I never contemplated how adoption would affect my marriage before my partner and I adopted our daughter. We decided to move back from Ireland to the United States in order to adopt, and that big move consumed our thoughts. It was only a few months after adopting our daughter that my husband and I started to see the things that adoption will do to your marriage, and while they were difficult things to acknowledge, they were also pretty great things, too.
Adoption is in no way easy. Even the adoption of our daughter, who arrived only five weeks after we moved into our apartment in the United States, was rife with hard conversations and growing experiences that made our marriage stronger. They certainly weren't easy or fun conversations to have every single time we needed to have them, but one by one they pulled us closer together.
One of the most important things adoption helped my partner and I realize was that we needed to put our marriage first, even though we both wanted to spend every minute and all our energy on our daughter. We realized we would be able to bond with our daughter regardless, and whether we took an occasional date night here and there or not. In fact, we needed those date nights in order to have a strong marriage that would be able to support our daughter as best as possible.
Adoption isn't the easiest thing to go through in a marriage, but it certainly made my marriage stronger in the following ways:
It Forces You To Have Difficult Discussions About Parenting
Our adoption home study was such a learning experience for both of us. I had never even Googled "adoption home study questions," or anything remotely related, before our caseworker showed up. By the end of the several hour interview, my partner and I were emotionally spent. For the first time, we had to have real conversations about parenting, what kind of parents we wanted to be, and what type of discipline we would use with our future children. We were so consumed with just starting our family, that we didn't really discuss what we would do once our babies arrived.
It Teaches You About Your Partner's Upbringing
Our home study also revealed so much about each others' upbringing, because many of the questions dealt with relationships we had with our siblings and our parents when we were younger. I learned a lot about my husband's childhood, and there were things that were revealed in our home study that we spent time talking about (in depth) afterward and in order to really get on the same page.
It Brings Out Any Skeletons
If there's anything you don't know about your partner before you begin an adoption home study, the caseworker has a knack for getting it out into the open. Then you get to deal with any new revelations that might impact your marriage or your impending parenthood.
It Forces You To Face Financial Questions
Because adoption is so damn expensive, it certainly forces you to face up to any financial questions you might not have sorted between the two of you when you go through the adoption process. Financial priorities, at least for us, were made crystal clear when we began to realize what we needed to cut out in order to afford adopting our daughter.
However, even if you decide you can't afford traditional adoption, and decide you can't afford the $15-50k private adoption involves, you might decide that adoption from foster care (which comes at a relatively nominal expense) is something you can tackle together from a financial perspective.
It Helps You Deal With Disappointment Together
We had two failed infant adoptions last year as well as two failed foster-to-adopt situations. Thankfully, my husband and I were able to deal with all four of those together, by leaning into each other and supporting one another through those disappointments. In fact, we ended the year feeling like there were no "failures" in our year of disappointment, only situations that weren't meant for our family.
The adoption journey can involve disappointment, for sure, and how you deal with it together is important and marriage-building.
It Gives You A Shared Sense Of Accomplishment
Simply finishing the paperwork, completing our home study, and getting our license to adopt gave my partner and I such a huge feeling of accomplishment. I mean, adoption was a mammoth task we were tackling together. Except for planning our wedding, we hadn't undertaken anything bigger in our eight year marriage.
It Grows Your Collective Compassion
I think most couples live in their own bubbles, until infertility bursts that bubble. (Although it's worth mentioning that many people choose adoption for other reasons beside infertility.)
You think about how you're going to grow your family, then you hit a road block and adoption opens your eyes to a situation vastly different than your own. Most infant adoptions are a result of a crisis pregnancy, and crisis pregnancies usually happen to women who are in difficult situations. Adoption was the first time our hearts were truly broken for the situations that result in adoption, and that reality grew compassion in our hearts for one another, too.
It Pushes You To Choose Your Marriage
There are a lot of ways having a biological baby is similar to having an adopted baby (and much fewer ways having biological children is similar to adopting older children), but there are ways it's just different. When we adopted our daughter when she was 3 days old, it felt really important that we bond with her fully and intentionally. Of course, six months later when I hadn't left her side for more than 10 minutes, let alone a date with my husband, we were faced with the realization that we had to choose and protect our marriage first and foremost.