Preface: I want to reiterate (again) that I am a huge ginormous proponent of adoption. It is messy, yes. But it is beautiful. It is redemption. And I also want to be clear that not all adopted children exhibit behaviors that are troublesome or traumatizing. Many are well adjusted, happy individuals. They are surviving and thriving. (Thus no one is writing about them.) And I’m thankful that some of those individuals live in my home and share my last name and call me Mom. Not all older child adoption situations are traumatic. But many are. (Older being a very loose term, ranging from older than a fetus to actual teenagers.) And that is why I share our story. That is why I write what I know. Because you just never know what you’re going to need to know. And you better be ready. Now. So yes, this is a doozy of a post. Yes, it’s long. Yes, it’s going to take you a few to ingest and digest it all. But hey, it’s cheaper than therapy. And I kinda think your marriage is worth a few minutes. So grab a cup of coffee or a big ole’ Diet Dr. Pepper. Pull up a chair for your spouse. And hang on. This just might change everything.

OH, man. Oh man oh man oh man OH MAN. What I, in what can only be deemed a most severe case of underestimation, thought would be an honest post of simple solidarity for adoptive parents of children of trauma, garnering at most two to three thousand views, ended up being a hot poker to a very raw nerve in nearly 60,000 people and counting in just one week. {If you haven’t had a chance to check out THE post, now would be a good time.}

And while much was said that could have been said, one blog post written in (somewhat of) a hurry cannot adequately cover the different types of relationships nor fully express the degree to which those relationships are affected as part of the fallout from raising kids of trauma. Friends, family, relatives, grandparents, siblings, neighbors, church members, school administration and teachers, counselors, therapists, co-workers, neighbors, and on and on and on. Seems no relationship is untouched by the havoc wreaked incessantly by the trauma exploding and oozing from some adopted children.

But there is one relationship that in my opinion and experience (combined with the testimonies of tens and tens of friends who have been there as well) is battered more than any other. One relationship above all others takes the beating that no one ever sees coming. One relationship is collateral damage…time and time and time again. That relationship? MARRIAGE.

And while those who have been there done that totally understand and are either shouting AMEN or wiping away tears or both (Here Here!), those who have yet to walk the hard, hellish, lonely road of parenting kids of trauma would be keen to take a listen. Because if you have plans to, are in the process of, or are currently parenting adopted kids of trauma, IT’S ABOUT TO GET REAL ALL UP IN HERE. (Like, really real.) I only wish someone had been this honest with me many, many moons ago.

Now I won’t profess to be an expert, but after nearly a decade of adoption under our belts, I can share a bit of our testimony from the trenches, some warning lights along the way, what to do and what to most definitely avoid, and yes, how your marriage can actually recover from life in the boxing ring, even if you still live there.

I share our story not because I’m under any presumptive illusion that my readers are dying to hear the dirt on us or that we’ve done most things right. Rather, I pray and trust that you can relate just a little (or a lot), learn a bit about your own marriage, avoid our mistakes, and find hope in the middle of the hell of raising a child in the trenches of trauma. Because I’ve seen too many adoptive friends’ marriages end in heartache. Too many people struggling to survive. Too many husbands and wives no longer seeing eye to eye. Too many former best friends and lovers despising each other. Enough is enough. And ULTIMATELY, I WANT YOUR MARRIAGE SAVED.

Our Story: the nutshell version

We found our other halves in high school. Best of friends. Fell in love.

Senior Prom. Awkward pose.

All at warp speed. Went to college. Wedding. Baby. More babies. Normal suburban life.

True Love’s Kiss.

Husband had a typical job and decent career. I had plans to become a doctor when our youngest entered school. Our marriage was great. Sometimes better, sometimes not so much. But best of friends and committed no matter what. And for the first ten years, there weren’t a whole lot of whats.

The Original Five

The Original Five: Justice, Heidi, Brandon, Isabella, Kirk

But then a little more than eight years ago, God dropped adoption into our lives. And very long story short, within a year we went from being a typical family with three little blonde kids to a transracial adoptive family of eight. Suddenly we had a teenager down to a two-year-old and everything in between.

Our first Fourth of July with six kids in tow

Life was moving fast. And though our heads were spinning, the kids were doing really well, so we (logically…duh) adopted again. Within eighteen months, this husband and wife who had originally planned to have only two (or three) kids IN ALL, had gone from being the happily married and mostly-effective-yet-always-improving parents of three kids to the treading-above-the-water parents to nine, six of whom were considered “older” adopted kids. {I KNOW. It’s CRAZY. But Jesus asks us to do things that are quite psychotic, yes? YES.}

And then, just a few months into parenting our newly adopted child of severe trauma and reeling from the increasing effects of all that that entails (like I said, you might want to read this first: Dear Adoptive Parents…), I found out I was pregnant. Yes, friggin’ PREGNANT. With my tenth child. A big ole’ woops. Total surprise. I cried for three days solid. I mean, it’s common knowledge that everyone in the trenches of adoption and trauma needs a BABY to ease the stress, of course. (That’s sarcasm, people. Don’t go making babies to take away your troubles, ‘cuz that’s just INSANITY. But do feel free to pursue, um, associated marital “stress-relief” to escape reality, even if for, um, a few minutes. I know, easier said than, um, done, but it might be the only kind of bliss you experience for a very, very long time. Did I just say that out loud? Crap.)

0106-1

The Weimer 11 1/2: You can’t see him there, but Baby Dominic was growing in that hidden belly of mine.

So, back to the pregnancy and life in the trenches…My belly was growing but so was the trauma outside of it. Short of me actually getting arrested and going to jail, anything and everything of hell that could happen to parents of a child of trauma did. Darkness. Pain. Attacks. Rages. Violence. Panic. Running away. Police calls. False accusations. Threats. Therapists. Psychiatric interventions. I was home all day raising preschoolers and schooling some of our kids. Kirk was at work doing The Provider Thing. And the person whom we each had always relied on for understanding and camaraderie and respite (EACH OTHER!) was no longer fully available or even fully functional. In fact, I personally had nothing left to give. (Can I get a witness, trauma mamas?)

We were barely staying afloat as a family, and the co-captains formerly firmly at the helm were falling overboard and drowning in the sea of rages and trauma. Storms of life? Psha. Life was a tsunami. Sorry, kids. Grab a branch and hang on and hope that we all find each other if and when the waters eventually subside.

Meanwhile, a production company was filming a documentary about our family’s adoption journey, we were getting a decent bit of media attention, I was chronicling our story for a Christian magazine, and we were invited fairly often to speak at churches, adoption conferences, seminars, and the like, sharing our story and our testimony on older child adoption. (By the way, speaking and writing about our journey is still one of my favorite things to do. It pumps my blood. Because please tell me I didn’t just walk this road for the sheer hell of it. PLEASE DEAR JESUS NO.)

The Cracks

After our first adoption, I suffered a moderate bout of post-adoption depression, most definitely exacerbated by a three-month respiratory illness that I couldn’t shake. I felt like I was coming unglued. And I remember wondering if Kirk had confidence in me and thought I was doing a good job (something that had nagged me even before we ever adopted). After our second adoption, when all hell broke loose in our formerly typically calm home and I needed my husband more than I ever had or ever would, I didn’t even want to get out of bed. I felt neglectful as a mom to our other kids, grieved that my life would never be the same, and more alone than I had ever felt in my life.

