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34 Spouses Describe the Moment They Knew a Diagnosis Wouldn't Break Their Marriage

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No marriage is perfect, and parenting a child with special needs can take its toll on any relationship. But instead of focusing on divorce rates, The Mighty wanted to hear from our readers about the moment they knew a diagnosis could never break their marriage.

This is what you had to say:

1. “My husband and I have always dreamed about a little house on the river. And I knew it would be OK when he said, ‘We might need three rocking chairs on the porch so she has a place to sit with us.’” — Sandy Berens Salinas

2. “My husband held me as I was crying; some people had been staring and whispering at us at a family festival. I was worried no one would ever be friendly when we went anywhere, and his response to me was, ‘We don’t need anyone else. We’ll be each other’s friends and company.‘” — Rachael Bradley

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Mike (dad) and Landon Bradley

3. “We were in the NICU hallway right after our son was diagnosed with Down syndrome, and I looked right at my husband and said, ‘I will understand if you want to leave us, but I am keeping my son and bringing him home.’ He was so shocked that I would even say that. He replied, ‘No way, I would never leave. We are in this together.’” — Dawn Rewerts Jenks

4. “My son’s dad and I broke up before the official diagnosis of autism was made, but it would’ve ended regardless. I knew our son was autistic, and anytime I brought it up, my husband always called me a hypochondriac. Now, almost two years later, we still aren’t together, but I feel like the diagnosis brought us together to this place where we are actually friends and are successfully co-parenting. The diagnosis ended all the fighting for us and made us realize what’s really important is our boy and helping him reach his maximum potential.” — Brittany Nicole Rose

5. “I was still pregnant when we got our diagnosis at the doctor’s office. I burst into tears. My husband put his arm around me, and the doctor left us alone for a moment. My husband said, ‘We are going to give her the best life she can have.’ And that was it. We didn’t even know then what exactly we were in for, what the diagnosis meant exactly, but we knew whatever happened, we were in it together, and we would be there for her, as a family.” — Jennifer Morgan

6. “The day after our unborn daughter’s diagnosis with spina bifida, I was on the couch, back to the world, tears freely flowing. I was deeply grieving the baby I thought I was pregnant with before finding out there were abnormalities at our ultrasound. I’ll forever and ever credit my husband for saving me, and I’ll never forget him sitting down next to me and saying these words: ‘Cheer up, Charlie (his nickname for me). This isn’t the end of the world.’ I knew in that second we would get through this and do it together. That was three years ago, and we’re rocking this whole ‘special needs parent’ thing, if I do say so myself!” — Kristen Slone

Rob, Kristen, Quinn and Liv Slone

7. “My husband looked at our daughter with Down syndrome and then me and said, ‘We asked for a healthy baby and we got a healthy, perfect baby girl!’ We were young parents at ages 25 and 26 and didn’t know our daughter had Down syndrome before birth. It was quite a shock, but my husband had just put everything into perspective with that one sentence. She’s healthy and perfect. Twenty years later, our marriage is stronger than ever.” — Barb Check Goldinger

8. “We were in the NICU. We came home one night, and I was a mess. Our son had a brain injury at birth, and I wept and cried thinking about his future. My husband comforted me and carried me. A few nights later, I was feeling much more optimistic about things, but he was struggling. So I comforted him and carried him as he cried. It was the most beautiful balance of one carrying the other when we needed it, and I knew we were in one of those ‘worse’ moments in our ‘for better or worse’ vows, but I knew we would be OK because he carried me when I needed it and let me carry him when he needed it.” — Lindsay Vanzandt

9. “After the diagnosis, we both took the rest of the afternoon off, drove to the park and talked for four hours. We made agreements about boundaries with the outside world and making us the important thing. Above all else we were a family, and she was no less our daughter. We spoke about not letting it take over our lives. We agreed that we didn’t know how we were going to get through it, but we were going to get through it together. We almost separated before the talk. That was 13 years ago, and we are still happily together.” — Maura Fenlon- Treffeisen

10. “About a week after we got the official diagnosis, the doctor called my wife to follow up. I could tell from her face and tone that she was struggling to keep it together, and she had tears in her eyes by the time she hung up. She told me after that he was explaining all of the things my son would never do, including talking. For some reason it was really important to him that she understood my son’s limitations. She was upset, and I was angry, so we agreed that he could go **** himself, and we would not take anymore calls from him. He might be an expert in autism, but he’s not an expert in my son. That day we vowed to always believe in our son and never put limits on what he could accomplish. That was the day I knew that our marriage would be fine. We have our struggles, but when it comes to my son, we are fighting on the same team.” — Darrin Steele

