Divorce, obviously a very sensitive subject. I have never thought about divorce. No one in my entire family is divorced. It is something that I am unfamiliar with. So why did I decide to talk about it? Because I learned that the divorce rate amongst couples raising a child with special needs is 70%!!
Raising children in general can be stressful on a relationship, raising children with special needs and with medical complexities is even more so. I feel like this is a fair statement since I know what it feels like to raise a “typical child” prior to having my special little boy. I can’t speak for other relationships, but I will speak briefly on mine.
My husband and I started dating in 2003 (17 years ago) and have been married for 8 of those years. We have a solid history together. We know each other very well. I honestly can’t say if my husband has “changed” or not with everything that has happened with Oscar, but I know that I have. I do have to credit my husband because although he hasn’t “changed” I think that he has had to adapt in order to accommodate how I have changed.
If I were to describe how I “used to be” I would say that I used to be adaptable, easy going, adventurous (to a degree), and I loved to travel. I have now become this person who is structured and routine-based. (In my defense this isn’t only because my anxiety is better managed with a routine, but I also have a lot more to accomplish). My window of tolerance has shrunk dramatically (things irritate me now that didn’t used to). And I do prefer to be close to home in my “safe zone” where I know I am within a few minutes of the hospital should I need it. Essentially I do best living my “typical day” within my “safe zone”.
My husband on the other hand is not routine based (but maybe most dads aren’t?). For example I know that Oscar gets really tired around noon, so if he isn’t eating lunch by 11:30am he may not eat a great meal. My husband would say that the only schedule we HAVE to adhere to is Oscar’s medication schedule (7:30am/7:30pm) anything in between those times can be flexible.
The “old me” would have felt the same way. The “new me” likes to stick to routine. So my husband has adapted to the “new me” and follows my recommended daily schedule. And in turn, I try to not get flustered if the daily routine changes (which does happen primarily on longer appointment days). My husband has had to adapt to my new routine-based lifestyle. He has learned that I do better with advanced notice if there is going to be a change to my “typical day” within my “safe zone”.
We bicker. My fuse is shorter. You “take things out” on people who you are closest with and I know that my husband absorbs a lot of that. I have come to realize that I NEED time to myself to be a better mom and a better wife. I know that sometimes it feels like there is no time for self care, but it is important. That is why my husband and I came up with a routine where he gets 3 mornings/week to go to the gym and I get 3 mornings/week to go for a run/walk/gym whatever I want. (When I say “morning” I should say early morning for an hour 7-8am).
During COVID we implemented Thursday night “date night at home”. We have been doing this every Thursday night for the last couple of months. After the kids go to bed, my husband will run out and pick up take-out from one of our favourite restaurants. It allows both of us to enjoy a meal and adult conversation without the distraction of also feeding kids.
Learning that the divorce rate is as high as 70% amongst parents of special needs children made me realize that I need to make sure that I am putting effort into my marriage. Some days can be long, and after the kids go to bed sometimes I just am too tired to think of anyone or anything else. I need to make sure that I save some energy for our marriage too because my husband is important.