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5 Things the Spouse of an Adoptee Should Know

How to Uniquely Support and Love an Adopted Spouse

As the spouse of an adoptee, you’re probably intensely more aware of all the ways in which adoption has shaped your partner — for better, for worse and all the complex ways in between. 

However, you yourself aren’t an adoptee. It can be hard to understand your spouse’s thoughts and feelings about his or her adoption. 

Sometimes a person’s experiences surrounding adoption may affect how they relate to others, including their family relationships. So having a clearer understanding of a few basic things may help strengthen your relationship and allow you to look at adoptees with a bit more clarity.

1. Don’t Make Assumptions About Your Spouse’s Feelings Toward His or Her Birth Family

An adult adoptee can have complex and mixed emotions when it comes to their birth family, especially if they grew up in a closed adoption. For example, your spouse may genuinely have no interest in searching for their biological parents. Never push them to search if they aren’t ready — always let your partner take the lead when it comes to potentially reaching out to biological family members.

Similarly, never assume that your spouse resents his or her birth parents, nor should you ever speak ill of your partner’s biological family. If you want to know how your spouse feels about his or her birth family — ask and listen. 

2. Ask But Don’t Push

Some adoptees grew up with an unspoken worry that they might hurt their (adoptive) parents’ feelings if they talked about adoption or asked questions. Many adoptees don’t talk about their adoption much, simply because it’s not at the forefront of their everyday life and it’s not that interesting to them. For others, they’re quite not ready to talk about adoption

Adoption is a part of every adopted person, but as you know, it’s not the only part of your spouse. However, many adoptees do want that part of their lives to be recognized, especially by someone they love and trust more than anyone.

If you want to ask a question, or you think that your spouse may be experiencing difficult feelings stemming from their adoption, go ahead and ask your question. Be gentle and be ready to drop the subject if they aren’t ready to discuss things further. But sometimes, your spouse might just need someone else to raise a question first to get a conversation started.

3. Learn About Adoption, If You Need Some Context

Ask your spouse if they’re comfortable with you reading some books about adoption, and explain why you feel it’s important for you to learn about adoption. Some adoptees struggle with trust, so don’t research topics pertaining to their life without their knowledge or consent. 

As you read up about adoption, always remember that every adoption experience is going to be unique. Your spouse’s adoption, and their feelings toward their adoption, will be uniquely their own. So, no book is going to be a guide to your spouse’s adoption experience. However, generally educating yourself about adoption can just give you some more context and allow you to hear other peoples’ stories. 

You may look at your spouse’s interactions with people and the world in a new light and with a little more understanding.

4. Not All Issues Are Connected to Adoption (Although Some Are)

If an adopted person seems distant in a relationship, it can be easy to point a finger at their adoption. But that may not take into account everything else that’s going on in their life and within that relationship. 

So, before you approach your spouse and claim that their adoption trauma is causing friction in your marriage, remember that the problem may not be related to adoption at all. 

Additionally, your spouse did not choose to be adopted. Any difficult emotions he or she may have experienced because of their adoption (which you may be inadvertently affected by) is nobody’s fault, so it would be unfair to let resentment build toward your spouse regarding any adoption trauma. 

If you do find yourself becoming frustrated by issues within your relationship, whether you think they may be connected to your spouse’s adoption or not, consider talking to a counselor — either individually or as a couple. Adoption may be discussed with your counselor, but your overall relationship will be the real topic at hand.

Never let your spouse’s adoption become an emotional scapegoat in your relationship. 

5. Listen and Be There

The best way you can offer your love and support to an adoptee is to just listen and be there for him or her. Like any person working through something complicated, your spouse doesn’t need you to “solve” anything — they just want you to be there, love them, support them and listen to them if they want to talk through anything. 

You might not be able to understand everything that your spouse feels about their adoption. That’s okay. It’s just important for your spouse to know that you’ll always be ready to listen without judgement. Your spouse can also talk to other adoptees if they need someone who “gets” what they’re feeling.  

As long as they know that you love them and will always be there for them, that’s what really matters. 

If you’re worried that your spouse is experiencing a serious, potentially life-threatening emotional crisis, reach out to a professional counselor or contact a crisis hotline now