In today’s Autism Awareness post through the life Alex Kallas, his mother, Andrea, shares with us the effects of autism on a marriage…
Day 11 of Autism Awareness Month: How it Affects a Marriage
I apologize that I missed a few days. The flu bug decided to take me and Alex down, and I finally feel like sitting at the computer and typing for a few minutes. Today I am focusing on how Autism affects a marriage. When Alex was diagnosed, Erik and I were told that 80% of couples that have a child with Autism divorce. EIGHTY PERCENT!!! That was very scary. First, your child gets this diagnosis that breaks your heart and then you hear that most couples don’t come out of it together.
As I look back over the last 6 years since Alex was diagnosed with Autism, I can see where the divorce rate could be higher. Autism is financially and emotionally draining, and that just adds to the strains that are typically put on a marriage. When you add how differently men and women typically handle situations, it is tough!
I am a very emotional person. I cry when I am hurt and when I hurt for others. There have been times that I have laid on the bathroom floor in the fetal position crying and crying about how I want things to be “normal”. Erik doesn’t understand those moments. He is more analytical and realistic. His thoughts are we have been dealt this hand and we need to accept it and move on. Needless to say, we have had some issues over the past few years. And that statistic seemed to always pop into my head. I decided a long time ago that we were not going to allow that statistic to take place in our family – I think we both did.
When you have a child with Autism, there is often one parent who is more involved in overseeing the diet, therapy, etc. I am that person in our family. And to be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way. However, when you are that person and you deal with Autism every minute of the day, you can have some resentment build up towards the other spouse. And yes, that happened with us. I remember when Annika was just four or so months old, I was at my breaking point. I had a four month old, a 19 month old, and a four year old who required an enormous amount of my time. I had been getting little sleep, and I was overwhelmed.
I was tired – tired of spending hours doing therapy with Alex and researching diets and other treatments, tired of trying to be a good mom to Lincoln and my new baby girl, Annika, when I wasn’t giving them near enough attention, tired of acting like we were the perfect family, and tired of fighting with Erik. At that point, I think we were both afraid that we were going to be in the majority. We were letting Autism and our “life” come between us – we weren’t taking the time that we needed for our relationship.
It was at this time that we got involved with some couples at Thompson Station Baptist Church. I believe these couples were sent to us to help save our marriage. We started the study “Fireproof Your Marriage”, and we were given contact information to a Christian marriage counselor in the area. I am not going to say it was easy – the counselor told us at one point that we are wasting our money if we didn’t start working on our marriage. He was right. Something finally clicked, and we decided we didn’t want to be in the majority. We fought to get back our relationship and to start being a team again.
Has it been easy? No. Life isn’t easy, and we are often thrown curve balls. I am sure some people would ask why I would share the fact that we have had problems in our marriage. I do it because if we can help one couple decide it is worth it to fight for their marriage, then it is worth sharing. Autism isn’t easy. Marriage isn’t easy. But if you are willing to put God first and work through the tough times, you will come out on the other end much stronger. I am thankful for the couples that were brought into our lives when we needed them the most. They and our counselor allowed us to get back to a firm foundation. We had NO idea what laid ahead of us that next year. That is when we heard Alex had cancer, and I won’t even go into the statistics regarding the marriage when dealing with a child with cancer.
To be continued…