From Cynthia’s Couch: Marital Health for Adoptive Parents

From Cynthia’s Couch:
Needs and Benefits of Supporting Marital Health for Adoptive Parents

A blog from Post Adoption and Post Permanency Supervisor, Cynthia Couch, LCSW

Imported Pathology

  • Family has imported pathology (child bringing pathology into the family). Marriage prior to adoption may have functioned well and be breaking down due to entrance of child’s pathological behaviors and repetition of their destructive past.

Family Healing

  • Although the adoptive family is not the source of the child’s problems, it is within the context of the family relationships that primary healing occurs (Vera Fahlberg, M.D.)

Splitting Caretakers

  • Adoptive children tend to split the primary caretaker (usually the mother) from the other spouse (usually father). This occurs by more severe acting out in the mother’s presence and the mother’s reporting this behavior to the father. Since the father has not witnessed this behavior firsthand and the child may present as more charming and agreeable with the father, he becomes suspicious of his wife’s motives for being punitive with the child or demanding his support. This leads to marital discord and the wife’s sense that her husband is siding with her and not the child. Therefore the child “wins” by splitting the parents and the child’s acting out behavior is not addressed appropriately.

Inclusive Therapeutic Interventions

  • Parents tend to abandon therapy when they are not included and respect is not given to their primary marital relationship that existed before the adoptive child arrived in the home. Parents tend to be empowered by therapists who include them in the therapeutic interventions. A main therapeutic intervention is to assist the parents to present themselves to their children as a team and for splitting not to occur. Therefore marital strengths such as balance of power, men being able to accept their spouses ideas (Gottman), compassion in the marital interaction, and physiological soothing (Gottman) can assist parents in being united in working with their adoptive children and allow marital discord to subside.

Less Marital Discord

  • Less marital discord in the home allows the adoptive child to experience a healthy context in which their behavior can change and they can reintegrate earlier traumatic life experiences. Parents may be more emotionally supportive and empathic with their child when they perceive their own needs are being met within the marital relationship.

About The Author

As the Post Adoption and Post Permanency Supervisor, Cynthia Couch, LCSW, leads the department in guiding families to resources and support services to help them thrive. After earning her BS in Psychology at Abilene Christian University, her Master’s in Social Work at Simmons College and spending 15 years as mental health practitioner, she discovered her love for working with adoptive families and found her career at Arms Wide.