Over the course of any relationship, there are ups and downs, celebrations and struggles, sickness and health, moments of bliss and bumps in the road. And before taking new leaps into the unknown together – like moves, marriage, jobs, children – there are often tough conversations. If you’re considering adoption as a potential way to expand your family as a part of a couple, there may be some tough conversations ahead of you. But like many things in a partnership, these conversations may be tough, but ultimately they’ll be beneficial. Growing a family is a huge responsibility, so adoption isn’t something to be taken lightly. There’s a lot you’ll want to talk with your partner about as you’re considering it, and a lot of these are the same sort of conversations any couple planning to expand a family need to consider.
- Why do you want to adopt? All families are different, and families decide to adopt for a wealth of different reasons. Are you and your partner on the same page about why your family wants to adopt?
- What do you hope for? All parents have hope and dreams for their families and their children – adoption just adds a different dimension to the mix – so what are you and your partner picturing when you imagine your future family?
- What are your fears? Along with hope, of course, comes the flip side. What are you worried or nervous about? Can you work through this, or do any of your fears indicate deal breakers or areas where you and your partner really struggle to agree? It can be difficult and messy to talk about what you’re afraid of, so try to remain open to hearing each other out, and try to listen generously and without judgment.
- Can you afford it? There’s no getting around the fact that having children brings new expenses into your life – and your budget will surely never be the same – but the process of adoption does introduce new expenses, and depending on the route you take toward adoption, it can be very expensive. Is this something that makes sense for your family presently, does the cost alter what sort of adoption you are open to, and do you need to make changes in your life or your budget to make adoption feasible for your family?
- Are you ready? Most parents agree that it’s hard to ever really absolutely 100% be ready for the big adventure that is parenthood, but adoption may add some new layers to the mix. If you’re pursuing adoption because of infertility, you may also want to ask yourselves if you’ve had time to grieve. Many couples who decide to adopt do so because they’re not able to have biological children, and many people have hoped to grow a family in this way find they need some time to mourn the loss of having a biological child. Couples who have been pursuing assisted reproductive technologies to help things along may also experience some stress surrounding when exactly to know that it’s time to stop trying to pursue that route, and turn attention more squarely on adoption.
- Have you considered some of the tough stuff? Are you interested in domestic or international adoption? Are you interested in adopting a child of a particular age? What about a child with special needs? Are you open to becoming an intercultural or interracial family? How will you incorporate your child’s background into your family’s everyday routines or new traditions? How will you help your child develop a positive identity, including racial and ethnic identity? Do you want to adopt more than one child?
- How are you feeling about adoption? Here, there are no easy answers, and no right answers either, and your answers to this question may even change from day to day. But you’ll want to keep lines of communication open, stay honest with each other, and work through all the joyful, painful, messy, complicated feelings together.
- What do you agree on? What don’t you agree on? What are deal breakers? Again, these can sometimes be tough questions to explore, but they’re important ones.
- Can you both agree that you do, indeed, want to adopt? In many ways, this is the most important question. But all of the considerations listed above can complicate things. This is, though, something that you definitely need to be on the same page about before pursuing adoption.
If you’re very new to considering adoption, you may also want to speak with an adoption expert or someone at an adoption agency who can help you learn more about the specifics of the process and help you explore your options. You may also want to seek out a couples counselor or therapist who can help facilitate some of these challenging conversations and also help you work through what may be some rather complex emotions. And, though this may sound a bit contradictory, giving yourselves some time to sit with difficult feelings – and maybe taking a breather or a break from talking about things if conversations are getting too upsetting or stressful – can sometimes be just what you both need.
To be able to talk things through – discuss hopes, fears, expectations, and the countless other concerns that will come to mind as you work through the process – will help you both get on the same page and decide how to best move forward when pursuing adoption for your family, if that’s what you decide to do. Just remember, you’re in this together.