(note: This photo was taken after our family photo was an epic fail so we decided to embarrass our kids. Feel free to say, “eeww, groooooss.”)
I had a conversation with a friend recently regarding marriage. While I acknowledged the occasional desire to head for the hills (beach, really, in Greece, specifically) he said, “Yes, but you have a lot of stress in your marriage.” He was referring to raising Aidan. While this is true, I don’t think for a second that it’s more stress than other people have. It may be different, or more visible, or make me look more like a saint (which I’m not), but it doesn’t give me an out. Your issues are stressful because they are yours. Doesn’t matter what they look like compared to mine.
The first year of Aidan’s life, Garreth and I went to a conference where I heard the statistic that over 80% of couples raising a child with a disability end up divorced. It may be one of those urban myth numbers, but that’s not the point. I heard it, and it scared the hell out of me. My first response was to quit while we were ahead. My next and lasting response has been to cling to our commitment with every fiber of my being. If I ended up on a Greek island with a cabana boy and drinks with umbrellas never to return, would you say, “I get it. I’d do it too if I were in her shoes?” See, that’s not ok. Aidan is most certainly not a Get Out of Vows Free card. He’s my son, sometimes a huge challenge, often a blessing, but always part of our family.
My friend, who is struggling with painful issues, said that he’d rather face his impending divorce than deal with Aidan’s seizures. This hit me hard and I couldn’t quite process it. I appreciate that in his inept way he was attempting to show compassion. Part of me wanted to scream that my child isn’t a tragedy, that he is not a result of anyone’s bad choices, that though we struggle with loss we do it together. Perhaps our society’s low expectations mixed with an economy that makes it difficult to get services for families like ours support the marriage decline. What if we lived in a community of people who get involved in each other’s lives, who encourage each other to be better, surrounded by abundant examples of following through on commitment? I’m thinking that would help both my friend and me.
All of this being said, I read an article recently that stated that couples raising kids with disabilities actually have a better fighting chance, because the skills they need for a strong marriage are constantly being sharpened as they care for their children: communication has to be tight, conflict resolution is happening all the time, sharing responsibilities is a must.
In it to win it, luv. Pinky swear.