Susan's Blog

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Autism Mommy Swami: Your Marriage

The Swami had another email recently from a mom who, among other things, wanted to know how to keep her marriage strong in the face of some very difficult family challenges. The Swami has a book that addresses questions like this, The Autism Mom’s Survival Guide (For Dads, Too!), so you should all buy it and study it, but this blog is another venue for help. Here are the Swami’s thoughts on how to keep a marriage or relationship healthy given the troubles and problems that children can bring — autistic or not.

Dear Married and Troubled,

First of all, there’s oneself. The first question in a relationship one should ask is, “How am I doing? What do I need?” Health and happiness in one’s life begins with oneself. As for me, I’m still in therapy, though I have left my therapist a few times. I like to leave. I need my space. I come back to her as needed. Any therapist worth their salt (or exorbitant fee) will take you back no questions asked — unless the way you walk out on people is something you need to look into. In terms of finding a good therapist — look everywhere. You can go beyond psychologists and psychiatrists. Sometimes social workers make the best therapists. You have to gauge if you are comfortable. You should be doing most of the talking.  You have to be able to tell the therapist if something is bothering you — about anything, including the therapist herself!

How else to feel good? Physical well-being. The biggest cliché: exercise. Why? Because it’s true. Both people in the relationship should be active. Exercise, like sex, is something that can get away from you if you don’t do it regularly. You can actually forget how great it makes you feel. The answer: do it. Get back with yer body! In any way you can! Enjoy what God gave you. Get your heart rate up, break a sweat. It may not feel good immediately but keep at it. You’ll see. Buy clothes and or equipment that help — and I’m not just talking about sweat clothes, folks. If certain accoutrements help with exercise or sex, use ’em. As long as both of you are in agreement. Lose yourself in activity, whichever sort.

If stuff does not feel good or if you are not in good health, you have to see a doctor. But it is up to you to figure it out. Get off your ass and live your life!

Laugh. Ned and I look for things to laugh at in our lives, in our kids. Sounds weird, but it’s our right as parents, as long as they don’t feel bad or know about it! We say that if we survived it, we can then joke about it. Catch your spouse’s eye across the room when things get bizarre with the kids — that helps keep you bonded. I took up bellydance — just in my living room, while Ned is on his laptop — as an escape. Ned makes little geometric sculptures and writes software for fun.

Divide up the kid and house work. Help each other. Don’t resent giving help, it will make you feel kind. When you do something for someone else, it feels like a chore at first but then you feel good. This is a natural human response. Anyway, you should be spelling each other. Divide up the labor. Share the tough stuff.  Ned used to be the one who took Nat out in public, because I used to be so embarrassed by Nat’s stimming, and I used to be afraid that he would be out of control and I would not be able to handle him. Ned did the outside stuff, I did the school and doctor and inside stuff. Now that Nat’s an adult and quite wonderful to be around, we still have our own things we do with him but that’s just special, now, not necessary.

I never believe I need a weekend at a spa or a getaway to Bermuda with Ned to “rekindle.” It’s all about creating a bubble of space and time where you touch or wink or do something together. That bubble can be created anywhere. Just sit down on the couch next to each other for a moment and talk about something that makes you happy. For a few seconds. See where that goes. Again, if this never works out or feels terrible, you need to look into that…

My father once said, “There is no excuse for bad behavior.” No, but we must understand — and honor the unhappiness that may be beneath the “bad” behavior. And furthermore, there is also no excuse for continuing to feel bad. We only get one life. Live yours.



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