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A Day In The Life Of A Special Needs Marriage

So…my husband and I had big plans for this post. It was going to be amazing, and you were going to love it. We were going to do a running conversation that both of us have in our heads throughout the day, and give you a glimpse of how we approach this life so differently and yet so the same.

I am certain it would’ve been witty and truthful, and much better than what I usually write because you would’ve read his words too!

But then reality set in.

A Day In The Life Of A Special Needs Marriage

A Day In The Life Of A Special Needs Marriage

If you know anything at all about parenting children with special needs, I am sure you understand that when we actually found a moment to be alone together, it lasted for about five minutes and the last thing we wanted to do was write a blog post.

For today, I am sorry to say, there will be no hubby and wife banter. Instead, I have decided to just share with you what we thought were the important things to cover in describing a typical day in our married life.

1. Mornings can be rough.

On the day we were planning to profile, our boys had taken turns not sleeping the night before. One was coming down with a cold, the other just couldn’t shut down his brain long enough to get some much-needed rest. Both require someone (read: me) to help them relax in the long, dark hours of night.

On this particular morning, we both knew we needed to get up and get going – the dog was urgently letting us know she needed to “go outside”, a child was already calling from the other room, the day’s tasks loomed before us – so obviously we both tried to stay perfectly still under the covers in the hope that the other would get up and take care of it.

The rest is a blur. We woke up late, which means that we were already off on the boys’ morning routine. I sucked down coffee while Mick tried to get a few things done before heading out of the house. He was a little late for work, so he yelled, “Bye, I love you,” as he opened the door to leave. I yelled back, “Have a good day, love you!”

I share this portion of our day because:

#1 – Mornings can be tough on a marriage, particularly stressful, running late mornings. Couple that with no sleep the night before and things can get ugly.

#2 – Accept that it is all crazy makers and try to, at the very least, say I love you. It’ s better than nothing.

2. Try and sleep when your children sleep

I know as a young mother, you probably heard this advice all the time – sleep when the baby sleeps. As a couple trying to not just survive, but thrive in this crazy, sleep may or may not happen tonight, a round of melatonin for the house, please, please God don’t let him call me again season, we have learned the same advice still applies, but is much more difficult to follow.

Why? Because we are often more emotionally drained than we are physically tired (which is pretty amazing when you think about that fact that sleep very rarely happens in increments longer than 4-5 hours around here). We want to CHECK OUT. We want to read something that has absolutely nothing to do with work, special needs, or children. We want to watch a show that has grown-ups, doing grown-up things. We want to scroll through Facebook, just because we can.

But we have learned that this is not the best use of our precious time. On the night before the day we planned to profile, we made it a point to just say no to all the escapes that presented themselves. Once we actually had the boys in bed, we just went to bed too.  It was a much better use of our time, and we both got to sleep earlier than if we had instead sacked out on the couch.

There is a time and place for some kids are finally in bed just chillin’ and watching random TV. But we have learned we have to guard against it becoming the norm for our evenings.

A Day In The Life Of A Special Needs Marriage

3. Keep in touch

So, this one is more for my heart than his. Mick working diligently so that I can be home caring for these boys is one of the greatest blessings in our lives. That being said, I can get a little nutty after being alone with these two all day long. Mick makes it a point to call or text during the day, just to check in. I love it.

I also find myself sending him random texts about whatever is happening at home, because I know he will understand how funny or stressful or ridiculous it might be with no explanation required.

For example, on the day in question, our internet went down at about 11:00 AM. For any other family, this might not be a big deal. But for my son, who does about 90% of his school work and “fixation research” online, this was a routine is all messed up, can’t cope, the world as we know it is over, kind of thing.

These were the texts throughout the day back and forth between us:

Shawna: The internet is down….I repeat, the internet is down. SOS! SOS!
Mick: Red alert! Red alert! Def Con Five. I repeat Def Con Five.
Shawna: Just in case I don’t make it, there is a large amount of money in the mattress. With it, you will find a treasure map. Find the treasure baby and know that I love you. I have always loved you.

