Can a marriage survive a special needs child?

“How to be a Dad” Click on the image to go that blog. Thanks to J.K. for info about the source.

How about a family that has more than one child with special needs?

While I can’t speak for every family, I would say that a marriage can survive, but… always a but..

There has to be communication.

What follows is my 10 point list for marriage with special needs kids in the family.

  1. Communication
  2. Private time.
  3. Date time.
  4. Family time.
  5. Understand the needs of the family.
  6. Understand the needs of the spouse or significant other.
  7. Apologize when necessary.
  8. Love
  9. Laugh often
  10. Personal time.


No marriage can survive without communication.  Communicate, communicate, Communicate. Oh yeah, did I say Communicate?  Good morning, Good evening, hello, are the beginnings, but if that is all that your communication entails, you need to step it up a notch.  Communication with your spouse can be as simple as a caress.  A hug.  A smile.  Communication isn’t just about talking, though that is important too.  Communication is about sharing your life with someone.  Communication is just the beginning.

Private Time

Private time.  Take it in the form you wish. Private time isn’t just sex.  Making love.  Private time is that time when it is just you and your spouse.  Private time.  Use it wisely.

When David is home, I sleep in his room with him.  I do this so that I can keep track of him.  Why?  Because he doesn’t sleep like a normal boy.  He can be awake for 24, 36, and 48 hours.  And not even begin to slow down.  By sleeping in his room I make it possible for others in the family to get restful sleep.

Private time for us is when my wife and I get a chance to lay on the bed and watch a movie together.  Private time is about being.  Being together and just enjoying the other persons company.  Private time often can be interrupted by the children.

Date Time

Date time is just what it sounds like.  A time where the complete focus is on the partners enjoyment of the day or evening.  Date time can be as simple as  a lunch date or as complex as a 4 course meal at the finest restaurant followed by an evening of dancing or theater.  Date time doesn’t include the children.

Family Time

For our family, family time is all about enjoying time together as a family.  For our family, this starts in the evening as a family meal.  Only extenuating circumstances such as extracurricular activities or medical appointments can interrupt family time.  Family time involves a lot of laughter, a time for reflection and sharing about the day.  Sharing the joys of the day as well as the frustrations.

Understand the needs of the family

We have five children.  Understanding the needs of a large family group is more involved than understanding the needs of a family with one or two children.  It can be a juggling act.  The needs of the family has to balance.  We have two children who are neuro-typical.  They don’t have special needs.  Understanding their needs is paramount to achieving family harmony.  Why?  Because like it or not, they share a burden in successful family time.  Especially when they are the older children in the family.  They might help prepare a family meal.  They might assist with feeding a child.  So many things.  Special attention needs to be paid to them so that they know how important they are to the family, and how much they are valued as individuals.  They also may need to be told at times that they are not the parents.  Don’t expect them to parent your child.  That is your job, not theirs.

Understand the needs of the spouse or significant other

My wife and I have differing needs.  When we lived in the city, I was the employed parent.  Since we have moved to a rural community, she is the employed parent.  Part of the reasoning for this is because I am on disability.  Thus, she spends less time with the kids than I do.  Is that good? or bad?  The answer isn’t simple.  It is neither good nor bad.  It just is.  While we lived in the city, there were more opportunities to allow my wife to just get out of the house for a few minutes and go do something by herself.  In our rural community, unless you hang out at the bar, or visit friends, there aren’t a lot of options.  Such is life.  Deal with it.  There were times when I would come home from work, we would have our family dinner, and I would send my wife out of the house.  By herself.  Why?  She needed some time just for her.  I couldn’t begrudge her that time.  I welcomed it. I embraced it.  Now, even though she works all day, and sometimes, can be seen sitting at our kitchen table working long into the evening, I still try to give her opportunities to have time for herself.  Whether this means sending her to the city to spend the weekend with her sister, or a simple trip to the grocery store, it gives her a chance to recharge her batteries even if only for a few minutes.

Apologize when necessary

Sometimes, the best conversation start is three simple words.  I am sorry.  You don’t have to be at fault to apologize.  You have to recognize the need to acknowledge hurt feelings.  Apologize when necessary.


Love isn’t sex.  Sex isn’t love.  Never hesitate to tell someone that you love them.  Never hesitate to show them that you love them.  Surprise them with a simple treat.  My wife loves Twin Bing candy bars.  So I sneak them into her car.  She drives 20 miles one way for work each day, so it is a treat for her when she is on her way home.  She also loves Peach Ring candies.  So when I go to the drug store each week, I snag her a bag or two.  It is a simple treat that tells her I was thinking about her.  Have you showed your love to your spouse?  If so how?  Let us know in a comment on our site.

Laugh Often

Laugh often.  It is a simple thing, and can make everyone feel good.  I am not talking about laughing at the expense of someone, laughter releases endorphins, endorphins make us feel good.  Nothing is more fun in our house than family time.  The kids are quick to share a new joke, to laugh at the cat or dog.  Sometimes our dinner table conversations can get pretty wild, but in the end, their is always laughter.

Personal Time

Personal time is not Private Time.  Personal time fits right in with understanding the needs of the spouse.  Every one needs personal time.  Most special needs parents can tell stories of the kids that follow us even into the bathroom.  Fingers waving under the door, the constant chant, momma momma momma.  The crash of something falling off the table because we took a little too much time in the bathroom.  Personal time is that little bit of acknowledged time when it is all ours.  No distractions.

Really.  No distractions?

Where did I put my crayon?

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4 Responses to Can a marriage survive a special needs child?

  1. I love this post that you have shared. This is all so very true too. I find that I am doing this in my family but my needs are a little different because the person I am taking care of is my husband, but no matter who it is you do have to take the time to do everything you can.

    • Heather, first, let me say thank you for reading… and commenting.

      I am disabled. So, understand what you are talking about. It is a matter of keeping faith with the love that brought you together. In sickness and in health is about more than just staying together. In some ways, it has brought my wife and I closer together.

      You are correct though. Everything takes time. Our marriage wasn’t built overnight. My wife and I have been married almost 19 years, and I love her more now than I did then.

  2. I have to say I think these are great tips even for parents with typical children. (I think typical is the term for children without special needs?) I think they are great for military couples as well. I have been married for near 15 years and I really agree with them!

    I would be really interested in a post about the harm done by divorce on children, special needs children, and parents, families. As a child of divorce in a time when it was though that divorce was better than fighting in front of kids I often wonder about this. I have a book on the topic but have not gotten to reading it yet. I wonder what your thoughts are on the topic.

    • My mom was married more than 5 times. She was divorced more than 6 times. I am adopted. So to say I had issues growing up is a bit of an understatement. I too wonder what a post about divorce and the child would be like.

      We must admit, sometimes, it is easier for people to cut and run than it is to stay and fight. My eldest is from a previous relationship. She has always known 2 dads and 2 moms. So when her birth mom left her step-dad, my daughter was torn up by it, as it destroyed what was normal for her.

      When my bride of 19 years and I argue, as couples sometimes do, the kids are always worried we are getting a divorce. We have never talked about divorce as an option. I just can’t see myself doing that to either my kids, my bride or myself.

      What is the title of the book?

      Oh and kids who don’t have special needs are called neurotypcial or NT kids. 🙂 Thanks for commenting.

      When readers comment, it creates an opportunity for dialog. Something that is always a good thing in any relationship.