September 25, 2013

Adoptees & Marriage:
When Your Spouse Doesn't Understand

Many requests have come to my inbox asking for help with adoptee marriage issues.
I’ve also noticed on a few adoptee sites the past few weeks that adoptees seem to be interested in and asking for help concerning their marriage.  

Photo Credit: Lee J. Haywood, Flickr
My mailbox has informed me that some of you aren't currently in a relationship or married although you want to be -- you fear it because of your unresolved adoption issues. Others have expressed that you are in a marriage that is desperately hurting because your spouse doesn't understand your issues. And some of you have been divorced once or several times because of unresolved adoption pain, among other things. 

At the outset here, let me say, there is no judgment here. 
Only love, help and hope!

I have heard your hearts cry.  We're launching a new column here specifically speaking to adoptee marriage issues.  [Insert wild cheering here.]

New Feature at AR: Adoptee Marriage!

I say "we" because...I’m not going to write this regular column alone – my husband of 26 years is going to join me. It’s only fitting. Not only has he walked through life with me for almost three decades, but he’s also got the most popular post here at Adoptee Restoration. No, I’m not jealous. Even though I've written thousands of blog posts, and he's only written one and BOOM. But whatever.

What can you expect out of this ongoing series? I’ll be writing some posts alone, and so will Larry. And some, we will co-write. 

We’re going to address everything, and I do mean everything. We’ll try to keep it R-rated just in case you leave your computer open and your kid starts reading. No worries. 

All Marriage Posts Are Now In One Area

I’ve written some posts on this topic before and they have now been catalogued here, under one link -- Adoptee Marriage. You can access all marriage posts from this link or from the tab that has now been created under the blog header, specifically for the purpose of this ongoing feature.

If you are a reader who is particularly hungry for adoptee marriage information, go back and read the previous posts while Larry and I ramp up for new material on this issue in the coming weeks and months.

Today's Topic:

To begin, we're addressing a common issue: when your spouse just doesn’t get your adoptee issues.

People read myhusband’s outrageously popular post and they say, “Wow…she’s so lucky to have had somebody who gets it like this…that’s why their marriage works.”


I wish it was that easy. Getting blood from a turnip would have been easier when we first got married.

He hasn’t always gotten it.
And at times I thought it would kill us.

Some of you might remember the post I wrote about a night I melted down on one of our dates. He took me to see October Baby. I was horribly triggered. It was a night from hell. He didn’t get it. And no, I’m not referring to sex, although that didn’t happen either.

What a horrible date, and quite honestly…that wasn’t that long ago. 
He kept saying, “I don’t understand…I don’t get it…what’s wrong?” 

That night I never could explain it the way he needed to hear it to comprehend my sadness.
We went home from our date and I curled up on my side and cried myself to sleep.
It took time for understanding to come.

There are other adoption issues he didn’t used to get, and it took a few things to happen for a change to come.

By sharing the following tips, I don’t offer them as an easy fix or a complete list, but a starting point for dialogue we'll have on this issue in the coming posts. 

We were getting along pretty well was a good day.
5 Ways to Help Your Spouse Get It!

Active Listening 

Even when you don't understand where the other is coming from, take time to actively listen to each other. Active listening involves really hearing what the other person has to say without giving into the temptation to think of what you’re going to say next.

You can't really hear your spouse's heart if you're already thinking about your rebuttal. This isn't about coming up with a clever response or being right. It's about hearing one another's heart. 

Remember that chances are your spouse has been indoctrinated with the same Americanized (or Christianized) view of adoption that the rest of the world has experienced. You can't wean them from koolaid overnight. And for that matter, how long did it take you to come out of the fog? It takes spouses time to de-fog too.

Perhaps you have had an amazing revelation of why you have felt like you have all these years, or you now "get yourself" for the very first time. You read the Primal Wound while drinking a bottle of wine.  Realize how long it took you to understand you...and maybe you still don't, completely. 

Active listening on both sides is necessary to come to a fuller understanding of how adoptee issues fit into your relationship dynamic.

Give It Time  

Nothing has been solved in a short time with us when it comes to adoptee issues that affect our marriage. I wish I could tell you otherwise. I know you may want to put your head into your pillow and scream now that I've told you that, but I must speak truth. We’ve never solved something adoption related in an afternoon. There were no a-ha moments, more like a-ha years. Coming to a place of real understanding has taken a significant amount of time.  And guess what...we're still learning!

It's worth it to give it time. I'm so very glad I didn't give up on my marriage even though there were some really rough days.

I can tell you there were times I thought we'd never move beyond. Times I said it would take a miracle. 

We're still here. And we are madly in love.

Realize Time Isn't All It Takes 

I know I just said give it time but I must also give the caveat that time alone solves nothing. While time is an ingredient that cannot be missing there must be other elements present too. 

