What Makes a Special Needs Marriage Special

Every marriage has struggles. Some of the most popular issues in marriage are dealing with differences regarding money, child- raising, families, sex, work, and housework. 

 Having good communication can help improve these common issues.  When you have a special needs child one or both of the partners are constantly putting out fires. So there doesn’t seem like there is time to talk. Furthermore, when there is a quiet moment, each parent is looking to spend time alone to recover from the stress of daily life.  They know it’s only a matter of time before they will be back in battle.  The time alone is necessary to function and regroup in order to handle the seeming insurmountable challenge of dealing with the onslaught of stress that comes with every special situation.

Special needs stress is doing double duty by having the stress of the special needs child on top of everything else.  There is a constant emotional gasping for air that goes on.

 Where does that leave your marriage? How is it possible to stay happily married when it feels like there is no time to nurture the relationship? 

 Well, the good news is that the maddening environment forces the need to participate in a conscious marriage.  Coasting or taking your partner for granted won't work.  You MUST make the effort to make it at all!

When both parents are on the same page about their child’s condition, they can bond over their mutual pain and make decisions together.  This can strengthen a marriage. 

The key is handling the overwhelming stress and have tricks to stay the course together.

Keep in mind that the biggest issues that damage most marriages don’t seem as paramount when you are dealing with deeper issues.  Fighting over who is going to take out the garbage seems trivial in the face of deciding medical care for a child, fighting for the child’s rights or fighting against a system that is not in the child’s favor.

Most special needs parents find themselves fighting a school district or an insurance company to get more services at some point or another.

 Parents of special needs children can develop a different perspective of "Not sweating the small stuff".  "Not sweating the small stuff" can give a healthy perspective to help couples move forward as a unit.

Here are 5 tricks to stay the course together:

1.  Make time to talk a priority

Having a special needs child forces one to prioritize. There is only so much time in a day, also is there is only so much energy a person has!  When your partner wants to talk, leave the work and the housework and give them the attention they deserve.  The dishes and deadlines will wait. 

The house can always be cleaned later. It’s just going to get dirty again anyway.

Making your partner a priority will make them feel loved and give them the energy to make you a priority in return.

If the present moment won’t work to talk, make an appointment to talk later and stick to it.  Some couples make a standing appointment to spend together so both partners know they will have their special time. Having something positive to look forward to in a marriage enhances it and creates a sense of positivity that can assist the couple in trying times.

2.  Send text messages or email during the day.

Short Frequent positive messages can be an easy to stay connected with your partner and let them know you are thinking of them! This can resolve issues of partners feeling ignored or unloved.  Special needs parents may not have time to trade loving thoughts at home if the home is especially chaotic.  Additionally, romantic notions may not be the feelings parents are in touch with in the face of dealing with stressful surprises that are ubiquitous with having a special needs child. It may be better to send romantic sentiments during the day while the kids are at school or when you know your partner might be open to receiving it. 

3.  Have empathy for your partner

For the most part, your partner is facing the same sense of loss, stress, sadness and confusion you are. If anybody knows what they’re are going through it’s you! They are going through everything you are and have the added burden or either dealing with the child and all of that stress, being the “Bread winner” or all of the above!  You are overwhelmed as well, but if you can put yourself in their place, let them know you understand their position.  Empathy for your spouse can do wonders for your communication and your marriage. A little validation and understanding goes a long way.

4. It’s Just the Situation

Sometimes partners can seemed bothered by seemingly small things. Any special needs parent can tell you that there are good moments and bad moments usually in the same day or the same hour. Everyday can seem like a roller coaster. Sometimes the emotional stress seems  too much and parents feel like they can't take one more minute. Hopefully both partners don’t break down at the same time. When you find your partner is especially short, sad or grumpy invite them to talk and know that the seemingly small thing they are currently complaining about may not really be the issue.  It’s important to be a detective and know how to decipher clues. Be careful not to take a bad mood personally.  That is a sure fire way to the start of an argument. Sometimes just listening without judging or asking helpful questions like, “What can I do?” will be super helpful and comforting to your partner.

Just being there for a few minutes can turn a frown upside down!

5.  Have Fun Together

Having chronic stress can make life feel like the “All Stress Network” “All stress all the time.” It is very important to have fun together. Childcare can sometimes be an issue. Don’t let not being able to escape be an excuse to escape stress!

Watch a funny movie together, look up funny stories to share, play board games or cards, give each other a massage.  What about scheduling a date for lunch or breakfast during the week?

What about a date early in the morning before everyone is awake?

 The point is to find a way to have some fun and create some pleasure into your life. You owe it to yourself and your marriage to do just that!


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