Strong Couples, Special Children: Part 2

The Romantic Relationship
By: Kirsten Fowler

Part one of this series discussed resources available to help marriage in spite of challenges that come from having a special needs child.  Part 2 will focus on the emotional and psychological elements of marriage when parenting a child who has special needs.

Can I Have a Healthy, Resilient Marriage?

Caring for a child with special needs can be both emotionally and physically draining.  It’s important for you as the caregiver to allow time for yourself. This is not something you should feel guilty about. One of Rachael’s (see part 1 for details on Rachael) most recent endeavors has been setting aside time to act in plays. Rachael finds joy in sharing her talents with others and the time away allows her to recuperate so she can better focus on her family’s needs when home.

Should I Allow Time for Myself?

Taking care of a child with special needs can be both emotionally and physically draining.  It’s important to remember that you need your alone time and you shouldn’t feel guilty for the time you put into yourself. One of Rachael’s (see part 1 for details on Rachael) most recent endeavors has been to set aside time so she can act in plays. She finds joy in sharing her talents and the time away allows her to chance to recoup so she can focus on her family.

After Taking Care of my Child, When will I Have Time for my Marriage?

As I discussed in part one of this series, respite care allows you and your spouse to take a break.  Working to strengthen your marital relationship with your spouse can have significant positive impacts on your happiness, which will likely be felt by other family members.  It is important for your relationship that time is taken for one another.  Studies have found that shared leisure time is a great way to strengthen your bond and increase marital stability.  Shared time together may not be as helpful if you are stressed, so avoid discouragement if things don’t work out as perfectly or romantically as planned. Keep attitudes and comments positive. Optimism never killed anyone, but I do believe that pessimism can kill your marriage.

Talking about Hard Things

Studies have found that positive communication among couples with disabled children can lead to a better marriage. When parenting a child with special needs, there are unique factors that need to be considered and discussed.  For example, even as an adult, your child may need to be cared for. Developing a plan in the event something were to prevent you from caring for your child may be difficult, but it is important.  Other potentially sensitive topics may be based around finances, education, or limitations that come from your child’s special needs.  There are many questions to be asked and areas to be discussed.  Developing a plan together can help parents bond and can reduce stress when unplanned events arise.  Here are some ways to help communicate effectively:

  • Be honest and direct. This is the best policy.
  • Let true feelings be known, but always remember to be considerate as well.
  • Be reasonable. There is a tricky balance that must be made between knowing what your child can and can’t do.

Is There Power In Commitment?

Scholars often describe commitment as the willingness to stay in a marriage even when times are tough and when other opportunities look more appealing. Couples with a strong marriage are committed.  Research has continually shown the importance of commitment to the success of marriage.  One study found commitment was so powerful it had generational influence.  This means, if children witness their parents’ firm commitment to each other, it can have a positive impact on their level of commitment in their marriage.  Information on that article can be found here.

If you are interested in strengthening your commitment, here is a great book to read: The Power of Commitment.  Understanding the potential of your marriage may not be easy, but the potential is there.  It is possible to have a healthy, resilient marriage full of happiness, even while caring for children with special needs. No marriage is perfect and all have trials, but by applying the principles discussed here, you can use those imperfections and hardships to strengthen your marriage tenfold.

Check back soon for Part 3 of our series: Strong Couples, Special Children.


Research support for this blog can be found here.