Yes, I had a husband. Yes, I told him my feelings. Yes, he witnessed much of the horror. But the bulk of the burden was on me as the mom. The intensity of the pain was on me as the nurturer. The disappointment. The embarrassment. The fear. The shame. On me. And no matter how much I talked, there was no way Kirk could ever possibly understand what that truly feels like. To be fair, he tried. He listened. He prayed. He checked in with me. But at the end of the day, most of the emotional, mental, and physical burdens were on me. And since marriage is a relationship in which burdens are to be shared, this lopsided weight-carrying began to drastically drive cracks into the very foundation of our relationship.

The Infamous Triangulation

Soon enough (it didn’t take long, really), our moderately strong marriage began to suffer the very real effects of parenting a child of trauma. As is often the case, I (the adoptive mom), bore the brunt of the mistreatment and abuse. No matter which birth parent caused the most pain for the adopted child, the adoptive mom tends to have the target on her back far more often than the adoptive father. There’s just something about that primal wound that doesn’t heal so quickly or easily, so the adoptive mom is the enemy.

So there I was, spending my days trying to educate and bond with a very troubled child, while Kirk was at work trying to keep food on our table. (I had quit a full-time teaching job to be able to tend to our new children’s needs, so money was extremely tight.) The control games, the eggshells, the rages started to hit the fan real fast. And I called my husband numerous times throughout the day just to vent, cry, and cope. He was a listening ear, but from thirty miles away was powerless to intervene or come to my aid during the day.

And therein lay the first opening for our troubled child to divide and conquer. Since Kirk wasn’t witness to the majority of the trauma at home (though over time he would see it all), it felt like my word against our child’s. And pretty soon I could see my devoted and loving husband starting to doubt some of the severity of our child’s antics. I could see him questioning me. Doubting me.

No longer was it us against the world; it was our child in between us, pitting one against the other. I mean, surely I must be triggering these outrageous reactions in our child. Surely I must be at fault somehow. Surely I must be provoking it.

Over many, many months and after many tears and hours of conversations (and Kirk witnessing firsthand what I had been experiencing all along), Kirk finally began to understand that our child was the master of manipulators. That they had seen a weak spot in our marriage and inserted themselves right in it. That there was nothing I could have done to prevent the behavior and abuse I was experiencing daily (and even hourly as more time passed). He started to come to my defense and stand up to our child, refusing to allow them to come between us and even very directly telling this child that “we are ONE. What Mom thinks, I think. What hurts her, hurts me. We agree on things. You will NOT abuse her and try to cozy up to me. We are ONE unit.” This was the infamous triangulation. And Kirk worked very hard and quite intentionally to dismantle it.

Kirk standing up for me and seeing the truth of the situation was crucial to our survival, as soon enough I would be needing to defend myself in a courtroom against all kinds of unjust accusations and slander from our troubled child.

Eventually we sought residential therapy for our child, and our family was able to heal for a year or so, welcome a new baby (Thank you, JESUS, for such timely gifts!), and move to a new-to-us home. A fresh start. A relationship reset. A needed respite.

Bankrupt

Life didn’t get a whole lot easier, though, after the child returned home. Much improved, but still very trying. A year later, we adopted yet again. This time a child from a disruption. More trauma came into our home. And over the years, we continued to face battle after battle. Our marriage continued to take hits. After all, who has time or energy or desire to check on the other when you can barely stand up as is? We were bankrupt in every way: financially, emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually.

Weimer Eleven

The Weimer Kids, all eleven

Money was nonexistent, and we owed thousands for years of therapy, hospitalization, and treatment for our child. (So many of you can completely relate. And for that, I’m truly so sorry.) God has always been faithful to provide, but the financial stressors combined with the sheer hell we were continuing to face wreaked havoc on what was once a strong and stable marriage.

Too many nights too often were spent crying and arguing into the wee hours of the morning. We were both drained. Exhausted from years in the trenches. And angry at each other for not being able to fix it. In the past we had always prided ourselves on the fact that we rarely disagreed or argued and certainly never fought, but life in the trenches with a trauma child or two pushed us to places we never thought we’d go.

We sought marriage counseling, hoping to have someone breathe life back into us. We loved each other, but we were battle weary. We just needed someone to look at us, two people in a marriage trying to recover from battle fatigue, and give us hope, to remind us that we are in this together, to help us remember that God has called the both of us to this ministry, that we have been “set apart” and marked for this. We desperately wanted someone to come alongside us as we tried to recover from the years on the battlefield.

But that ain’t what we got, folks. Instead, we got a “professional’s” opinion that we just plain had too many kids. That there was no way in our situation we could ever have quality time together. That we both signed up for this. And now since we made our bed, we were just going to have to lie in it. It felt like the equivalent of counseling a soldier home from a long deployment and associated PTSD and telling them, “Well, that’s just too bad. You are the one who volunteered to join the Army.”  (Yeah, that therapist totally sucked.)

We felt hopeless. Angry. Frustrated. But instead of throwing in the towel (as tempting as that was at times and sometimes actually considered), we joined forces. We vowed to renew ourselves and our marriage. We dove into the Word of God, looking for freedom and healing that only He can deliver. We reminded ourselves that we were in this together. That we loved each other. That God had chosen each of us for the other. We chose to remember that we were more powerful in the Kingdom together than we would be apart. And so we stuck it out.

In the Ring, Together

Looking back, all of these things that seemed to add pressure at the time probably actually saved our marriage. And no, I’m not speaking in hyperbole. Because you can’t leave your spouse when you’re the keynote speaker at a conference and the topic is perseverance. And you can’t move out when cameras are fairly regular presences in your home. And you certainly can’t call it quits when good people are coming out of the woodwork to support your family.

But honestly, we’re just now recovering from the trauma of the past several years. We’re just now filling up our lungs to full capacity again. We’re just now seeing tiny flickers of light at the end of this hellish road we’ve been traveling.

We certainly have our moments. Some days are better than others. We’re both still figuring this out. But now we’re doing it together. It’s not Heidi against Kirk, for “our struggle is not against flesh and blood [i.e. against our spouses], but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).

In the Ring Together

If something or someone comes against either of us, they’re coming against both of us. We’re in the ring together. And if we get knocked down or even just a little shaken, we are getting right back up.Together. We’re going to keep getting hit. But we are still standing and standing still. We’re on guard. We’re ready.

Though we certainly never set out to have anything of value to say, Kirk and I could (and are planning to) write a whole book on how marriages can survive raising “trauma children.” (And not because we’re heroic, but because we’re precisely not. We just prefer our struggles to not have been for naught. Plus, based on the previous blog post response, there seems to be a market for it, right?) But I’ll save the rest of the nitty gritty for that occasion and cut to the chase.

So, IF you are married and IF you plan to adopt and IF that child or children might have any lingering effects of trauma (psst…assume they will), PLEASE take to heart not just the significance of the call but of the seriousness of the potential relationship fallout. In plain English, in simple black and white, here are the DO’s and DON’Ts for marriage in the trenches. GET. READY.

