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5 (special needs) Relationship Tips

vacatJust off of a blissful 18th wedding anniversary I wrote this post with tips on how we’ve made our relationship (with the challenges we’ve faced) work. I’ve been thinking about this a lot because we are approaching our 19th anniversary in June. We’re even getting away for a night or two to a local hotel. To sleep and well, you know, to do the other stuff we can do when we’re allowed time to think and be together with no responsibility but to ourselves and each other.

Even in this 19th year we’re still learning. We’re still seeking to be better partners to each other and how to make things work better for our little family. This past year especially, we’ve grown closer. I’m happy – and even a little proud – to say that we’re reinventing our couplehood. This isn’t something I thought we could do, or I guess I didn’t know we would do.

Over the many years since we had two kids with special needs, we’ve learned how to cope as a couple but the challenges took their toll. Our situation was at times, very tense. Multiple appointments for the kids for years, major life-saving surgeries, management of dozens of meds and treatments, educational road blocks, emotional fall-out of medical trauma and of course the debilitating depression of our son, who was suicidal for a couple of years.

We were (and still are) certainly on the same team, meaning we were a couple unit (romantic, right?) with the same goals 1.) Keep the kids alive. 2.) Keep them emotionally stable. 3.) Keep them on track educationally. 4.) Keep them on track socially. 5.) Be fiscally responsible to help them in the future and then everything else like give them experiences, help them become good citizens, and help them have confidence and so on. Like I said, we’re a unit in the parenting thing and we’ve learned a few things along the way…

1. We accept the roles in the family that work the best. I do what I’m good at and he does what he is good at. We can pinch hit, and then there’s that Hit By a Bus Plan I’m so proud of.

2. We’re both flexible enough to take our relationship and roles into negotiations with each other. In the past I’ve said, “I can’t order these meds anymore, you’re going to have to take it over, or at least the 17 at CVS and I’ll do the 6 mail order.” We did that a few years ago and it works. We constantly are swapping out duties, sometimes even for a little bit.

3. We’ve always made time for each other, even if it wasn’t officially a date night. There were a couple of years we didn’t go out. Or at least not very much. We had one friend and one sister we felt could stay with the kids during the worst and so, we just didn’t go out very much. But we did trick the kids and put them to bed early (they can’t really tell time) and have a date night with our favorite take out. TV off and work pushed aside. It was intentional in-house dating and completely enough to lead into “date” night, otherwise known as sex night before we passed out from exhaustion.

4. You’re important too, at least you should be to yourself. I preach to caregivers about doing whatever they have to do in order to steal some time for themselves be it for a movie, lunch with friends, sitting in a park reading a book, or doing a hobby you’ve been pushing aside. Do not underestimate how important this is. I’m sorry, I can’t take the excuse from nearly all of you that you’re too busy. You can take 1 hour a week or two 30 minute segments a week. I do it and I know you can too.

5. Don’t give up your sex life and if you do, go get it back. I wish I could tell you there is some secret to making this better for couples like ours. You know, overworked, stressed out to the max (sorry typical parents, we have you beat on this, we just do), financially strapped/stressed, worried constantly about what we’re going to mess up or miss that could impact our kid, and well, that is all a recipe for a low to no sex drive and life. In the last year or so I’ve decided to change it for us and well, we have. It was very intentional. Say no to thinking your sex life is ever going to be spontaneous again, those days are O.V.E.R. Be intentional. I will say, for us, all of the sex we’re having is honestly making all of the stressors I’ve listed above not seems so terrible. And we’re closer than we’ve been in a long time and we were pretty close before, honestly. So, things are pretty good. I suppose I have to break down and write about the sex game changers for us, huh?

My beloved is going to be so happy I’m sharing our sex life on the Internet. We are pretty proud of it though (he recently had a conversation about it with a male stranger in a bar). Feel free to add to the list because I’m still learning and can use all of the relationship tips I can get, too!

That picture above (taken in a London pub by one of our kids) sums up our relationship accurately…out of focus, off center, fun, laughter and maybe a cocktail or two to fun things up.

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