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Staying United: Marriage and Special Needs

Note: I may earn money or products from the companies, products, or links mentioned in this post.

So thankful to have one of my sweet blogger friends on the on the blog today. Katie is a mother to an autistic little boy just like I am, and we have talked many times about the correlation between marriage and our special needs kids. I hope that this will help more families understand a little of what it is like for marriage relationships when there is a special needs child in the family.

Marriage and Special NeedsWhen Jack was diagnosed with autism, I hit the ground running. Within a few weeks, I lined up appointments with specialists, therapists, and doctors. I researched autism from the moment the kids fell asleep to the moment my head hit the pillow each night. I sought to thoroughly understand the way our son thinks and feels and processes the world around him. My husband, Jeff, listened as I talked through everything I discovered, helped me fill out all the paperwork for Jack’s myriad appointments, and read the information I brought home about autism. But, in the corner of his mind, he hoped either that Jack’s place on the spectrum was as close to “neurotypical” as possible, or that the diagnosis itself was somehow a mistake.

As I spent each day researching autism, taking Jack to his therapies, and working with his doctors, specialists, and therapists to better understand his mind and how to apply his therapies at home, Jeff felt the therapies were important, and always listened to what I had to say, but longed for normalcy and grew frustrated as it seemed to slip further and further from his grasp. And, in turn, I grew frustrated with him. Jeff wanted to play catch, teach Jack about football, read stories with him, and camp out in the backyard. But suddenly our life was comprised of speech therapy, occupational therapy, social skills groups, floortime sessions, and researching around the clock. Our life had become meltdowns, sensory processing problems, and social communication delays.

And then, one day Jack had a terrible meltdown. He cried and screamed and thrashed for hours on end. I tried all of the tips and tricks his therapists had offered, tried to apply what I had read and learned. But nothing worked. It was then I felt a powerful grief. I realized I had been sprinting only to reach the beginning of the marathon before me. In my busyness, my desire to set everything in place perfectly for Jack, I had not grieved the life I had expected for him. And I had not allowed my husband to grieve either.

So we joined each other in our grief. We talked through the things that were weighing heavy on our hearts – our worries, our fears, our unmet hopes. And through that shared grief, we were able to let go of the life we had planned and to begin to embrace the life we had been given. A life that has challenges and heartache, yes, but is also filled with tremendous love and joy and wonder.

What I have come to realize is that my husband and I both love Jack with the same fervor and devotion as the moment he first entered our lives. And that that love unites us together as husband and wife, father and mother, soulmate and friend. And if we remain rooted in our love for him, his sister, and each other, we can feel the truest, fullest love of Christ.

Katie at Wonderfully MadeKatie is the blessed wife of an Air Force veteran and mother of two precious children. In 2013 her oldest child, Jack, was diagnosed with autism, and her blog Wonderfully Made was born. For more encouragement on faith, motherhood, marriage, and special needs, visitwww.wonderfully-made.net.


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  1. This is beautiful, Katie. (And thanks for hosting, Kathryn!) I can only imagine what you would both be feeling with this major change in the life you envisions for yourselves and your son – and how hard it would be to get on the SAME page at the SAME time. I’m so happy that you got there.

    And although I don’t have a child with special needs, I appreciated the reminder that spouses process things differently and sometimes on a different timeline – and how important it is to *see* that in each other.

    1. Thank you so much, Erica. And you make such a great point that unites us all as wives – just as individual people respond in different ways, spouses respond in different ways and on different timelines. Beautifully said!

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