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Carolyn Hax: How to explain why you’re backing out of an adoption

(Nick Galifianakis/for The Washington Post)

Adapted from an online discussion.

Hi, Carolyn: I am half of a married gay couple. My husband and I are backing out of an adoption scheduled to go through this winter. When we got married, I was 50/50 on having a child and he was totally on Team "Let's Just Be DINKs," but I began to want a kid more so we did the application.

Things have since changed, and I don't want a baby anymore. I have come around to my husband's point and prefer to focus on each other and our careers. That's about as selfish a reason as exists for backing out, but it is the reason, and we are not leaving a particular child in the lurch (we would never do that).

I find myself unable to admit to friends we're backing out, so we are lying by omission to a lot of them. Is there a defensible way to explain that we have decided against having a child?

— Backing Out

Backing Out: Noooooooooo to this: “That’s about as selfish a reason as exists for backing out.”

That is just not true. Selfishness is having a child you aren’t 100 percent committed to only for appearances.

What you did was honest and brave.

Just own your decision with as little explanation as possible. “We’re not going through with it after all.” It’s no one’s business beyond that, but if anyone asks, “It’s complicated.”

There’s also, “Please respect our privacy,” as needed for the hard cases. They’ll assume reasons much worse than they are, but anyone nosy enough to get this deep into your supply of deflections would probably make stuff up anyway, without prompting. Don’t feed them.

Re: Backing out: You could just tell people it "didn't work out." If they press you for details, you can just say you really don't want to talk about it.

— Anonymous

Anonymous: Thanks.

Dear Carolyn: When a friend has been angry with you for your behavior, and you apologize, should you talk about the 25 percent of the friendship problems they caused? Or just eat crow and hope for the best?

— Making Up

Making Up: Not sure “eat crow and hope for the best” is ever the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

But it depends on how bad your behavior was. The aftermath of causing someone tangible harm is not the best time to say, “And by the way, you did X.”

If you can be genuine in your contrition and not tone-deaf in your concerns, then it’s probably healthier to air them: “I handled it terribly, and I’m sorry for that, but my underlying objection/concern remains. I hope we can still talk about ____.” You’ll either get a yes, a no, or a #$%!. Good luck.

Re: Making Up: I have hated when people apologize for their behavior then immediately bring up something they say makes me just as bad (and up until this point never mentioned). It always seems like a non-apology, a "sorry, but," as the floodgates of grievances open. I like to say my apology and, unless it's directly related to the grievance at hand, wait for the next time they do something to air my grievance.

— Aggrieved

Aggrieved: Right. But if it is related, then air it as part of the larger reckoning. Thanks.

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