Marriage and Autism…Can it really work?

June 18, 2012

From the movie The Princess Bride Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder tooday. Mawage, that bwessed awangment, that dweam wifin a dweam…

Lets keep the sappy stuff rolling.  Just read a great article regarding divorce rates among families with autism and boy, it is sad.  Obviously the divorce rate in this country is crazy ridiculous but among autism families, like I said, it is just sad.  There are some numbers that are floating out there, some as high as 80% ending in divorce after a diagnosis of autism. It is a staggering number although some question its validity.  However, I have seen what it does to families and it can be devastating.

I get it.  I mean I will admit, the challenges of a child with autism can strain a marriage and although, in this blog, I paint us as the perfect couple, we are far from it.  We talk about it a lot.   We always wonder, why us?  Why do we make it when others don’t?  Obviously, it is because I am a wonderful, caring, patient person who knows how to communicate in a mature, collaborative effort.  Ok, well, I try.  I do!  Seriously!!!  I really do not know why it works outside of the obvious reasons; we love each other and we need each other’s money.  I mean, I know I love my wife and I love my kids but is that really enough to keep us together through the stress, fractured dreams and frankly, dealing rationally with something that is not rational at all?

We fight.  We disagree.  We subtlety tell each other what a horrible parent the other one is and that they are ruining our children.  We tell ourselves under our breath that if “she would just listen…” well, you get it. It is a cycle of who is the better parent and who is not.

I will attest that I am, as my wife calls me, the fun one.  I am the one that lets them stay up 5 more minutes or play longer on the computer.  If I miss a supplement, I shrug it off and say he will survive.  Much to the chagrin of my wife, she has to be the adult because I am far from it.

When this all started with Zak, I would acquiesce to ZAKSMOM. I had to.  I had no idea what the hell I was doing and her degree was in early childhood development!  She was an expert!!!  It reminds me of the old joke about kids not coming with a manual.  Hell, I am learning this crap on the fly so it was easy to let her make the decisions.   I would just say, “that sounds right honey.  Let’s try that.”  She caught on after a while though and began to hold my feet to the fire.  I bet she wishes for those times again although she will never admit it.  Again, it made me have to do it and be better than I was.  It helped us communicate and helped us work through the issues together making for a stronger marriage.  Communication.  Huh?

Obviously she is a saint of a woman and puts up with me.  Well, before she gets a big head, I put up with her too, darn it.  That being said, I can tell you why I think the answer is simple; common goal.  When we decided to have kids (ok, when ZAKSMOM decided and I went along with it) we discussed how we wanted to raise our kids and what we wanted our lives to be like.  Not just what we wished but what we expected of the outcome.  A common goal.  Now, those goals have changed over the years but the bottom line goal remains; try to make them the best people they can be.  We are not better communicators than most but we do talk.  We struggle to listen to each other but we try.  We each have a hard time saying I am sorry but understand when the other is trying hard to say it.  We punish the other for a screw up and sometimes point out that screw up years later.  Real mature!  It works though.

So, the moral to the story – if you do not have a common goal and a bit of  luck, avoid getting married!  That way divorce will never happen!  Kidding of course.  I wish I had a more eloquent way to say I figured it out but I haven’t.  I am lucky and I am blessed.  Plus, I know ZAKSMOM has all the answers.  When she writes about it, you know I will go along with it!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Cathy June 19, 2012 at 6:21 AM

Well, I am totally honored and almost beyond words (but alas a Speech Path is never without words!) with your blog on marriage. And BTW, thank you for making me laugh with the clip from the movie plus your words made me smile and laugh too! I remember when I first met you both and how you referred to Deb as ZAKSMOM! I can tell you both that there wasn’t one moment that I thought you weren’t at parity. I would like to add that the BEST thing that impressed me about you both is HUMOR!! That’s what helps lighten every load no matter if it’s Autism or something else. You both always showed your devotion to each other and your family using humor and respect! I miss you all…..

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zaksdad June 19, 2012 at 8:07 AM

We miss you Cathy. Not just because you make us feel better about ourselves but how you helped Zak. We all miss you. Thanks again for the kind words. And you know who really keeps this marriage together! 😉

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