March 22, 2016

Making Marriage Work When You Have a Special-Needs Child

Marriage isn't easy, especially when you have kids. When you also have a special-needs child, the challenges pile up. Does that mean we're doomed to end up divorced (as I've been told many times by various people) just because M2 is autistic?

I don't think so. I think it means that both of us need to work harder to make sure our marriage last. In the end, the marriage ends up stronger and we end up closer because of what we've overcome -- Together.

Making Big Decisions and Managing Details

The honest truth of it is that when you have a special-needs kid, there's added stress in your life and in your marriage. From the very start when you realize there may be an issue, you face additional struggles than you normally would trying decide what's best for your child. There are just so many more unknowns and things TO decide.

That makes being on the same page as your spouse harder. A and I make big decisions together, like whether or not M2 needed to do speech therapy and when to start, if she should be evaluated for autism, if we should get an aide and what next steps to take. I handle the details, such as figuring out where to get therapy, how to get her evaluated, fighting red tape, and figuring out what the possible next steps even are.

I check in with A to let him know what's going on. His opinion is important so I ask what he thinks as as we go. I'm the one who is home with the kids, so took on detail management by default. Plus, otherwise, I'd be driving A nuts with questions, getting in the way. I need to be in control of the situation, while A is  able to step back and let me handle things without going nuts.

I've found that when you've  both wrapped up in the minutia, there's much more of a chance to butt heads, disagree, get even more confused and get more frustrated with the situation -- and each other. When one person is leading, you're both on board and the other person is offering support, things tend to go more smoothly.

Saying Good-Bye to Time Alone

The time alone that you fight to get once kids are in the picture becomes even more impossible when one of your children is special needs. We can't just leave M2 and B with any babysitter to go out for the evening -- or even an hour. Two people who are very familiar with our situation need to be on hand for babysitting duty.

The blunt truth is that there are only two sets of people whom we trust to leave alone with the kids. (Or is it people we'd trust the kids to be alone with? Hmm.) Neither set lives remotely close to us (we're talking states away here). That leaves us grabbing time out alone about twice a year for a few hours. The rest of the time, we have to get creative. To make our marriage work, we've accepted this is how it is. We make the best of the situation since there's nothing we can do about it. The time we do get is even more special because it is so rare. We appreciate it even more.

Frustration and Communication

Having kids exacerbates usual marriage issues. Little things grate on your nerves much more when you've spent the day with fussy, screaming kids who won't listen or are having a sensory meltdown. Small problems seem so much bigger when you're battling to get your child what she needs at the same time. Big problems can seem impossible. More problems creep in to make you stumble when your child is special needs.

As much as we try not to, A and I end up taking our frustrations out on each other at times. Both of us hate confrontation so have a habit of avoiding issues rather than addressing them. Communication can help with this. We're working on it so that we can clear things up before the frustrations with each other or the kids get out of control, leading to a fight. I always  try to step back and see the situation from A's point of view and to let him know how I'm feeling when everything is building up so that the small problems don't become huge ones we can't overcome. We're not where we need to be yet, but we're getting there. What we are good at is making and sticking to choices we feel are best, no matter what others may say. We make a good team.

The Long and Short of It

What making marriage work when you have a special-needs child comes down to this: A commitment and love for each other to make life work, to do what you need to do to make it happen, and to get through the bad times so you can enjoy the good. The struggles make the good all that much sweeter. Focus on the good, get over the bad, and keep on living your lives together.

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This post is part of the March Marriage Challenge. Check out my posts from earlier this month (Marriage: The Changes 5 Years Bring) and last year (How to Keep Your Marriage on Point), then stop by The Eyes of a Boy to read more post about marriage from other bloggers.

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  1. Thank you for sharing this! Such heartfelt words. I have not been in your exact shoes, but I think that in any marriage, no matter the circumstances, there must be a commitment to make life work. Once one partner gives up, it's like fighting a losing battle. SO glad to have you as a wonderful part of the 2016 March Marriage Challenge!

  2. Omg I feel you 100% with this! My daughter is extremely speech delayed. We know she's high functioning autistic but since she's a girl, getting them to give the final diagnosis at 3 ughhh.... But yeah, we finally just left my daughter with a babysitter a few weeks ago for the first time that wasn't my mom lol! It was her 17 year old cousin. Until then hubby and I never really got a date night because you can't really leave a non verbal kiddo with just anyone. People always ask why do we do a lot of things a part. We assume at this point people think we must hate eachother or something which is the furthest thing from the truth.... people just don't understand that we don't want it that way, we just can't get out together since we can't just leave our child with anyone like everyone else in the world. Having a special needs child definitely test your marriage that's for sure

    1. It sounds like you totally know what it's like!! We got lucky with a doctor that was willing to diagnose at 2 years old because he said it was obvious and we had months worth of observation from her therapists. It's crazy how hard it can be to get a diagnosis, never mind actually getting help!

  3. I can imagine how hard this must be and how much stress it can add to your marriage. You've got some great tips here on how to make it work!!

  4. Kids add so much stress to a marriage to begin with- and I can only imagine how much having a special needs child compounds that stress. I hope you and your husband are able to find someone close by to watch your kiddos once in a while. Couple time is important too!


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