11. “My husband and I have always been close, but our son’s cerebral palsy diagnosis has brought us even closer. One of many reasons I know it’ll never break us is because we know exactly how to comfort each other — whether it be from words, a hug, a silly joke or the indescribable feeling I have when he tells me, ‘Everything is going to be all right.’ I love our perfectly imperfect life, and I thank God every day for my husband and son.” — Sarah Trygar

12. “We were in the kitchen, trying to talk quietly about our then 2-year-old son so our 7-year-old daughter couldn’t hear. My husband was very teary; I was inconsolable. The diagnosis meant the world would not see our son for the perfect little boy he is. When people ask us how do we cope, we say ‘Sam deals with it, and he’s always got a smile — so who are we to be any different? We are just the bystanders helping him.’ I honestly wouldn’t choose anyone else to travel this journey with. Our little boy doesn’t let anything stop him, so why should we?” — Jodie Verwey

Jodie, Sam, Michael and Charlotte Verwey

13. “Our son, Matt, was about 3; we knew he was going to be very limited. I wondered out loud if we should just have Matt and no more children. My delightful husband, Ed, said, ‘No. We never planned on just having one child, and if that child is just like Matt, then we’ll love that child, too, just like we love Matt.’ We’ve been married 32 years. Matt is now 28, lives with us and makes us laugh every day. His brother, Neil, is 24 and a struggling actor in New York City, and our third, Jeff, is 20 and a sophomore in college. Plenty of love to go around for all.” — Susan Crowe Brown

14. “I came home in tears, and my husband looked at me and said, ‘OK. It doesn’t change anything for me. It doesn’t change how I feel about her or make me love her any less. It just means we have to change the way we look at the things she’s doing and find the right way to help her cope. She’s still my daughter, and she’s not different; she’s special. She’s still my shadow and my goofball. You do the research and teach me what I need to do to help her when things get too hard for her. I’m her daddy, and that will never change.’ That was when I knew the diagnosis wouldn’t change our family.” – Jennifer Elizabeth

15. “My husband and I held each other and cried, and after what felt like days of silence, he wiped my tears away and asked me, ‘What do we do now?’ We came into this as a united front, and years later we are united in our path to ensure all of our children a good life.” –– Veronica Phillips

16. “Before Sadie was even born, we got a triple screen test with odds that she’d have Down syndrome. We both left work and talked and cried and talked some more and agreed it didn’t matter to us — she was our daughter. We would love and care for any child we had. She doesn’t have Down syndrome, but does have a rare genetic disorder. We are always vulnerable, together.” — Elisabeth Johnson

17. “We knew being parents would be hard. We expected that. And we realized it would be even harder than we thought during my little guy’s first few months of life. And around his first birthday, we realized we could indeed do hard things together.” — Kinder Love

18. “The diagnosis absolutely bonds us closer. I feel like we fight a mini battle together each week. He always wrangles me in when I start to spin out. When we win some of those mini battles, we celebrate in small moments together. It constantly feels like we have a secret language only we can understand. Each loss and win feels like it builds our family kingdom yet one layer stronger. When we lose some mini battles, he gives me the required 48 hours to lay on the floor and cry; then I know I need to get up and start again or he’s coming to kick my butt into motion.” — Birgitte Ravn Miller

19. “After the neurologist gave us our daughter’s diagnosis, my husband turned to me and said, ‘We’re in this together, forever.’ And we have been.” — Laurie Brennan

20. “Shortly before the diagnosis, we were sitting in the office of the psychologist, who said something we both already knew: ‘Looks like you are both in different places in this.’ Yes, we were. I knew our little boy had autism. My husband wasn’t ready to accept it yet, but I accepted where he was and he accepted the reality of further testing and therapies. I knew that if we could survive the reality of a diagnosis, we could make it. And we have. That was over three years ago.” — Becky Thomas