Marriage in the Trenches: The Do’s

  • Gird up. This is the phrase I kept hearing from God in the months leading up to bringing our own trauma child home several years ago, well before we even knew what we were fully getting ourselves into.Whether you’re still in the process or already home with your adopted child, it is vital that you get your armor on and are prepared for the attacks against your marriage. Plant your faces in the Word of God. Hang up sticky notes of Scripture around the house. Pray like never before. Both together and apart. For each other and for your marriage. Don’t wait until you’re in the thick of it. Gird up now. See Ephesians 6:10-20.
  • Know your weaknesses. Kirk explains it well: “No matter how strong or solid any couple believes their marriage to be, every marriage is flawed. No matter how shiny or polished or thick a couple might wish their marital armor to be, there is always a chink. Webster defines ‘chink’ as ‘a weak spot that may leave one vulnerable.’ The size (and area) of this weakness will vary by couple, but rest assured, there is an opening. Every marriage is flawed because every person is flawed. I know this. You know this. Satan knows this. If not given proper attention and care, Satan will use this weakness and exploit the literal hell out of it for his own sick glory. Only Satan can use a very troubled child with a very traumatized past as some sort of ‘infectious agent’ that can infiltrate what you once held dear and valuable and completely flip it on its head.” Whatever your relationship’s weak spots, know them and address them. You might not be able to eliminate them completely, but be aware. Like Kirk said, Satan’s going to attack you there. Be ready.
  • Be informed. Read up on adoption and trauma, and I don’t mean just the process. Check out honest blogs. Web sites. Books. Empowered to Connect Conferences. And this goes for both of you. A common mistake is letting the wife do all the research and giving her husband the highlights. But you both need to be informed. Together.
  • Have a plan. In hindsight, this is probably THE area we wish someone had told us about beforehand. Did we know adoption wouldn’t be a walk in the park? Mostly. But did we have any idea the impact it would have on our marriage? Absolutely not. We needed a plan and had none. I think of it like a fire drill. What kind of agreed upon plan do you have in place for your family should you awaken to fire alarms and the smell of smoke in the middle of the night? Agree upon a plan for your marriage, too. Between you and your spouse, come up with some pre-defined non-negotiables. For example, no matter how tough it gets, we will not turn on each other. No matter what, we will end the night in prayer. No matter what, we will sit and listen to the other. And DO NOT WAVER.
  • Surround yourself with a close network of friends. This is a tricky one, because even the closest of friends can turn on you and walk away. But it is so important that you pull your friends in close. Friends who know your heart and soul. Friends who can stick with you through thick and thin. Friends who mourn when you mourn and rejoice when you rejoice. And if you don’t have these friends, GET THEM NOW. While we’ve experienced a great deal of heartache over the years as friends have betrayed us and turned their backs on us, we’ve also felt the undying loyalty of a handful of friends (mostly couples) who have pulled in more tightly. Friends who we are certain would still stand by us and love us even if we made the worst of mistakes. Friends who love like Jesus does. Surround yourself now.
  • Build a prayer team. Another reason you need close friends is that you need a covenanted group of people committed to praying for your marriage. We credit the prayers of our friends and prayer warriors for helping us survive what should have ended most marriages. Ask people to commit to praying regularly, daily. Have them pray for you, over you, with you. This is where the battle can be won or lost.
  • Find regular time together, even if it’s late at night or early in the morning. Even if it’s thirty minutes watching Jimmy Fallon at the end of the day when all the kids are finally in bed. Do something mindless together. Something that you have always enjoyed. Something that gives you at least a few minutes of escape with each other. For about eight years now, Kirk and I have designated Tuesday nights as our Wing Night. Kirk picks up hot wings (on special on Tuesdays) and we sit in front of the TV (usually to watch the Duggars) after the kids have vacated the living room and gone to bed. That means we might not eat until 11 PM, but it’s OUR time, it’s OUR tradition, and it’s something small that we look forward to in the midst of what are often otherwise very difficult times. These small occasions help refuel your oft depleted tank.
  • TALK. Communicate with your spouse daily, regularly, often, always. Do not say Good Night without having had a conversation. Of course, this is good advice for any marriage, but it’s life or death for a marriage in the trenches. Especially when there is much to vent about or process, it’s so important to keep up the communication with each other. Yes, you’re often just trying to survive, but without talking to each other daily, you’re most definitely going down.
  • Speaking of communication, be available. Clearly it’s not as easy to talk during the work day, but as often as you are able to have an open line, do it. Kirk took multiple calls from me daily during the worst of the worst. Obviously that’s not feasible for everyone, but even if you can send a short reply text during a bathroom break, that readiness of communication is a lifeline for the person needing it. If your wife calls you in tears and begs you to come home from work because she just can’t take another second and is totally losing her mind, consider it an emergency (it is!) and do it. Remember, if she’s disrupting your day by reaching out to you as an emotional 911, she’s already at the end of her rope. Too many moms have found themselves in legal trouble because they just couldn’t take it anymore and snapped. Not many people can survive three-hour rage fests with their sanity entirely intact. Be available, and please take this oh-so-seriously.
  • Be faithful. Any weaknesses in this area will be primed for attack, so recommit now. Be ever so careful not to escape to the “calm” of another person outside your marriage. You’re already in the trenches. The last thing you need is an affair of any kind.
  • Remember whom you fell in love with, flaws and all. Kirk warns that it “might be easy to fall into the trap of accusing your spouse of ‘not being the same person you married.’ You might start to question your decision of being married at all, because you start to question to whom you’re married. If you find yourself going there, STOP! In the context where an adopted child is inflicting massive amounts of torment in the home, most of which might be directed solely at your spouse, this is NOT the time to be questioning or judging your spouse’s behavior. You might see a certain level of ‘ugly’ in your spouse that only a terrorizing child can awaken. When (not if) you see this, it is time to stand in the gap on behalf of your spouse.” You fell in love with this person. You love this person’s core. Remember that. Don’t let a trauma child change that. Ever.
  • Be sensitive to your spouse’s insecurities. Whatever insecurities (relational or personal) your spouse had before adopting will be heightened by the stress of parenting in the trenches. Be sensitive. Be aware. And be intentional about instilling security in them.
  • Believe your spouse. When they tell you about extreme behaviors they are witnessing that you have yet to observe, don’t doubt their word. Kids of trauma will often turn on the charm for one parent (usually the father) while unleashing a hailstorm on the other (usually the mother). Believe your spouse’s stories. They are real!
  • Find reliable and understanding babysitters. More than ever before, you will need time away with your spouse. If at all possible, find a reliable, trusted babysitter (or even just a close friend) who will watch your kids so you can take a breather with your spouse. But be sure they absolutely understand the importance of boundaries and not indulging the troubled child. And just a tip in that regard: Sometimes otherwise helpful grandparents might not be the best match for caring for your child of trauma.
  • Always, always, always defend your spouse. Another lesson from Kirk: “Traumatized children find great satisfaction in pitting one spouse against the other (that Infamous Triangulation). An all too common tale is this: Adopted child targets torment and bullying toward your spouse (often the wife) while cozying up to you (often the husband). If you even begin to see signs of this, STAND IN THE GAP for your spouse! You simply cannot allow and foster this sick and twisted and manipulative bond at the expense of your spouse. Failing to put an end to this unhealthy game invites resentment and distrust to alter that once-small chink in your marital armor into a HUGE gaping wound that, sadly, often leads to marital dissolution. You must put a hedge around your spousal bond. Kids of trauma are often very shrewd and will not miss an opportunity to insert themselves directly in the middle of you two. Your bullying child needs to hear from your mouth that you will not tolerate being ‘favored’ while they insist on terrorizing your spouse.” You KNOW your spouse. You MUST defend them, both to your child and to others. They will need it.
  • Stand on the front lines. I’m not keen on strictly defined gender roles, but men, you need to listen up here. You are to be on the front lines with your wife. And in a battle, you are to be taking the hits for her. Do not sit on the sidelines while your wife is under attack. Stand in front of her. Make it clear that anything that is meant for her has to go through you first. You are her first line of defense in the family.
  • Realize it’s not just HER. It’s too easy to think that you’re totally alone in the trenches, but tens and tens of thousands of blog views and hundreds and hundreds of emails, comments, and messages later, I can assure you that this is not just you. Men specifically, it is SO important for you to understand that the way your wife is responding to the pressure and pain of raising a child a trauma is NOT JUST HER. She is not some crazy, psycho bitch, though at times you’ll want to call her that. She’s not some weakling who can’t hack it. And she’s definitely not some poor deluded soul. No, she is reacting the way thousands of moms react to such very real burdens and trauma. She needs to know not just that she’s not alone, but that you KNOW that it’s not just her. She already feels enormous guilt and shame for not being able to fix her child or love them well enough. Realize that she’s totally normal in a not-so-normal situation.
  • Be equally engaged. Parenting should always be a dual investment, but that’s even more crucial in the trenches of adoption. Don’t leave it to one spouse to “take on that child.” Not only is that unfair and exhausting, but it sends the wrong message to that child. As much as you are able, be equally committed and intentional about parenting your troubled child.
  • Share burdens as much as possible. Physical. Emotional. Mental. Ask specifically what you can do to take some weight off their shoulders. And then listen to their response. And then do it. If she needs you to be more helpful around the house, do it. If she needs you to figure out the kids’ after-school schedules or make the kids’ lunches or cook dinner, do it. If she needs you to find a new therapist for your child, do it. Share the burdens. Don’t let the other person fall under the weight.
  • Praise your spouse to their face and to others as often as possible. Especially when so much darkness covers the home, accentuate the positive as much as you can. Let your spouse know they’re doing a damn good job. Brag about her to others. If she were a soldier deployed overseas, you’d be proud and publicly share it. Well, she’s fighting another kind of war and never gets a break. Boast about her. Build her up. Positive reinforcement goes a very long way, especially when it’s so tempting to just quit.
  • If you need one, find a therapist who understands and believes in your calling to adopt. There is no shame in needing a professional counselor to come alongside you as a couple to help restore and recover what has been lost in the trenches. In fact it can save your marriage. But more harm than good will be done if that professional does not support your calling to adopt. They need to wholly understand that this is a call from God, that it is ministry. If you get the impression that the therapist questions your decision in the first place or does not realize that God calls us to difficult roads oftentimes, then fire them and keep searching. Seriously. You need a therapist who is on your side as a couple, not someone whom you pay to tear down your family. (Heck, if you need to, share this post and the previous post with them.)
  • Speak life into your marriage. Look at your spouse in the eyes and tell them that you WILL survive this. Together. That beauty will come from ashes, even if those ashes right now are your marriage.
  • PRAY PRAY PRAY for your spouse. Constantly. Daily. As often as they come to mind, breathe a prayer over them.
  • Get a punching bag. And boxing gloves. Now. Click here: You’re welcome.

