The topic of marriage is always a discussion that leads to statistic rates and normally includes a discussion of divorce. I have written about divorce, autism and denial before and understand the reality that divorce is far too common among couples who have a child with autism or special needs child.
I recently read in the Sunday paper an article titled ‘Love hacks to fix your marriage‘ by John Tierney of the New York Times. It was printed on the back page of the Tampa Bay Times perspective section and caught my eye after I had read about the inequality in education piece. It got me thinking…more like laughing. The reality of life with children and special needs children is a totally different relationship than “normal”. The article suggests picking up one of the hacks and get started on fixing your marriage.
1. touch your partner
2. don’t jump to bad conclusions
3. picture a fight from the outside
4. make a gratitude list
5. accept a compliment
6. celebrate small victories.
So, back to reality and statistics. Couples with children with autism or children with major special needs have significantly higher divorce rates. Common sense tells us that it’s not because of the child but because the couple cannot agree on how to deal, treat, raise and care for the child with special needs and most often the two largest areas are related to denial and money.
How I think parents of special needs children are successful, they get on the same page for the care and treatment of their child. There is more strength in making a team and having each others backs. There is also less stress when delegating responsibilities. It comes down to one decision; to stick together no matter what happens. It sounds easy…not! We know it isn’t easy because if it was the divorce rate for our special groups wouldn’t be 50% or higher.
I thought for years that my marriage wasn’t going to make it either. Just because it is difficult doesn’t mean that you have to walk away. You are going to have to talk about your relationship and your special needs child; and whatever else regular people have going on in their lives. Sometimes, people decide that they can co-parent but not stay married. I am more than overly impressed by these people! I have no idea how they successfully manage shared commitments in raising children.
There are no right answers across the board for marriage, divorce, and dealing with denial of special needs children; it’s very unique to each family. Once you get to accepting the autism or special need then there is a whole entirely new level when deciding how to treat and develop an education plan.
For me, I realized one day that I could only control myself and my actions. If my spouse wanted to leave, I cannot control that decision. I also decided that even though we were struggling that I still loved him enough to wish him only happiness and if he wasn’t happy married to me than I wasn’t going to try to make him stay. The tool in the thought was that I just listened and sometimes even took notes. He was telling me what he needed and wanted and what he felt like he wasn’t getting. Biggest tip: I kept fighting my emotions and fears of abandonment. That was my past and my emotions would get the best of me during simple talks.
I can’t say that I have it figured out completely and I can only control my own actions but I would like to think that as a married couple with a child with special needs that we have it figured out for our family right now. I do think that we have the skills and communication to continue to work through tough decisions and any changes we may face.
I hope that no matter what your marital status is that you have found a way to care, treat and educate your child with special needs.