Whack-a-mole reminds me of a few things:
- Raising a lot of small children
- Having children close together
- Parenting a Child with Special Needs
In each of these times of life my mind goes to diaper changes, crying, screaming, feeding on demand; naps that aren’t happening and nights that are interrupted. Also coming to mind is tired, weary, and sometimes being overwhelmed and even wanting to quit. The difference in the above list is that the first two generally age out and become a normal life and schedule; but the last one is never ending.
While our 2 other children (2 daughters) grew up and moved on to a life of their own, the life of having a special needs child/adult child doesn’t change. Because life with a child/adult child with special needs doesn’t change or “age out” it has an affect that is ongoing in our marriage and we need to be sure that we don’t let it override and overwhelm our marriage in a way that causes our marriage to crumble.
In our almost 42 years of raising, caring for, and living with our son with special needs (cerebral palsy, epilepsy, severe allergies, mostly non-verbal, lack of learning abilities, and being 6’4” tall-yes!) we have hoped and desired to give other couples on their Unexpected Journey help, hope, and encouragement. We feel we need to have things to look forward to: things that give us hope in our day or year that we can anticipate in a positive way. We should daily share affections with each other; saying “I love you” and sharing how we appreciate each other. Looking forward to those words of edification are life giving and are so needed and there are things that can be anticipated into the days ahead. Here are 3 (there are more, but let’s keep this simple) ways to keep our marriage strong:
1-Something to look forward to weekly together. Because getting a babysitter for one with special needs is often a challenge, we’d plan something for us to be able to stay home. For us it’s a show or program. It has varied over the years, but we know on a certain night and at a certain time we will be together to enjoy a program together. Popcorn and pop? Snack and hot beverage? Add something fun that is easy. Talk it up ahead of time. Afterwards talk about it. If it’s a series, talk about what happened and what you think will happen next. Have fun with it. What is your weekly idea that would suit you and your marriage?
2-Something to look forward to monthly together. We knew a lot of couples when we were young who could get out on a weekly date. That didn’t work for us (thus #1 above!) but we tried hard to have something once a month that would get us out of the house. What we did varied: a dinner out, a movie, a bible study, a ministry meeting and going out for coffee after, breakfast out, etc. We’d have to agree to whatever that date would be. It would have to be something we both would enjoy. Some of our friends in our similar Unexpected Journey would plan a sport or hobby night out. What would you both enjoy doing? Maybe take up a sport like we tried. We took golf lessons. We stunk at golf, but we got out and had fun…once getting drenched in a thunderstorm. Try something new. Fail, but have fun. You’re together! That is the goal.
3-Something to look forward to yearly together. This can be tough, and thus a lot of planning and preparing is necessary. We recommend a long weekend away, attending a marriage retreat or conference, or perhaps a week-long vacation if you are so able. The need to get away from the every-day and life-long obligations of care is so very important. It may take time to plan it all including gathering the kind of help you need for the time frame you need; but if you don’t work at it-it won’t happen. Together plan it. Talk about what would be a nice get away for you both. It will vary from couple to couple but make a list and work from it over the years.
Even though returning home reminds us that our situation doesn’t change or go away, it is the anticipation and excitement of looking forward to daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly times together that keeps us going and keeps our marriage strong!
What will it be for you? Have a seat with your spouse, grab your favorite beverage and start planning. You’ll be glad you did!
Dr. Joe and Cindi Ferrini share their newest book: Love All-Ways: Embracing Marriage Together on the Special Needs Journey (order at www.cindiferrini.com). They are authors, speakers, and bloggers for several blogging sites on marriage, family and special needs. They spoke nationally for FamilyLife Weekend To Remember Marriage Get-a-Ways for 20 years, authored *Unexpected Journey – When Special Needs Change our Course, and have been interviewed on Focus on the Family, FamilyLife Today, Janet Parshall at “In the Market”, Chris Brooks of “Equipped” and various other radio and television venues. Connect with them at:
and via social media at:
(Also used with permission by Ferrini’s for publication at FamilyLife.com/articles and copyright by Ferrini’s.)
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