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How Adoption Impacts a Marriage

(This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosure policy.)

I love adoption and do not write this article to deter anyone from adopting, but to strengthen the potential success for families who do choose this road. One of the things that is spoken of very seldom within the adoption community is the effect that it will have on your marriage relationship.

Though the actual statistics seem illusive at best, divorce rates among adoptive parents are reported to be higher than that of the general population. Parenting children with special needs and infertility are also two factors that increase divorce rates and those are present in many adoptive homes. While that is not good news for adoptive parents, there are things that can be done to help protect your marriage.

Some of the things that can place a strain on even the strongest of marriages for adoptive families include:

Public Scrutiny – When people birth their children, for the most part, strangers don’t come up to them at the grocery store and question their parenting choices and decisions. Adoptive parents are scrutinized for everything from what type of adoption they choose to pursue to their choice to bottle or breastfeed, to their discipline methods, to their stand on Immunization, to their changing or keeping their child’s first given name, to the way in which they choose to incorporate their child’s culture, to their decision to be or not be a multi-racial family, to their methods of attachment, to the foods they feed their children. People stare at us in public and come up and ask us questions almost every time we go out. Add to that the pressure to be the best parent possible because a birth mother is entrusting you to raise the most precious thing imaginable or an entire country has allowed you to take one of their most important natural resources and that’s a pretty weighty thing!

And then of course there is that most intrusive scrutiny of all – the home study. This is where a complete stranger comes into your home and because they have the title of Social Worker, they are allowed to ask you all kinds of intimate details and give their opinions of your parenting (even if they are 19 years old and have no children or nieces or nephews, but I digress!) and they ask about your sex life and about your childhood and about the whys of all the decisions you’ve made. I am not saying that checks and balances should not be put in place. I am merely pointing out that all this public scrutiny and pressure can put a strain on a relationship over time.

Sleep Deprivation – This is not unique to adoptive families but can be exaggerated by things such as time change/jet lag in the case of international adoption, drug or alcohol exposure of a baby prenatally, and of course the most obvious – that adoptive families tend to have larger families, making their years of sleep deprivation longer. Lack of sleep can change your perspective on many things and if you’re too tired at the end of the day, you don’t take the time to talk or perhaps to do other things that may be critical for a healthy marriage.

Special Needs – Adoption increases the chances that you will have a child with special needs and this alone ups your chances of divorce. Of our five adopted children, five have special needs. Among the most obvious special needs of adopted children are those related to prenatal exposures such as FASD (fetal alcohol spectrum disorder) and Fetal Drug Effect, sensory processing disorder, ADHD, Reactive Attachment Disorder, and Developmental Trauma Disorder or PTSD.

Parenting a special needs child creates less time together as you run around to specialists and appointments and make decisions that most parents don’t even have to think about and you and your spouse may not agree on the answers. Then there is dealing with the everyday, be it medical crisises or behavior or safety issues. It can be exhausting. You can also read these tips for parenting a special needs child.

Infertility – Many come to adoption after years of infertility. The stress of that and the strain that can put on a relationship, on a sex life, on finances, is significant. Some infertility treatments cause mood swings for the wife which can be pretty unpleasant in a marriage too. So now these couples who have already suffered so much hurt and loss and grief embark on another road of ups and downs where the outcome is not always clear and the scars of the years of infertility are still there. The hurts are often still raw and for some, that pain never goes away. For others, they come to the realization that adoption wasn’t meant for them to be Plan B but was God’s plan A for their family all along.

Financial Strain – The number one cause of divorce in Canada and the United States is conflict over finances. Adoption affects this in the following ways…infertility treatments are very expensive and some couples have already wiped out all their savings on that before they even get to adoption…domestic open adoption, private adoption, and International adoption are all very expensive…adoptive families tend to be larger which is expensive in itself. So adoption costs more (unless you adopt kids in the care of the Canadian or U.S. government in which case that is free but their risk of Special Needs is much higher and caring for Special Needs kids is more expensive, so the rule still applies) than birthing your children which could lead to additional financial stress.

