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Ask A Therapist: How Do I Talk to My Partner about Adopting?

Relationships, Parenting, Ask a Therapist
6 min read
black woman smiling at baby she is holding

Dear Therapist, We have been trying to get pregnant & haven’t had much success. I’m starting to think adoption is the right path for us, but my spouse isn’t so sure. How do I talk to my partner about adoption and my desire to have children?


Frame therapist, Grace Huntley, weighs in...

Before we begin, I want to take a moment to acknowledge how challenging the road has been so far. Not knowing the details, I can imagine that it’s been a rollercoaster ride of hopes, disappointments, and possibly losses. I’m crossing my fingers for the both of you that it’s also been full of support from a loving community, but in case that’s been missing, here are a couple resources that can help to fill the gaps. 

Now onto your question. It’s exciting that you’re considering adoption as a way to grow your family! That said, I can also understand how it’s intimidating to think about diverging from the plan. So let’s walk through a couple of steps that can hopefully help you feel a little bit more equipped for the conversation ahead.


5 Tips for Discussing Adoption with Your Partner


#1: Prime the Stage 

Before you dive in, is there anything that needs to be done first? Sometimes when we’re striving towards a goal, especially if it feels like a moving target, we don’t have a lot of time to rest and reflect. If you haven’t already, try to find a moment to talk about what the last couple of months or years has been like for both of you. Are there things that need to be discussed or dreams that should be mourned? Are there questions that you’d like to have answered before moving forward?


#2: Get Clear On The Goal

Get clear on what your end goal is for the conversation. What would a win look like? Are you hoping that everything will get hashed out in one big discussion, or is this more of an opening-the-door or testing-the-waters type of talk? How prepared do you want or need to be to accomplish what you want to do?


#3: Identify the Factors that May Make Things Harder or Easier

Once you have your goal figured out, gather the information that you already know. 

  • Are you clear on your own reasoning for adopting? What was the process like that led you to this decision? How has your partner formed his own feelings about adoption?
  • How comfortable are you with having these types of conversations? Are they new for you as a couple, or pretty par for the course? What do you both need to feel most comfortable?
  • What exposure have you both had to adoption, parents who have adopted, or adoptees? Have you had prior conversations about what a family looks like to either of you or what the dream of family meant?

Basically, you’re figuring out how much convincing may be necessary here and trying to anticipate and get ahead of any possible hesitations. 


#4: Whittle It Down to Three Main Topics

Now that you’re clear on what you want from the conversation and the extenuating circumstances that may influence how it goes, you can figure out exactly what you want to say. Especially with important conversations, we want to give people clear and concise information that sticks to main points. Try to come up with three big things you want to cover, whether they’re main points or questions to be answered. 


#5: Share in a Way That They Can Hear You

Two resources I love for these types of conversations are Gottman’s “soft start-up” and the G.I.V.E. exercise from Dialectical Behavior Therapy’s (DBT) interpersonal effectiveness skill. The soft start-up gives you tools for approaching a conversation without blame or criticism, and grounding things in your own experience and perspective. G.I.V.E. is one of three skills for interpersonal effectiveness in DBT. It’s specifically designed to promote relationship effectiveness by facilitating open communication.


Final Thoughts…  

Go easy on yourself and your partner in this conversation, keeping in mind that you may both be entering it a little raw. If you find that you’re having difficulty hearing each other, proactively take advantage of couples counseling to bring in a trained professional to help facilitate the conversation. 


About the author: Grace Huntley is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in NY who provides telehealth counseling to self-aware overachievers in their 20-30s who are striving toward self-love.  As a transracial adoptee and first-generation college student, Grace has always been interested in helping others navigate uncertain paths, specifically when they're experiencing a lack of social capital to guide them. Grace’s approach is collaborative, stemming from a belief that the client is the expert on their own life and experience. While she’s comfortable working with a diverse range of clients and issues, areas of specialty are career and transitions, emerging adulthood, anxiety, depression, romantic obstacles, and trauma. Her goal is to help clients gain insight into their "whys, wheres, and whens" to promote self-awareness and reduce negative patterns of thought and behavior. Connect with Grace or view more of their work at their Frame profile.

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