Rick, Daniel, Alex and Becky Thomas

21. “We made our marriage vows almost 34 years ago and promised each other and God to stay committed. Of course, at that point, we had no idea what life would bring. Our youngest daughter, who is now 20, has severe, nonverbal autism and functions at a 2-year-old level. We knew the moment we were married that we would stay together because we decided to not allow ourselves to see any other possibility. When the relationship suffered, what was still there was commitment. When hope was low, commitment. Times when we didn’t like each other very much, commitment. During all the tough phases of marriage, a promise made 34 years ago was what saw us through. Now having so much history, I cannot imagine not being together. No one else shares the experiences we’ve had together. No one else loves our daughters the way we do, no one else shares the pain and loss, the hope and joy, the time and experience nor the love we do with each other. He is a good man, and I thank God for him.” — Shelly Boeve

22. “I know every day, because we make a conscious decision not to let any of the stressors of life break us. Our ‘special’ son is the soul of our family.” — Jamie McQuade Lewis

23. “We were driving to take my son to be placed in a mental hospital. He was suicidal, and we feared for his safety. We both wanted to cry, but we somehow found a way to take turns as the supporter and supportee.” — Tracy Lyons Spencer

24. “At one point, at the beginning of going through the diagnosis process, I thought we wouldn’t survive. I started seeing his differences; his father did not. He said he was fine. So when I cried, I cried alone. I felt alone… The day we got the official diagnosis, we cried together. We’ve been on the same page for six years now.” — Karen Cornell

25. “I knew we would be OK when my husband said, ‘If I have to work forever to take care of my son, I will.’ We have come to the reality that our son may be with us till our last breath, but we will do it together and the good times will outweigh the bad times always.” — Patricia Duke


26. “The diagnosis brought us closer. We’ve always been best friends, but once we found out about her diagnosis, our bond grew stronger. We are her advocates and she needs us just as much as we need each other.” — McKenzie Swetnam

27.I don’t know if we’ve had one defining moment that confirmed we’d always be a team –it’s all the little moments that add upI’m definitely the more high-strung worry-wart. My husband is laid back. There have been many times during our journey where I get stuck in the ‘what ifs’ and worry nonstop about the future. It’s in those moments where my husband looks lovingly at our awesome little boy and says, ‘He’s going to be just fine.’ That eases my fears. It’s something about the way he says it that makes me realize he truly means it and believes it, and then I believe it too. I couldn’t do this without him.” — Kristy Nickerson

28. “When he realized I wasn’t making up the diagnosis. When he saw it, and we began to advocate together. It is our passion.” — Leasha Teel

29. “I called my hubby at work to tell him we got our son’s diagnosis, and he was as shocked as I was. I knew we would be OK when he said, “OK, so what does he need? What do we do? How do we help him?” It was about our son and getting him what he needed versus thinking about whose fault it was or why our family.” — Leidy Jesse Garcia

Jesse, Sydney, Seth and Leidy

30. “The moment my husband first said, ‘My daughter has autism’ two years after her diagnosis, I knew we’d be OK.” — Katrina Reppert

31. “Interesting thing is, I’m not sure my marriage would be intact without the diagnosis. Neither of us could raise my child with autism without the other’s full participation. We’re both in it for the kids, who need us together so much more due to the diagnosis.” — Allis Snyder

32. “Our son got a preliminary diagnosis at 4 months that he was possibly blind. It was then that it looked like life was going to get tough. My husband and I sat down that night and decided that whatever this was, it was going to make us stronger and we would rely on each other to get through. I’m so thankful we made that decision, because the initial diagnosis was incorrect and the actual diagnosis was far worse than any parent ever wants to imagine. Through it all, one thing remained — our love and reliance on each other. I’m thankful every day for my hubby.” — SarahandLayne Coates

33. “My daughter’s diagnosis brought my husband and I closer. He’s always been my support, even when I thought it was my fault or that my genes could have caused it. He said, ‘I would never blame you; you have given me the most beautiful daughter, and if all of our children are like her, I wouldn’t mind. She’s made us into the persons we are today, and I’m grateful for that.’” — Tamara Chavez

34. “We’d made this incredibly beautiful human being, and we knew we’d fight for his life no matter what it took to keep him here, to make him happy and to offer him the best life possible. No matter what that meant. Six years later, that marital bond continues to be the strongest rope with the tightest of knots. We cling to each other on the hardest of days and celebrate small joys that most could never understand. It’s created a special marriage and at the heart of it is a little boy named Noah.” — Stacy Warden

Stacy Warden
Stacy, Noah and Chris Warden

Did you experience a moment like this? Let us know in the comments below. 

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Originally published: February 5, 2015
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