Disparity – In almost all cases of adoption, one spouse wants it more than the other. Sometimes, they both really want it, but often one is the driving force while the other is going along with it to make their spouse happy. That can obviously cause tremendous strain later on if there are problems adjusting. This type of disparity gives room for a lot of resentment to build.

Conflict – In any marriage, there are so many potential areas for conflict but the ones added by adoption may include things like disagreeing on birth family contact, discipline with really challenging behaviors, how to work on attachment, how to deal with questions in public, what to tell your children regarding their history, and adopting future children from the same birth mother.

There is a lot of talk in the adoption world about preparing yourself for attachment issues and toddler tantrums and parasites but preparing your marriage is rarely, if ever, mentioned.

Those that are still waiting could add some books to their reading list other than the typical parenting and adoption books. I would recommend starting with “Love and Respect” or “The Five Love Languages“. For less financial stress, I would HIGHLY recommend you getting “The Total Money Makeover” by Dave Ramsey. Not only will it help alleviate some of the financial stress, but it will get you communicating as a couple about it.

The first year home with your child may be difficult on your marriage.  As a couple, you will have far less time for each other and your relationship will undergo some major changes. As a family, there is a lot of adjustments to be made, so if at all possible, just get through that first year any way you can and don’t make any life-changing decisions until after that first year.

I am by no means an expert on marriage. There were years where my husband and I barely managed to stay together, but we held on and have now been married for 21 years. When we were at our lowest point, marriage counselling helped, as did changing our communication styles, but what we found to be the most effective prescription for our marriage was instituting a weekly date night. I have suggested it to other couples who have seen it turn their marriages around as well. We have some set rules for our date nights to increase the impact they have on our marriage. We have a set night each week that is our date night regardless of circumstances. If we can’t find a babysitter, we have an at-home date night. If we don’t have much money, we do something that’s free. Putting in that time commitment and being able to be a couple once a week instead of just parents was the magic for us.

Protect your marriage by:

– working on your communication,

– putting in place weekly or at least monthly date nights,

– budget, attend marriage counselling or marriage retreats or seminars,

take care of your own self-care and encourage your spouse to do the same.

Join me for a free 5 part email series, Little Hearts, Big Worries offering resources and hope for parents.

Date Night Ideas

The Date Night Rules

(This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosure policy.)

Date nights saved our marriage. That might sound dramatic, but I believe it to be absolutely true. A number of years ago, we had a marriage crisis and went into counselling. The counselling helped somewhat but I don’t believe it would have saved our marriage. During one session at the height of our crisis, the counsellor suggested that we turn our appointments into mini dates by going for lunch afterwards. We did that day and each week afterwards.

How Weekly Date Nights saved our marriage and the rules we follow to make it workImage Copyright: deagreez / 123RF Stock Photo

Before long, we were looking forward to our lunches together after counselling and began to plan other activities. Soon, we were making a day of it. We went for a walk through the river valley, to the food trucks downtown, visited an art gallery, saw a comedian, even went indoor rock climbing. We began to anticipate spending time together. If for some reason, we skipped a week, we missed our time together. We started to remember the things we liked about each other.

Life circumstances eventually crept in and we stopped going for counselling which also meant we stopped our weekly dates. Cracks began to form in our marriage again and the old ones became wider until it was like we were standing on opposite sides of a deep divide.

It was then that we made the decision to implement weekly date nights. As the parents of 7, we could have made every excuse as to why once a week would be too difficult to manage…not enough time, not enough money (our date nights have been much cheaper than a divorce would have been!), no child care, but we also had a lot at stake and we knew there could be no excuses. We came up with these date night rules.

Since we started this a year and a half, so much has changed. There are still stressors in our marriage. We are still two people who come to this with different upbringings and communication styles. We still argue here and there. But we see more positives than negatives. I think one of the biggest things that has surprised me about the date nights is how much they began to impact the rest of our week.

