Caring for Your Marriage or Relationship

Marriage and relationships can be some of the biggest blessings in a person's life, but all relationships face challenges. When we can work together through our challenges, our relationships usually benefit. Relationships that come with having a child with special needs can be very strong and fulfilling. When parents get the news of a diagnosis for their child, they may have a variety of emotions and reactions such as:

Husband and wife enjoying time together after caring for child withcomplex conditions

  • Sense of loss
  • Denial and disbelief
  • Feeling “devastated” or “overwhelmed”
  • Worries about the future
  • Anger toward professionals and medical staff
  • Strained marital and family relationships
  • Changes in family routines

Many parents have these feelings; all are very common reactions to the news of a diagnosis.

If you are married or in a relationship, remember that you and your partner are both feeling some of the things listed above, and often all at once. Listening, understanding, and being there for each other are very important. Couples can have a hard time staying connected when they have so many other things to focus on, but they can also become stronger together. This page has some suggestions to help couples to stay close.

Take time to talk

  • Listen and pay attention to each other.
  • Don't be rushed and impatient when talking to your partner.
  • Schedule time to talk about issues that concern your child.
  • Talk about your fears, worries, and dreams.

Communicate your needs

  • Do not expect your partner to know what you need; ask for what you need
  • Let them know they can talk to you about their needs.
  • Tell each other what kind of support will give you the most comfort.

Share frustrations AND successes

  • Share the good things that happened in your day with your partner or spouse.
  • Listen when your spouse or partner has a bad day. Try to be understanding.
  • Celebrate when your child has a success! YOU are the proud parents!

Take time to talk about issues not related to your children

  • Remember, there are many other things going on in your life that are important.
  • Talk about news, interests, and whatever makes you happy!

Give yourselves breaks

  • Use babysitters or respite care to go out together.
  • Put the kids to bed early and watch a movie or relax together.
  • Remember to take time doing activities you enjoy when you can.

Mothers and fathers of children with disabilities and special needs have a hard job to do every day, but having a loving partner to do it with, and caring for that relationship, is a gift for you and your child.


Information & Support

For Parents and Patients

My Son's Special Needs Saved My Marriage
This article describes how raising a child with special needs made one couple’s marriage stronger.

How Lack of Support Leads to Struggles in Marriage When You Parent Kids with Disabilities
Offers good advice for married couples who have children with special health care needs.

3 Ways to Revitalize Your Marriage After Having a Special Needs Child
Provides steps to help couples reconnect after having a child with special needs.

Services for Patients & Families Nationwide (NW)

For services not listed above, browse our Services categories or search our database.

* number of provider listings may vary by how states categorize services, whether providers are listed by organization or individual, how services are organized in the state, and other factors; Nationwide (NW) providers are generally limited to web-based services, provider locator services, and organizations that serve children from across the nation.

Authors & Reviewers

Initial publication: February 2014; last update/revision: January 2020
Current Authors and Reviewers:
Author: Tina Persels
Authoring history
2013: first version: Tina PerselsA
AAuthor; CAContributing Author; SASenior Author; RReviewer