The point here is, don’t ignore the issues and expect time to solve them all. That will never happen.

Don't Try to Explain It All Yourself 

Your spouse needs to realize the issues you struggle with are more than likely very common among adoptees. But how can you get him/her to understand that?  Is it possible your husband or wife believes what you are feeling or expressing is unique only to you? 

Think about what can you do to change that perspective.  Are they willing to read on adoptee issues? If so your chances of gaining understanding are much greater. There are a plethora of materials that will assist the one you love in comprehending your reality. Will they read an adoptee blog or a recommended book?

If they are not a reader, what about spending time with some adoptees besides yourself? At our Adoptee Restoration Tampa Bay support group, I encourage spouses to attend if they would like to. I believe hearing the hearts of other adoptees will help a spouse to come to grips with the fact that their partner is reacting normally for what they have been through.  If there's a support group in your area, I encourage you to attend and ask your spouse if they would be willing to go, to support you.

Maybe your husband or wife isn't a reader nor do you know any adoptees in the area.  One thing I did with Larry that helped was to read short excerpts of things to him, that people had written from the adoptee or first mother community. A word of caution -- don't overwhelm them and read a 2,000 word post. This will more than likely be a turn off and actually work against you. Quick bursts of info here and there plant seeds of understanding. 

Pray Your Guts Out 

Of course you knew I was going to put something spiritual here. I’ve got this pastor gig going on. 

Prayer really works. It’s improved my marriage like nothing else has. Nothing. Really!

I encourage you to try it. Even if you're an unbeliever. Just give it a chance.

Prayer has improved my marriage more than active listening, and sex all rolled into one.  Even though listening and sex are super important.

Let me share just two reasons why.

Deanna & Larry ~ the month we got married.

Larry and I were really young when we got married. He was 19 and I was 20. I know, most of you think that's crazy. You're probably right. We met and married while at Valley Forge Christian College, where both of us were studying to be pastors.  Even as a teenager, one of his priorities as far as a future marriage was concerned, was to find a wife who prays. Not just one who prays occasionally or in crisis, but someone who has a regular prayer life. He was attracted to me physically and all that, but one of the non-negotiable things he wanted in a spouse was that she really knew how to pray. 

He didn’t realize how valuable that quality would be, once we were married. As a teen, he just thought having a wife who prays would ensure that he married a Godly woman. 

Little did he know that prayer would actually SAVE our marriage. 
It rescued us on adoptee issues and so much more.

After the wedding, we quickly discovered how opposite we were on so many things.     Both of us are firstborns --leaders with extremely strong personalities. 

We came to an impasse on so many things. At times, he was wrong, and at other times I was wrong.  But there we were, both stubbornly holding our ground.

In our times of impasse Larry started saying to the Lord, “God, I have tried to talk to my wife about such and such, but she’s not hearing me at all. We are at a horrible impasse, and I don’t know what to do.  In fact, sometimes we’re fighting horribly and it hurts so much. She’s not listening to me. But I know she talks to you. She talks to you all the time, God.  So…can you please talk to her for me?”

And that’s exactly what happened. 

At times when I wasn’t hearing my husband’s heart or wisdom and I was wrong, God would speak to me in my times of prayer and let me know it.   

And the great thing is, this goes both ways!

I married a man who prays. So this works out well for me, because when he’s wrong and we’re at a place where we aren’t making progress, I ask God to talk to him. And He tells him what I haven't been able to get through to him.

Sometimes it takes time. I’ve prayed for weeks, months and even years on some things.

God hears, and He answers.

There are times after hearing from God that I’ve had to apologize to Larry and he to me. Successful marriage is the union of two great forgivers.        

When Larry hasn’t understood my adoptee issues in the way I want him to at times, I’ve prayed for God to enlighten him. It takes time, but it works.

I mentioned two reasons that prayer is powerful -- here's the second...

According to the National Association of Marriage Enhancement in Phoenix, AZ, while many reports say that one out of every two marriages end in divorce, their research shows that only one out of every 1,150 couples who pray together will get divorced.

Is that amazzzzing or what?

Come on, just give prayer a try. What do you have to lose?

Speaking of prayer…

God, we come to you on behalf of every marriage represented through the readership of this blog. We ask that you would touch the marriage or future marriage of every person reading here. For those who feel their marriage is hopeless because of adoptee issues, I pray you would infuse hope into their hearts by your Holy Spirit, right now. There is no situation beyond Your help.  Let active listening be a part of each marriage. May we be patient and give each other time to come to grasp what the other is feeling and facing.  Send help to those adoptees who need the influence of others to help their partner understand what they are facing with adoption issues. Bring change as we seek Your divine guidance. Amen.