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Myths About Love and Marriage

By Judy Loseff Lavin, M.S.W.
Author of Special Kids Need Special Parents

We all know what a fairy tale ending means: Two lovers ride off into the sunset, gazing adoringly into each other’s eyes. Never an argument, just wedded bliss. Perfect, right? Only in the movies.

In reality, all relationships have their ups and downs. When a family has a child with additional challenges, wedded bliss seems to be a thing of the past. Suddenly, you’re faced with a million emotions and decisions: Which doctor should we use? What treatments are right? What do we do about school? These are only a few questions that pop up again and again in the special family.

Financial, emotional, educational and medical issues cause stress. As if that’s not enough, sleep deprivation gets thrown into the equation and guess what? Emotions fly. Living in a special family is often like riding an emotional roller coaster with every family member in a different car. There are worries, discussions, highs and lows. The parenting process takes a lot of resolve and sometimes costs people their families and marriages.

What I’ve realized as I’ve lived this process myself, as well as learned from the many people I’ve meet is that our expectation of marriage is filled with myths. So, if we can reframe our expectations of our partner, especially in light of the extra challenges, perhaps we can better understand our circumstances and cope with them successfully.

Here are three matrimonial myths that we believe …but shouldn’t:

*Marriage means my spouse will give me unconditional love. A spouse is not a mother. He or she doesn’t give unconditional love. It’s not a parent-child relationship, where a parent gives to the child without expecting anything in return. “Each person comes to the marriage with their own needs,” says Bonnie Senner, MSW, Ltd., a family counselor. Good marriages depend on give and take.

*One person can meet all my needs. No one person can meet anyone’s needs. There are times when you have to go to friends or family members for things that your spouse can not provide. Even a counselor or clergy person can help you when a spouse can not.

*When I have crisis or problem, my spouse will be there for me, no matter what. Sometimes, people can not be there for one another because they both have the same excruciating feelings about the same subject. The feelings that go with shared pain cannot always be shared. “When one person in the relationship hurts and wants to share his bad feelings while the other feels OK, the one who is momentarily in a calmer place may not want to discuss the hurt and reopen that wound,” said Senner who’s based in Highland Park, Il. This can work back and forth between partners. Therefore, you often have to look outside your marriage—to a counselor, clergyperson, friend or family member to get your support when you’re in pain. And, that’s OK.

When you have a child with special needs, you must look realistically at your relationship and make the necessary adjustments so you can move forward to a more positive place. Every relationship requires taking a look at attitudes and beliefs and tailoring them to the marriage. In the case of a family coping with special needs, this is even more crucial. Take the time to examine how your look at your life and what your expectations might be. It is far easier to shift your beliefs than it is to deal with a marriage that becomes the source of ongoing stress, rather than much needed support.

Judith Lavin, M.S.W., author of Special Kids Need Special Parents, and a former journalist with the Chicago Sun-Times, recognized the need for an easy-to-read resource for physically and emotionally exhausted parents like herself, as well as their families, teachers, doctors and others who work with them. Lavin speaks to numerous organizations and parent groups around the nation, giving them inspiration and hope.

Lavin’s work has been featured in numerous publications such as the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, Newsday, Washington Parent and Chicago Parent. In addition, she has appeared  on radio and TV news and talk shows around the U.S., including NBC-TV's Today show, PBS-TV's Small Talk for Parents and the CBS Radio Networks. You can visit Judy at