Marriage in the Trenches: The Don’ts

  • Do not EVER EVER EVER disagree with your spouse in front of your trauma child. And by EVER I mean NEVER EVER EVER. I don’t care if you think it’s a totally insignificant issue. Your trauma child sees ANY tiny disagreement as a win for them. It’s an opening for them to enter what they see as a crack and then work to divide. If you want to order pepperoni and your wife wants cheese, order both. If you want to eat at home after church, but your husband wants to eat out, by all means keep it between yourselves and figure it out. If your wife thinks your troubled child deserves a consequence, but you do not, I would suggest taking the wife’s lead on this. Any time it looks like you are “siding” with the child over your spouse is a potentially huge problem. Do NOT let the child witness your disagreement, big or small. It might seem like no big deal, but in the context of surviving marriage in the trenches of trauma, these “no big deals” to you are a HUGE big deal to your kid (and to the spouse you’ve come against). As I’ve already said, it is so so so important that your child sees the two of you as ONE united force. Teaching them how to lovingly disagree can come later.
  • Don’t be manipulated! I’m always stunned by the ability of kids of trauma to manipulate others with their charm and lies. And I’m even more stunned when that deception works on a spouse. Be smarter than your child. It is their goal to manipulate you. It has to be your goal to not buy it.
  • Do not escape into work, a hobby, a relationship, or anything else that will take you away from your spouse time-wise, mentally, or emotionally any more than you already are. Now’s not the time for weekend trips with your buddies. Golf might have to take a hiatus. You might even need to step down from volunteering at church for awhile, helping on the worship team, or working extra shifts. And by all means, if you are able, do not travel for work unless absolutely necessary.
  • Do not ignore the red flags. If your spouse lets you know that they feel disconnected from you, don’t feel “married” anymore, or feel detached, pay attention. Those are your warning signs that the boat is sinking. It’s not too late to save your relationship, though. But you have to act when your spouse is sending the S.O.S. Consider your spouse’s “meltdowns” as flares that you better not ignore.
  • Don’t take stress out on each other, but give grace for the other. You are both being pushed to the precipice of sanity, and you both require heapings of grace. Daily. Your circumstances are pushing you to the edge. Your stress levels are through the roof. Lean on each other for stress reduction. Work hard to not take it out on your spouse. They probably can’t take much more.
  • Don’t judge your spouse’s thoughts, feelings, or reactions, even if you think they are wrong. Nobody is perfect, and you’ll never see each other’s imperfections more than while living with an adopted child of trauma. Also, realize that you are ultimately the only safe in-the-flesh person in whom your spouse can confide. Judging, condemning, or criticizing how they’re coping shakes their very security.
  • Don’t blame your spouse for your child’s problems. Your child had those issues long before your family entered the picture. And had that child been adopted by any other family, those parents would be witnessing the same behaviors that you are.
  • Don’t EVER blame your spouse for the idea of adoption. No one (including your husband or wife) forced you to adopt. YOU signed the papers. So even if you were the more reluctant or less gung-ho spouse originally, you both agreed to adoption. It’s a done deal. Don’t throw it in their face that it was all their idea in the first place. It doesn’t help anything. Face your reality as is.
  • Don’t treat your spouse as the enemy. Your spouse may be a lot of things, but enemy is not one of them. They are your best friend, life partner, lover, and confidante. You are on the same team. If Satan can use this calling from God, this most difficult adoption, to turn the two of you against each other, he’s well on his way to winning the battle over your marriage and your child. He alone is the enemy. He alone is the source of chaos, confusion, and devastation. Give him the credit he deserves. Don’t believe his lie that your spouse is your enemy.

To the Finish…

If you’ve made it this far, HIGH FIVE, BABY. Major kudos to you. Of course, the reading is the easy part. Putting it into practice is where it actually gets real. But I believe in you, Dear Fellow Parents in the Trenches. I truly, truly do. Because if WE can make it, YOU can make it. And I’m not just saying that.

But it does take TWO. TWO imperfect and broken people committing to each other. Promising to try to see inside each other’s hearts. Looking for Jesus in the other. Trying your damned best every day to connect with the other. And giving grace when your best efforts are total fails. (Because often times, they totally will be.)

TWO people who have decided that NO MATTER WHAT, you’re in it for the long haul with your spouse. You have to be. Because long after your troubled child is either healed or grown (or in the best of cases, both), you’ll still have each other. And you’ll be able to look back and be proud that you never gave up. That you made it.

And YOU WILL. Sure, you’ll be scarred. Banged up a little. Scraped and bruised. But you’ll also be stronger. Tougher. Wiser. Better. Refined through the fire. And coming out smelling like the glory of God.

The glory of God. Together.

YOU CAN DO THIS.

