Keeping Marriage Strong in the Adoption or Foster Journey

Valentine’s Day is nearly upon us. But anyone who’s walked a difficult adoption or foster care journey will tell you: one of the first places the strain is felt is in your marriage.  That’s certainly been true for Rachel and me.  I know it is the case also for many others serving wounded children in close quarters on the mission field, in U.S. group homes, or otherwise as well.

Of course, powerful pressure can either pull a couple apart or press you closer together. But it takes a great deal of wisdom, intentionality and grace for that kind of strain to ultimately work for good and not harm

That’s why I’m so excited that CAFO is partnering with Family Life to include “The Art of Marriage” as one of several Pre-Summit Intensives at CAFO2015. As the website describes:

Keeping marriage fresh and strong along a difficult adoption or foster care journey isn’t easy.  This NEW CAFO Summit Intensive weaves excellent live teaching and best-of video content from Family Life’s “Art of Marriage” together with insight and discussion especially for adoptive and foster parents, and others caring for children from hard places in close quarters.

Our speakers — including Family Life founders and adoptive parents, Dennis and Barbara Rainey — will share expert teaching, real-life stories, humorous vignettes, and down-to-earth strategies for strengthening your marriage.   They come not only as experts but also as fellow parents, sharing from their own stories of pain, joy, forgiveness, and grace.

My friend Jason Johnson recently wrote an excellent blog post on this theme: The Best Thing You Can Do for Your Marriage in Foster Care.   Johnson ends with the beautiful truth that going through really tough things together can indeed be a tremendous blessing to a marriage:

Now more than ever, you are a team, fighting for justice, loving the helpless, speaking for the defenseless and banding together against the one who wants to destroy it all. Celebrate the hard places it will take you, press into the broken places it will expose in you and relish in the intimacy it will produce between you that otherwise you may never have had the opportunity to experience together.

But Johnson also is real about the depth of the challenges. As he begins the article, “The weight of foster care has the potential to either break your marriage or bond you like never before…”

That’s the truth. If you’re a foster or adoptive couple – or considering it – I’d encourage you to read Johnson’s article and take seriously the five very practical suggestions he makes.

I’d also commend to you another article on love and marriage that stirred my heart this week, Finding Each Other, written by none other than my wise and beautiful wife, Rachel. Whether foster or adoptive parents, or just two fallen human beings seeking to love Christ and each other, Rachel describes so well the task two married souls must choose each day:

And this is how it goes. We find each other. And then, briefly, we lose each other. And then we find each other again. Maybe we lose each other again, a bit longer than we’d like. And we have to find each other. Again.

This is the work and the gift of the vow: “to have and to hold.” It is a daily practice.

The unique pressures of adoption or foster can leave you feeling bruised and miles apart. In fact, they almost certainly will. But in choosing to find each other, again and again, we begin to learn how the strain of it all can indeed knit us ever closer in the end.

For Rachel and me, some of the very hardest — and the most rich and meaningful — experiences of our marriage have flowed from our journey as adoptive parents.