People Think This Causes Divorce. It’s Really What Holds Us Together.


Being married or staying married or leaving marriage are all very personal and sometimes painful topics for anyone — and more so for special needs families. I’ve seen statistics that go up to 80 percent for the special needs parent divorce rate (though that number has been debunked). I’ve met gorgeous moms whose husbands walked out of the labor and delivery room and never came back. I’ve seen marriage after marriage disintegrated by the overwhelming challenge of having a special needs child. When I survey the landscape, marriage and special needs kids seem to be like oil and water.

I often wish I could shout from the rooftops that special needs parenting can bring you closer together rather than drive you apart! My special needs son has often been the glue that has held my marriage together. I believe that having a child with special needs can be the bond that hold you and your spouse tighter and closer, when all else in life falls apart.

I’m not saying my marriage has been perfect. Honestly, it’s been on the brink of disaster as much or more than any marriage that has endured for 22 years. And I am not even saying that the added stress of having a special needs son didn’t add fuel to those disaster moments. However, I am saying that in those moments, there was one specific incentive to just hold on for one more day, and that was our special needs son, Nicolas.

We’ve been special needs parents for almost 15 years and I believe that our joint love for our son now binds us to each other in a way that is stronger than any force that could come between us. When my husband and I cannot see eye to eye on anything, we have a common thread that only we two share. There is one thing, one undeniable experience that no one else in the world can or will ever understand: being Nick’s parents. Over the years, even when we disagreed on how to parent Nick, the shared journey continued to push us further down our unique path. He is our marriage “secret ingredient.”

Here’s my advice: You can choose, each day, to be on the same team or not. There is enough coming at you — plenty of opposition — and you don’t need more inside your own home. You have only one other person with whom you can choose to side, huddle and share those thoughts and fears that no one else will ever comprehend. The sooner you get the “same team” mentality going, the sooner you’re on your way to overcoming any obstacle.

Let’s face it, our perspective on life is unique. We know that the little stuff is basically anything else that isn’t related to our child. So the toilet seat position, the dirty laundry on the floor, the working late or financial struggles that might cause others to lose focus, should seem (because they are) so miniscule to us, that they don’t even affect us. We might disagree on everything, but we must agree on one thing: wanting the best for our child. Does this apply to every parent? Well, I would say yes — we have a typical son as well, and we both want the best for him. He, too, is on a unique journey, but it is one that he does and will take on his own. He’s been an independent, smart, fully functioning guy for a while now. We “contribute” to his success, which is different from our special son, where we very literally “determine” his success, now and in the future.

We long ago put aside the “me vs. you” and picked up the “us vs. the world” mentality. Not only has it served our marriage well, but it has also been true as we journey through special needs parenting together.

Parenting a special needs child together with your spouse can become the most wonderful experience the two of you will ever share. It can create an indestructible bond that will hold you together in the face of every adversity. Together you will face mountains and climb them together, helping each other along the way, so that when you reach the top, you have a friend by your side to admire the view.

The Mighty wants to hear more about marriage 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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