I’ve been married 31 years (rocky the last three or four years, wanting to leave but can’t seem to because of guilt and security issues), in counseling for the past two years, two adult children, two grandchildren (I adore my kids, their spouses and my grandchildren), social worker for people living with HIV/AIDS.
In my dream, my husband and I decided that we no longer wanted to parent our two children. The children were actually my real-life grandchildren — two little girls. (My real-life children are girl and boy and are now 30 and 23). We had decided that we wanted to be free of responsibility, and were looking for someone to adopt the girls.
We found a couple that we thought were appropriate and began the process of legalizing the adoption. The couple was older, late 40’s, early 50’s. They paid us $30,000 and we were taking the girls to visit them often, so they would get used to them before the adoption was complete. I began thinking how horrible it would be when the girls finally realized that we didn’t want them anymore.
I decided that I couldn’t deal with that and changed my mind about the adoption but didn’t know how to get out of it, since we had already spent a small portion of the money. I rationalized that we could take some of our money out of savings to replace the money we used, but was afraid we would be sued because we had signed a contract, and we would lose the girls anyway.
I approached the adopting mother and was trying to figure out how I could convince her to let me back out, when she told me that she had something important to tell me. She told me that she and her husband had decided to split up. I was elated because now that meant I wouldn’t have to give up the girls. I woke up before I could tell her that. I felt so sick after that dream and it is still haunting me a week later.
–rebecca, age 51, female, married, olympia, WA
I don’t think the message of this dream is too hard to read! You’ve been thinking about leaving your husband, but your dream shows you’re worried about the “costs” — both financial and emotional.
Your dream was disturbing because, on the surface, it shows you and your husband deciding to put your “children” up for adoption — an idea in real life you find abhorrent. Dreams speak in metaphors, however, and we can see several operating in yours.
Given the background you’ve provided, we know the last few years of your marriage have been difficult. As you consider options for leaving the marriage, you naturally worry about the impact on your family. Your real children are grown adults. They are well established in their lives and most likely will accept your decision. A divorce will be much more difficult to explain to your grandchildren. Your dream shows us that you occasionally wish you were free of this responsibility to your grandchildren, but that — in the long run — it is a relationship you treasure, and you are not willing to change or part with it.
In a curious twist, it is the “adopting” couple’s decision to split up that relieves you of your contractual obligation to surrender your “children.” In a world of difficult decisions, I do not believe you are ready yet to lose your family to gain your independence. Someone else might make that decision, but you are delighted — in this dream — that it is not you.
Charles McPhee is a graduate of Princeton University and holds a master’s in communication management from the University of Southern California. He received his board certification to perform polysomnographic testing for the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders in 1992. McPhee is the former Director of the Sleep Apnea Patient Treatment Program at the Sleep Disorders Center of Santa Barbara, California; the former coordinator of the Sleep Disorders Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA , and the former coordinator of the sleep research laboratory at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, MD. Please visit his website for further information.