As many people have experienced, children can put stress on a marriage relationship. In fact, research shows that marriage satisfaction decreases after a couple has their first child. Adopting a child, can create even more pressure on a marriage. You may have already experienced infertility or other losses that has created stress. You may also be anxious as you wait for a child, which is often out of your control.
Then, of course, once the child enters the home, there are the concerns related to the child and the child’s background. Because any adopted child has some uncertain background concerns, you are required to take pre-adoptive education. This education will include attachment-informed parenting. Such training is to help you improve the relationship with your child and help your child to heal from trauma, including the trauma caused by pre-natal injuries such as exposure to drugs/alcohol and maternal stress, and in addition to the more obvious traumas such as abuse and neglect.
While you are learning more about attachment-parenting, you can use this same type of training to also improve your marriage. Not only is a stronger marriage always better for the child who will enter your home, but the way that you improve your marriage can also be the means by which you can be a better parent to your adopted child. In fact, the marriage counseling that has been scientifically proved to be the most effective is called Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, and was developed by Susan Johnson. Dr. Johnson is perhaps the foremost expert on attachment and marriage, and her book Hold Me Tight, and accompanying workbook, provide an easy to understand and step by step means to creating a closer more loving relationship. If each spouse is more connected to each other, this leads to each one also becoming more securely attached.
For those wanting a book from a more Christian-based perspective, there are two excellent books by the Yerkoviches How We Love and How We Love Our Kids. The first book provides attachment-based marriage strategies, and the latter, attachment parenting skills. This husband and wife team compels us as Christians to look at our past to heal our futures.
Another book, specifically designed to help couples draw closer together and weather any storm and written from a Christian perspective, is Safe Haven Marriage by Archibald D. Hart and Sharon Hart Morris. Certainly adopting a child from difficult circumstances can create some serious demands, and you will want to be well-prepared to navigate calmly the unexpected pressures.
The connection between having a strong marriage and being effective parents to an adopted child goes beyond just creating a stable home environment. A strong marriage can create two securely attached individuals who can help their child to also become securely attached. An adopted child—especially one from a difficult past—cannot become any more securely attached than the parents.
Therefore, even if you did not have an ideal past, which may have resulted in your being less than securely attached, you can change to become what is called an “earned” securely attached person. There is further good news. If you become securely attached as a result of the marriage and individual changes you make, studies show that you will be even a more empathetic parent than if you did come from a healthier background. The even better news is that your adopted child is more likely to become securely attached. Remember your adopted child can only become securely attached if you, the parents, are securely attached as well.
Learning to become a more empathetic listener and responder not only will bring you more aligned in what the Gospel calls us to be to others, but will also allow you to become more securely attached—meaning our families can also be stronger.
As with the effort that you have invested into adopting a child, improving your marriage will take time and resources. And like adopting a child, there are priories that needed to be rearranged.
*If you would like to begin today to learn some practical strategies that have incorporated attachment-based methods into their marriage, take a look at some of the book suggestions above and maybe even consider visiting the Smalley Institute https://www.smalleyinstitute.com/ which provides a free couples communication course.