Adoptive Families, the award-winning national adoption magazine, is the leading adoption information source for families before, during, and after adoption.


The Reluctant Spouse

It’s not uncommon for family members to initially oppose the decision to adopt. With time and understanding, most will come around. So what to do if your household faces a split decision?

Here, find ways to help your spouse or relatives feel better about starting the journey, and read heartwarming stories from once-reluctant spouses. With patience, careful consideration, and a few conversations, you just might get your "other half" ready to adopt!


Personal Stories


The Reluctant Spouse
by Jill Smolowe
In this timeless piece from the AF archives, one hopeful parent-to-be offers this advice: Don't be surprised if your mate resists adoption even as you're embracing it.
PLUS: The Reluctant Spouse Revisited: Years later, Jill reflects on the many apprehensive adopters she's encouraged since writing her article.

Falling for Jing Jing
by Dennis Kneale
A husband once so reluctant to adopt learns, in hindsight, that his child was what he needed all along.

Mimi and her Grandfather
by Evelyne McNamara
For months a mother tried to convince her dad that he could be a grandparent to the little girl she was bringing home. It took the child considerably less time to bring him around.

They Still Don't Get It
Two AF readers open up about the painful and rarely talked-about experience of dealing with a relative who never gets on board.

You Are Me, A Letter to My Son
by Larry Carlat
After four years of infertility, a parent was finally ready to entertain alternatives to producing a mirror image.


Recommended Resources


The Reluctant Family  
by Lisa Milbrand
You're ready to adopt. But your spouse is reluctant to get started. How can you get your "other half" (and family members) on board?

Book Review: China Ghosts
In his memoir, once-reluctant dad Jeff Gammage creates a poignant and insightful chronicle of the making of a family.

Ideas for Helping to Ease a Spouse's Reluctance.

Share YOUR Story!


AF Readers Respond: Did Your Family Include a Reluctant Spouse?
(With feedback from adoption expert Lois Melina)

We received such extraordinary feedback for our feature article on reluctant relatives (January/February 2008 issue) that we didn't have space to print them all. Here's some of the responses we received (add your story in the Comment box below, or go to our Polls page to weigh in on topics for future articles):


My mother was scared for me to adopt, being single and under 30 years old. She was afraid that the birthparents would try to reclaim him or that I would get into a financial bind. After I brought him home and she met him, she loved him immediately. He looked very much like her other grandchildren and myself (it was a domestic adoption). She calmed down and just went with it. When his birthfather tried to come back, she immediately said, "He can't have my grandbaby, he belongs with us! That's my grandson." That was the first time she called him her grandson. Now, I can't get her off of him. —Carmen, Georgia

When we were considering adoption, my husband was hesitant to raise "somebody else's child." I told him that this was God's child and God was asking us to raise him, because his first parents could not. That's all it took. —Betty, California

When we told our families we were adopting, everyone appeared to be excited. Over the next few months, the topic of conversation veered toward our open adoption plan. My sister in-law began asking questions, which I welcomed, at first. However, once I gently tried to educate her, she became defensive, opinionated and downright mean, telling me that, because I'm not a mother, I couldn't possibly understand what information children should and should not be privy to. I reminded her that because I was adopted, it is helpful to be open and honest with a child about their adoption story. Even with facts readily available, my sister in-law still has a negative opinion about adoption, and I don’t think there will ever be a positive breakthrough. —Michele, Pennsylvania

I was the reluctant one. We struggled with infertility, and my husband suggested adoption early on. But I didn't want to adopt. I wanted to be pregnant. So I didn't even think about adopting as an option for several years. But when it became clear that pregnancy wasn't going to happen, I started researching adoption. I realized that part of my reluctance was due to fear of the unknown. As I learned more about adoption, I became more comfortable with the idea, and we decided to adopt. —Julie, Ohio

At age 40, I realized I'd forgotten to get married or have children, and began the journey toward adopting an older child. When I told some of my single friends, I was surprised that they saw it as a betrayal of our carefree and party-filled lives! Not so surprising was my father’s reaction. He imagined his only daughter a victim of marauding youth, penniless from theft of my money and belongings, and years tied up in lawsuits. I knew that my father’s core fears were not impossibilities, but I was not jumping into this lightly. The part of my support system that remained was strong, and soul-searching, researching childcare resources, establishing a family therapist, and training in child behavioral management had strengthened me for what lie ahead. I listened to the concerns thrown my way, but continued toward the placement of a 13-year-old girl. Ultimately, my daughter was accepted and loved by all who were close to me, and she brought a new and beautiful facet to my family. Those friendships that had dropped away were replaced by stronger bonds with those on similar paths. Two adored adopted teens later, I have had no need to look back! —Laurel, Colorado 


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Sometimes the answer from a reluctant spouse is a permanent, "No." Not every "no" can be changed to "yes." I realize that your magazine is designed to inspire and encourage those involved in adoption, but some of us have had to mourn what will never come to pass. I had researched adoption as far back as a single college student in the 80's. Marrying late (I was 33) and giving birth even later, (I was 37) in '98, my first husband and I went through extensive training and approval from the state DFS, only to never quite get matched up with a child. We had 3-4 chances to be considered for specific children, but other families were always chosen. When I was 40, my first husband died suddenly in 2001. I soon realized that DFS was never going to select me, a single mom, over married couples. I ended my attempts to adopt through the state, and signed up with an international adoption agency. By the winter of 2004, all the paperwork was done, and it was time for a wait. While waiting for a referral from Guatemala for a toddler, I met and fell in love with a wonderful man with 3 teenagers. Randy was also willing to be the father to my young son. By the time Randy and I were married in June, 2005, the adoption agency suggested that I put my application "on hold" for a year, to allow for some time for adjustments in the new marriage. After that first year went by, I had "the talk" with my new husband about continuing my -- now our -- efforts to adopt. Knowing Randy well, I wasn't surprised that he sadly said he didn't have it in him...he already felt a great deal of stress from meeting the needs of his 3 children, plus the responsibility of being father to my son. He felt financially strained, emotionally drained, and he felt that he had short-changed his children in the past by working long hours and not being enough of a father for them. There were a lot of tears as we talked that day; he said he felt as if he'd "driven a stake through your heart." A year after our "talk", he's still just as stretched with the needs and expenses of 4 children. He was worried about me developing bitterness towards him for ending this dream, but I've come to realize that God had closed adoption-doors for me many times along the way, long before I met this man that I want to share the rest of my life with. Sometimes there isn't a happy adoption story. But for all of those successes that can be celebrated through your magazine, bless them and their new families.

Posted by: Natalie Miller at 5:44pm Mar 17

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