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I was not surprised when I heard the statistics about higher divorce rates among couples who have children with autism. The stress that accompanies a child’s special needs is challenging. Hubster and I are celebrating our seventh anniversary this month. I certainly wouldn’t call us marriage experts after seven years, but I would say that we have weathered an enormous amount of stress in those seven years and we are now stronger than ever. I think our marriage has hit its stride this past year after enduring many ups and downs.
I rarely write about our marriage. I like to keep that part of our lives private, but I think this is important. Marriage is hard. Parenting two children with autism is hard. Marriage and special needs parenting? Oh buddy, it’s tough. Maybe I didn’t write about our marriage for a long time because we were finding our way. We’ve always been a team, but it wasn’t always easy.
When we were dangerously sleep deprived during C’s infancy.
When I was in the throes of postpartum depression and anxiety.
When he worked 60+ hours per week.
When I had hyperemesis for the second time while pregnant with Jo.
When C was in and out of the hospital and Jo was an infant.
When the medical bills and insurance denials rolled in and we weren’t sure how we’d make ends meet.
When we fought so hard to get C the medical appointments we knew he needed.
When we disagreed on medical care or parenting approaches.
When we heard the autism diagnosis for the first time and had to come to terms with it in our own ways.
When we learned how to give grace to the other person and allow them space to work through their feelings.
When we had to make decisions on therapy for our son while we were both completely overwhelmed.
When we heard the autism diagnosis for the second time and realized life would never slow down.
There have been countless moments of frustration, anger, sadness, grief, despair, uncertainty and doubt amidst the joy and love. Doing life together is tough work. There are a few things we discovered to make our marriage stronger.
We give each other space
We both have something to call our own. Our work, our hobbies, our friends. Our identities as individuals are as important as our identity as a team. We give each other the space to enjoy the things that make us individuals. When we do, we come back together happier and refreshed.
We make time for each other
This was something we struggled with for a long time. Hubster used to work so many hours that we just didn’t have the time. Now we have more opportunities to hang out together after the kids go to bed, run errands together, explore new places, or go out for lunch dates. We created a restaurant bucket list of all the local places we want to try and are having fun crossing things off the list!
We are a team
While we have always consulted each other and made joint decisions, I think we’ve gotten better at approaching life as a team. Our communication is better than ever and we make it a point to check in with the other. I think we’re more in tune to each other now. We know when to give the other space or give each other a hug, and when we don’t know – we’ve learned to ask. As a parenting team, we make a point of attending bimonthly autism center meetings together so that we both hear about our children’s progress and challenges. We’re equally involved in decisions related to their care. We are a united front with instituting therapy plans and enforcing rules.
Marriage continues to be hard work. We’re learning and growing with each passing year. I’m thankful for a partner who makes me laugh as hard today as he did when we were dating. It makes life fun! I’d love to hear from you – what things do you do to make your marriage work and thrive?