each partner is experiencing different emotions and views their journey to parenthood from a different perspective. And both are valid and important. By learning to listen….really listen… you will gain more insight and understanding of each other. Instead of thinking about what you might say to your husband, just hear what he has to say. Ask him questions. Reflect on what he is saying and tell him you understand. Guaranteed, you will learn to see the world from his perspective and you may even learn something new about him. His view may be different from yours, but both are equally valid. The deeper the understanding the deeper the connection you can have with your partner. With mutual understanding, your struggles to become parents can bring you closer together.
No doubt, these tips can take some time and energy. But guaranteed it will be worth it because you will give the child you have worked so hard to bring into your family — two parents who are still happy together!