I thought it would be a great time to begin a discussion about helping your marriage thrive while bringing up special needs kids. Being a parent of a special needs child adds an extra challenge to what is already a difficult job! I know that, at least in the case of autistic children like my daughter, these children often take years to potty train, may be non-verbal, may not be able to feed or bathe or dress themselves even as teenagers and adults, and may not sleep well. It can be kind of like having a baby or toddler for a lifetime instead of a few years. Most parents eventually reach the years during which their children are more independent, but for the parents of special needs kids, that day may never come.
Having a happy marriage, though, IS possible! Yes, we face difficult circumstances, but we do not have to sacrifice our marriages because of our circumstances. (With all that said, though, ALL of us–those with special needs kids and those with “neuro-typical” kids–could probably stand to do more to help our marriages thrive, right? So whether you have special needs kiddos or not, I hope this information blesses you!)
I don’t remember when I came across The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts by Gary D. Chapman, but I wish I had come across it much sooner! I think it would have been so helpful for my husband and me to have known about love languages and affirming each other’s love language 24 years ago when we were first married. We didn’t know that we spoke different love languages or that we needed to each meet the other’s needs to be loved in the way each of us understood. We probably each thought we were doing all we could do to love the other.
And to be truthful, when our autistic daughter was younger (She’s 19 now.) and required so very much care and attention for so many years, we were both exhausted and burned out much of the time. I wonder sometimes how we survived–much less how we stayed married! But we had promised God and each other that we’d stick together, so we were determined to do it! The love languages book surely did make it easier, though!
Basically, there are 5 love languages. You can read about them here, but it’s even better if you can read the book since it goes into much more detail with a lot of helpful information. They are:
- Words of Affirmation
- Acts of Service
- Receiving Gifts
- Quality Time
- Physical Touch
I realized that my husband has 2 primary love languages. (Most of us have more than one.) His are quality time and physical touch. My husband loved (and still loves) movies and television shows. He has always enjoyed sitting down in the evening—especially after the children are in bed or in their rooms for some quiet time before bed—and watching a movie or TV show. I never took the time to sit and watch a show with him because I was always too busy. Once the kiddos were in their rooms or in bed was the only time I had to catch up on everything I needed to get done! When I reminded myself that quality time was one of his love languages, it became easier for me to set aside what I thought needed to be done and spend 45 minutes or an hour watching something with him simply because he enjoyed it when I did. (Keep in mind that it’s his idea of quality time, not mine, that meets his need!)
His other love language is physical touch. I think most men speak that one! I realized I also was not spending time giving my husband the physical affection he needed—inside or outside of the bedroom. That was difficult for me for a long time because my children were so physically needy that I felt like I had nothing left to give at the end of the day. I didn’t want anyone touching me or needing anything from me once the children were in bed. But once I began to understand that physical touch was one of his most important love languages and that he didn’t feel loved if his physical needs weren’t being met, it helped me understand his needs and that he wasn’t being selfish or uncaring. He simply needed me.
This doesn’t mean that my husband doesn’t appreciate acts of service, words of affirmation, or receiving gifts. It just means that those aren’t as important to him. Those are the love languages that he might appreciate having met now and then, but they aren’t necessary for him to feel loved on a day-to-day basis.
You can probably guess that, as a busy work-from-home, homeschooling mom, my most important love language (at least right now) is acts of service! My sweet hubby is wonderful about helping with the laundry (my downfall!) as well as helping to keep the kitchen clean. Now that the children are older, they are required to help a lot more too, but my husband makes sure it gets done one way or another, and that means so much to me! (It also helps free up more time for me to spend with him—and he knows that!)
Over time, we began to realize that meeting the other person’s needs made each of us happier too! We didn’t start out doing a very good job of it at all, but we have improved with time and effort, and you can too!
What if your husband doesn’t speak your love language? What can you do? Is there a way to have a happy marriage when only one spouse cares enough to work at it? Those are some of the questions I plan to address in the future, so be sure to come back! And if you have specific questions you’d like to see addressed, please leave them in the comments.