Raising a child with autism can certainly be challenging.
And with divorce rates as high as they are in today’s society, having a lasting marriage seems to be a challenge too.
Add the two together and it may seem as if a lasting relationship is impossible for you as an autism parent!
The truth is, it’s not as hard as you fear, or it’s harder than you can imagine depending on your perspective.
Perspective is EVERYTHING in this world!
Why do you get angry? Because your expectations aren’t being met! What if instead of changing the outcome, you changed your expectation?
If you treat the end of a relationship like the beginning, there will be no end.
In the beginning of a relationship you’re willing to do nearly anything to make the other person happy. The things about your significant other that drive you crazy now, were at one time cute and funny.
It’s how we view the world that actually shapes our world.
A Relationship Needs Belief
I feel that one of the first things necessary to have a thriving relationship is belief.
- Belief that our significant other has the kiddo’s best interest at heart when they make decisions or do things.
- That they are in this for the long haul.
- Believing they actually care and want what’s best for you and the family unit as a whole.
I remember helping a mom who’s autistic son was being made fun of at school for making a blunder in front of the class.
The kiddo was still very young and hadn’t yet been told that he has autism. Her fear was that kids were beginning to notice he was different and she wanted to protect him.
Her husband felt like this was normal behavior and that it’s OK to be made fun of sometimes as it builds character.
This of course led to an argument between the two of them.
Who was right?
Your answer depends on your perspective. The important thing is that both parents only wanted what was best for their child.
In the end they were each able to see that, which led to constructive conversation over how best to help their child rather than an argument over who was right or wrong.
A Relationship Can Have Expectations
I want to point out that it is OK to set minimum expectations.
For example; you should absolutely expect that your spouse actually DOES have you and your child’s best interest at heart.
In the example from above, the mom believed her son was being bullied because he had autism. She wanted to get in front of the situation, and stop the bullying before it got worse.
The dad on the other hand, believed that the other kids poking fun at his son was totally naturally because his son had blundered in front of the class.
He felt that it had nothing to do with autism, and that by interfering they would only cause resentment between his son and the other kids which would eventually lead to true bullying.
One of the standards for my own relationship with Bella is to try and understand one another before resorting to anger.
The argument between this husband and wife was resolved when they both finally realized that their minimum expectations of one another was still being met.
BOTH had their child’s best interest at heart.
The fact that they each had these minimum expectations of one another to begin with is what helps make their relationship strong.
Always Have Their Back
If you want a thriving relationship, you need to have each others back.
Two things that Bella and I always strive to do is to never argue in front of the kids, and never correct one another in front of the kids.
Unless there is a safety issue at hand, there’s never any reason to do either of these things.
Sure we get mad at one another occasionally and have an argument…typically when I’m right and she’s wrong (I hope she doesn’t read this!), but there is never any reason to get SO angry that we lose control of ourselves.
Again, it’s about perspective.
Your expectations weren’t met and now you’re angry, I get it. Do a quick mental analysis.
- Were your expectations purposely not met?
- Should you have had those expectations in the first place?
- Is there an urgent reason why your expectations MUST be met now?
When possible, and that is most of the time, make a mental note of these things and save it for a later conversation.
Give Each Other A Break
Another thing is to give your spouse a break from autism.
John and I keep Wednesdays as our “Man Day”. It’s a day where it’s just the two of us and we do whatever we, which means HE, wants.
Bella is free to do whatever it is that she’d like to do that day. In return, Bella makes sure to find time for me to do things I need to do…which is usually a project for her lol.
Seriously though, we give one another at least a little time free from the stress of parenting each week.
Now this sounds good on paper, but the reality is that mom is John’s go to person. That means that even though Wednesday is Man Day, any stresses that John has goes directly to her.
Things like not being happy with school or a person at school, and yes sometimes not being happy with me.
And I’m John’s “best friend” so he isn’t always happy about my free time which in turn makes me not happy so I don’t take a lot of it.
The point however, is that the time is there for us. Neither of us take full advantage of it because we don’t often NEED to, but it is freely offered and accepted when things begin to get overwhelming.
Find Alone Time For The Relationship
This next point is a bit tougher…OK, a LOT tougher, but it is SO important for a relationship.
Find some time together as just the two of you!
You have so much going on in your life outside of the immediate family like friends, work, parents, as well as normal adult tasks like grocery shopping, house cleaning etc.
Then you throw the additional demands of raising a child with autism on top of that?!?! Yep, the struggle is real!
It’s imperative though that you stay connected as a couple.
I feel like a hypocrite as I say these things because Bella and I each work a LOT of hours. Helping others can be rewarding, but there is a high demand on our time.
In all honesty we only get around 2-3 REAL date nights per YEAR!
We do however make up for this by truly enjoying any time we have together.
Case in point, we both got new cell phones a couple of weeks ago. We spent over two hours in the phone store on what was supposed to be a “together day” mixed with a few errands.
What did we do with our time?
We bantered, we played, we had fun! We had so much fun that other people began joining in our bantering!
At one point I was the only male in the store so I began accusing all of the women of taking her side. Then when a man walked in, I began celebrating and everyone had a good laugh.
It turned out to be a great day even though we ran out of time and never truly had the date night we expected. Enjoy your time together as a couple!
- Go to the grocery together, and make it a fun time.
- Pick one night per week where you will spend an hour just talking. No phones, no TV, just conversation and enjoying each others company.
- Send your spouse playful texts throughout the day.
- Even cleaning house can be fun if you make it playful!
As I’ve said over and over throughout this article, life is about perspective.
Finally, never push God away when he is trying to help you. Always live in faith and not in fear!