Why Our Marriage Survives Parenthood and Autism

It was unusual not to see the neighbor’s daughter playing ball or with the dogs, but last night was different. There was somberness in her yard— In the wake of a marriage gone wrong, I saw her quietly eating her dinner on the back deck… alone. I silently wondered how many women across the nation were childless on this Father’s Day.

In America, there is currently an overall 60% divorce rate. In a family that faces autism, it is even higher— a staggering 85% rate. However, (so far) we have beaten the odds!

I say ‘so far’ because you just don’t know what life will bring you. We haven’t always expected to have the curve balls thrown at us that have come our way on this adventure called marriage… and I am sure there will be more to come. It is how we respond that will help us survive.

We were once told by a good therapist there were two key components in making a marriage work. And, Shirley was right; over the years we have learned the fine art of what has become known to us as “The Two C’s”. So by the time we entered the world of parenthood, we were experts in the two things many families struggle with — Compromise and Communication.

When you become a parental unit and are faced with a disability you have no choice but to compromise and communicate. And through the practice of these two traits, we have learned to stay in love. Being in love with another is a realm that you develop over time and is much different than the lust and excitement of an early childless relationship.

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13: 4-13.

These words were read at our marriage ceremony more than 13 years ago, but when the romanticism died we needed to heed these words more than ever. I once put my name everywhere this biblical phrase said, “Love” and asked myself the following questions.

Is Susan Patient?
Is Susan Kind?
Does Susan envy or boost?
Is Susan Arrogant or Rude?
Does Susan insist on her own way?
Is Susan irritable or resentful?
Does Susan rejoice at wrongdoing?
Does Susan rejoice with the truth?
Does Susan bear all things?

These answers were my gage on how I was respecting my spouse, my friends, my colleagues, and now my children. I still use this as a guide to treat others the way I want to be treated; The Golden Rule.

Over time, our mastery of Communication, Compromise, and Corinthians has served us well.

Yesterday, we were content to have an adventurous father’s day complete with an old fashioned cookout, good friends and kids running amuck; a day to celebrate alterna-dad. He seemed to enjoy the company of his best friend and his new-found family. But truth be known, we have never been big on the whole hallmark holiday thing.

We tend to have the attitude that if you do not show the personal appreciation and respect throughout the year, that one special day isn’t going to make up for the difference. We need to communicate, compromise, and express love all year long to one another—especially in the difficult times.

What advice would you give to help those who married and have a special needs child?

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Mother, Wife, Autism Advocate, Crunchy Mom Wanna Be, Reiki Master, Blogger, Young Living Essential Oil Education Coach and Mentor. I am the mother of two fantastic, expressive, healthy daughters who happen to be on the autism spectrum.


Mother, Wife, Autism Advocate, Crunchy Mom Wanna Be, Reiki Master, Blogger, Young Living Essential Oil Education Coach and Mentor. I am the mother of two fantastic, expressive, healthy daughters who happen to be on the autism spectrum.

0 thoughts on “Why Our Marriage Survives Parenthood and Autism

  • July 7, 2009 at 10:22 am

    In America one out of every two marriages fail, so you sure deserve credit for keeping your marriage intact – no easy thing. I am writing, though, to let you know that reports of a high divorce rate among families with autism are “urban legends.” Take a look at the Easter Seals Living with Autism Study

    to see the results for yourself – the study concluded that families living with autism are significantly less likely to be divorced than families with children without special needs. Among those parents with children who have Autism Spectrum Disorder and who have been divorced, only one third say their divorce had anything to do with managing the special needs of their children.

    Your post asked what advice I’d give to parents who have a chld with a disability — I’d tell them not to give up hope. Their marriages are not doomed to fail!

  • July 4, 2009 at 7:45 am


    I’m not sure about the “bear all things.”  To me, that suggests “grit your teeth and bear it,” which can lead to resentment.  Resentment, IMHO, is the worst corrosive for a marriage…  it eats away under the surface of the relationship.

    For parents of kids with disabilities, I’d say — sharing the burden is key.  When dad climbs in the car and disappears for 10 hours on “business,” and then takes off for “business” for days at a time, and mom is truly the sole caregiver, things can get very tough.  Dad needs to make a conscious effort not just to ask “how’s it going” or “what can I do,” but to ask for and read what mom’s reading…  take an afternoon off to go to an IEP meeting or observe a therapist in action.

    If dad is in a different world, at a certain point he becomes a non-member of the child’s team.


  • July 3, 2009 at 11:17 am

    My only advice – since my husband and I have been married for 8 years this summer and never wavered – continue dating your spouse, find someone who can be with your child(ren) so that you can do this and make sure as the author has said – communicate about everything all the time – co-parent as a team to all of your children and recognize the strengths in all of them – no matter what their needs are.  Our son may have autism but he is in our family and it is a part of our family but more important autism does not define our family.  If you let it define you then you get lost and it takes a long time to come back to the real world.  This is what works for us and that is all I have to say about that.


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