As we learned more about each other and started to relax and have fun together, I began to notice my husband more, to think of him more often during the day which would sometimes lead to me sending him a short text just to say I was thinking of him. He would sometimes remember things I had told him on a date night and we had more to talk to each other about the rest of the week. The more time we spent together, the more time we wanted to spend together. It wasn’t a quick fix. It took months for us to relax more and see the benefits of this. At first, it was hard for us to stick to the date night rules but once we did, we saw immediate results.

The date night rules:

Non-negotiable. We chose Wednesday nights. If one of us gets invited to something else on a Wednesday or something comes up, date night trumps whatever it is. This shows that the marriage and the other person is a priority. It not only demonstrates that to each other, it also sends that message to the world. People in our circle know that Wednesday night is our date night.

There have of course been circumstances that are exceptions, but we discuss them together and for the odd exception, we reschedule for another night that week.

Issues are off limits. Date night is not time for “discussion” or therapy. It is not a venue to air your grievances. It is a time to enjoy each other’s company and get to know each other more intimately. No hot button topics, no finishing fights.

It is tempting when you get so little time alone together to use date nights as the time to make decisions and talk things out, but avoid the temptation.

Take turns planning. By taking turns to plan the date, the pressure is not on one person. This also leads to more fun as sometimes we try to outdo each other or surprise each other. Sometimes we plan something with the other person in mind which is valuable in our relationship and other times, we plan what we ourselves like which is also valuable as it allows you to still be yourself within the relationship and allows your spouse to learn more about you and your likes.

No excuses. If the babysitter cancels or you can’t get a babysitter, make an at-home date night. We sometimes play a board game or watch a movie or have charcuterie in our living room while we talk. If there is no money in the budget for a date, take a picnic to a park, go for a drive or visit showhomes, build Lego together, or make supper together in the kitchen after the kids are asleep.

Have fun. Life is stressful and the day-to-day can be monotonous. Make these date nights something to look forward to. They don’t have to be elaborate. Just walking together hand-in-hand or swinging on the swings at a playground while you talk about your hopes and dreams can make a pretty memorable night. Keep things light. Enjoy each other. It’s okay if you just go to a movie or dinner most of the time, but once in awhile, do an activity together. Go bowling, go on a double date with another couple, try out an escape room, play mini golf, take a cooking class.

The Date Night RulesImage Copyright: rawpixel / 123RF Stock Photo

How date nights saved our marriage:

  • we saw each other as people again
  • we talked more
  • we fought less
  • we relaxed around each other
  • over time, we began to look forward to our time together and told each other so

(that is a shower note The Husband wrote me a few weeks ago and my reply)
Date Night shower notes

  • friends noticed the change in our marriage and some began their own weekly date nights with the same rules
  • this sometimes led to double dates which were fun and expanded our support network
  • our kids noticed less tension and arguing
  • our home became more peaceful
  • we were able to discuss deep topics, our faith, our hopes and dreams, our values
  • we remembered what we used to like about each other
  •  we laughed together
  • our kids saw the importance we placed on our marriage
  • we made our marriage a priority
  • we made memories
  • we remembered what it is that we are fighting for
  • we are growing a relationship that is not only about the kids
  • we like each other again

If you’re looking for date night ideas to keep things interesting, here are 175 of them!

175BestDateIdeas_therealisticmama_frontcover_300-2-665x1024I know there are many obstacles standing in the way of a weekly date night but as I see many marriages ending around me, I feel more and more strongly that none of those should get in the way. If you don’t have child care, perhaps there is another couple who would also like to have a date night that you could swap child care with. If there isn’t extra money in the budget, either re-work the budget or go on free dates.

Creative Date Nights for couples. These are fun suggestions and most are inexpensive or free.

Movie Marathon Date

(This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosure policy.)

Marriage can be challenging at the best of times, but when you have seven kids, five with special needs, it can sometimes feel downright impossible. Several years ago, we implemented a weekly date night and it has made a big difference. It gives us a chance to talk and be two humans instead of just two parents. But more than that, it lets us have fun again. We try to keep things interesting and are always on the hunt for new ideas. We take turns planning the dates which makes it fun because we sometimes try to outdo each other on the creativity.

