Deep breath. This post is not about Autism. Well, I take that back- everything in our lives is about autism in one way or another now. All aspects of life have been affected by our children's needs, and have been for years now, even if we have only been able to acknowledge this recently. This blog has really become my therapy, my way of venting, being heard. And I wasn't going to talk about this here. I really wasn't. But both my husband and I think, know, that it's too important to go unsaid. And I don't feel that I would be representing myself accurately as a person or a mother if I completely excised this part of my life from the blog.
Three months ago I would have never believed I would be writing this. Not the blog, but this specific entry. About marriage. About family. But here I am. Once again, deep breath. This has been the hardest year of my life, and I believe my husband is on the same page. And when I say that I didn't think I would be writing this, it's because I thought we would be separated by now. But God had other plans for us. Our marriage has been feeling the toll of our kids' special needs, but it has also been cracking due to our individual reactions to the revelation that our boys are challenged. I am not blaming our problems on our children's needs, but I am saying that we were completely unprepared to deal with this. I mean, who is prepared? But in our case, we went in completely opposite directions when faced with the news. My husband withdrew, really stepped away from our family as a whole. Went down a destructive path. I, on the other hand, became a woman obsessed. A woman consumed by "fixing" this "problem". In our own ways, we each abandoned each other. Now, as a "helpful" family member "reminded" us, we have had problems in our marriage for years....and of course we are aware of that, more aware than anyone else. I would say that it started about the time our first child was born. About 3 years after we got married. I didn't know how to be anything other than a mom and a nurse. I couldn't fit being a wife into the mix, just didn't know how to wear so many hats. And my husband didn't know how to fit fatherhood into his life. And so we drifted....and struggled. We went to counseling a little over a year ago, right before the shit really hit the fan. Frankly, we were too busy shoveling said shit to even get to the core of our relationship. And so instead of drifting.....we fractured. And I mean we are talking imminent separation. Weeks away from it in fact.
So what changed? Honestly, if I had to pinpoint one event....it would be the day that someone, maybe unwittingly, decided to "separate" our family before we were ready. In my opinion, marriage, especially one that involves children, and years of commitment, and conflict, and confusion, is a very personal, sacred matter. Only the couple involved in the marriage can make this decision. So when we perceived that the decision was being made, and announced "for us", we both stepped back and thought, WHOAH. My mom had sent me an email about a Catholic marriage crisis program several weeks before, which I kept in my inbox for God knows what reason- I was way past that point. But for some reason, on that day, I mentioned it to my husband in passing. My husband is not a fan of organized religion in general, so when he turned around, looked at me and said "wanna go?" you'd better believe it gave me pause. And after that seed was planted, what right did I have to say no? Our children deserve to have their parents together, to have a loving family if it is at all possible, right? So we went....that was our "big trip" in April. Over 48 hours of peer-led discussion, and inspiration, and writing. And when I say writing, I mean WRITING. Both my husband and I each have a notebook that is mostly filled at this point, between that weekend and the follow-up that we have been attending since. 6 weeks of follow-up. Every Saturday. For 4 hours. 4 HOURS. It has been life changing for both of us. Somehow, we found each other. In the midst of all the crap that has happened, all of the pain we have been feeling over the boys, we realized that we still love each other. And need each other. And want our family to work, to stay together. We have been taking our anger out on each other for a long long time. There is so much healing left to do. But we are on the right path.
So the crossroads....yesterday evening was our last official "session" of the program. We have an all day event next Saturday, and then there is some further peer support available. But other than this, and our continuing counseling of course, the training wheels are off. In fact, we are planning to volunteer for the program. The couple who has been leading the sessions is older, the husband can barely see, and the wife is losing her hearing. So we are going to help. It's a further commitment to each other, to our family. And it's a way to make sure we take time for our marriage consistently.
I am so grateful. I just don't know what other word fits. Raising these boys is no joke, and they need both of their parents. But only if we can work together. I now believe that we can. I have not felt this connected to my husband since the birth of our first child. And that is huge. The amount of work we have done these past 3 months is amazing, but I am not kidding myself....there is so much more to do. And there always will be. We cannot simply "be married". It's not a descriptor. It's an action. That's the most important thing I have learned.
And this needs to be said as well. My parents. My mother. The one who sent me the information on this program while supporting me in my decision either way. The one who has watched our children every Saturday with a smile, and new books to read to them each week (yes Mom, I noticed them in your bag). And my mother in law. Who has been watching the boys during our regular counseling sessions. And my sisters, who love me enough to support my decision to work on my family. To all of you, thank you, for your support, and for not judging us or our problems. Judgement helps no one, it only tears relationships apart, sometimes permanently.
I want other families to know about this program. This is coming from a woman who was beyond counseling, had her mind "made up". It's the reason I am taking this leap and writing about such a personal matter. The program is called Retrouvaille and it is wonderful. http://www.retrouvaille.org/ Religion is not shoved down your throat (although the concepts of marriage and commitment are). The families involved in this program are extraordinary. We have even connected with some other autism parents as a result of participating. I guess this shouldn't be too much of a surprise. Autism has changed our family forever. Families affected by autism often need some extra support- and here it is for the taking.
This resonates with me more that anything else I have read....
"The Art of Marriage"
Happiness in marriage is not something that just happens.
In the art of marriage the little things are the big things...
the courtship should not end with the honeymoon,
it should continue through all the years.
It is standing together facing the world.
of duty or sacrifice, but in the spirit of joy.
and demonstrating gratitude in thoughtful ways.
It is cultivating flexibility, patience,
understanding and a sense of humor.
It is a common search for the good and the beautiful.
dependence is mutual and the obligation is reciprocal.