The ability to talk and listen to each other is probably the most important skill to develop in any relationship in order to keep it healthy. When your child has an additional need there seems to be endless information that needs discussing, therefore good communication really is the key to keeping your relationship on track.
In any relationship, it is vital that both partners feel ‘listened’ to. If you have been given some difficult news about your child, don’t presume that you know how your partner is feeling. It is important to ask them and to really listen to what they tell you.
When you are in a difficult situation it is easy to want to find someone to blame. Often, however, there is no-one obviously at fault. This can be the case if your child has recently suffered a setback. On the other hand, if you are both unhappy and stressed about a situation it is easy to think that your partner is blaming you. For example, if the home carer complains about how difficult it is to pay the bills, the working partner may feel blamed, even if this is not the intention.
Take some time to acknowledge when you feel angry or want to blame someone for a situation. It is sometimes important to find someone such as a friend or counselor, who will help you acknowledge that you are in a difficult situation through no-one’s fault.
When you are in a relationship it is vital to remember that you are both individuals and you will disagree at times.
Sally whose son has Aspergers Syndrome says that dealing with her son’s behavior caused difficulties with her relationship with her husband initially, “I probably over-compensated for our son’s difficulties and my husband would be the strict one. We were operating at the extremes when it came to discipline. If my husband disciplined him then I would go and comfort him afterward, which wasn’t appropriate. We eventually learned through going to a parenting support group for Asperger’s syndrome how to work together as a team. I have to say since then it has worked like a dream.”
It is always important to check that you have understood what your partner has said by summarising what you heard and asking if you have received the right message. Ask about how your partner is feeling and be respectful when they talk about their emotions. Don’t immediately try to ‘fix’ the situation by offering solutions. Most importantly, spend some quality time listening to your partner on a regular basis.
This is an extract from Special Needs Child: Maintaining Your Relationship by Antonia Chitty and Victoria Dawson, White Ladder Press £12.99. The book is available online and in your local bookstore. Quote ISBN 978-190541056-9 to order.