According to worldpopulation.com, 50% of marriages in the United States end in divorce. For every wedding you have attended, half will not last. If the couple has a child with a disability, the divorce rate jumps to 80%, and if the child is severely disabled, some figures show the rate as high as 87%. I knew the statistics were not great, but seeing the recent numbers was startling.
This past weekend I attended a support group meeting for moms raising disabled children. Many of them expressed marital issues including miscommunication, disconnection, lack of support, and lack of quality time with their significant other. As I listened, I could relate. Caring for our disabled daughter has impacted my marriage.
Add our own mental and physical challenges, and the struggles increase. It is hard to create connection and intimacy when you are exhausted or unwell. You lack the energy to invest in your spouse or significant other. It takes effort you do not have.
The past two years have been full of things outside our control. We have faced surgeries, a pandemic, illness, job changes, and a lack of help caring for our daughter. My husband and I have not made our marriage a priority. We have been like two ships passing in the night.
Over the years, we have faced extraordinary circumstances, including financial trials, mental and physical health issues, and obstacles raising a child with severe disabilities. We have definitely not handled everything with grace and unity.
Sometimes we have been on opposite sides, refusing to work together and set in our own ways. Continuing to stay in the relationship is the hard thing. The work is taxing, and it seems it would be easy to throw in the towel and call it quits.
Although I predict this strategy is not as great as it sounds. I will add another divorce fact: each subsequent marriage has a higher rate of divorce. The divorce rate for second marriages increases to 60%, and the divorce rate rises to 73% for a third marriage. A new partner isn’t going to fix things. Where you go, your baggage follows.
During times of struggle, Todd and I work best as a team. But what happens when we are out of sync? What changes take place in our relationship that create distance rather than connection? How do we fix it and get back on track?
After 37 years together, it is easy to take our relationship and each other for granted. We get busy with jobs, commitments, and caring for our family. We fail to create the time and space to connect with each other.
The distance grows slowly. It doesn’t happen overnight. These seasons often feel like I am living with my best friend or a roommate, not the person I have committed to love and cherish for the rest of our lives.
How do you get unstuck? How do you regain the joy, intimacy, and connection you are missing? I do not have the answers, but I know it includes hard work, dedication, sweat, tears, and grit.
The first step is recognizing the disconnect. We realized in January that we needed to make an effort to work on our marriage. We both wanted to create ways to prioritize, nurture, and support our relationship.
Todd and I committed to do something together each month. We did a great job of keeping this commitment until we became overwhelmed.
In June, Todd was consumed with his job and caring for his parents that were ill. At the same time, Emily and I got sick. I could feel the distance growing as we were absorbed in caring for our family.
I requested that Todd and I have a cup of coffee together (without glowing screens) before we hustled off to work and caregiving. This small action was instrumental in closing the gap of disconnect. Just a few minutes at the beginning of the day had an immediate impact.
It’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day minutiae. We fail to make any time to connect and the distance grows. Disconnection is easy, and fortunately reconnecting is just as easy. A simple cup of coffee got us back on the same page and working as a team. Each cup of coffee together helped me feel closer to Todd.
It takes more than a cup of coffee to maintain and grow a marriage together, but it’s a starting point. Creating a connection over coffee increased our desire to spend more time together.
During our morning talk, we discussed a few projects we wanted to complete in the yard. Over the weekend, we completed the projects together and even went to a concert. The initial connection led to a deeper desire to spend more time together.
My husband and I know we are a great team. We go further and get there faster when we do it together. When we recognize we are traveling solo, it only takes a cup of coffee (or two), followed by some course correction, to get us back on the road, and toward our destination together.