Guest post by Daryl Britton, adoptive parent and chaplain for Bethany Christian Services.
I have to admit that after being married for over thirty years, we have faced a lot of challenges in our marriage. But I think my wife and I would both agree that there has been nothing that has tested the mettle of our marriage more than adding children to our empty nest through foster care and later adoption.
We consider our adoptive children to be blessings and gifts from God just like our biological children. However, the adoption journey can be filled with all kinds of twists and turns, mountains and valleys, setbacks and surprises, much of which is out of our control. But the positive side is that although adoption and fostering children has tested our marriage, I can honestly say it has made our relationship stronger, brought us closer together and helped us grow in our spiritual lives. The following are some practical steps we have found helpful in keeping our marriage strong through the adoption process.
BE ON THE SAME PAGE . . . and COMMUNICATE
I think it is crucial that both spouses be on the same page about adoption and parenting their children. One spouse may be at the top and another in the middle of the page, but being of one heart and mind is important. There is probably always one spouse who is the initiator and feels more strongly about adopting and another who is more cautious or fearful. Regardless, I think it is essential for both spouses to be in agreement about their commitment to adopt and how they will parent their children. To do that, we have discovered the importance of talking things out and working hard at communicating with each other, which is not always easy to do. We are learning the importance of asking each other questions, actively listening, and genuinely wanting hear what the other has to say.
BE INTENTIONAL ABOUT SURRENDERING OUR WILL TO GOD
We tried unsuccessfully for over two years to adopt a young girl. But we learned God had other plans. He surprised us by placing two wonderful kids in our lives who eventually needed adoption . . . and they were already living in our home! We are learning to surrender our will and watch God work. We often think of the agencies as approving adoptions and placing children, but we are reminded it is really God who does that. Psalm 68:6 says, “God sets the lonely in families.” For the Christian, it should be about what God wants and not simply about what we want. And isn’t God’s will always best anyway?
BE WILLING TO AGREE TO DISAGREE
There is a saying that if both spouses agree on everything, one of them isn’t needed! There are times you will not agree and may see things far differently than your spouse. The question is what do you do with that disagreement? At times the answer might be compromise, but it is also important to acknowledge that it is okay to see things differently and in the end simply agree to disagree without being disagreeable!
BE COMMITTED TO MEETING EACH OTHER’S NEEDS
Often children that are adopted come with high needs. When we were experiencing a highly challenging time with one of our adoptive kids, someone asked me if my wife and I were taking time for each other. The truth is, we were so focused on our children’s needs, we weren’t. That night it so happened that the kids had activities and we were able to go on a date, something we had been neglecting. I realized after our date how important it was for us to continue to spend quality time with each other without children.
BE IN PRAYER TOGETHER
I think if we really want God’s heart, mind, direction, and wisdom, it means we need to seek Him. We need to remember that our kids are His kids and He is the one who really has their best interests at heart. We make it a priority at our home to pray for all of our children regularly. We consider praying for our children one of our primary responsibilities and greatest privileges as parents.