by Ted Lowe
Four times a year, I have the privilege of sharing at a marriage retreat for an organization called Myles Apart. Myles Apart was started by my dear friends, Tina and Sam Dula, after their son Myles was diagnosed with autism. Each quarter, this marriage retreat ministers to six couples who have children with autism and other special needs. These couples do indeed need a retreat.
While everyone’s story is unique, these couples always have similar struggles: the financial burden of expensive therapies, the lack of time as a couple and guilty feelings that they aren’t or can’t do enough to help their children. While they have similar struggles, the way they cope can be very different. In fact, for some, autism has been the thing that has made them closer than ever before. For others, it’s the thing that has pushed them further apart. So, what’s the difference in these two types of couples? The answers are relevant to ALL married couples.
The couples that are thriving have a different perspective than the couples who are struggling. This perspective didn’t just happen, almost all of them had a defining moment when one or both of them decided to change their perspective. One lady said, “One day, I decided I was going to stop using my husband as a punching bag and start using him for a soft place to land.” Couples who are thriving see each other as a team who work together instead of two opponents who compare whose life is harder.
Couples that are thriving accomplish what can seem like the impossible task of finding outside help they can actually afford. They make the hard ask of their family and friends to help them love this child with some very special needs. They realize that they have to have time to recharge their batteries if they are going to give their child the love and care they need.
You don’t have to have a child with special needs to take a cue from these couples. Just like them, it’s easy to play the ”My life is harder than yours game” with our spouse. The next time you catch yourself playing that game, stop and thank your spouse for what they do for the family. It will not only make them want to work harder, but they will appreciate what you do more as well.
Secondly, find some help. So many times we take everything on by ourselves, leaving no space for our marriage. Send the kids to grandmas, or ask a friend to take a kid to practice so you can have a weekly or bi-monthly date night. Feel guilty? Then trade favors. Chances are other parents need some time together too.
While not every couple has a child with special needs, every marriage has special needs. What are you doing to meet the special needs of your marriage?