Praying you to the finish,

heidi (& kirk)

Heidi and Kirk standing


***IMPORTANT! In the meantime, as always, this is your safe place to share your thoughts. Post anonymously or with your whole name. Find me on Facebook. Message me or email me. heidi@outofshemind.com But please keep in mind that since this is a sensitive, sacred, and typically private struggle, please post respectfully with your spouse’s privacy protected if need be and appropriate boundaries maintained. Whatever you do, though, know that you’re not alone. And if you end up never seeing eye to eye and saying good-bye to your marriage (whether your choice or not), know that God’s grace is still sufficient. And He’s still proud. Because after all, you said YES. And we’re still all in this together. SOLIDARITY, my friends. SOLIDARITY.


Testimonials from the Trenches

…because none of us is alone. {While these are all actual testimonials, for the sake of privacy I am choosing to keep these all anonymous.}

“When you are raising a child with trauma, it brings your past trauma to the surface. This is what caused the feeling of ‘need to escape’ for my husband. The feeling of not being able to control a situation, especially not being able to control or help your child, can wreak havoc on someone who has their own past trauma under the surface.”

 

Trauma has taken away our closeness. It has taken away friendships. It has taken away ministry like we used to know it. It has taken the fun away. We still work on it. Every day. We work toward good things. We work toward getting back the people we were. Only older, grayer, and hopefully, wiser. [He] is still my best friend. I can’t imagine life without him this side of Heaven. I pray I never have to. But trauma always interrupts, always sucks the life out of you, always remains. Trauma doesn’t let up so that you can focus on having a good marriage. It’s easy to take the stress out on [my husband], or [him] to take it out on me. We’ve done that. Then we have to remember that ‘we are not the enemy.'”

 

“My husband and I thought our marriage was over after 11 years of marriage and 18 years together. For the first four years after adoption, our daughter was the best at triangulating. She would rage all day with me, and when he walked in the door she suddenly became a charming angel. He did not see any of this behavior for five years. I was having to call him at work as we had just moved our family for ministry and didn’t have anyone. We were already highly stressed, and he thought I was losing it, and so did I. I was determined to get help and went to nine different therapists searching.

 

It took four years to get a ‘correct’ diagnosis and six years to actually find help and begin healing for our daughter. During this time, though, our marriage was deteriorating. I was on edge all the time waiting for the next bomb to drop, feeling as though I was living in a war zone and feeling like a horrible mom, because I had no time left for my other children or my husband. I was completely hard and cold most the time, for fear that if I let myself go there I would break and maybe never return. My husband could not understand why I couldn’t just get her to behave, because he wasn’t seeing it. I felt so alone. I had tried EVERYTHING, and I began to feel like the problem was me.

 

During this time my husband began self-medicating to numb through prescription medication and/or alcohol, which then hurt our marriage even more. I became depressed and began having panic attacks and struggled to even want to get out of bed. Once we finally got the right help and both were on the same page, he started to see the rages, lies, manipulation, etc. It got worse, though, before it got better, because now she was in RAD mode all the time…We were constantly stressed which meant me constantly nagging and him withdrawing, not to mention the financial strain this added as well. Our lives had literally turned into a war in our home, now not just with me. He felt out of control now too. We were suffering, and our other children were suffering. We withdrew from friends and family, because this would often trigger behaviors, and we were worried her behaviors would be picked up by other children.I often felt judged, and sadly, some friends withdrew from us.

 

Needless to say, God did a miracle beginning last April. He spoke to me three years ago ‘I make all things new‘ & that He did in 2014. My husband has been clean and sober almost a year, our daughter is healing (I would no longer consider her RAD), my husband and I are closer than we have ever been, and we just welcomed a NEW son. He certainly brought new life in so many ways.”

 

We have learned…that we have to figure out ways to get out and NOT talk about the kids. We also have precious few babysitters who truly get our kids and won’t be manipulated by our oldest child and his ways. So we don’t go out much. Grandparents are also a disaster, because they sweep in, try to help, do things that really harm kids from hard places (with the very best of intentions), and then they leave a huge wake of turmoil and sadness. And [we] are left alone again, with no one to help us, no one to buffer, no respite, almost no hope.”

 

Trauma has taken a toll on our marriage in communication in every way. It has driven us to necessary communication, even though we still love each other and cannot imagine life apart from each other. I have worried many times that he might have an affair–not because he is that kind of person–he’s NOT-but because who wants a chubby mess of goo like me when he can have someone without all the crap we’ve had to deal with?”

 

It’s hard to always be on the same page. (Triangulation, and we didn’t even know it.) And that is only ONE effect. We’re on over 19 years here, and seriously, we’re struggling just because we never, ever can have a conversation. ever. ever. Did I say ever?”

 

“It has been very hard on our marriage, but there are also times that I feel like we are closer because of it. We are standing as a strong front, together, in front of Him. I think anytime you are doing ministry with someone, the bonds grow deeper. I can feel that in our marriage.”

 

Your turn. Share away…

38 thoughts on “MARRIAGE in the TRENCHES: If you are married and plan to adopt (or already have) a child of trauma, PLEASE READ THIS NOW.

  1. R

    Thank You AGAIN for this! Our relationship changed significantly when my husband did the same as Kirk. He said almost verbatim, the same to our manipulator and triangulator. He had “come to my defense and stand up to our child, refusing to allow them to come between us and even very directly telling this child that “we are ONE. What Mom thinks, I think. What hurts her, hurts me. We agree on things. You will NOT abuse her and try to cozy up to me. We are ONE unit.”

    There was time in the trenches (and we are SO still there!) when we both were uncertain that we could continue. In ever manner, we each felt like we were drowning. How in the world could we hold it together, let alone help one another? But we prayed, and prayed, and we did. We are making it. We remember and joke regularly at the people that we used to be, and how very off we were in our thoughts of what our future (which is now) would look like. I so wish that someone could have handed us this information years ago. As you mentioned, we also have been blessed by respite only while ours was also receiving care in residential. We needed that time to work on our marriage, our relationship and our faith to keep going.

    The biggest thing that has helped us tremendously when we are being thrown around in the waves? That we both have never wavered in our faith. While we may not understand how or why, we know that God meant for us to have our children, and in that, HE also chose us to parent them, because WE are enough and even if we can’t see it now, we are helping, and we are living and teaching our faith to the next generation.

    Reply

  2. erynne

    My husband and I are foster/adoptive parents through our county. We finalized the adoption of two of our children a few months ago, but we’ve had them for nearly two years. We’re currently fostering a baby, who, in spite of all the other crazy happening, we’d still love to adopt. With those three and our two biological children, we’re at our limit as far as the state is concerned.

    I read The Post a few days ago and couldn’t reply because it was just a little too real. I usually discredit our time spent in the trenches because it’s not as bad or as long as others have had it. But it’s hard, really hard. It’s hard to explain to other people what’s happening, even if they really want to know and try to understand. It’s hard going to church, because it’s exhausting getting there, and then everyone tells you you look tired but your kids are so cute and angelic! Dealing with the fallout from even attending church is hard too – shopping for a new family. And who almost weekly (!) tells a kid that they’d love to take them home with them?! We don’t even go to church anymore, partly because the constant parenting advice (for me, the mom) was hard to take, week after week. My parents are actually great babysitters, because they don’t do manipulation, but getting out too often sometimes just feels like more work. Other sitters have believed the lies, probably why I had so much parenting advice. Triangulation doesn’t just happen with the kids, but ‘well intentioned’ adults who don’t have a clue what they’re getting into.

