Is My Marriage Different Because We Have a Child With Special Needs?


I’ve read blog posts about how the dynamics of a marriage change when you have a special needs child, and it made me wonder: Is my marriage any different because we have a child with special needs?

Rob and I fell in love fast. We knew we were committed to one another before we even knew each other’s quirks, habits or deep dark secrets. People often told us we would have beautiful babies, and in my heart, I believed that to be true. And they were right — we brought two spectacular human beings into this world.

Our daughter, Lola, who happens to have special needs, is our first child and was also born in Costa Rica. I would say our foreign location actually put our relationship through more turmoil than the medical circumstances that surrounded our daughter. Doctor visits, hospital stays, medication administering and therapies were just part of our life and, truthfully, I’m glad we didn’t know any different.

Rob and I became a team in a way we hadn’t envisioned when we were preparing for Lola’s arrival. But I believe life’s curveballs have brought us closer together. Sure, we’ve had emotionally trying days due to the stress of diagnoses as well as the unknowns of Lola’s future, but this can be said about our “typically developing” son as well. We worry about both of our children just as any other parent would. Yet knowing we have each other helps the dark days seem that much more bearable, and the bright days seem that much more joyous. We truly are in this “for better or for worse.”

So when I read headlines that say, “Beating the Odds of Divorce When Your Child Has Special Needs,” I often wonder what makes the marriage we share so different than the rest of the world?

My husband’s response: “Two people who are on the same page. Even more important, when you aren’t on the same page, you discuss the issue so at least it is out in the open, and you know how the other feels. Love is respect. You do each other a great disservice by keeping issues or feelings bottled up. Also, for men, don’t be a dumb ass.”

Smart man.

I see my friends who have typically developing children, and to be honest, their marriage looks just as stressful. There are bills to be paid, mouths to feed, baths to give, chores to be done and homework to be checked. I can’t see much of a difference from my own marriage.

Lola’s life is a little bit different in that her after-school activities are sometimes therapy-based, and she definitely needs to start holding her own in the chore department. So she may need a little extra help with her self-care, but that’s just part of our normal day.

Of course, we have moments when we wish she could put her own pants on, but dang it, so does she. She’ll get there in her own time just like all of her other milestones. But rarely are our arguments ever ignited because of Lola, Lola’s diagnoses, Lola’s care, Lola’s future or anything even pertaining to Lola. We bicker about the dumb stuff like who is going to clean the kitty litter or why our house is in constant shambles every second of the day.

So I guess what I’m saying is that I’m not too worried about Rob and me beating the odds. Our marriage will continue to be a work in progress every single day like any other marriage would be. We will have good days and bad days. We will have days when we need to be reminded that our love did bloom in the quick and breathless way it did, but in my opinion, I think that makes our marriage fairly normal.

A version of this post originally appeared on Say Hola, Lola.

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 [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio.

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