Keeping Your Marriage Strong while raising a special-needs child

Your child has been diagnosed, and you are faced with the reality that your son or daughter has a developmental delay. The news can be crushing, and sometimes devastating to a marriage. What often drives couples apart are the different coping strategies adopted by each partner.

Recognize Coping Strategies

For example, a husband might cope by withdrawing from the situation. He may bury himself in his work, staying later than usual in the evenings. He may become hostile over minor things, in an attempt to keep himself emotionally distant from his wife.

Perhaps a wife might cope by becoming obsessed with the child’s disorder. She could throw herself into a frenzy of book reading, internet searching, and talking to specialists. She might halt intimate relations with her husband, because her child and his treatments are the only things she thinks and talks about.

One spouse might also cope by going into denial, refusing to take the child to doctors or schools that could help. “My child is not riding that handicapped bus,” etc. Another might dive into self-destructive behaviors like abusing drugs or alcohol to dull the pain.

Be Honest With One Another

For their marriage to stay strong, couples need to recognize each other’s coping strategies, and be willing to truthfully acknowledge their own. Honesty is essential to reconnecting and breaking emotional barriers. “I realize I have been working long hours lately. It’s been my way to deal with things. I’m sorry.” Or, “I’ve made our son’s disorder all-consuming, and I’ve forgotten to focus on us.”

Schedule Dates or Time Alone

Get a babysitter and create a mandatory date night at least once a week. Make a rule that during this time together, you will not discuss your child’s disorder. Hold hands as much as possible. Take turns scheduling a fun activity and surprise each other.

Seek Counseling If Necessary

Your child’s diagnosis is a difficult blow. It is completely understandable that your marriage will suffer as you wade through feelings of guilt and confusion. By all means, seek help from a qualified therapist if you need it. When your car breaks down, you take it to a qualified professional who knows how to fix it. Your marriage deserves the same attention when it falters. You need each other more than ever, and a therapist can give you guidance and reassurance during this challenging time. One of the greatest gifts you can give your child is two parents in an enduring marriage.

For other great tips to keep your marriage strong, visit our Marriage Blog!