Expat parents of children with special needs know a few secrets. They experience
loneliness, and the feeling of “alone-ness” like other expats, but many times even more so. Let’s face it, between therapy sessions, outbursts of children, and the mobility of the expat community these seasons of being lonely are often. The last secret that expat parents of children with special needs know is the secret of marriage: Being married is super hard work
Divorce rates are extremely high for parents of children with special needs. Many sites like this one, states that the rate could be as high as 90%! That is high! I don’t know what the rate of expat parents are, but I’m sure it can’t be too far off from that statistic.
Why is the rate so high? Stress is the simple answer. Stress of money or lack of it. The cost of the various therapy classes, the surgeries, and the medical equipment required for the child is not cheap, and depending on the country you live in it can even be more expensive than in your home country. It all adds up quickly. The other factor is the stress from the demands. Children with special needs require a lot of attention. They splatter Nutella, they climb into the bathtub fully clothed, and many are toddlers running around in bodies of a preteen. The time it takes to teach, re-teach, and re-teach again just basic living skills takes away from time together as a couple. If you have other children in the home, then more time is needed for them as well. Not spending time with your spouse causes stress on many levels – communication, intimacy, friendship, etc.
With odds like that, it seems hopeless – even to me.
Hope is there, though…
It is there for me because I choose to not dwell on that 80-90%. Instead I focus on the 10-20% that I want to be in. My husband and I made an agreement when we were married that we would not even joke about divorce. When Jie Jie was diagnosed and we read the statistics, my husband boldly told me that we would work harder to maintain our marriage, that he’d work harder to keep our marriage a priority~I’m such a blessed woman.
Has it been an easy road laid with flowers and fairy-tale music playing in the background? Wish I could say YES, but I have to be honest. It has been tough, and I mean T.O.U.G.H. I’m married to a great guy. He is. He’s patient with my emotional whacked out side that comes out after I’ve had five days of not much sleep due to a little girl (or two) walking around the home in the middle of the night. He’s great, but he’s not perfect. And sadly, neither am I. It takes work.
I want to share with you what we do to keep our marriage strong. We’ve been married for 14 years this July, but these idea were shared with me from couples that have been married much longer than we have.
We choose to make time for each other. That’s it. It’s simple, but it works. We’ve had seasons of “date” nights, where we went out once a week on a date. We had a friend that could watch the kids and we’d catch a movie, supper, or something as simple as coffee. Now, we are not able to go out as often, but we still take day trips or spend a night at a local hotel every once in a while. Since we can’t go out as often on typical dates, we take an evening walk. We are able to do this after the girls are in bed asleep and our son is still awake. We walk around our neighborhood and talk about jobs, problems with kids, future moves, and whatever else that comes to our minds. It’s been a great way to stay connected.
Your Turn: Maybe you don’t have children with special needs, but what do you do to keep your marriage strong? Please share in the comments below.
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- An Expat Special Needs TCK Parent (raisingtcks.com)
- Combating Alone-ness in Expat-land (raisingtcks.com)
- Six Things I Miss About Being An Expat (internationalcostofliving.com)
- 6 Secrets Special Needs Moms Know But WON”T Tell You (specialneedsmom.typepad.com)