“Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder tooday. Mawage, that bwessed awangment, that dweam wifin a dweam… “ ~The Princess Bride
Yes, this blessed arrangement of marriage. This dream within a dream.
That is, until the honeymoon phase ends, day to day life begins and then children. Children are a great joy and a great trial in marriage. Complicate parenting by adding in a Difficult Mind and marriage takes on a whole new look you never even imagined.
Yesterday when I was talking about siblings, that took a lot of deep breathing and faith to get through. This topic of marriage…well, let’s just say I’ve deleted this twice.
BUT, marriage is never perfect. When two imperfect people enter into a relationship there are bound to be things that are imperfect. We all have them. If you are married I’d put money on the fact that there is at least one thing you and your spouse struggle with. So, since we all have a little bit of marital imperfection happening, I feel like maybe this is a safe place to come together, be truthful and encourage something beautiful.
Some things to know about us…
- We place a high value on our marriage. Our ultimate commitment is to God but right after that it is to each other.
- Since we anticipate being together for more than the 18ish years our children will each live with us, marriage is a priority over our children.
- Our marriage has ups and downs like any marriage. Our situation is not unique. Anytime you add children into your home, your marriage is affected.
I enjoy being married to my husband. Through dating and that early married life the ebb and flow of marriage seemed rhythmic and normal. It was easy to have conversations, make decisions and plan ahead together.
As our family grew by one things began to change. We were too tired to talk, had no idea what decisions needed to be made first and planning seemed impossible.
When we began to struggle in parenting my reaction was that obviously we were doing it wrong. If you want to put your spouse on edge tell them that while you appreciate them arranging their school schedule around your job and your sons needs, they are doing it all wrong.
Rookie mistake. I didn’t know any better. I was working 50+ hours a week. I had no idea what it was like to be with our son day in and day out. My husband deserved much more credit than I gave him then and even if I didn’t understand, I could have at least been respectful.
Lesson #1: Having a difficult child makes it easy to place blame on your spouse.
My husband is thankfully a very forgiving guy. When I finally was able to spend more time with our son I had to go back and apologize for all the blame I had placed on him. It was not his fault that parenting this child was hard. There was no one to point a finger at, this was just life.
When we finally were on a path that was helping our son we hit another wall. It was as if we couldn’t see each other. We had therapy to consider and new financial obligations to meet and work and instruction that needed to happen at home. There was no “us” there was only “him”.
Lesson #2: It is easy to lose site of your priorities when every voice in our life says your child is the ONLY thing that matters.
Eventually we realized that we were living in the same house but really didn’t spend much time together. We started making date night a priority, saying yes to more time with friends and really being aware of our own actions. There were, and still are, days that I am wrapped up in helping our son, and that is okay. But now, on the other side of those long days, I have to make it a priority to make time and space to connect with my husband. Some weeks this is a lot harder than it sounds.
You would think if we were not blaming each other for our son’s difficulties and we had our priorities in the right place and we were spending time together that we would be amazing communicators and generally on the same page. Don’t place that bet in Vegas, you would lose.
When we were together we very rarely talked about our son, the help he needed, how we are feeling about it or what we were going to do to move forward. We talked about a lot of other things and that was great, but when it came time to make a decision or to choose how we were going to parent in a certain situation, for a period of time, there was a lot of conflict.
Lesson #3: You can’t ignore the hard stuff.
For a while it was easier to ignore everything that was going on. We would sit and hear what the therapist had to say every six weeks, we would nod our heads in agreement, and when we got home we would put the things into place that we heard or we thought important. And that was great, except for I was implementing half the things and my husband the other half and neither of us did any of it the same way. Instead of using our relationship to help our son, by ignoring what was difficult and forgetting the confidence we had in each other, we actually made it harder.
I’m thankful for the therapist who sat across from us and said “So, what are you guys doing to keep yourself healthy?” We couldn’t really think of anything. We were still spending time together when we could but we weren’t really talking about anything important. From that point on it was almost like we had permission. Permission to be scared about what was happening, permission to not know what the right answer was, permission to love each other anyway even if it was from a place of being exhausted.
I won’t say that we’ve mastered marriage in the midst of a difficult child. What I will say is that at least were aware, and we are trying. A few weeks ago after a significantly difficult rough patch I grabbed the junior high babysitter and took my husband out in our little town for an evening, just the two of us. We talked about baseball and work and life and kids. When it came to our difficult son we were able to share the things that were making it sad and hard for us, but we were also able to celebrate how far we’ve come and hold onto the hope that things would get better.
Sometimes, marriage isn’t about being perfect, it’s just about being better. I’m thankful for a partner that always wants to make it better.
“Hope and sorrow in it all there’s rescue and there’s not.”
There’s Rescue: We have come a very long way in parenting a difficult child together. In the most recent six months I feel like we have never been as much on the same page as we are right now. Both in marriage and in parenting.
There’s Not: We still get frustrated with one another when things are tense and difficult. Even if I don’t say it out loud, some days I still blame or have mixed up priorities. I’m always hoping for that place of better.
Today I am thankful for husband who loves enough to make me a priority and still cares enough to love our son so deeply.