Are you raising differently-wired kids? Does your marriage need a boost? Refresh your marriage in a weekend with these bite-sized marriage builders for parents of differently-wired kids (Snag the workbook here).
There’s a lot they don’t tell you when you’re raising differently-wired kids.
They don’t tell you about feeling like an outsider, like your family is too different to fit in.
They don’t tell you about the heartstopping process of evaluation; the relief that comes with having an answer, and the sinking feeling that somehow you may have caused all this.
They don’t tell you about the swell of pride when you see what wonders they’ve created, followed by instant irritation at the mess and destruction they’ve wrought.
And while having all of that information ahead of time would have been super helpful, you can’t help but feel it’s not the most vital piece of the puzzle to which you were owed a clue.
That piece is the complex entity that is your marriage –
and the way it’s been impacted by raising differently-wired kids.
Marriage and Differently-Wired Kids
Let’s talk about what’s happened in the years since you said: “I do.”
You’ve welcomed children lovingly from God, and now
- You feel like strangers – to each other and yourselves.
- You are exhausted beyond human reason, so touched out that the mere suggestion of physical intimacy makes you want to jump out of your skin.
- You might be angry.
- You might carry resentment with you, as well.
And maybe, when it’s dark and quiet and you can’t sleep for all the worry, there is grief for what the two of you once were – or what you wish you could have been.
Because the time, attention, and energy you need to love one another go to the kids and their pressing needs. By the end of the day, you’ve both poured out everything you had to offer. There’s nothing left to give to your spouse.
In case you are wondering how I know the inner-workings of your marriage so intimately, It’s because I’ve been there. Recently, in fact.
All the resentment, loneliness, anger, and frustration born of differently-wired survival wore our marriage to the bone.
We were struggling, more friends than spouses. Some days, we were disgruntled coworkers in a thankless job. For 13 years we lived like this – angry, resentful, and irritated with ourselves and our children.
Until a whole lot of prayer, a stronger dose of anti-depressants, and a post-Christmas screening of The Rise of Skywalker jolted us out of our funk.
How We Rebuilt Our Marriage as Parents of Differently-Wired Kids
My husband calls it our Psych Meds and Star Wars Epiphany. I call it Divine Intervention Via Pharmaceuticals and Film. Really, it’s a silly way of saying that three decisions whacked us upside the head, maritally.
- We started praying a decade of the rosary as a family every evening
- I finally took my doctor’s recommendation to raise my medication dose
- We went to see TROS and were both nerdily touched by (spoilers ahead!) Ben Solo’s ultimate sacrifice (I found myself wishing I had someone who loved me so much he would give up his life for me. God pointed to my husband and whispered patiently: Ginny, look at the dude on your left)
I know. It’s geeky and totally wacky, and you can see just how stubborn I had been. But these three things together helped us make a conscious decision to stop mourning who we were before we had children.
We decided to fall in love with each other all over again, as the people we’d become.
Half a year later and things are way better.
We talk to each other. We listen to what the other has to say. We argue less; we’re more patient with one another and the children. And – hello, bonus benefit – our physical intimacy is wonderful and frequent. We have a solid, beautiful Christian marriage: a vocation in the image of God’s love.
So, my friend, if you miss your husband…
If your union feels droll and worn out…
If you’d like to reawaken the joy of your marriage while still being the parents your kids need and very much want the support of…
Let’s get down to work.
Refresh Your Marriage in a Weekend: Bite-Sized Marriage Builders for Parents of Differently-Wired Kids
Make Your Marriage a Priority (And I Don’t Mean Have Date Nights Without the Kids)
I’m sure you’ve heard it before – the directive to prioritize your marriage. The problem is, no one ever tells you what that entails. Making your marriage a priority means breaking down the barriers you’ve put up against it. It means identifying the marital roadblocks that exist out of habit, fear, or fatigue.
Simply put, prioritizing your marriage means working with your husband to get out of your own way.
For many couples (ourselves included), this is a mindset issue. My husband and I are both creatures of habit who brought certain patterns of behavior to our marriage. We are magical thinkers with a tendency toward self-limiting beliefs:
Everything will change once our youngest sleeps better. This will happen eventually…we just have to pray and wait it out (magical thinking)
I wish we had time to spend together, but our kids are super needy, so it’s just not possible right now… (self-limiting beliefs)
Do you see how this could throw a major wrench in our marriage? We kept hoping and praying for things to be different, but in reality, nothing was going to change if we didn’t take steps to make it so. It’s like that old adage my high school self tacked to her Cool Stuff and Encouraging Quotations Corkboard (what – you mean you didn’t have one?): “Trust in God, but lock your car.”
How do you know if you’ve fallen prey to magical thinking or self-limiting beliefs? Listen carefully for statements like:
- We’d really love to get a sitter, but no one else can handle our kids
- We’ll have a date night someday, once the budget frees up.
- We’d totally hang out together more in the evenings. It’s just that bedtime takes forever and we’re exhausted by the time it’s all done.
