How a child with special needs affects your marriage

Anchel Krishna and her husband celebrated their wedding anniversary in an unexpected way.

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Anchel, Dilip and their four-year-old daughter Syona. Photo: Anchel Krishna

When Dilip and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary, I booked an impromptu getaway to Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. We went to our favourite restaurant, a couples spa and spent the majority of our time doing whatever it was we wanted. I remember on our drive home telling Dilip that we should attempt a quick getaway every year for our anniversary. Clearly, that was some sort of romanticized expectation, as we never celebrated in that way since!

In fact, this year we celebrated our anniversary in an appropriately ironic way: Our four-year-old daughter Syona has cerebral palsy and we met with her school team (occupational therapist, physiotherapist, speech language pathologist, teacher, principal and vice principal), plus Syona’s service co-ordinator, vision therapist and vision consultant. It was a full house and we know we’re so lucky to be this well supported. While I look forward to these big meetings because it allows us all to confirm we’re working towards the same goals, the thought of these meetings can be daunting.

I joked with Dilip that it was such a romantic way to celebrate our anniversary. As the meeting went on we had some great discussions. We collaborated and shared updates, came up with strategies and tactics to help Syona work towards her goals and shared some laughs. As we were driving home afterward, Dilip and I discussed that it was actually the perfect way to celebrate our anniversary because we got to hear how much progress Syona has made in the past year. Sure, this progress might not be visible to some, but it is to us. The fact that she is striking up conversations with other kids, able to initiate conversations and tell us what she wants are huge wins for all of us. The meeting also highlighted the progress Dilip and I have made as a couple. Though we may not get to go on annual getaways, we know how important it is to stay connected.

Marriage is hard work. It takes effort, dedication and attention. When you have a child, especially a child with special needs, parenting can overshadow the marriage. For us, marriage is the foundation of our family. It’s not about choosing my child over my husband, or vice versa. It’s about paying appropriate attention to all the building blocks that make up our whole family. But I don’t always do a good job of it. The early years were especially tough as the focus was on Syona, and my role as wife took a backseat. While I’m not perfect, I’m learning how to balance those blocks better. Often, it means letting go of my Type A tendencies and realizing that being stuck in traffic during rush hour can lead to as great a conversation with my husband as a dinner date. We actually focus on laughing together as often as we can. And sometimes taking time for myself or doing something fun with all three of us makes our marriage stronger.

What I do know for sure is that Dilip is my partner and marriage is never perfect. It’s a constant work in progress… but we’re both working towards the same goals, and that’s why I’m looking forward to the coming years.

How do you keep your marriage strong?

Follow along as Anchel Krishna shares her experiences as mother to Syona, an extraordinary toddler with cerebral palsy. Read all of Anchel’s Special-needs parenting posts and follow her on Twitter @AnchelK.

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