Saturday, October 10, 2009

How To Keep Your Marriage Strong While Raising A Child With Special Needs

We gathered on September 17 for the Parent Network Exchange Meeting on"How to keep your marriage strong while raising a child with special needs". The speakers, Ethan Schutz and Lorin Gold, are both social psychologists who also have a child with special needs. Lorin asked us to try to encourage people to attend as couples in order to get the most out of the workshop. So it was nice to see that 80% of the participants did come with their significant other.

At the beginning, Lorin and Ethan had us go around the room and tell a little bit about ourselves, such as how old our child is and what we were hoping to get out of the workshop.

Next they had us do an interactive exercises on communication. We had to pick a partner, face them and pretend to speak to them about problems in our marriage. In turn, the pretend partner ignored us or was defensive in response. We would switch places, so we got to feel what both roles were like. Lastly, we repeated the exercise while really listening and being sensitive to our partner. This was very helpful to most people to see that we tend to get into patterns in how we communicate that are not helpful to the situation. And we do this without even thinking. Many people found that they had the same fight over and over, since they just replied the same way they always do without really listening to their partner. The exercises were definitely an eye opening experience.

Ethan and Lorin also spent a great deal of time showing us the different types of communicating personalities and how some can sabotage this very important tool in a relationship. We learned that communication is really important and keeping an open mind to each situation is vital. Otherwise we fall back into our old patterns, which can be unhelpful and even detrimental to solving on-going issues as well as everyday problems.

Some participants did express an interest in going into specific materialises. They wanted to hear other couples on-going issues. Ethan and Lorin had already spent a great deal of time getting information that would normally be taught over days to fit into our two hour block of time. So we decided that we would create a separate event for the participants where they could just talk about common marital issues that couples raising a child with special needs face. We are hoping to plan this event for November.

So overall I think many of us found the workshop very helpful in highlighting where we could use improvement in how we engage in our relationship. For some of us it has to do with not listening, blaming,being defensive or falling into bad habits. I think we all left with a renewed sense of approach to our relationship as well as some very good new tools to implement.

Dara Berger

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