- I wish I could put more effort into taking care of my marriage right now. My kids are just SO MUCH.
Things aren’t going to change unless you and your husband take steps to move forward on the things you can control. This means sacrifice (I know, you’ve done a lot of that already). It means taking action and making choices that are hard.
For us, it meant moving our youngest (5) out of our bedroom instead of letting him continue to sleep in our bed. We put away our in the evening and locked our door after lights out. We stayed up a little later (or got up a little earlier) so we had the opportunity to pray, talk, or make love.
Ultimately, prioritizing your marriage means identifying and addressing the roadblocks to your covenant instead of clinging to what is easy, instead of continuing to float unhappily along.
(For specific roadblock situations and solutions (kids who don’t stop or sleep; low sex drive due to exhaustion/emotional concerns; lack of personal space, etc.) see the corresponding marriage workbook, here.)
Identify and Acknowledge Your Needs
Daily life with differently-wired kids has the potential to make one robotic. You go through the motions, forgetting who you (who he) is. But what about what you need for your own emotional and mental wellbeing, and what he might need for his? How do you even begin to address yourselves as a man and woman who entered into a covenant when you are preoccupied with raising differently-wired kids?
Part of this comes down to the previous bullet – prioritizing your marriage to make it work. But also key is the process of figuring out your own strengths and struggles, then communicating about those factors to each other. This will look different for you than it will for your husband, primarily because hey – God made men and women differently.
Men are hardwired to provide and protect.
They really do need to feel like the head of the family – not in a “my rule is law” type of way, but in the model of St. Joseph as breadwinner and guardian. If there is a perceived or actual deficit in this area (such as a contentious parenting style, an inability or unwillingness to engage difficult kid behavior; misunderstanding or disagreement over your children’s special needs, etc.) it’s really hard for a man to feel good about himself. Couple this with any overexcitabilities or Twice-Exceptionalities he might experience and the resentment will build up fast.
Women are hardwired to prove and protect, too, but in a different way.
You, my dear, and designed to nurture and lead through your feminine genius.This is really hard to do when:
- Like your husband, you have your own OE’s and 2E’s to deal with
- You are exhausted trying to take care of everyone else.
Both of you need self-care that extends beyond the basics for each other and your individual selves.
- Together, you need to figure out where you can support and complement one another (A concrete breakdown of household responsibilities? Explicit directions as to how those things are done? A code word or phrase for when one of you needs help emotionally or sensorially?).
- Individually, you need to determine what self-care you need to feel like a human being (Making doctors appointments and going to them? Learning to love yourself again? Buying clothes that fit and flatter your current figure?)
Identifying and acknowledging your strengths and weaknesses will go a long way toward healing those broken spots.
(For a detailed inventory of needs and a handy checklist, click here)
Communicate your needs
Once you’ve figured out your needs and discovered how they impact your relationship, the next step is to communicate to one another what you both need:
- Set aside time (in person, through a letter, even through email or text message, if need be) to share what you’ve discovered
- Speak in plain language about what you love, what you’re grateful for, and what you need
- Use “I” statements when you’ve noticed a concern in need of addressing (I’ve noticed it’s hard for you when the kids get loud. How can I help with that?)
- Determine your love languages and do your best to act on them
- Be receptive to each other’s communication and be willing to make a change
Note well: The beauty of better communication between you and your hubby doesn’t just lie within the realm of how it impacts family life and kids. It also plays a large role in your physical intimacy with one another. The more comfortable you are talking to him about needs outside the bedroom, the easier it will be to talk to him about your desires when the lights are low (plus, what girl doesn’t find her man ten times sexier when he listens to her, sweeps the floor while wearing a fussy baby, and takes overstimulated children for incredibly long walks?).
(For communication tips and exercises [as well as insight into the connection between emotional and physical intimacy] click here).
I’m going to keep this short and simple, but I cannot stress this enough. Pray, pray, pray with your husband –
- Before you get up in the AM
- Before you go to bed (WAY before bed, otherwise you might end up falling asleep)
- Before you put the kids down for the night (as a family)
- Before and after sex (yeah, I really did suggest that)
Keep in mind: you don’t have to pray a full rosary. Start small. Even two minutes of prayer is fine. Thank God for your marriage, your children, and the opportunity to love another. If you’ve got time when that’s over (because let’s be real, time’s a commodity), mention your family’s intercessions and needs.
(For more ideas regarding prayer and a self-paced marital prayer inventory, click here.)
A Messy Process of Grace
Our journey hasn’t been perfect. It’s been a process, for sure. A beautifully messy undertaking that, while it requires hard work and effort and all the things we tend to shy away from as humans, has restored joy and intimacy to a union we’d kinda just given up on.
It didn’t have to be that way for our marriage.
It doesn’t have to be that way for yours.
Want to refresh your marriage in a weekend? Could use you use a little help? Check out the corresponding marital workbook here.