    You’re completely correct that marriage takes the worst hit. We already had issues, but fostering and then adopting various children have certainly shown us all of the cracks, widening some of them. We’ve done a lot of things on the ‘don’t’ list, unfortunately, and we’re working on our marriage, but goodness it’s hard. Finding time for anything is hard. Many days, I still feel so very alone. How do you say any of that to the comments of ‘oh, you’re so brave!’? I’m not brave, I’m exhausted and spent half of the day crying and the other half dealing with poop.

    So, from one mama in the trenches, kind of floundering, thank you. That there is hope on the other side is helpful. Our goal is to get there, marriage still intact.

    Reply

  3. sylvia m

    Loved your previous blog and LOVED this one too! We are fostering 3 teens with lots of trauma and so needed this! Can’t wait for your books or maybe consider DVD’ s…..my husband isn’t a book reader but he will watch a DVD and then it can be a together activity!! Keep up the good work you’re making a huge difference in many lives!!!

    Reply

  4. jill

    Thank you. For this breath. For this truth. For this moment while I read your post with tears and fist pumps of ‘yes’.

    My husband and I have been foster parents for 5 years and have had 12 children in our homes. We have two adopted children, one from a dissolution. That child has been diagnosed with RAD, DID, and PTSD. She’s beautiful, she’s brilliant, and she’s very small for her age, which we call the deadly trio for manipulation of adults in her life. The amount of trauma we all have had poured over and poured into our lives is astounding to me. But He places a village, even a virtual village in you, to surround us when we need it the most. We have a great Christian therapist who has walked along side us and helped us continue to limp to the finish line every day. Dented and scarred.

    Your post last week was sent to me by my best friend, who, after the three years of watching the manipulation finally believes that it is as bad as I say it is. And now, she supports me how she can, with you. Thank you.

    Reply

  5. Anna

    Heidi,
    Thank you for your brave words. My husband and I are in these trenches as well and, frankly we’re crumbling. We have three bios and three adopteds raging from 17 to 9. We are weary and feeling overwhelmed. I know that this is all par for the course, the weariness and struggle, but I wanted to ask a question…..one that I’m wrestling with desperately and one I’m not seeing anyone else ask.
    Since our newbies came home a little over a year ago, I’ve struggled with emotional issues I’ve never dealt with before. Panic: searing, terrifying, overwhelming, panic. Always triggered but the trauma issues our children have, always triggered by a child who knows how to manipulate me into an attack. Finally after months of feeling like I’m going crazy I have started taking antidepressants to help control the panic and help me maintain some sort of emotional consistency.
    I guess my question is this: Is this normal? Is it ok that I have to find normalcy in medication in order to be able to function in simple things? How common is it that post-adoption depression results in parents needing medication? Why does this feel like such a shameful thing? Am I really the only one who is in this place? (yes, I realize that was a lot more than one question….sorry!)
    Since adopting I’m learning that there is kind of a secret code that adoptive families speak in. We use words like “fine” or “hard” or “leaning in” but really we’re afraid to say the real words like “panic” or “fear” or “depression” because people will look at us and say “Well, this was your choice.” It feels like my need for medication is yet another area of my inability to handle this new life and I’m tired of speaking in code. I just want to know if I’m really as crazy as I feel or if this is just another “normal” part of this havoc that is parenting traumatized children.
    Anna

    Reply

    1. Andrea

      I haven’t done enough research to know what’s ‘normal’, but I can tell you you are not the only one. I struggled with post adoptive depression. It was crippling. I am seeing a light at the end of the tunnel now, but there were some dark months after our adoption.
      I’d venture to say you’re not crazy. Take medication if you need to, do whatever you need to do to get through in one piece.
      I’m sorry that you’re having such a hard time. You are not alone.

      Reply

    2. Anonymous

      Anna, You are DEFINITELY NOT alone. I’ve been on anti-depressants for close to 5 years (and I’m generally a “holistic” type person; very against western medicine except for certain things). I have one prescription that I take daily, and another to use in crisis moments, which I rarely use, but when I have, they’ve been a saver! I could not have gotten this far without the stabilizing help. And yes, I sometimes berate myself for my own perceived “weakness” of needing them. Mostly I’ve become just thankful that I’m able to get out of bed and face “everything”. 🙂 I look forward to when I won’t need to take them, but in the meantime, I stay relatively sane because of them. Btw, many of the other parents I know in similar situations are medicated. We are, you know, PTSD ourselves. God bless you for saying, “yes”.

      Reply

    3. Shawn

      People say this all the time”well this was your choice”. Parenting is a choice no matter how the child comes to you.

      Reply

    4. L

      It took me nearly a year to acknowledge my anxiety (I thought it was just insomnia and change) and months more to acknowledge the post-adoption part of it. I’ve been on anti-anxiety meds, which are essentially anti-depression ones as well I guess, for the past number of months and I’ve finally recognized that for me and for our family, these medications are truly supplements for what trauma has depleted.

      If I were anemic I wouldn’t feel guilty for taking iron. If I were diabetic I wouldn’t feel guilty for taking insulin. I would do it because otherwise I couldn’t be healthy. So I’m doing this because otherwise I’m not healthy. I’ve had to trust that God knows what I need in this season… and that addressing the medical need my body and brain need have is actually me being a responsible steward of what He’s entrusted to me and the resources he’s given me. If I don’t take care of the basics so that *I* can function with emotional self-regulation and without being so stinkin’ tired (related insomnia), and so frozen in the immobility my anxiety produces, then I CANNOT parent my kiddos the way they NEED me to parent them.

      So I take the medication. Maybe just for this season or maybe for longer… but that’s not today’s worry. Today I drink my coffee. Today I take care of my serotonin levels with those meds, and my vitamin C levels with my OJ. 😉 Today I make sure to drink enough water and get something vaguely decent to eat. Today I text my husband a smiley face so he knows I’m thinking of him and so that we can connect even in the tiniest bit. I do these things so that today I can take a deep breath and say to my littles “It’s OK sweetie – I’ll keep loving you enough for the both of us… until your heart believes it’s true… and until you’re ready to love me back” with a real smile. The medication helps to replenish what my body needs, and if that’s what it helps yours to do too, then Praise God for modern medicine that helps us to be better parents to our kiddos than we could have been otherwise.

      Like the others have said – you’re not alone.

      Reply

  6. anonymous

    Beautiful and you understand my life. Three bio children two adopted, 21-10.
    I really had a bad time with anxiety this past summer worrying about what my boys would do. Both of is work outside the home. I blamed my husband for his lack of contribution to the home front, he works linger hours. I found myself hating him because he wasn’t there to witness what I had to go thru. We are still on rocky ground amd no one seems to get it. Our church didn’t help at all when we first adopted although we told them and our small group. We are now without a church group and support system. The oldest runs away and he called his bio mother one night to come get him….that was when I lost it. He has made bad choices and continues to and the consequences effect everyone in the house. He won’t sit thru counseling and refuses to talk about his past in order to heal. I do take most of the abuse from him because I’m there more often. He does not like to hug, touch, be gracious or apologize for anything. My husband and I feel we are in a black hole and literally count down until he turns 18…we are forever but he will be gone on his own accord that day. I know God has plans for us, He brought us this far and manged to survive. But I don’t just want to survive and I want to live again. Thanks, i will continue to follow your blog.

