The divorce rate is high in this country – over 50%. That’s huge. That’s more than half of the weddings you have been to and half of the happy couples you have celebrated with. Although statistics differ, the divorce rate is even higher for couples who have children with special needs. And I completely understand why.
We head into marriage with big dreams, goals and ideas of how it will be. We picture this perfect life with these perfect kids. We may expect some bumps along the way, but when your child is sick, disabled, or challenged in anyway, it adds a strain that we could never see coming. You feel powerless, helpless and alone and the easiest person to focus that pain on is your spouse. What we forget, is that our spouse should be the person that is easiest to turn to and the easiest to support. Easier said than done.
When our daughter was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, we went from sad, to depressed, to angry. But where do you put that anger? We put it on each other. Big mistake. Our relationship nearly imploded and had we not gone for counseling I don’t believe we would be where we are now – with a second baby on the way. Sure, we still have our moments, but here’s what we learned from our year and a half of therapy.
* You have to breathe and allow yourself time alone every day. When you feel anxiety building, focus on your breathing, take slow deep breathes, take a time out.
* Spend time alone together as a couple. There must be at least 15 minutes in any day to just sit and connect with each other. Find that time and make it happen.
* Remember to help each other. Try to think of the other person’s needs before your own. If you don’t know what the other person needs, ask.
* Make decisions together. If you are both in agreement than neither one of you is right and neither one of you is wrong.
* Seek help. Go to counseling. Having a third, objective party to listen and help you find your way again can make a huge difference. If your spouse fights the idea of going, go by yourself. Hopefully, when your spouse sees a change for the better in you, he or she will want to start going too.
* Remember that your spouse is your partner. You are on the boat together and when that boat springs a leak, you can either wait while it sinks, help it sink, or paddle your way to dry ground and get that boat fixed.
* We each come into a marriage with ideas on how things should be based on the families we were raised in. Rethink those ideas and change your behaviors and patterns to fit the new family you are building.
* Focus your anger and sadness on being the best advocate you can be for your child. Don’t accept the worst-case scenarios as the destiny of your child. Chances are there are doctors and specialists out there who can help. You just have to fight your way to them. So fight for your child, not with each other.