Movie Marathon Date: tips to plan one and make the most of the time (tips to do it as cheaply as possible too)Disclaimer about the pictures: The Husband was actually happy to be there. Really he was! We just aren’t any good at taking selfies and his face reflects the attempts to get both of us and the movie poster into the picture!

Date “night” might not be the best description of this particular date because this was a marathon date as well as a movie marathon! It took a full day and evening. We left our house at 9:30 in the morning and didn’t get home until after 10 at night! Fortunately, our second oldest is a great babysitter and the kids had a lot of fun while we were away.

What made this way more fun than an average “movie and dinner” date was that we could compare the movies and anticipate the next one. Scheduling four movies meant that if one movie was a stinker (and one was!), it wasn’t a bust because we still had another movie to look forward to. Seeing four movies in one day gave us a lot to talk about. It felt a bit like an adventure too as we had to be sure to get to each one in time to get good seats.

We had a good laugh about one particular movie short that played at the beginning of all four movies. We loved it the first time, liked it the second time, were annoyed by it the third time, and giggled about it together the fourth time.

Another element that made the date fun was that we took a selfie in front of each movie poster before the movies and posted them on Facebook so our friends and families were interacting with us during the day and asking questions about the movies.

Normally, I wouldn’t recommend being on social media during a date, but in this case, we did it together and had fun responding to comments together so it added a little something to our time.

Tips to get the most out of a movie marathon date:

  1. Go online to determine showtimes and calculate your itinerary. You will need to play around with the order of the movies in order to make the times work.
  2. Run times do not include commercials and previews but do include end credits. Most theatres recommend that you give an additional 20 minutes to account for the previews and commercials before the film starts. Keep this in mind when determining your itinerary.
  3. Buy all your tickets at once. When you first arrive, purchase all the tickets so that you aren’t disappointed later if a showing sells out and to save having to stand in line each time.
  4. Choose a location that has a lot of showings to get the most out of your time and to ensure that you can see a variety of movie genres.
  5. Plan ahead to save money. Look for coupons (sometimes on the back of cereal boxes) or discount codes. Ask for movie tickets for Christmas or birthdays. We used a combination of a gift card, a movie night out certificate that included popcorn and drinks along with two adult tickets, and free movies we had earned with points on our redemption card.

The shows we saw on our movie marathon date were Joy, Brooklyn, the Point Break remake, and Concussion. If you are afraid of heights like me, I wouldn’t recommend the 3D Point Break! The others were all very good.

Joy and Concussion were our favourites. We found both to be inspiring. The Husband and I both enjoy biographies and true stories so we are partial to that type of movie but they were very well done. It sure gave us a lot to talk about!

At the end of the fourth movie, there was one more movie that interested us that we would have had time to see but we decided to call it a day. We aren’t as young as we once were and we were afraid that five movies in a row may be pushing our ability to stay awake!

If you are looking for unique date night ideas to keep things interesting, you can read our list here.

Creative Date Nights for couples. These are fun suggestions and most are inexpensive or free.

Take the Step Towards a Better Marriage

(This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosure policy.)

2012…we were battered and bruised, exhausted, every bit the picture of the walking wounded. Financial strain, the depletion of ourselves that came with parenting so many special needs children, surviving crisis after crisis, always emerging a little more beaten down each time had taken a toll on our marriage. We were both hurting.

Around us, one marriage, then another, then another, and another and another began to fall like dominoes including family and close friends. We heard from some that life was easier now that they were separated and there were days when giving up looked almost tempting. Staying together felt like it would be an uphill climb and we were both so tired that it was daunting.

Take the Steps Towards a Better Marriage

To read more of our story and to hear how we were able to better our marriage, continue reading on the Managing Your Blessings site as part of their series on 31 Days to a Better Marriage.

31 Days to a Better Marriage