    Reply

  7. Tiffany

    Having a great big ole cry… thanks for the reminder that I am not alone. May I to ask you a question? I have been asking myself this question for the last three months. Do you ever feel as if you fail so much that you ask yourself, “Why me?” I don’t mean, “Why do I have to go through this?” I mean, “Why God, did you pick me, when clearly I am NOT this perfect mom who manages all this in this in a super spiritual, super self controlled, and super wise manner?????” We have recently adopted for the first time. We have six bios and two newly adopted 10 yr olds. To be honest, it is my youngest bio that is driving the wedge in my marriage. He is so jealous of the adoption and he is wearing me out. We were CLEARLY called to adoption, and that helps me with my doubts, but there are days when it feels as if my life and my marriage are falling apart! Your post was so timely for me to find. I am glad to have the support.

    Reply

  8. Tracy

    Thank you for being so transparent! This blog post is a trunk full of truth jewels!! I feel so much stronger already, just in reading it. I love watching how God continues to turn your suffering into things of greatness. To the finish, baby!

    Reply

  9. Elizabeth

    Thank you both for sharing this! It’s so hard when you feel like nobody understands and then you constantly question your parenting- my family (sister, gparents etc) sees my child for a day or two and tells me “oh they are fine I don’t see what you are talking about” IT INFURIATES ME!!!! I did snap a little at one of my siblings and told her she only sees him on his best behavior and she is not allowed to say that to me anymore! Fortunately she hasn’t but it does damage relationships and that too is hard! I could write a 10 page response to almost every point in the whole blog post but since I have so many kids ….I don’t have time

    Reply

  10. Andrea

    The same word resonated in my being for months. Bankrupt. Nothing left to give. And it hit hardest in our marriage. I could wake up every morning and be the Mom my adopted kids needed, but I didn’t have anything left for my husband. I didn’t even have the energy to talk to him about it. And it infuriated me that he disconnected when I needed him most. I was hard to love, and he responded accordingly.

    I made an ultimatum with myself that I would give us three years to be ok, but I had to make an effort for those three years. If at the end of three years I was still miserable I gave myself permission to leave. (I know this isn’t the best coping skill, but I was drowning and I needed a lifeline.) It took about two months of putting in a signifigant effort, but I’m feeling much better about our relationship. We are getting back to our ‘normal’. There is still lots of work to do, and I am still feeling raw, but we’ll make it. Just a few months ago I wasn’t so sure.

    Reply

  11. Aubrey

    It is so nice to read I am not alone. Our trauma kid is my stepson, though, and being DH’S bio-mom this causes problems. DH is constantly trying to figure out how I am promoting the problems, how I can conduct myself to stave off the abusive behaviors, what I need to do to fix it. I came into this marriage from an abusive relationship, and the abuse from our trauma child triggers lots of unpleasant memories, which also doesn’t help. I am just so weary from being blamed for all of this. The trauma happened prior to DH and I meeting, it was trauma DH could have prevented and didn’t, and yet I am always the one to blame. Triangulation stinks. Anyway, I am rambling. I wanted to say thank you, these posts are refreshing.

    Reply

  12. Dee

    We had 6 bio kids and then adopted 4 younger kids with attachment problems. Two of them were siblings with a trauma bond, and the older one was very damaging to the younger one and all the other kids. We could not afford residential treatment (all international adoptions not eligible for any public help) and struggled to pay for therapy. All of the 4 professionals we worked with told us to separate the two siblings because they should not be together, and that having 4 kids with these problems would mean none of them would grow up to be okay. Two of our older kids begged for the two siblings to be removed. We did respite for a while which was the only time the two made any improvement, and they would backslide when together again. The older child would punish the younger one if he got close to me, and the two other kids who were the youngest were not getting attached to me due to all the trauma. We had them for five years and prayed and prayed. We found each of the siblings a separate family and they were adopted and six years later they are doing great, and the other two are doing well with us. It was so hard to let them go, but we feel it was best for them. We are now trying to adopt from foster care, but we feel guilty about dissolving the adoptions of the siblings and like we will be judged and found wanting as parents and won’t be matched with kids. We were not told about their needs and finalized their adoptions prior to placement.

    Reply

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  14. Linda

    Such a good article. Now throw in adult children who seemed to understand adopting the first 2 (“everyone should have a sibling to grow up with”) but resented the fact that we felt led to adopt a 3rd (older) child, plus a demanding mother-in-law who lives in assisted living but expects my husband to run all her errands RIGHT NOW, and sometimes we feel more than a little crazy. While this 3rd child does not throw fits, she is not happy with our family and tends to manipulate situations and twist things for her own benefit. Of course, there really ARE good times, but sadly, it’s the bad ones that often seem to overshadow. ~sigh~

    Reply

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  17. Michelle

    my gosh, I totally could have written these articles myself. we adopted our trauma child at age 9 11 years ago, back in the days before any one pretty much knew anything about how trauma children.
    the first several years were doable, but once she turned 14 the stuff hit the fan. For the next 4 years we lived in the trenches with rages, major manipulation, countless phone calls from police in the middle of the night to come pick her up, countless court visits (but almost no consequences from the courts, so of course the drug and alcohol abuse continued). And of course, triangulation. she would treat me horribly, and then turn the charm on and become daddy’s girl. I came very close to walking out on several occasions, because my husband would believe her, and not me, his own wife. I finally told him either she goes or I go. My son finally came up with the idea to record some of the things she was saying to me, and when I played it for him he finally started to realize what she had been doing. But that didn’t help much, because then we couldn’t agree on how to discipline her, or he would cave before her no priviledge time would run out. She would follow us through the house, cussing us out, which really made me angry. A few times I actually had to put her out of the house because I was afraid of what I might do to her. we had adopted another 9 year old a year later, and we had to put locks on the door because of the stealing. she also had to live with this hell for 4 years. we had her declared an undisciplined juvenile to get help, but every time something was arranged like therapeutic foster care or group home, it was cancelled due to budget cuts. Finally, a month after she turned 18 we had to insist she leave, because she was smoking pot in the house, and we were afraid she would burn the house down. Two years later, she is struggling, but making it on her own. It literally took me a year before I could even be near her without having a panic attack. Thankfully, after attending Al-Anon and much prayer, our relationship with her, and with each other, has healed somewhat. I can hug her, invite her over for dinner, ect, and my husband works on her car, and helps her with other things. But she is still very manipulative, and we will never trust her. I only wish we had had all this info during this time, because we did so many things wrong. I’m thankful that this is here for other families who are in the trenches now. But most of all, I’m thankful that with God’s help, we did survive, and are in the process of adopting another teenager, even though we are in our mid to late 50’s (you were right in saying Jesus sometimes asks us to do insane things, lol). There is light at the end of the tunnel for the rest of you 🙂

    Reply

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  19. jenny

    thank you. we are swimming with snorkels these days. and feeling the pound and the press and the waves. and LIVING in and through it. and our marriage is tired. we are tired. there are many sighs and long pauses. and bad words in our heads. and sadness in our hearts. and then there is JESUS> who promises. He will mend it all in the end. not in the now. not in the tomorrow. but He alone can. and one day will. so we press, and swim and seek even more support. so. thank you. for being here.

    Reply

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  21. Mary Themom

    I wrote a similar post to this a couple of years ago (http://marythemom-mayhem.blogspot.com/2013/09/how-we-keep-our-marriage-strong.html ). Your posts really resonate with me, because we’ve had similar lives in a lot of ways (and completely dissimilar in others). We had 2 blonde haired blue eyed children (7 and 10) when we brought home from foster care our two kids (11 and 13) with RAD and other mental illnesses and disabilities. All that you talk about in this and the other post happened in our lives too. My adopted son (22) just got out of prison last month. We’re still struggling to figure out what living with a severely mentally ill “adult” daughter (20), who is emotionally only 11 but wants to be treated like she’s 30, “should” look like.

