Parenting Kids with Autism? Little Things to a Closer Relationship

Couple connecting with autistic kid

The Reality of Parents To Autistic Kids is Hectic, Exhausting, and Overwhelming

At the same time, parents to autistic kids experience moments of joy, breaks, and achievements.  As we spend so much of our time parenting our special needs kids, we often lose touch with our romantic partner.  Out of all the hours of the day spent with our autistic kids, how many hours do we spend with our partner?

Seriously, how many minutes do us special needs parents participate in deepening our relationship with our lover, closest friend, and companion?  Our partner, the one who holds all our secrets, shares in our joys, supports us when we need them.  How often and in what ways are we truly engaging with our romantic partner in a way that suggests we admire them and they are worth more than gold to us?  My guess is we’re not managing the love of our partner very well, and this makes sense when you think about how much of our time is spent teaming up as parents for our autistic children that need so much from us.

When Is There Time With Our Romantic Partner?

Most time spent together between you and your partner is in conjunction with your special needs parenting duties, am I right?  Special needs kids require so much of our time, attention, and participation with them.  We take them to and from therapy appointments and school functions.  We help them with basic daily tasks and milestones.  We facilitate meltdowns and work hard to avoid the next one.  It takes a team to help support our precious autistic kids.

After all the time we take to assist, parent, and love on our special kiddos, what time have we left for our beloved partner?  By the time you and your partner may have some time alone, no doubt you’re too exhausted and not feeling close or sexy enough to connect.  Then, the next day comes with it’s typical routine.  Before you know it, you and your partner are feeling more like special needs parents rather than lovers.  What’s the solution here?

Why Date Nights Don’t Typically Work

“You and Your Husband Don’t Do Date Nights?! (Gasp)”  No, we don’t get to fully enjoy and relax with Date Nights (We wish we could!).  A Date Night assumes we have the capacity to actually get away from our child and home.  Excuse me while I chuckle.  For some parents to autistic kids, getting away is not really an option.  Plus, don’t even get me started on trying to find the right kind of special person to watch our special kiddos.  And then there’s the challenge of trying to find the time and energy to make a Date Night even a possibility.

If on the rare occasion my husband and I get to have a Date Night, our conversation inevitably becomes all about our autistic kid.  Even though we try, it’s almost impossible for the conversation to stay on us.  When our whole life is centered around our child, how can we not make the conversation all about our kid?  And to make matters worse, the date is rushed to quickly get back to our kiddo so to relieve the one and only person we trust to watch our autistic kid.  Date Nights don’t work for us, and my guess is they may not always work for you either.

Realistic Little Things To Keep The Love Connection Brewing

Little Thing #1

If you’re wondering how you can deepen your relationship with your partner in the tiny moments throughout the day, even in the middle of your special needs parenting role, you can start with holding hands.  Do you remember the last time you held your partner’s hand?  Just the slightest of touch to the hand, inner thigh, back, arm, or gently caressing your partner’s neck can send brain signals of closeness, and even thoughts of, “She cares about me,” “He really wants me.” “He sees me,” “Even now, I’m important to her.”

Little Thing #2

Stop in any moment you can to pause for a few seconds with your partner, deeply make eye contact with them, and say, “I truly love you.  You make my world a brighter place.” and then give them that kind of kiss you used to share when your relationship was new (No quick pecs allowed in this moment!)

Little Thing #3

When you find you and your partner are sitting on opposite ends of the couch, intentionally sit right up next to them and maybe even put your head on their shoulder for a few minutes.

Little Thing #4

Pause in moments and give your partner a warm and snug embrace with the words of, “I love you.” “I am so happy to be with you.”

Little Thing #5

When you have a minute, look your partner deeply in the eye and remind them of why they’re important to you, share a memory with them that reminds you of how much you love them, or tell them what you would rather be doing with them in this moment if you pretended you didn’t have a responsibility to children.

Little Thing #6

Lean in and whisper little something’s of how sexually attracted your partner is to you in any given moment.

All these little things build closeness and connection.  More importantly, these little things can add up to invite bigger moments of closeness and intimacy.  You are more than just parents, you’re lovers too, and most times we can lose sight of that being busy and tired to our lovable autistic kids.  So, when’s the next tiny moment you’ll take to get close with your partner?

Don’t Stop Here.  Go Further With Couples Therapy for Parents to Autistic Kids

If you want to find out how to strengthen your relationship amidst your autism parenting roles, you can contact me for a FREE 30 minute consultation to find out how I will support your relationship in couples therapy.  I use an empirically supported couples therapy approach called, Emotionally Focused Therapy, to help you and your partner get the deepest and closest relationship that will last the long haul.  And for those couples who prefer more of a class-like approach to strengthening your relationship, you can attend one of my Couples Workshops, and be sure to check my Events Calendar for workshop dates.

Cheers to a closer romantic relationship little by little while parenting kids on the autism spectrum!

About Kelly Hendricks

I'm a Couple and Family Therapist in San Diego helping relationships thrive and women fortify their confidence. In this blog, I share insights to help you move from feeling hopeless to healing and happiness. Please feel free to stay a while.