Parents of special needs children have special needs of their own, and keeping their marriage intact is one of them.
1) Have an “us against the world mentality”
You are your spouse are both in this TOGETHER. The rest of your life is probably gonna be a roller coaster of ups and downs … but guess what? A roller coaster is ALOT more fun when you’re sitting next to your best friend. And when you come up against battles along the way with doctors, school districts, family members, lawyers, etc it’s so much easier to have a teammate, a partner by your side. Also, you don’t always have to agree with each other on every course of action when it comes to your ASD kid, but in public it helps to have a strong united front.
I can’t stress this enough to all parents but especially to ASD parents. Before you had kids you were a fun vivacious couple right? Why does that need to change? Ok when you are down in the trenches cleaning poop off the wall you don’t feel vivacious, but the wife and I try to get out together without our kid at least twice a month … sometimes it’s just dinner & a movie, other times we will meet friends out for drinks or go see a concert …. Whatever works for you …. I wrote in another blog post how important being selfish is. You can read that here.
3) Make room for SEX
Yes the autism is going to affect your love life BIG TIME. But there’s GOTTA be room for it once in while right? It may not always be the most romantic kind. We often have a lot of wheeling and dealing and negotiating going on but it’s worth it. And if you can swing it for us there’s sometimes nothing better than every couple of months using a sick day from work when you’re not actually sick … and your kid is in school … if you know what I mean … 🙂
Life’s gonna really suck sometimes. Your kid is gonna do the CRAZIEST things!!! But if you can just twist it on its head sometimes and look at things and see how bizarrely comical they are it can really help. I mean my kid is licking the window!! That’s freaking bizarre and funny!
If you can’t get out as a couple as much as you’d like with the help of sitters, then at least make sure that you each have individual NON-AUTISM activities that you can do alone or with friends that will recharge your batteries. I like to run and belong to a running group, and once or twice a year I’ll sneak away with some friends for an overnight running adventure (marathon or relay) in another city. I’m also on my company bowling team. My wife has several different groups of mommy friends and they are often going out for dinner, drinks, dancing, etc. Encourage your spouse and give her the opportunity to take a break away from autism … and a break away from you as much as possible.
Just two small examples of readjusting your priorities but there are tons of others …
8). Live in the moment. Try not to look too far behind or too far ahead.
Easier said than done but oh so important. Try to live each day as it happens. Try hard not to compare it to what happened yesterday or what may happen down the road. ASD kids make progress, ASD kids regress. What your kid did yesterday he might not do today and vice versa. Also looking too far ahead can get you in a funk. Will your kid be self sufficient as an adult? Will he need constant care? Looking too far ahead can destroy you and your marriage. Yes, you need to plan for it financially and mentally, but dwelling on it is deadly …
9) Get rid of the “what ifs,” the “blame game,” and the “grass is always greener” syndrome as soon as possible …
I still have problems with this one …. Not the blame game so much. There’s no one to blame for my kid’s autism … especially not my spouse …. But I often get bogged down in the what if’s (what if I had a typical kid? would he love watching baseball with me?) and I still have a problem with the grass is always greener syndrome which I wrote about here ….
Your kid not getting enough sleep and being up all night is tortuous for,all involved. This may be controversial but I would say to do whatever you can, as early as you can to get your kid on a normal sleep schedule and when it’s age appropriate explore the supplement melatonin (a complete life saver for us that I wrote about here) and if necessary stronger sleep aids. Sleep is important for your kids and it’s important for your sanity and for your marriage …
You successfully got your kid to sleep. Now get off the Internet. Stop researching that latest GFCF recipe. Stop googling all things autism. Stop trolling Facebook. Stop reading Autism Daddy. Turn off the computer and veg out on the couch and watch tv with your spouse …. Or better yet get, go,to bed … And get some sleep … or even better yet have some sex … 🙂