Special Needs Parents & Hot Marriage Secrets? Are you crazy?
I can see the mum now, totally worn out, hasn’t thought about dressing up & going out in months.
“My marriage hasn’t been hot since our honeymoon. Let alone since our special needs child was born.“
Sure, and you’re not alone.
Marriage Breakdown as Special Needs Parents.
Do you know that statistics for marriage breakdown for special needs parents is reported to be 80%?
What if it were possible for things to be another way?
What if not fighting for a hot marriage is the surest way to find yourself on the path to relationship break down?
Look around you, to the other special needs parents. Is it true in your observation?
There are more single parents caring for special needs children.
My first moment of shock in this area, my first moment of realisation that I had to do something, was after making one of my first hospital friends.
We had stayed together in Ronald McDonald House.
They have two children.
Their youngest had similar surgeries to our Matthew.
They had been living interstate when they realised their child had major issues.
They were transferred to Melbourne. The hospital they came from was not equipped to deal with the complexity of the medical issues their son had.
The moved house to Melbourne. Mostly they lived at Ronald Mcdonald House. Their child was in hospital for something like 12 months.
We came and went every couple of weeks, but they were always there. We often hung out.
Shane and their eldest got along like a house on fire.
It was fantastic.
Mum lived in the hospital mostly too. Dad came and went for work and the older child. Both sets of grandparents took turns pitching in to cover the gaps.
Then suddenly – at least for us – we had to ask, “Where is Dad?”
With mum and the kids in hospital, he left. He and his parents cut ties. No contact.
Just as the other child started to have health problems.
You could see the toll it was taking on mum.
She had to move, with the children back interstate, to her family. Even though the hospital wasn’t really the best option medically.
I was shaken. Shocked. Disbelief and anger swept over me.
I chatted about this with a committee member from Syndromes Without A Name.
He said “Absolutely, it’s a massive issue.”
When he started the SWAN database had 400 names on it. He was the only male.
Taking initiative, he started calling through the database. Clearly those dad’s needed support too, but where were they?
A very delicate undertaking!
He recounted having to find the words to ask, “Where is the biological father, and would he mind if I reach out to him?”
We compared notes that almost as a rule, only special needs parents with a stable relationship attended parent dinners. Without the support at home, it was just too hard for them.
Luke and I knew we had to be proactive.
One thing I had learnt prior to this was:
“Find someone who has what you want and learn from them.”
I had plugged into a coach already for business and relationship skills.
In the last couple of years she started a marriage seminar called ‘Hot Marriage Secrets.’
What?!…A marriage seminar?!
Do those things even work?
Well I can only tell you what I learned. So here are the highlights:
- Make a commitment. Keep making it.
Making a commitment to attend something like this as a couple sends a message.
“We are absolutely committed to a better marriage, to each other. It’s more important than the financial sacrifices, the time. Our relationship is more important than our child, even than our special needs child with a complex medical condition.”
Our Hot Marriage Secrets seminar was in Maui, Hawaii. It went for 3 days.
That message, making an actual commitment, that required sacrifice! That was the start of the journey, before we even went to the conference.
Our marriage was already feeling the benefits. Already getting hotter.
2. Priorities – Make your spouse a top priority.
We learned to recognise that being together, just the two of us, was a priority.
After a week or so in hospital, we noticed tempers fraying, the strain showing.e.
We hadn’t spent time under the same roof in a while.
So we would call someone to do a pick-up and drop off. They would take charge of the other two children, while Luke and I sat together, and had dinner.
Sometimes we would get food and go back to Matthew’s room if things were really bad. But we’d let the nurses take care of him.
Mostly we would go to a nearby restaurant and eat. Often we both felt emotionally drained and physically exhausted.
Those dinners could be quiet. Or we could have unresolved conflict we needed to take care of.
Priorities – you know that quote;
“The best thing you can do for your children is to love their mother.”?
It goes both ways.
3. Time – away from the kids, have fun, eat, fight, have sex. Whatever.
Just the two of you.
It doesn’t matter. You have already made an effort. An effort to connect, an effort to make each other a priority.
You’ve created a place where you know it’s worth it.
The other person is totally on board and prepared to put in the work too.
4. Take care of yourself.
This investment in yourself is an investment into your relationships. If you take care of yourself emotionally and spiritually, you’re more capable to take care of them.
If you take care of yourself physically, you’re doing the same. Giving yourself stamina for the long nights. Strength for the awkward lifts and holding your child all night.
You’re also not ‘letting yourself go.’
Remember when you always had to look your best for your spouse? You made the effort?
The messages you sent with those little things then, are just as important now. Maybe even more so.
I’ve also heard it called a ‘bait and switch,’ when you make all this effort on yourself and caring for your boyfriend.
Then you get married get comfortable and suddenly you are no longer the person they married.
5. Sex is an excellent tool.
But should never be used as a weapon.
Mum’s everywhere, especially special needs parents under estimate the benefits of sex.
We fall into a pattern of too tired, too busy, don’t ‘feel sexy’, he’s just not doing it for me.
Often because we haven’t done the other things 1 – 4.
You’re not even sleeping under the same roof? You’re in hospital, he’s doing the running around with the kids, staying at home or elsewhere.
Well you’ll just have to get creative.
If you know me you’d know that typing this out for the world to see was not something that came naturally to me.
I found however that secrecy and embarrasment in this area just gives us more excuses not to add sex to our list of priorities. No more.
Before I share a story with you that might make you blush, I’ll ask;
Do I really need to go through the benefits of sex?
If you think back to when you and your spouse where having it a lot – What was your relationship like then?
A Hot Marriage, even in hospital.
Okay here goes, not my story, so I’ll keep the details vague.
I met a brilliant vibrant woman at the hospital. She talks to everyone. We had children the same ages.
She and her sick child had been transferred from another hospital. They lived in the country. A farming family.
Hubby and an au pair looked after the children. I didn’t see much of him.
After he visited she made a comment about getting some action in the bathroom.
In her child’s room, on the ward, in the hospital.
I was astonished!
How did this even cross their minds??
(Before I did Hot Marriage Secrets.)
She proceeded to ask me what our solution was. How did we manage?
Spending weeks on and off with this amazing woman I came to have the highest respect for her marriage.
They absolutely made each other a priority.
When at home, she made the kids dinner early and put them to bed. Then the two of them would have dinner together after he got home from work.
They talked on the phone often. Got babysitters and went out together, even if it was to the footy club event.
They missed each other terribly when they were apart. She spoke so highly of him always.
I quickly realised I could learn a thing or two from her. So I did 😉
I’ll leave you with this:
Yes these are the same things I’d probably write down for a typical marriage. Being a special needs parent doesn’t make you exempt from those things.
It makes them even more important.
What is the worst that could happen if you made a commitment to try?
Will you be worse off?
For those who are rocking it, please share your tips, I’m sure many of us who’d love to hear them.