Monday, October 12, 2009

Sleeping With The Enemy?

If you are a wife, you must put your husband first. Even if he opposes our message, you will win him over by what you do. No one else will have to say anything to him, because he will see how you honor God and live a pure life... If you are a husband, you should be thoughtful of your wife. Treat her with honor, because she isn't as strong as you are, and she shares with you in the gift of life. Then nothing will stand in the way of your prayers. (1 Peter 3:1-2, 7, CEV)

Read Romans 12:9-16

Did you realize that the divorce rate between couples whose child has a special need is 30% higher than the average couple? Each partner has their own personal reaction to the diagnosis, their own expectations, their own primary concerns and their own additional responsibilities. He's worried about money. She's exhausted from all the doctors' appointments. With the odds stacked against us and the unrelenting stresses, it's no wonder we find ourselves in need of extra care for our marriages.

When we're pressed hard and don't quite meet each others expectations, it's easy to last out at the one closest to us. I was told by one mom that the stress of their son's every-6-month, 5 hour clinic appointment would result in a fight the entire 81 mile ride home. Who do we take it out on when there's not cooperation from the school, the doctor isn't listening to us in the way we'd like or the insurance company denies yet another claim? And how do we have a successful marriage when we continue to take out these frustrations on each other?

It all comes back to unconditional love. Treating each other the way we'd like to be treated is key. Giving our partner what they need results in mutuality. In his book, LOVE & RESPECT, Emerson Eggeriches maintains that what women need most is to feel loved, and what men need most is respect. I felt very convicted when the author noted that women often state that they will respect their husband when he's earned that respect. (I've said that before.) He then asks how women would feel if men stated that they will love their wife when they've earned it. (OUCH!)

Sometimes, keeping my marriage healthy and obeying God means having an almost-out-of-body-experience. I need to set myself and my expectations aside and do the right thing. It means I need to speak kind words that build him up, be giving even when I don't want to, be a good-finder and love my husband the way Jesus does. He's no less deserving of God's mercy than I. What makes me so arrogant to think I'm a better spouse or parent than my husband? And even if I were, doesn't Jesus call me to love my "enemies"?

Our issues as parents of a child with special needs are complex to say the least. Bringing in reinforcements through Christian counselors, pastors and mentors can be extremely helpful. Going to marriage seminars, sharing books on the topic and planning getaways are also worthwhile. Whatever it takes, invest your energy in making your commitment to each other work. The alternative is a much more difficult, heartbreaking life as a single special needs parent!

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