Special Needs and Marriage

By Joe and Cindi Ferrini
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Building oneness in marriage is crucial when caring for others.

God gives us a biblical perspective for building oneness in marriage: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24, NIV). God’s original design was for oneness — leaving parents, uniting with our spouse and becoming one.

Achieving that oneness takes place when we are in agreement with God’s design for marriage. It’s the leaving of our childhood families to start our own and to be “one” in doing so — one in our thinking, one in communicating, one in our dreaming and one in sexual intimacy.

But while God’s blueprint, His plan, is contained in that verse, the realities of life often cause us to lose sight of that plan. Most couples start off marriage thinking that their time is their own, that there will be time to think and dream together, and that they’ll enjoy the “better, richer and in health” parts of the vows they took. The “worse, poorer and sickness” parts don’t enter most pre-marriage thoughts, or, if they do, they’re dismissed as something that will happen to someone else.

But somewhere along the way, expectations collide with real life and our hopes and dreams give way to hindrances and obstacles that begin to make marriage hard.

Hindrances can be anything from the differences in our individual personalities, to our particular needs and wants, to general differences that simply get in the way of things running smoothly. Hindrances are things we figured we’d deal with but weren’t sure to what degree. Obstacles, meanwhile, are those things we weren’t prepared for. For Joe and me, our obstacle was the drastic change to our lives when we started trying to build oneness in marriage while dealing with the stress of caring for someone with special needs. Needless to say, it’s a major obstacle facing many marriages.

Perhaps we never thought it could happen to us. But it did, and we are now among those who deal with the daily stress of caring for those with special needs, finding ourselves disappointed and discouraged, and experiencing the death of a vision we once had.

We have learned that a strong marriage is essential. Without it, caring for someone with special needs is that much more difficult and challenging. Combine high frustration levels with tumultuous emotions, medical concerns, behavior problems, housing considerations and family and other relationship issues, and it appears to be a job with no end.

In the articles that follow, we will address building oneness in marriage while caring for someone with special needs. We’ll discuss about managing the daily stress that comes with providing 24/7 care. And we will present ideas for building oneness, including how to deal with communication, conflict, creative dating, romance, intimacy and the importance of leaving a godly legacy like any other marriage. There is nothing like a crisis in marriage to help us determine our true priorities.

Copyright © 2010, Joe and Cindi Ferrini. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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About the Author

Joe and Cindi Ferrini

Joe and Cindi Ferrini married in 1979 and are members of FamilyLife’s National Speaker Team. Joe has practiced general dentistry for 31 years; Cindi founded Creative Management Fundamentals and has written several publications. Together they authored Unexpected Journey – When Special Needs Change Our Course. They have lived their unexpected journey in the Cleveland, OH area along with their three …

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