Special Needs Marraige

“The stress of raising an autistic child also takes a toll on many marriages. Autism Speaks, the nation's largest autism advocacy organization, reports that the divorce rate within the autism community is staggering. According to their research, 80 percent of all marriages end.”

I have seen this stat virtually everywhere, heard it even more places and for that matter used it myself. It can be found on the Oprah.com website.

I searched this evening online to see what the actual study said; what the details were, the population, the ages of the children, the ages of the parents, the length of time studied, and honestly I can’t find anything. Well, that’s not entirely true, I found a TON of articles talking about how they couldn’t find a study to prove this quote on the Oprah.com site either.

I have been thinking a lot about marriage lately – specifically special needs parents attempting to make a marriage work in between taking care of a child who demands so much of their time, attention, energy, creativity and emotion.

This is the topic of March 1st’s First Things First article written by Chynna Laird (which obviously isn’t out yet, but will be on Monday, until then you can see her interview here), so with that fresh in my mind I have begun to think about how important it is to spend time focusing on ways I can support my marriage.

I can think of many ways, and could even write you a list, but really, the simplest answer is usually the best one right?

The easiest way I think you can support your marraige is simply by talking about something OTHER than your kids.

My husband is on a plane flying home from work as I type this. As strange as that sounds, he spent the day in San Francisco at the Chinese Embassy getting his last minute Visa paperwork together for a two week trip to Asia next month.

We got to talk on the phone around lunch time. I had dropped Matt off at school and was RUSHING to get my hair cut (first time since October) before I have my author photos taken on Sunday. I sat in the parking lot talking to him on my cellphone.

Jeff talked to me about China town, the cool pagodas, and how close he was to Fisherman’s Warf. He had spent the morning with a friend from work, the two of them preparing for their trip to Asia, having lunch, taking meetings by phone, and enjoying their day with the extra long commute.

I talked about the errands I needed to run, the funny things the boys had said during the day, and how Matt had eaten 7 cookies for lunch – much to my annoyance, then hurried off the phone, because if I didn’t hurry, I wouldn’t be done in time to get the boys off the bus.

Sure on the surface it sounds like Jeff has the cooler life. And arguably he probably does. But that's not the point.

The point is that making the time to talk to each other and be involved in one another’s life aside from the chidlren, is what matters.

It is too easy to get caught in that constant communication loop that is centered around updates on the children -- no matter what their challenges are.

Being a couple means spending time talking to each other about each other. Remember when you were dating? You didn't sit around and solve problems during every meal. You just talked about how much you'd love to visit Chile, or about a new book you want to read, or about the latest office romance. You talked about your own life.

Here is my advice, shelve the discussions about your child's needs, or wants, and your worries associated with them for the weekend. Instead talk about things you and your spouse actually enjoy. You do remember what that is, right?

As for Oprah.com and Autism Speaks's "80%" divorce rate stat, in the words of my mom, “Don’t make shit up.”


Photo: A super close up of the shell picees pilled up on the beach in Mexico (where we didn't talk about our kiddo's issues once!).


GB's Mom said...

Whatever the odds really are, talking to each other about your personal lives, dreams, goals is necessary to maintain any marriage, under any circumstances. We just have to be more mindful of it.

Brenda said...

Exactly. I wrote about the strain in marriage and the anxiety over how hubby is handling our son over on my blog. It ain't easy, but I think we're better equipped to handle it.

Stacey,momof 2 said...

Getting my husband to really understand what SPD "is"... is key to having those conversations about our personal lives. I have found that showing him posts from ..."other people's blogs" helps him to see we are NOT alone-- and that helps me not resent-- what I see as non-interest -- when it's really that my husband has ADHD, and often times doesn't notice the things I do. Now that my son is in school the comments from the staff help my husband see our son as smart and funny-- but also see that he can be very demanding...

Carrie Wilson Link said...

Well said!

StatMama said...

Excellent post, and so very true.

Hartley said...

Glad you all liked it. :) I think every marriage could benefit from the same things, but when you have special kiddos, the need for those things increases. The need to have something else besides the kids becomes much more important.

Please come back and read the FTF post tomorrow on this same subject -- leave a comment and let me know what you think about Chynna's idea. :)


laurata said...

Very well said! I know that for my husband and I, we do begin to feel disconnected if we don't take time to connect. Luckily we both realize when that isn't happening, and find a way to make it happen.

Laurie Wallin said...

Agree wholeheartedly! And that's why date night is a non-negotiable every week. Sometimes it's the only time we look at and laugh with each other the whole week. So grateful for those times together!

Ligia said...

I have been very fortunate to have a hubby that is on board with the SPD. not only that but he recently started working for the agency that actually diagnosed our son and so he is hearing about it everyday. I think that is the first part. If you are both on the same page that is key. It takes a team effort as well.

I would have to say that having date night/day is VERY importnat and a priority to us. we actually got away for the 1st time in five years with out our son! That was awesome and weird...but worth it. MAKE time for each other ...