“You have to work hard to make a marriage work.” “Bringing children into a relationship can be hard.” “Balancing the all the needs of a family is hard work.” “Having a child with special needs is hard on relationships.” We have all heard these statements over the years and the horrible, though maybe exaggerated, statistics that highlight the failures. Generally those statements, when heard separately, are depressing enough. But sometimes, for some of us, they are heard en masse, a scary preamble that can make the most stable person want to cower in the corner in the fetal position. We are those parents who have (or had) partners/spouses and family that includes a child with significant needs. Is cowering in that corner an option? Not really! We have the daily business of parenting that child and being a family on our overcrowded, fragile plates.
How do we take this tough situation we been dealt and make all the moving pieces work? How can we build and maintain a healthy adult relationship with our partner when the odds seem stacked against us? How do we make “couples” time when the practical daily needs of that child (and any siblings) consume so much of our attention? I vote that we get 8 more hours added to each day to do everything … so far that hasn’t happened.
I write this piece as someone who has been married a long, long time. I do not have words of wisdom or magic methods to share that will work for you. We are not the “perfect” couple who beat those odds. We just are who we are. We are not the best communicators, and each of us has a few teensy irritating qualities. We both think we give into the other more than they give into us. But we are still together.
It has been hard — at times harder than either of us could imagine. Some of those hard times were linked to our daughter and her disabilities, some involved our other children, some just came from having different expectations of each other. There were also joyous and wonderful times. Sometimes we are a united force who face challenges as one, and sometimes we are deeply divided about what the best action is. We have learned to pick our battles, the ones on behalf of our daughter and the ones we have with each other. Though as an “experienced” married couple, the energy expanded to really battle each other seems better used elsewhere. So the battles between us are less frequent
Since I have no words of wisdom, I am pleased to announce that at Matrix’s 6th Annual Author Luncheon Benefit on April 15 will feature Fran Pollock Prezant, M.Ed., and Laura E. Marshak, Ph.D., authors of Married with Special-Needs Children: A Couples’ Guide to Keeping Connected, and founders of Disability & Family Balance. They have great information, strategies, and some secrets to share that may help you beat the odds.