Couples Therapy for Parents with Autistic Kids
Has Raising a Child With Autism Changed Your Relationship?
As the parent of a child (or children) with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), do you often feel overwhelmed, exhausted and drained? Do you dedicate so much time and energy to your child that, by the end of the day, you have little left for yourself, let alone your partner?
Maybe it seems as though everything changed when your child was diagnosed, and you now feel like you’re always a parent first and a romantic partner second. Instead of intimacy, romance and connection, your relationship might feel defined by stress and logistics, with most conversations focused on your child’s needs.
On the rare occasions you and your partner find time for sex, it might feel planned and less passionate, as though you’re fulfilling an obligation rather than expressing your love. You may spend date nights worried about your child and unable to relax.
Or, maybe you can’t remember the last time you had sex, shared a bed or spent a quiet moment alone with your partner.
Do you wish you and your partner could find a way to care for your child while rebuilding, nurturing and maintaining a close, connected relationship?
Parenthood is never easy, and parenting a child with autism certainly comes with its own unique challenges. Every family with an autistic child has a different experience, and finding parenting strategies that work can feel like shooting arrows in the dark. Regardless of your child’s particular symptoms and severity, you likely worry about his or her future.
Maybe you wonder if your child will ever be able to live independently, build relationships, find a job or feel happy and fulfilled. It may be that worries and fears pull you away from your partner, especially if he or she doesn’t share your specific concerns. If your parenting styles clash, or if you are more involved in your child’s day-to-day upbringing, you may feel increasingly angry, resentful, abandoned and unable to look at your partner with love. You might feel deeply alone, even when your partner is right beside you.
Raising a Child With Special Needs Can Be a Demanding Job
If you and your partner feel drained and depleted, you are not alone. Every relationship faces challenges and takes work, and, if your child has special needs, it can be incredibly difficult to find time to check in, resolve conflict and connect with your partner.
It’s understandable that you are focused on your autistic child’s wellbeing above all else; however, as the years pass and time together becomes increasingly scarce, it’s very common for parents of autistic children to grow further and further apart.
As we grow up, few of us learn how to maintain a close and connected relationship or navigate all of the challenges of parenting, and almost none know exactly how to do both at once.
It makes sense that you and your partner are struggling, and I can see why you may feel guilty or blame yourself for not doing it all perfectly. You have a lot to juggle at once! You’re doing the best you can with the resources you have.
As the parent of an autistic child, I understand certain struggles you’re going through, and I believe there is help and hope. With couples counseling specifically tailored to parents of autistic children, you and your partner can develop the tools you need to reconnect, heal and experience one another with deep love and desire again.
Couples Therapy Offers Relationship Skills and Support for Parents of an Autistic Child
When your child has autism, you live in an ever-changing world. Your child may seem vastly different from day-to-day, and the parenting tools that work one moment might not work the next. It’s not uncommon to feel as though so much in your life is unpredictable and unstable— because it is.
As a couples therapist, I know effective relationship skills that don’t change and can be used to increase feelings of stability in your partnership and family. With intentional, compassionate guidance and support, you and your partner can develop the tools you need to transform your relationship into a space of steadiness, balance and connection.
In safe, nonjudgmental couples counseling sessions, you and your partner can learn and practice effective and tested experiential strategies for understanding and bonding with one another on a deep level. We can investigate how your relationship has changed since your child’s birth and diagnosis.
It’s very common for partners to operate according to unconscious patterns, many of which seem harmless at first. It’s likely that you and your partner had developed certain parenting patterns before you noticed something was different about your child.
For example, maybe one parent worried more while the other insisted everything was fine. Or, perhaps one parent took on the brunt of the childcare duties while the other worked. Because parenting a child with autism takes so much time and energy, there’s usually little time to assess these patterns and determine whether or not they are really serving you, your partner and your relationship.
As life grows more stressful, patterns become more deeply entrenched, often becoming more severe and damaging to everyone stuck repeating them.
In sessions, we’ll work collaboratively as you and your partner gain insight into your style of behavioral and emotional interaction and identify the harmful pattern and vulnerable blocks that get in the way of connection, along with the possible moments that may mark a painful change in the relationship.
For example, was there a huge fight that has never been resolved and now resurfaces through the same fight over and over again or shows up through other smaller frustrating moments? Was there a moment when one partner felt rejected, ignored or abandoned? Can you remember when you felt yourself detach from your partner?
As we trace your history and uncover the raw moments, I can help both of you pinpoint what initially drew you together and what seems to be pulling you apart. By working to really know and understand your current hurt at its core, you can begin the process of healing and change how you experience your relationship.
During couples therapy sessions, I will also observe how you interact on an emotional level, applying my skills and insight to help you notice the messages of emotional disconnection you send to one another.
As you come to more deeply understand each other’s thoughts, feelings, fears and triggers, you can begin to make more conscious, productive choices about how you communicate and relate. And, by coming to understanding the ways in which each of you experience being parents to an autistic child, you can build greater compassion for one another, learning how to support one another and creating emotional safety in the relationship as a whole.
I offer relationship support for parents of an autistic child because I know personally how hard it can be to maintain your relationship amidst the demanding, exhausting and yet rewarding special needs parenting roles. I can’t take away the weekly therapy appointments and extra financial strain, the meltdowns, the late nights or the fears you may have for your child’s future.
However, drawing from empirically supported romantic relationship techniques anchored in emotional attachment, which I use in my own marriage, I can help you and your partner build a deeply connected, trusting relationship that you can lean on for comfort over the long-term. It is possible for you and your partner to do more than just survive. It is possible for you to feel understood, cared for and truly close to one another again while parenting your autistic child.
You may have questions or concerns about couples counseling…
Coming to therapy just isn’t possible.
If your child’s symptoms make it difficult or even impossible for you to find childcare, you can attend secure, confidential online counseling sessions from the comfort of your home, as long as you are located in the state of California at the time of our sessions.
If you are able to arrange childcare, I strongly encourage you to come to my office for therapy. Working together, in person, helps me pick up on small emotions and tiny interactions that can lead to big moments and more efficient treatment. And, therapy can become a dedicated time for you to interact with your partner, without distractions or disruptions.
Our child’s symptoms will never go away, and we’ll always feel this exhausted. How can therapy help?
From my own experience parenting a child with autism, I know it can feel as though your child’s needs will always pull you away from your partner.
However, as a couples therapist, I also know what makes relationships work and last. I can help you identify the small things you can do to get close and connect. By implementing new patterns of relating, even with the tiniest gesture, you can create significant, lasting and positive change in your relationship.
My partner can’t and won’t change.
Although it can feel as though certain patterns are impossibly entrenched, if I didn’t believe that you and your partner were capable of love and connection, I wouldn’t be offering couples therapy. In sessions, I can offer you the tools you need to create the change in your relationship.
No matter how hardened your relationship patterns have become, you can break them and replace them with new, more loving ways of being together. Within your normal, daily life with a special needs child, you can find renewed intimacy, harmony and connection.
There Is Hope and Help
GET SUPPORT THAT FITS YOUR FAMILY'S NEEDS WITH ONLINE THERAPY
Resentful. Lonely. Unsatisfied. If You Feel This Way, Your Relationship Could Be At Risk.
Take the first step in finding out if your relationship is securely bonded for the long haul or if you should consider getting help. Take this free quiz: Is it Time For Couples Therapy?