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When Only One Spouse Wants to Adopt

What if a Spouse is Struggling with Adoption?

If you can relate to questions like these, chances are you’re feeling frustrated — and potentially a little alone:

“I’m ready to adopt, but my husband is against adoption.”

“My husband wants to adopt, but I don’t.”

“My wife doesn’t want to adopt; can only one spouse adopt a child?”

“Can I still adopt if I have a reluctant spouse?”

“Can I adopt without my husband?”

But struggles like these are actually common, and our adoption specialists get the above questions all the time.

To consult with one of our adoption professionals, you can call 1-800-ADOPTION or click here.

If you're a prospective birth mother and the father of your child isn't supportive of your decision, you can click here or call 1-800-ADOPTION to get connected to one of our professionals now.

Is Adoption Possible with a Reluctant Spouse?

Different people reach their decision to adopt at different times, and it’s not a process that can be rushed. It’s absolutely possible that you get there before (or after) your spouse does, and there’s not necessarily a great cause for concern yet.

However, it’s also true that a couple is only really ready for adoption when both adoptive parents have emotionally moved on from their infertility and have fully committed to the journey ahead. If one person is ready to begin the process but they have a reluctant spouse, adoption may not be the answer quite yet.

In the article below, learn more about what to do when you and your spouse can’t seem to agree on adoption and find some suggestions for moving forward.

Common Reasons for a Spouse to Resist Adoption

When only one spouse wants to adopt, it’s usually because the other partner is still working through feelings of grief and loss. If this is the case for you, it can be helpful to take the time to learn about the grieving process for infertility and determine exactly where in that process your spouse is.

The grieving process is not necessarily linear, nor does it have a timeline. Everyone deals with grief differently and at their own pace — which is why it is common for one spouse to reach a place of acceptance before the other. However, it is common for an individual to experience the following emotions during this process:


Your spouse may not have accepted yet that you will not be having children through means other than adoption. If this is the case, it’s possible that it isn’t necessarily that your wife or husband is against adoption; it’s simply that they don’t understand that you will not be biologically having a child yet.


Withdrawal occurs when a spouse wants to avoid talking about infertility or adoption altogether. Of course, everyone has periods of time when they do not want to think or talk about certain things, but if this is a constant pattern, there is often an underlying issue that needs to be addressed.


Apathy is a lack of interest about the upcoming adoption, which is often a result of an individual who hasn’t dealt with his or her disappointment or anger over their infertility. If your spouse is feeling apathetic toward the adoption, they might engage briefly in conversations about adoption but will rarely offer anything other than minimal comments or thoughts. Your partner may try to ignore his or her emotions and move forward with the adoption to appease the spouse who is ready to adopt. However, it will be impossible to ignore these emotions forever, and this approach may result in other, more intense emotions as the adoption gets closer.


Anger, which is often fueled by disappointment, is a common feeling experienced among infertile couples. For example, a spouse might feel disappointment when infertility treatments don’t work. This may result in a spouse feeling anger toward:

  • himself or herself for not being able to get pregnant.
  • his or her spouse for not being able to get pregnant.
  • their finances, as each failed infertility treatment costs more money.
  • their infertility doctor for not being able to help them get pregnant.

If your spouse is experiencing any of the above emotions, there’s nothing wrong with that (as long as they are not dealing with their feelings in an unhealthy or harmful way). However, adoption does not work when only one spouse wants to adopt, so be patient. Allow him or her the space they need to become comfortable with the decision on their own.

It’s also possible when a wife or husband “refuses” to adopt — or to even entertain the idea — that their resistance is rooted in misunderstandings or fears about the process. Adoption can be overwhelming, especially when there are so many myths surrounding it. Your spouse may simply not know enough about adoption to be entirely comfortable with the idea. They might be worried about the financial commitment or about having a relationship with birth parents. They might have even deeper concerns about their ability to bond with and love an adopted child.

Whatever the cause, communication is key. It’s important to let your partner know if your heart is really set on adoption, but it’s equally important to listen to their concerns and support them in their grief process. If you can work together to identify the root cause of your spouse’s reluctance, you will be able to find a way for you both to move forward.

If your disagreement is partly (or entirely) due to misinformation, talking to an adoption specialist might help. A professional will be able to answer questions and provide additional information that could help you determine together whether adoption is something you want to do.

The Risks of Pursuing Adoption with a Reluctant Spouse

If a spouse is still experiencing these emotions as the couple enters the adoption process, he or she may unknowingly sabotage the adoption.

A spouse who is struggling with adoption might be more skeptical of things like adoption fees, prospective birth parents’ intentions and the adoption process in general. A reluctant spouse may focus on obscure details not within his or her direct control and may put up obstacles throughout the process, whether they realize it or not.

Focusing on minute details and attempting to micromanage the adoption process may offer the spouse an element of control that he or she was missing during infertility. It makes sense, but he or she may ruin the entire process simply because the real underlying issues are not being properly addressed.

Moving Forward When Only One Spouse Wants to Adopt

For a spouse struggling with adoption to move on from his or her infertility, communication is the key. The couple must talk openly with each other and identify where each is at in the grieving process. Asking questions like, “Can only one spouse adopt a child?” or “Can a married woman adopt a child without her husband?” ignores the real problem, which is that you and your partner are not on the same page.

You should only move forward when you are both ready and excited to add to your family through adoption. Otherwise, this is an unhealthy dynamic from the beginning. It would not be fair to either of you — or to your future child — to begin this process without each other’s full support and commitment.

If a spouse continues to struggle with choosing adoption, an infertility counselor can help sort through these various emotions and identify their root cause. It may even be the case that he or she needs some time alone in therapy to get to the root of their own feelings without the influencing pressure that yours can sometimes lend (even if you don’t mean for them to). There are also many infertility support groups, where a spouse may find comfort in discussing his or her feelings with others.

If you have any questions about the adoption process, or if you are struggling with adoption, you can click here or call 1-800-ADOPTION.

Information available through these links is the sole property of the companies and organizations listed therein. American Adoptions provides this information as a courtesy and is in no way responsible for its content or accuracy.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Do we need to retain our own attorney?

No, American Adoptions has established relationships with some of the best adoption attorneys in the nation. Because adoption laws vary from state to state and between counties, it is important to utilize the services of an adoption attorney who specializes in the state where the adoption will finalize, which is unknown until you match with an expectant mother. You have the right to retain your own attorney, but doing so may be an additional, unnecessary expense.

Can we choose the gender of our baby?

American Adoptions does not allow gender specificity in adoption. Any family who wishes to be gender-specific in their adoption should contact us at 1-800-ADOPTION and ask about the possibility of an exception waiver before taking any other steps toward adoption with our agency. Any families who do receive an exception to be gender-specific may also incur an additional fee, which helps cover the additional advertising costs of such a request.

Please note that gender specificity will likely increase your wait time significantly.

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