My Best Advice? Prioritize Time With Your Partner

Last week Jamie and I were sitting on the couch after a particularly long day. We had finally got the boys in their beds and had just sat down to watch television. Although, neither of us had the energy to turn it on quite yet.

Finally, quiet. Our home is never quiet.

Suddenly, Cooper burst out of his bedroom, buck naked, dancing to his Kindle. He twirled. Shouted. Laughed. At one point he realized that he was barefoot and marveled at the feel of the carpet on his feet. I’m not entirely sure he even knew we were sitting there. He was completely in his own world.

I was about to tell him to go back to bed when Jamie said…’let’s see how this plays out.’

We watched him dance for a few seconds until he tripped over the dog…who also didn’t move. He laid on the ground, rolled, laughed, (still naked) and hopped up and ran with purpose to the basement. The whole thing took about 2 minutes.

Jamie and I continued to sit there, not saying a word, our heads turning back as he left the room.

Finally, Jamie broke the silence with, ‘our life is really, really weird.’

I burst out laughing. It truly is so weird. ‘Yes, yes it is, I said.’

As I sat there I couldn’t help but think, ‘there is no one else that would ever understand our weirdness.’

Photo Credit: Kacie K Photography

Jamie and I have been on quite the roller coaster for the past 10 years. We were happily married, got a puppy, then one more, had two babies, moved five times, multiple jobs and financial ups and downs and of course, autism.

That one word has much more impact than anything else.

If you follow our journey, you know that we are actually divorced, although we don’t shout it from the rooftops. You can read that story HERE. We made it official a few years ago. But the whole time we were apart, we were never really apart. Our children kept us bound together. We saw each other twice a day. We celebrated every holiday and birthday together. We never left each other’s lives.

Until one day, we had a much needed talk about our separation. It all, of course, came back to autism. Having Cooper changed me in a way that I struggle to explain sometimes. I told him that I felt alone with our son’s diagnosis for years and I couldn’t do it alone anymore. I needed him and he needed me. And just like that, we were a family again.

Yes, it was that easy.

I don’t condone getting a divorce in any way. But what I do condone is relieving the pressure. We needed it.

For a year, we took turns with the boys. We were able to breathe. We were each able to have a few nights off from the rigidity and chaos of autism. We were able to sleep, go to restaurants, go to movies and leave the house. We were able to be ‘so much more’ than just be an autism parent.

At least, that’s how it felt.

And in that time, we found ourselves. And I want you to know that you don’t go through something like having a special needs child and not change. Nope.

I don’t give advice very often. But here it is.

Make time for your partner. I don’t care if you have to beg a relative to watch your kids, eat ramen for a week to pay for the babysitter, or trade babysitting hours with another family. Get creative. You can watch their kids one night and they can watch yours the next.

Do it. Trust me. You need it. Your relationship needs its. You need to be adults. You need to remember why this person is your best friend.

For six long years, we never had a babysitter. It felt impossible to me. It felt like finding a babysitter was more work than good. I seriously thought I would never find a person that would want to watch a challenging kid with autism. I felt weird looking on care.com. The thought of it exhausted me.

It felt expensive and we didn’t have a lot of money.

It felt like I would have to explain autism and all of Cooper’s quirks.

It felt like I couldn’t trust anyone to watch my vulnerable baby. Would they take the time to learn his nonverbal cues. Or feel weird about changing a five year olds diaper.

I also was so tired for years. The last thing I wanted to do after a long week of work was leave the house.

So, we never hired a babysitter. and because of it we lived the isolation first hand. Our marriage suffered. And so did our friendship.

Every moment of our lives involved kids. There were no dates. No weekends away. No conversations that didn’t involve a Kindle blaring. We both started to hate being home. We started valuing time away and apart from each other because it meant we could finally let out that breath we had been holding and be a relaxed person. There was no rigidity of autism.

Eventually, we started doing everything separate. One person would go with Sawyer and the other person would stay home with Cooper.

This got really hard and caused a lot of stress and dare I say animosity.

I’d see pictures of Sawyer enjoying himself at a birthday party and be sad. I felt like we were living our lives as two different families. It was bad. And when we got back together I vowed that time together would be a top priority.

Today, Jamie and I spend three hours together a week. Alone. We found a babysitter that we can trust with the boys. It was hard. I made phone calls to schools and colleges and conducted interviews. I made sure the wonderful person watching Cooper understood autism. It costs us money. It’s worth every penny.

We typically go out for dinner or run errands. It’s nothing special. And yet, it’s my favorite time of the week. We hold hands. We talk about whatever we want to talk about. Sometimes we even sit in the quiet.

For years we never prioritized each other. Autism and being a parent was all we could handle.

I am so thankful we changed all that and prioritized time together.

It saved us.

Finding Cooper’s Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you’re never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village….all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to our journey. You can also follow us on Facebook and subscribe to our newsletter.

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  • Jennifer

    February 7, 2018 at 10:04 pm
    Reply

    This is good advice for all parents and especially those with special needs kids. The next question is really none of my business but […] Read MoreThis is good advice for all parents and especially those with special needs kids. The next question is really none of my business but I'll ask anyway and will understand if you don't want to answer it. Did you and Jamie ever remarry after you came back together. You two are so cute together and I learn so much from your videos and blogs. Thanks for sharing your journey with us. And just so you know..most of us lead really weird lives..lol Read Less

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Finding Cooper's Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you're never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village....all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to my page!

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When my son was first diagnosed with autism no one was talking about it. Autism was hidden. I vow to change that.
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