Caring for Your Marriage or Relationship

Marriage and relationships are can be some of the biggest blessings in a person's life, but all relationships face challenges. When we work together through our challenges, our relationships usually benefit. Relationships that face the challenges that come with having a child with special needs can be very successful and fulfilling. When parents receive the news of a diagnosis for their child, they will experience a variety of emotions and reactions including:
  • Sense of loss
  • Denial and disbelief
  • Feeling “devastated” or “overwhelmed”
  • Worries about the future
  • Anger toward professionals and medical staff
  • Strained marital and family relationships
  • Disruption in family routines
Many parents have these feelings, which are all very common reactions to the news of a diagnosis.
If you are married or in a relationship, remember that you and your partner are both feeling some of the things listed above, and often feeling many of these things at once. Listening, understanding, and being there for each other are very important. Couples can have difficulties staying connected when they have so many other things to focus on, but they can also become resilient and strong together. Here are some suggestions to help couples to stay close:
Take time to talk:
  • Listen attentively to each other
  • Don't be rushed and impatient when talking to your partner
  • Schedule time to talk about issues that concern your child
  • Talk about your fears, worries, and dreams
Communicate your needs:
  • Do not expect your partner to know what you need; ask for what you need
  • Let your partner know they can talk to you about their needs
  • Tell each other what kind of support will provide you with the most comfort
Share frustrations AND successes:
  • Share the good things that happened in your day with your partnerspouse
  • Listen when your spouse partner has a bad day. Try to be understanding
  • Celebrate when your child has a success! YOU are the proud parents!
Take time to talk about issues not related to your children:
  • There are many other things going on in your life that are important
  • Have discussions about news, interests, politics, and whatever makes you happy!
Give yourselves breaks:
  • Use babysitters or respite to go out together
  • Put the kids to bed early and watch a movie or relax together
  • Remember to take time doing activities you enjoy
Mothers and Fathers of children with disabilities and special needs have a hard job to do every day, but having a loving partner to do it with, and nurturing that relationship, is a blessing for you and your child.


Information & Support

For Parents and Patients

Married with Special-Needs Children: A Couples' Guide to Keeping Connected
Book: A guide that speaks to parents about how to work on marital issues while juggling the demands of raising a child with a developmental disability, serious medical condition, or mental illness.

Services for Patients & Families in Rhode Island (RI)

For services not listed above, browse our Services categories or search our database.

* number of provider listings may vary by how states categorize services, whether providers are listed by organization or individual, how services are organized in the state, and other factors; Nationwide (NW) providers are generally limited to web-based services, provider locator services, and organizations that serve children from across the nation.

Helpful Articles

Baniel A.
Beating the Odds of Divorce When Your Child Has Special Needs. Tip 5 - How to Remain Together.
Huffington Post; (2013) Accessed on 2/20/14.
Blog post in a series by John Gray and Anat Baniel about parenting children with special needs, and avoiding divorce.

Authors & Reviewers

Initial publication: February 2014; last update/revision: February 2014
Current Authors and Reviewers:
Author: Tina Persels