    Now, 10 years later, I wish I’d had the knowledge that I was/ we were not alone in this struggle. I wish we hadn’t had to learn all this the hard way.

    Thanks for this (and the other) post.

    Mary “Themom”

    Reply

  22. Jim Buchanan

    I just read “Dear Adoptive Parents walking the hard, hellish, lonely road of trauma…THIS POST IS FOR YOU. And ONLY YOU.”, and followed the link here. More needed truth. I’m glad we’re not the only ones!

    I can say that, after all we’ve been through (7 adopted/in the process of adoption, and about 20 more fostered), we’d do it again, in fact we’re certain to. Although we’ve been thinking of limiting it to fostering for a while.

    Wow, winding up in court! I feel for you. We’ve had the police over too many times to count, and had kids in the psych ward about as often, but never in court…

    Thanks for the posts!

    Reply

  23. Marty Walden

    Wow. Kudos to YOU for such an amazingly long post but the TRUTH of your words is just stunning. 16 years after our adoption of the sibling group of 3, 7 years since we’ve seen the oldest who abused her younger siblings and left our home for RTC and made false accusations of us, her younger brother is now in a group home suffering from PTSD but her younger sister is a survivor and has one more year in our homeschool before she graduates. We’ve been through the roller coaster in our marriage, suffered the loss of my husband’s brother and my sister due to heart failure, my mom due to hypothermia outside the doors of her nursing home and many other impossibly heartbreaking situations. Yet God has faithfully led us to where we are now and given me a platform to share our story and minister to other moms in the trenches. Your writing is amazing and I can’t wait to read the book!

    Reply

    1. monatliche belastung berechnen lassen

      pourriez vous dire correctement de nom de renaud LAVILLENIE et non LAVILLONIE toute la soirée h’hier à 4 COMMENTATEURS sur votre chaçine pas un ne l’a dit correctement – bon il est quand même médaillé

      Reply

  24. Pingback: Dear Adoptive Parents walking the hard, hellish, lonely road of trauma…THIS POST IS FOR YOU. And ONLY YOU. ‹ Out of She Mind / heidi weimer

  25. Debi

    Thank you! Our marriage has taken a huge hit and so many others. I know this isn’t something really talked about so thanks for talking about it!!!

    Reply

  26. L

    Wow, thank you for all of this! For being brave and honest… Something I needed before we ever started this journey. Our daughter is now two years home. She was 6 at adoption. We have endured similar to what you have stated in these two articles.
    Do you know how powerful it is just for someone to say “me too” and all these deeply hard times!?!
    our family has been barely surviving. Feeling extremely broken and bullied by this small CHILD…she’s only a small child : (
    We have been thinking about sending our daughter to elsewhere, not because we didnt want this to work- but because I’m not sure where the boundaries are between continuing to hurt the children that are currently in my home (prior to her adoption) or changing the family (disrupting) in order to have the best possible outcome for her and siblings? When do you say enough is enough? I hang and a pendulum between guilt and shame every day. I think what is wrong with me why can’t I just love her I can’t this work?! And the shame I feel talking with adoption groups (let my own family!!!!) I feel like every Disney “bad mom”! I feel like I hate myself & I hate who I have become…
    Obviously, Not one of us responding to your post -did this(adoption process) to “fail”. I desired a family. I desired a daughter. I wanted to follow God and all that Christ would have for me, for us, for my family. There’s times I feel like God is leading me on some incredible journey and like a fairytale… Only at the end will I see it for what it truly is. …Then there’s times where I feel betrayed by God and in those moments I hate everything to do with the analogy about God “adopting me” into his family. I don’t say that to be “unchristian”, I mean it with desperation and hope deferred. –
    Well anyway… if you read this rant and rambling on with no real grammar rules… ha, then God bless your heart. Thanks for letting me breathe!!!
    Maybe you have answered this question previously but do you have any other resources personally? Have you done any seminars? I for one would be totally interested. Again thank you. Thank you. Thank you

    Reply

    1. Kathie

      “Then there’s times where I feel betrayed by God and in those moments I hate everything to do with the analogy about God adopting me into his family” I totally get this! I try not to be angry, but I am sometimes and I resent His call on our life, calling us to adoption and the trauma that has come from it. I know I shouldn’t but I do. I pray for a renewed heart and healed home for both you and me.

      Reply

  27. L

    Hey I was so excited to find your posts I hadn’t gotten to your whole story yet! So Yes, I found the answers to my questions. LOL. So excited have found your blog & excited to read more.

    Reply

  28. Becky Raver

    We just had the “We’re on the same team” conversation with our kiddos last month. My husband said “We’re not just on the same team, we ARE the SAME PERSON. We are ONE. We’re like a two-headed monster!” Haha! It’s now a very effective family joke. It’s nice to have SOMETHING to laugh about TOGETHER that gets the point across! No negotiation!

    Reply

  29. Melissa Cotter

    Hey, thanks for reaching out with your words and your story. My good friend and our soon-to-be-adopted 16 year old’s therapist sent me to this article. Great wisdom here. A couple things I thought about while reading this… 1. My troubled child (out of the 6 we have right now, 2 foster boys, 1 adopted boy from China, 2 bio girls and our 16 year old girl from a disrupted adoption) is our second biological child. She has never endured trauma like the foster children who have come and gone from our home, but the children coming and going mixed with her very strong, defiant personality has caused so many issues. She and our 16 year old are the ones that stir the pot. But I think that is an area people don’t discuss much is when their biological child is the one that makes them feel like they are drowning. I wish I could have respite for her. 🙂 Finding childcare is the hardest thing in the world for us because grandparents are not a good option because of what you mentioned in your article.
    2. Another tool my husband has found that has helped our marriage is writing to one another. A long email, or a hand written letter is a huge communication tool that typically allows a neutral ground to bring our feelings and thoughts out in a safe way. We use this for our teen also. When she has hostile outbursts, her consequence is a written letter to us with a task attached that usually includes writing lengthy responses to valuable questions pertaining to the issue at hand. She wrote us 3 pages yesterday on a positive attitude along with looked up Scriptures to help in times of anger and disappointment.

    We never in our wildest dream thought we would adopt a teen, but after getting over my rut of a year coming home from China with our son, the calling God dropped in my heart for a teen girl was undeniable. Our testimony in how she came to our home is amazing and we are very grateful for her, but yes there is so much trauma. Thanks for sharing your journey.

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  30. Michelle

    We spent our 20 year anniversary separated. Therapist told us we should never have adopted because we weren’t healthy enough by evidence of where our marriage ended up. I have wrestled for a year with his words and so thankful for your willingness to write this. God used it to break the lie that has held over me. We were so clearly called to an incredibly hard teen who we adopted out of treatment. The toll her trauma has taken in 6 years leaves a trail of devastation few understand. I can relate to all your words of my struggles. My husband ran to hiding debt and spending as a way to handle his feelings while I kept trying to protect everyone (which made it worse because it only sucked more of my time). We were not guarded enough or fully understood how quickly you can take out all your experience on each other. I am so thankful to see gods healing and restoration in my marriage in the last year. Although the journey of healing continues it is mind blowing we survived it.

    We are cracking the door to adoption again which we only tell a few because of fear of judgement. We are weird and crazy and feel called to this. Tears as I read this. Thank you.

    Also. Would love to hear about health issues for trauma mammas. I am seeing a common pattern of autoimmune, thyroid, etc health issues after years of our stress systems going nonstop. Would love to somehow figure out if this is as common as I think with adopted moms.

    Reply

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