1. Parenting

Readers Respond: How Has Parenting a Child With Special Needs Affected Your Marriage?

Responses: 8


We often hear about marriages that crack and fail under the stress of parenting a child with special needs. Yet many couples find that facing the challenge of a child's disability strengthens their relationship. How has your parenting experience affected your marriage? Share your story, and the lessons you've learned.

My husband, My best friend

When we decided to have children three years into being married, it all came so easy. Pregnant on the first try, perfect pregnancy throughout, thrilling us and the doctor. Then month 7 came and it all went wrong. Out of control blood pressure, organ failure and fetal growth restriction lead to an unplanned, emergent cesarean. 8 weeks early and barely 3 pounds, our baby amazed everyone by leaving the NICU after only 5 weeks. By the age of 4, we knew he was smarter than your average bear, but had emotional and social issues that baffled us. Enter the diagnosis of Sensory Processing Disorder, and, two years later, now in first grade, Aspergers. Through it all, my husband and I have stayed best friends, laughing, crying, researching and propping each other up. We vowed to never hold back between the two of us, and we say what is on our minds, no matter how candid. We always say I love you, no matter our mood-and never go to bed without a kiss goodnight. We are blessed and we never forget.
—Guest Nikki

Special Needs Step Parents

My new husband came into my life and accepted my little girl Sophie from day one. She has a mod/sev intellectual disability and not very well controlled epilepsy and can be more than a handful at times. I didnt expect to even meet a man with such patience, but I did, and he has been my rock from day one. Always calm and controlled, giving me gentle nudges here and there to help me deal with things calmly and most of all, loving both of us unconditionally. When Soph has a seizure he is there, patting her hand and seeing her through, even though I know it scared the hell out of him at first. He would go to any lengths for both of us and our needs. It takes a special man to take on a special child that's not his own, and he is all of that and more...we grow stronger every day...I am truly blessed :)
—Guest Traci Moon

Beating the 80% divorce rate

Hubby and I had our 24th anniversary in JAN, and have been on the autism road a long time with our 16 year-old son. He was born when I was 38 after 3 miscarriages. Hubby was an involved dad from Day 1, and even more so since Son's diagnosis at age 4. We researched and participated in therapies together. We got babysitters and went on date nights. We relieve each other when one of us is stressed out and just cannot handle it for another minute. (Note the use of the present tense!) We remind each other of successful strategies and techniques when we start escalating emotionally. We guest-lecture regularly at Marymount University for graduate-level educators on parenting a child with autism. We present a united front (most of the time) with discipline. We have had personal failures and disappointments and setbacks and shining moments of pure joy. Hubby is a good man, and we love each other. I'm so gald we're in this together.

Tested and Strengthened

When we got married and decided to have a family, my husband Lou and I had no idea about the journey on which we were about to embark. We planned on having two or three children; I would stay at home with them until the magic age of "old enough" and then go back to work. Fairly simple and straightforward we thought. A huge change came in our life with the arrival of Eric. From the first minute of his life we were brought into this world of the unknown and were instantly headed in a whole new direction. Eric was fighting for his life and as a family, we were fighting for our survival. We had lost control of our goals and dreams and all that we had planned for. We quickly learned about not dwelling on what was wrong, and to focus on what was important for moving forward. We appreciated the value in our relationships and community support network. We realized that despite very tragic and sad circumstances, there are opportunities for new goals and dreams.
—Guest Lisa Raffoul

Our Beam of Light

Our son was born 14 years ago on Valentine's Day. He was our first child. As goal setters and planners both professionally and recreational, we soon learned our path was very different. Ryan was born with Microcephaly (smaller head circumference) and had oxygen deprivation at birth. My husband looked at me with glassy eyes after a Cesarean delivery. I knew something was wrong, but I looked at my husband's eyes and knew we were in this journey together. What I didn't know (and either did the medical professionals) what exactly was my sons' "label". So after 8 years of medical/developmental evaluations, my husband and I decided that he is just Ryan. No spoken language but has a lot to say! He has a great sense of humor (like Monster Inc.). He told me that the lighthouse in Boston blinks differently than the Martha's Vineyard lighthouse at 2.5 years old with no words. Through books, maps, pictures , Ryan was able to communicate. He now talks at 14, our beam of light!! Together we did it
—Guest gail heggie


I believe our approach to parenting our son with special needs was one of the factors in our divorce. We differed in how to parent our son. But during our marriage, our son also brought us together, so it’s hard to say. He made us a stronger team when we had to face the school IEP team, but cultural differences in how to parent between husband and wife, e.g. on what diet to chose, on how much therapy to get, on how to go about getting him included at school, on discipline techniques at home, etc ... ultimately these factors caused our marriage to fail. But as I said above, this was only one factor in the many on the list that cause the divorce. The economic downturn, employment pressures on my spouse, and other cultural/religious differences caused us to split. It’s sad!

Giving Each Other Slack

When I first got married, my Mom gave me some great advice --we should both give 60% to the family. After our son was diagnosed with CP and developmental delays at 13 months, that advice became even more important. We also try not to criticize the other when we get impatient or frustrated with our son's behavior and many needs and give each other the benefit of the doubt. When all else fails, we put on some music and dance!
—Guest MichelleKW

Together for the Long Haul

Our son with multiple disabilities was born 2 years into our marriage. From the beginning of our journey as parents of a special-needs child, we have tried to work as a team in helping him develop to his potential. Admittedly there are times when the burden seems overwhelming! We are blessed to have found trusting, capable caregivers to watch our son and his brother a couple of times each year. We make special plans to get away for a few days. That precious time reminds us of the reasons we got married and helps us appreciate the qualities we admired in each other when we first fell in love. It also gives us a fresh perspective and a renewed sense of appreciation and gratitude for our children on our return. I am happy to say we have just celebrated our 18th anniversary!

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