Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Marriage and Special Needs Kids

Day 29 is "The effect of special needs kids on marriage".  Because this is a serious topic, and because it's one of the last two, I considered making it the last topic...but my big facebook autism support group's share day is on Wednesday, and because this is something lots of them can relate to...I'm posting it today instead. 

On our 12th anniversary I posted something specifically about the effects of autism on marriage, and I'm not going to read that three year old post again, but it's here if you'd like to read it...Anniversary Dates and Divorce Rates.

I think since the time I posted that someone came out with some study(ies) or other that showed the effect was "bad", but I didn't read the study and it doesn't change my own experience anyway.

So here, in a nutshell, is what I think:  There are reasons, legitimate reasons, to get a divorce.  There are reasons that people get divorces that seem less legitimate. 

So let me set aside what I would consider the legitimate reasons to divorce, like abuse, for example.  I want all the legitimate reasons for divorce over in this corner over here *points to corner*.  I'm not talking about those.

Also, let me say, that if you feel there is NO legitimate reason for divorce EVER...I'm setting that in the corner as well.  I don't want to debate the sanctity of Marriage with you.  But you're a dumbass if you think there is NO reason why a divorce is legitimately the right thing to do.  But I'm not debating it...dumbass.

What we're left with are all the wrong reasons to get a divorce.  Whatever those might be.  People are selfish, and if you decide, selfishly, that you want to exchange the old worn out wife for the new younger model for no reason other than she's aging (even as you yourself age) and aging is yucky...that would be a good example. 

So there are allllll sorts of selfish stupid reasons to get a divorce.  Getting a divorce because you can't handle the stresses of raising your own children is just one of them. 

My point is this:  IF your marriage fails, and IF you have special needs kids, THEN you need to understand that the person who walks away because of that is a douche.  And that special needs kids didn't lead to that divorce, selfishness did.

Having Lily in our lives has actually strengthened our partnership.  It requires that we communicate more.  It requires that I take a more active role as a parent.  Co-parenting is good for a marriage.  Sharing work around the house, whether that work be child-rearing or doing the laundry, is good for the marriage.  Because when I share the work with her, she's happier and doesn't resent me for leaving her responsible for everything while I hit the bar.

There's a weird sort of topic split here that I'm not really going to explore, but I'll point it out..."marriage/special needs" vs. "parenting/special needs", and I guess I'm going to just gloss over it and say that I feel like the two are very closely related.  When I'm a better parent I'm also a better husband, because the shared responsibility means less weight falls on her shoulders and leaves her more time to enjoy the family and our life together. 

Does having a special needs child make me a better husband?  Not directly, but the additional attention that Lily requires means that we have to communicate more, and it means that she can't do it all alone, which means I have to help out more.  More communication and more active helping out make me a better husband. 

I get that people get stressed out about their special needs kids, and I've said in the past that you can just cross out the word "special needs" and the sentence is still just as true.  But that stress isn't about the marriage necessarily, and making it about the marriage isn't justified. 

I reread like the last four paragraphs and they all say almost the same exact thing, but I'm too lazy to go up and edit it more succinctly.  My main point is that special needs kids don't REALLY impact your marriage in any way.  You love that person or you don't.  You're a partner to that person or you're not.  The circumstances that add stress to you life...aren't related to that partner (unless that person is the reason you're stressed, but that subject is over in the corner).  They're no less stressful, but they're misguided if they're aimed at your spouse.  If you have a good marriage, having special needs kids won't make it any better or any worse, but your reaction to the stresses of parenting might, if you take it out on your partner.


  1. Love this post, and your other one. Very timely for us I feel. Communication is key, I know that, and yet it is so hard to do. Special Needs or not, everyone has stresses. You sound like you are doing a great job of managing them. Fab. Thanks for the interesting and insightful ideas :)

    1. Thanks Steph. Sometimes I worry that the way I write about this stuff conveys that I do everything right. And I don't. But I do feel like I know the right thing to do, and writing about it helps keep me honest, helps me keep doing the right thing, if that makes sense.

  2. Yes! You did good on this one. Raising kids in general is a stressful thing. I get frustrated when everything gets put on the SN kid/kids. Having children has brought my husband and me closer.

  3. Couldn't have said it better myself!