3 Techniques That Help Our Marriage as Parents of a Child With Special Needs

When my husband and I got engaged, we did everything in our power to ensure that we were ready for a lifelong commitment. The most important thing we did was to seek out premarital counseling. Our church offered three sessions, but we felt we needed more and sought out a private marriage and family therapist. That did the trick. Or so we thought.

Along the way, life threw us a few curve balls: cancer (my husband), mental illness (first my parents, then our daughter) and job loss (me). My husband and I did not let these things deter us. We pulled up our bootstraps and did the dirty work. But when our daughter’s unique challenges truly tested us, we were at a loss for what to do next.

At a school meeting for our daughter, a psychologist suggested we seek out family counseling. Our daughter left that school shortly after that meeting, but we took the advice we were given. I asked one of the pastors at our church for a recommendation for a marriage and family therapist who might help our family.

Technique #1: We sought out counseling that focused on both marriage and family health.

We were referred to a wonderful lady who we saw us for almost five years until she recently moved out of the area. This counselor was not only concerned with the emotional health of our daughter, but the health of our marriage as well. It was important to her that we learn how to parent our child and care for ourselves also.

Early on in our special needs journey, I read a story about the regret some parents felt as their children’s teen years were coming to an end. They said that the one thing they wished they had done was to spend more time on their marriage. It’s kind of like a car. A good one needs a tune-up every so often. A car, or marriage, that’s traveled a lot of miles needs more attention in order to keep it running well.

A huge part of this equation was my husband’s willingness to go to counseling. He was humble enough to admit that he needed counseling just as much as our daughter did.

Technique #2: We make sure we’re on the same page when it comes to parenting.

We still face hurdles and obstacles, but we learned a lot of techniques that help us jump over them with as much ease as possible. One of the techniques that our therapist taught us was to try to make sure we are on the same page as far as parenting goes. For many years, I was super strict and my husband was more lenient. We learned to meet in the middle. If we can’t agree on how to deal with a particular issue, one of us will call the other over to discuss how best to resolve it. It’s kind of like a time out for parents.

Technique #3: We ask each other, “How was your day?” after our daughter goes to bed.

We learned how important it is to take the time to discuss how our day was once our daughter is in bed. We have to remember that we are individuals, too, not just parents. We also had to learn to give each other breaks even when things are difficult. When our daughter was unstable, my husband would stay home while I did a Starbucks run or drove around the block for 30 minutes.

I vowed to do my very best to stay married. Having a child with special needs can make things challenging for us, but not impossible. 

The Mighty wants to hear more about relationships and special needs parenting. Can you share a moment on your special needs journey that strengthened your relationship? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio.

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