And that's not even the tip of the iceberg as far as procedural aspects. Lawyer or agency? Public or private? Open or closed? These questions not only put the issues of "baby" at a reluctant spouse again and again, but almost demand that he opt in - or out. The upside is that this constant probing gives adoptive couples preparation for parenting that the biological way doesn't usually afford. The downside is that every new question and issue may reignite a reluctant spouse's reticence.
My own husband, Mat, had only one concern when we first considered adoption: would he feel the same way about an adopted child as he did our 4 biological children? That fear was quickly and permanently erased the minute he held Meg in his arms for the first time. Since then, I can't tell you how many couples we have talked with, had dinner with, or met with who have the same (or other) concerns as Mat did. And he is great to listen. He empathizes. He validates. And then he reassures them that their fears and concerns are legitimate. But then, he gently encourages them to take the plunge, if they feel it's right for their family.
Now if you haven't had the pleasure of going to dinner with Mat and me to talk all things adoption, here are some suggestions to ease the fears of The Reluctant Spouse:
- Acknowledge your spouse's concerns and fears - then listen with interest. No judgments!
- Discuss the differences between you: try not to cover them up or smooth it over.
- Keep a balance in your discussions between the reasons for your wanting to adopt and your spouse's resistance.
- Don't take your spouse's first reaction as the final word. When something is emotionally charged (as adoption is!), people often say things they may not really mean.
- Give your spouse time and space to think over the issues as they arise. Remember people approach change at different speeds.
- Don't expect your spouse to react to every development in the adoption process the same way you do.
- Working with an agency like Heart to Heart provides a solid process for exploring adoption issues; don't assume that you know every angle and every issue.
- If your spouse isn't providing enough support and encouragement for you to cope with the roller coaster adoption process, seek it from an understanding friend or relative.
- Speak with a counselor or adoptive family worker at Heart to Heart if you're having difficulty navigating these issues. A reluctant spouse may hear questions and answers better from a neutral observer.