Couples who adopt are very special. It’s a massive decision with lifetime implications. I think it starts with a “what if …?” and ends with a “let’s do it!”  In my mediation practice, I’ve had to deal with what happens next.

You bring the baby, toddler, child, tween, or teenager home and set about making him/her a part of your family. You’ve read numerous books and met for hours with therapists so that you’re clear about your child’s needs. But have you talked about your partner’s needs?

It’s inevitable that relationships typically change and evolve irrespective of the circumstances. Adoption is, however, is not a typical circumstance, and you may discover things about your partner’s style of parenting that don’t exactly thrill you. Simply put, be prepared for conflict.

Here are some issues I’ve dealt with in mediation:

  • The parents are each bonding differently with their child.
  • The parents have different ideas about discipline, schooling, friends, hobbies, hygiene, nutrition, or bedtime.
  • The parents might not be making sufficient time for each other. 

Please remember, not all conflict is bad. When you look at it as an opportunity to communicate; to listen, hear, and understand, it’s actually pretty darn good because it can lead to resolution. This is especially important when it comes to navigating the muddy, dirty, sticky, messy, and rewarding world of child rearing.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of communicating your observations and expectations with your spouse. If you think he/she has a closer relationship with your kid than you have, TALK ABOUT IT. Give specific examples: “Haley only calls for you when she’s had a bad dream, and that makes me feel unloved.” What if you’re a sounder sleeper than your partner, so you don’t jump up as quickly to offer comfort to your child? Wouldn’t it make sense that when it happened again, she’d call for the parent who came in the last time?

If you have different ideas about the nuts and bolts of child rearing, i.e., homework, bedtime, bathing, etc., have a conversation with your partner and LISTEN TO EACH OTHER about the reasons for a 7:30 bedtime, or a bath every night. Then be flexible. Try it his way for a while and then set a date to reassess.

If you feel neglected by your partner because he/she is spending more time with your child than with you, don’t complain. Instead, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. Arrange for a babysitter, or set the alarm an hour earlier one morning, or write a love letter, or bake a batch of brownies.  Remember that your spouse is your best friend. Remember why you fell in love in the first place. Above all, remember to pay attention to your marriage.

Although I started out writing about the unique circumstances of adopting a child, let’s face it.  Child rearing in any fashion can adversely affect a marriage.  But only if you let it.