12. Marriage

Marriage in a special needs family is many things. Easy is not one of them.

Around here, we do a passable job at keeping it together in front of other people. We’re awesome on social media. Out in public or at parties or other social events we’re a model couple. We’re helpful, patient and affectionate. It’s not an act. It’s real. But we, like everyone else, tend to signal to the world the best versions of ourselves. Our marriage is no different. We’re a special needs family after all. And it gets ugly sometimes.

The honest truth is that I let my wife down every day. And she does me. We fight. We blame. We keep score. We fail under the same stresses that anyone else does. The difference for us, and other special needs families, is that we’re nearly always under duress. Someone is always tired. Someone is always on their last nerve. If one of us isn’t, we’re pointing out that the other is. We’ve had fights over how loudly we’re unloading the dishwasher. Or how we ought to have known which drawer our son was more likely to get into weeks later when we put things that he ought not have in there. We get it wrong so miserably and so often it’s a wonder we even get to do it anymore. Marriage in our world is hard. It’s too hard. Our life is too damn hard to get marriage right. And when we dig deep and put our last ounces of energy into trying to get it right, it’s often still not enough. It’s exhausting. Emotionally. Physically. Spiritually.We’re still here though. And one word is sufficient to explain why.


Grace to give the other one the benefit of the doubt. Grace to forgive quickly. Grace to ignore the bad and celebrate the good. Grace to let the other one know we know it’s hard. And we’re in it together. We’re still here because we go to bed every night knowing that when the sun comes up tomorrow, the only two people on this crazy planet that is our special needs family, is us. Others may visit. But no one else stays. It’s just her. And me. She’s the only person in the world who knows how hard it is to be us. She was on the other end of the phone when the journey started. She’s the only one who’s been on the same journey since. We’ve wandered in the dark together. And we’ve both had times when the only light we had to turn to was each other. And in my book that’s worth something. I’m in debt to her. And she to me. And we pay it off to each other in grace; a lifetime of it.

It doesn’t take much to start to listen to the enemy in any marriage. We rest our pain and dissatisfaction in ourselves on the closest flat surface; our marriage. Grace in the face of stress is the only shot we have. 

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