Adoption and marriage

I haven't written much about the impact of adoption on marriage because in most of my posts I like to share a little bit of advice- something good I've learned along the way in this journey- and when it comes to the topic of how to maintain a strong marriage through the adoption process, my best advice (my only advice?):

Marry John Burden.

Well, don't really marry him because I already did, but I honestly attribute the strength of our marriage mostly to him. I'm a pretty average wife.  I do the things wives shouldn't do like nag about socks on the bedroom floor and be overly dramatic about dinner being ruined when I realize I forgot the spinach for the spinach and pasta dish I'm making.

John, however, is an above-and-beyond husband.  He comes home at lunch to do laundry.  He cooks dinner twice a week (or conveniently schedules dinner dates at friends' houses on his nights to cook- I'm on to this little trick of his...).  He brings the car away for oil changes and he goes grocery shopping with me.

On our wedding day on my mom's hospital floor.
January 2, 2008.
 Adoption is one of the stressful life events that has the capacity to tear down or build up your marriage.  Though we've certainly had some tense moments in our adoption, our adoption has built up our marriage.

We had the seemed-like-a-curse-at-the-time-but-turned-out-to-be-a-blessing-in-relationship-to-this experience of going through my immigration processes right at the start of our marriage, and that experience taught us a lot about navigating paperwork and endless waiting seasons together.  A huge part of the adoption journey, as any adoptive parent can attest, is paperwork.  In our relationship, I'm the organized one.  Not to say that John is disorganized- but he has approximately 2,942 unread emails in his inbox (all junk mail- so why read them, right?)- and I'm the one who spend an hour at Staples last year surveying all the different types of binder and boxes and files, trying to ascertain the best way to organize our adoption paperwork.

John refers to himself as the "work horse." I'll make the list and he'll get it done.  I'm the one who figures out how many copies of our mortgage note we need and John makes the copies.  I spend my evening emailing our agency, sorting out questions for our dossier and John spends his lunch hour driving around town to gather the documents we need.  I schedule an appointment with the notary and John comes along for the ride (and the signature). 

This works because we go with it.  Every once and a while John will get sick of driving to the Secretary of State to get another six documents apostilled (a fancy, internationally recognized assurance of notarization. I didn't know what that was before this process either) and I'll get crabby because I feel like the weight of getting all the paperwork done right is entirely on my shoulders.  When that happens the best thing is for us to do it together.  John will sit bleary eyed beside me at the kitchen table and double check my paperwork or I'll hop in the car at keep him company on this trip for those endless apostilles. We play to our strengths and play together when our strengths are running low.

When it comes to processing our adoption emotionally, we've done it differently but still in-tune with one another. John has supported me while I set up our little man's bedroom and celebrated my impending parenthood on Mother's Day.  I didn't make a big deal out of Father's Day for him because he didn't want to make a big deal out of it.  I laughed when John registered for a sit-and-spin toy (aka: nausea on wheels) at Target and celebrated his excitement when he bought a kid bike trailer at a yard-sale. A few years ago I probably would have been upset that he didn't want to celebrate Father's Day, but I've learned over the last 8 years together to let him teach me how I can best support him.  This is a marriage 101: love the other person how they need to be loved, not how you want to love them.

The hardest part for me was this: people asking us if we had any kids.  Friends and family obviously knew the answer, but when we'd meet someone new and they asked, "So do you have any kids?" My answer was always, "Yes we're adopting!"  John usually gave the same response but when we were in the hardest part of the wait, unsure of when Russia would start processing adoptions again, John once just answered the question, "No."

That was really hard for me to hear because it felt like denying our son on some level.  For John, it was just because he was in pain and didn't want to rehash our story with strangers.

Thankfully the hardest part of the waiting period soon ended so we could move forward, but again we learned the importance of letting the other person process their emotions in their own way.

