Counselling Therapist Geoff Ayi-Bonte, registered clinical counsellor, answers your questions on adoption, family dynamics, and transracial families.
Q: I’m fed up with doing all the work around adoption in our family. My partner and I want to adopt again, but when I ask him to become more involved, he says okay, but doesn’t follow up. How can I get him more involved?
A: There are three dimensions to this issue, each very important: parenting roles, your adult relationship, and adoption.
Many couples neglect to actually talk about and negotiate their parenting roles. Most often we take the present and future for granted based on what we learned about those roles in our past. It could be that your husband is fulfilling the role he learned from his past regarding how a father is supposed to “show up.” The same likely applies for you, as you find yourself doing more than what you may have bargained for instead of confronting him and finding a resolution that satisfies everyone.
Being a “loving dad” also means being a loving husband. It also means participating in all aspects of the child’s life. As such, I suggest that the two of you sit down, talk about what you need and what you are capable of giving. As you assess what the demands of parenting are, you can then start to negotiate what each person will do and what you will contribute together.
Your adult relationship
There is a part of your adult life that your husband is checking out of. As partners, our job is to support each other. It rarely feels good when our partner either fails to recognize our needs or simply ignores them. That being said, we often get caught assuming that our partner can read our mind and ought to know what is going on. Don’t rely on mindreading skills. Instead, tell your husband about how his actions affect you. I am sure he cares enough to want to figure out a resolution that has you feeling more supported and appreciated without him compromising who he is. These can seem like difficult conversations to have. Keep in mind that what we model to our children regarding relationships shapes their future expectations of relationships. As tough as this conversation might be, it is a vital one to have—for your sake and for your child’s future relationships.
Perhaps, predictably, I am cautious about you wanting to adopt a second child at this stage in the absence of this matter being settled. Another child will not encourage him to participate more. Another child simply means more for you to do, if things do not change. Having dealt with adoption matters for a number of years, I have learned that children can’t and need not fix adult relationships. Instead, they simply deserve to enter a home that sets a great example for how life ought to be. Your relationship with your husband, based on what you said, can use a little fine-tuning in this arena before you add more to your plate.
Thanks for asking this question, because I know that many others can relate to your situation. There is a lot for everyone to learn from this, and my hope is that everyone will embrace this opportunity to grow. Reaching out to recruit support and gather information is a wonderful first step.
If you require support to figure any of this out, or simply have comments or questions, please contact me. For more information on this and other topics, you can refer to any of the articles on my website.