Sunday, December 1, 2013

Surviving the Pitfalls of Marriage Part 2

As we continue to look at the pitfalls that are present in marriages with special needs children, intimacy is another trouble spot.  After Caleb’s birth Bob and I looked at intimacy in a very different light.  I felt that enjoying myself during this crises was somehow a betrayal to Caleb.  Bob saw it as a way to remain strong and continue on, both as a husband and as a new parent of a child with so many needs.  Many years before Caleb was born, I had read an article about how the act of intimacy helps a man to feel connected to his wife during a crises.  Somehow, knowing this information helped me to understand where Bob was coming from and prevented me from misunderstanding his advances.   I can see how a wife, who has not been given this information, could struggle to overcome her feelings of betrayal, her weariness, or her distraction with all of the new demands in life, in order to meet the needs of her husband and the marriage.  This area requires great care and communication from both the husband and wife.  Misinterpretations can cause deep wounds that can create a wedge in the relationship, and once a rift is formed, neither the physical or emotional needs of either spouse will be met. If you and your spouse are unable to talk about these issues, than I suggest at least getting information so you can become enlightened to the needs of your spouse.  Hopefully by seeking help, you will be able to navigate this area without going under.

The constant need to make life altering decisions is another challenge in our marriage.  Though people might imagine otherwise, Bob and I still do not agree on many aspects of Caleb's care.  We have different views on what Caleb is capable of doing, what classes he should take at school, and what his needs are for various interventions. Though we don't always agree, we have learned to respect each others' viewpoints.  Practically speaking, because I attend most of Caleb's appointments and school meetings, much of the final decision making falls to me. It can be tempting to just have my way, but I value Bob's input and strive to honor both of us in the decisions I make. 

One of the hardest things about living with a special needs child is the deep feelings that we aren't able to speak.  Because end of life issues often arise with these children, they have to be addressed.  And who can admit that there are days or moments when we wish a different decision had been made.  After spending Caleb's 16th birthday at Chuck E Cheese, rather than celebrating his new driving abilities or anticipating college choices, Bob and I sat together and cried.  What was going to become of our child?  What had we gotten into?  Should we have made the decisions that we had made along the way?  The depths of these feelings are real and a sense of shame accompanies them.  The only person who can truly understand and relate to my thoughts is Bob.  I have realized, through both error and success, to allow our marriage to be a safe place for Bob and me to share our deepest fears and hurts; we have learned to never pass judgment or express shock at what the other has to share.  In this area of being vulnerable, we can be the closest of allies or the worst enemies.  The outcome rests in our response to each other.

Another area that continues to be a struggle for Bob and me is arranging a night away.  I truly believe that as a couple, we need to have a date night at least once a month, but in all honesty, there are times when two, three, or four months can pass before we get a nurse scheduled and a babysitter for the other children.  When this happens, I begin to feel disconnected and out of sync with Bob.  I interpret actions in a negative light and problems arise where no problems really exist. I need the time away to enjoy our friendship and to remember our relationship before children became a part of our lives.  I believe that couples often feel date night is a luxury that they don't have the time or resources to implement, but without time away, couples will begin to only connect on a practical level, losing the friendship and closeness that is needed to sustain a marriage for the long run.  If the time is not invested on this end, more often than not, couples will need to invest it on the other end, either in counseling or working through a divorce.  Please take the time and enjoy your spouse.

The above is certainly not an exhaustive list of the areas that a couple may struggle with, but it does reveal many pitfalls a marriage can experience. Without deliberate attention, these trouble spots can destroy a marriage. As I write this, I feel the weight this challenge brings, because couples living with a special needs child are already feeling stretched in too many ways. I know this post adds even more areas that need attention, but I believe that the marriage is the support that will hold the family together. Please take the time to keep your marriage strong because through the years you will cherish the bond that will form between you and your spouse. You will look back in amazement at the journey you have been on and will be forever grateful to have had someone by your side.


  1. There is beauty in honesty, and your advice is precious. Thank you, Denice, for sharing your story with us.

  2. Thank you for your kind comments. Although the internet is wonderful, not being able to have a two way conversation is a little challenging. I really appreciate the feedback.