The thing that has held us together more than our personalities or the way we've processed our adoption emotionally, it's our faith. We are both motivated by the conviction this adoption is God's call for our family.  We are both learning what it means to walk in obedience.  Most importantly I think we are both learning to rely on God even more than on one another.  We are both learning that we can never be everything to one another.  John cannot fill the motherhood space in my soul.  I cannot soothe the aching father gap.  Neither of us can provide anything but prayer for our son right now.  Only God can fill those spaces in our lives. 

Vow renewal and big fat marriage celebration
June 28, 2008.
 Adoption has brought us together like never before because it has brought us to God like never before.  We are both realizing our own helplessness and we are both learning to find our strength in Christ.  We are continually coming to terms with how much we cannot do for our son and one another and we are continually driven to the sufficiency of Christ.  This might be the best gift our adoption journey has given to our marriage: I've learned that John is not enough for me, John has learned that I am not enough for him, and we've both learned that we are not enough for our son.  We've learned that Christ is enough, always. Then, with our needs sufficiently met in the cross, we become exactly what each other needs: a husband, a wife, a father, and a mother- fully alive in Christ.



  1. Anonymous10/03/2012

    This is a great insight: "love the other person how they need to be loved, not how you want to love them."

    There is a lot of wisdom on your blog. I am praying for your family and this final leg of your adoption.

    - Ali in Toronto

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words and your prayers Ali. They both mean a lot to me!

  2. Anonymous10/03/2012

    I love this Jill, I have always admired you and John's relationship and having been around you guys since the beginning I am so blessed to be a part of your lives and your adoption in some small way.

    God is clearly drawing you two together in beautiful ways and you're self aware enough to share like this and bless others as well.

    Love you

    1. Thank you Leanne! I love having you in our lives and hope as life goes on we get in each other's lives more and more! xo

  3. I just found your blog through Pinterest when a friend of mine posted your adoption maternity photos on her "Future Family" board. I just wanted to say I love your blog, I've spent the last hour or so reading through your posts and it's very inspirational and makes me excited for the day that God may lead us to adoption as well as it's always been something I've wanted to do. Through reading, I also figured out that we're both from West Michigan! I like in Portage, south of Kalamazoo. Anyway, just wanted to share that you have a new follower! And I can't wait to read more about your journey and finally having your son home with you.

    God Bless <3

    1. Small world! Thanks so much for your encouraging words and I am thrilled to hear that you guys are considering adoption too. Feel free to ask me any questions as you discern God's leading!

  4. Thank you for your openness. As my husband and I have been doing foster care, it has been hard on our marriage at times. It is encouraging to read someone's success story and be encouraged to further my relationship with God and to rely on his sufficiency more. So often, I want to take control, or try to take the easy way, which when it's not God's intended way isn't as easy as I hoped it would be. I pray that some day I will be able to write similar to what you have written here, and say for ourselves that "We've learned that Christ is enough, always. Then, with our needs sufficiently met in the cross, we become exactly what each other needs: a husband, a wife, a father, and a mother- fully alive in Christ." Thank you for your witness!

    1. Laura I am always so humbled by foster care parents; that takes a very special person (couple) and lots of patience and grace. Thank you so much for opening up your life to the blessing of foster parenting- there is such a need! Learning to rely on the sufficiency of Christ is a difficult task, but I believe God will give that ability to anyone who seeks it. It has been a hard road for me and I feel like I am sitting on a dock, having just skimmed my feet on the surface of the ocean of his strength. Thank you so much for your encouraging words and I pray you continually find God's strength when you come to the end of yourself. xo

  5. I just wanted to leave a note to let you know that your blog has been a blessing to me. I found it through Pinterest and have so enjoyed reading about your adoption journey and learning from you. You have some great insights in this particular post as well, which I appreciate. My husband and I have been married just a year next month, but we have long known that adoption was for us. We intend to have two biological children (if we are able) and adopt two (domestically, most likely), but certainly God's plans will determine how things go! I eagerly anticipate our parenting stage, but for now I have to settle for enjoying other people's children, and hearing about others' stories and adoption journeys. Thank you for sharing your story! Your sister in Christ, Jacy


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