Later on the same day, four hours after the loss of service…

Shawna: Day 73 without internet – we have made the difficult decision to abandon our settlement. May God save our souls (and then I attached a picture of us at the aquarium store).

A Day In The Life Of A Special Needs Marriage

We do this a lot. It keeps us connected throughout the day, and allows me to let off a little steam (and maybe even laugh a little) when things are tough. Although this level of texting is usually reserved for the really serious days, we do make it a point to connect every day – while my husband tries to get some work done and pacify his needy wife.

4. We are on the same team

Oh boy, let’s just chant this one together, over and over again. We are on the same team. We are on the same team. We are the same team.

I am not sure why we blame each other for the stress in our life…I mean we have actual experts that can and have weighed in. Their reports indicate it is clearly not one of our faults. And yet, when the day is tough, we both have a tendency to blame and/or resent the other for the stress. I hate this. I pray about this all the time, seriously. God please let me remember that Mick is on my side.

On this particular day, although Mick had done all the right things, I was still snappish with him for a good part of the evening. Sooooooo not his fault. Soooooo all about me being drained and undone and a little bitter. Soooooo wrong for our marriage.

We are on the same team. Without my husband, oh my goodness, this whole thing we call life tanks – big time. Sometimes I don’t even realize I am snapping at him, until it happens 3 or 4 times. I am learning that when I become aware of it, I need to  lean into loving Mick instead of retreating and licking my own my life is sooooooo hard wounds. I am not always good at it, but when I am able by the grace of God, to pull it off, it helps us both.

On this night, it looked like me hugging him, cleaning up the kitchen without asking for help so that he could go play with the boys and then relax, and eventually apologizing for my grumpiness.

A Day In The Life Of A Special Needs Marriage
Batman is a very big deal around here.

Special Needs Marriage – The Reality

There is a reason why the statistics are not on our side. The amount of stress and chaos we manage on a daily basis can be overwhelming at best. Add to it the financial stress, very real medical complications and your everyday relationship dynamics and it can be a disaster around here some days.

This day was so far from one of our best. It was also so far from our worst. So I guess that makes it about an average day in our married life.

I love my husband. He loves me. He loves my boys.

We are doing our very best. What more could I possibly expect?

This post originally appeared here on Not The Former Things in 2015.

Keep Reading

Moms Of Children With Differences: It’s Difficult, But It Doesn’t Mean You’re Doing it Wrong

Why “This Too Shall Pass” Is Not Helpful For A Special Needs Mom


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  1. Dear Shawna,I dont know you but ive been reading your blog now for a bit n i just wanted to tell you i pray for you n your boys n admire u n ur hubby a helluva lot!God bless the both of u n ur lovely children!Take care , Nivi from India

    1. Thank you so much Nivi! I am so glad you are here and am grateful for your sweet words of enouragement.
      God Bless You!

  2. YES! Sometimes it makes me SO MAD when he reminds me “Same team,” because sometimes it doesn’t feel like it. When we don’t agree on how to handle different situations, I want “same team” to look like “OK Honey, let’s do it your way.” Or maybe, I want “same team” to look like me on the bench while he plays all the positions. I’m grateful for my teammate in this life of parenting my special needs AND my typical kiddos!

    1. Yes!!!!! I totally understand this. I think when I remind myself “same team” I mean very, very big picture (like we are trying to live this life together). In the details, it often looks like we are not even playing the same game!

  3. Brooklyn N Walter says:

    I love this post, it hits home to me. We are a family with 4 children with special needs. One of them had a very difficult first 5 years. We have spent our lives in doctor’s offices and therapy clinics. Our marriage is stronger now than nearly 20 years ago when we were young and immature. The main reason: Communication. You are so inspiring to those who are going through the difficult years (we were there for quite a while: little sleep, constant demands, feeling overwhelmed). Talking to others or Reading about others going through similar things is so vital. Bravo for being willing to share that “dirty laundry” =0) that so many others don’t want to show the world. You are helping countless other Mammas and Daddys.
    God Bless!

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