As special needs parents, your marriage is under a lot of daily stress. Between handling every day family activities and the additional help that your special needs child requires, it is easy for your marriage to crack. Research shows that the divorce rate in special needs families is a whopping 80-90%. Let’s get that number down. These 12 powerful ways to strengthen your marriage as special needs parents are a good place to start!
1. Touch each other – hold hands, give a loving pat, hug your spouse.
Loving touch reminds your spouse that you are in this together and that they can count on you. Ask them to do the same for you.
2. Give your spouse the reins to take care of your special needs child while you do something for yourself.
Knowing that your spouse can take care of your special needs child’s needs without relying on you will make you feel safe and loved. Show your partner how you take care of your child’s needs and then give them the chance to hold down the fort. Take a nap. Go to a movie. Go to the spa. Show your partner that you trust their judgement while you are doing another activity. Even if things don’t go perfectly, keep trying. It will get better. Increased trust = increased initmacy and happiness in your marriage. This is an opportunity to strengthen your marriage as special needs parents.
3. Create a special day, just the two of you, and celebrate it every month.
My husband and I celebrate our relationship on the 5th of every month. We became a couple on January 5th several years ago and have celebrated our love on the 5th of every month ever since. You could choose any day you like. It could be a date that has special meaning to the two of you or a random date that will start having special meaning for you from this day forward. Do something special on this date every month to strengthen your marriage as special needs parents. You could give each other a small gift, cook together, go out for a meal, have a picnic in your living room once the kids are in bed. Do whatever you like to celebrate this day but make it a tradition and stick to it!
4. Find someone who can stay at home with your child so that you can have some time to go out and do a fun activity just the 2 of you.
Again, make time for each other – without the kids. Spending time together as a family with your children is wonderful but you also need to spend time alone with your spouse for your relationship to thrive. I know that as a special needs parent, you may be really concerned about leaving your child with someone other than you or your spouse. You may be worried about your child’s allergies, comfort level with new people, difficult behaviors, difficulty communicating… the list goes on and on. I get it, but I also know that you need this time with your spouse. Find someone you trust and educate them about your child so that you know your child is safe and happy when you’re not there.
5. Visualize you and your spouse as a team.
Most likely you are experiencing the journey of parenting a special needs child in similar and different ways. Some days you’ll be on the same page and feeling similar emotions and some days your feelings may seem to be worlds apart. Keeping the idea in mind that you are a team that functions together no matter how you are feeling each day is key to feeling supported and loved in your marriage. This will strengthen your marriage as special needs parents.
6. Journal together.
Those of you who have been following this site for a while, know that I am a big fan of journaling as a therapeutic practice. I have written about journaling as a couple to keep your marriage strong and even using field trip journals with your child with autism to enrich a day activity experience. Journaling will protect and strengthen your marriage as special needs parents.
7. Ask your spouse for what you need.
This may be more time alone, a weekend away, for him to cook the evening meal for your family every other night or 2 times per week. Whatever your particular need may be. Ask for it. It is not too little, too insignificant or selfish for you to ask that your needs be met. Make sure you do the same for your spouse.
8. Take time each week to learn something new with your spouse.
A wonderful way to be happier at home, and happier in your marriage, is to learn to help your special needs child together. Often parents feel lost. You most likely both have times when you don’t know how to help your child which consequently creates feelings of confusion, sadness, stress and anxiety. Rather than turning against each other in these moments and picking at each other’s faults, come together and learn something new. You can start by downloading my free printable toy checklist for your child. Ask your spouse to work on it with you. Print it out and go through your child’s toys and learning materials together. See what your child has, and what your child needs, to be able to learn successfully at home.
9. Laugh together.
Everyone says that laughter in a marriage is important and I am repeating it here because it is so true. Laughter is the glue that holds a marriage together. I have worked with couples who laugh at the oddest times – when things seem so difficult, their child is doing something so odd, their home is a huge mess, and it seems like everything is falling apart. Those couples are strong because they come together to laugh in the most difficult times. Thanks to their positive approach and connection during these trying times, they know they can get through anything together.
10. Create a safe space.
Create a safe space with your spouse to strengthen your marriage as special needs parents. Some couples like for this space to be the actual space of their beds. Climb into bed at night, into your “safe space” and spend a few minutes talking. Make sure that each of you know that this space is an entirely judgement-free zone, you can discuss anything, and you are just there to support one another.
11. Go to bed at the same time.
Number 11 is the continuation of number 10. In order to spend time sharing and connecting in bed, you need to go to bed at the same time. Going to bed at the same time reinforces that feeling of being a couple, of being a team, of being in sync together and of being supported and loved by your partner.
12. Say “I love you” as much as possible.
Number 12 is last, but certainly NOT LEAST. It may actually be the most important point. You can never say “I love you” too much. It will always make you and your partner feel more loved, feel more connected and feel happier as a result. So go forth and say it without hesitation!
Thank you for reading these 12 powerful ways to strengthen your marriage as special needs parents. I hope they resonated with you. Please share this post with a friend who may benefit from it!
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