I talked to a group of young autism parents recently and let it slip that my 28th wedding anniversary was coming up. I heard a collective gasp, and then applause. I felt like I was on the set of Oprah (or what the set of Oprah was like before she moved on.)
A teary eyed young woman raised her hand.
“How have you stayed married?” she asked, “I hear the divorce rate is high for parents of children with autism, and I’m terrified.”
I’d heard that statistic in different versions over the years myself. I did my own informal poll on my autism facebook forum and came up with more hopeful statistics(here). So did Easter Seals in a 2008 study.
I thought about all the obvious ways that parents of children with special needs should nurture their marriage, but then thought of a not so obvious reason that has worked for my husband and me.
We are nice to each other.
Here are just a few examples from the archives of our 28 years:
1) When it’s a bad day, and the kids are sick and I’m stuck at home all day and am STIR CRAZY, I resist the urge to say “YOUR TURN!” and race out the door the second my husband gets home. We hug and kiss and I smile at him(even if I have to force it). I wait about a minute and then say “I’m going nuts. I think I’ll go to the book store for a little bit. Is that OK?” When I get home, the kids are bathed and in their jammies. Isn’t that nice?
2)My husband got up with the boys every Saturday for a lot of years and made pancakes with them and watched Disney movies so that I could sleep.
3) When my husband asks me what I want for my birthday, and I give him a few ideas but then he gets me something that I didn’t ask for and I’m not too thrilled with it, I thank him profusely instead of complaining.(This was learned behavior–did not come naturally.)
4) I let my husband vent without giving advice. He does the same.
5) When we crack under the pressure of life and scream and yell at each other, we try no to let the kids hear, and we hold back on the personal attacks. That would not be nice.
5) We joke around. We try to look nice for each other. We compliment each other. We tell each other if we’re angry about something because we recognize that we are not mind readers. We apologize when we should. When one of us slips and gets snarky with the other, all we have to say to turn things around is “be nice.”
What are your secrets for a long and happy marriage?
More information about autism/marriage statistics here : 80% statistic is a myth
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