Saturday, December 24, 2011

12 Ways To Keep Your Marriage Strong When You Have A Child With Autism...





(originally written & published on December 24, 2011)



I always hear how the divorce rate in Autism Households is supposed to me astronomical (which really isn't true, click here).  And then I read from many stories on my Autism Daddy Facebook Page about how their husbands (and yes a few wives) couldn't handle the stress of living with autism and bailed out.  

And whenever I hear that the first thing I think of is what cowards those people who bailed out are...especially the men.  The MANLY thing to do is to stay.  The masculine thing to do is to fight for your marriage and your family.  

So I sat down and thought about what keeps my marriage strong and sane and thought, "let me write a blog post about it".  

Before I get into the list, you should know where I'm coming from.  I've got an 8 year old with severe non-verbal autism.  He is our only child.  


Without further ado, in no particular order, here are my 12 Ways To Keep Your Marriage Strong and sane When Autism Hits....


1) Have an "us against the world mentality"
You are your spouse are both in this TOGETHER. The rest of your life is probably gonna be a roller coaster of ups and downs...but guess what?  A roller coaster is ALOT more fun when you're sitting next to your best friend. And when you come up against battles along the way with doctors, school districts, family members, lawyers, etc it's so much easier to have a teammate, a partner by your side. Also, you don't always have to agree with each other on every course of action when it comes to your asd kid, but in public it helps to have a strong united front.



2) Have date nights out of the house as often as humanly possible....aka it's ok to be selfish
I can't stress this enough to all parents but especially to asd parents. Before you had kids you were a fun vivacious couple right?  Why does that need to change?  Ok when you are down in the trenches cleaning poop off the wall you don't feel vivacious, but the wife and I try to get out together without our kid at least twice a month...sometimes it's just dinner & a movie, other times we will meet friends out for drinks or go see a concert... Whatever works for you...  I wrote in another blog post how important being selfish is.  You can read that here.

And sometimes if you can't afford a sitter you need to be ultra selfish and guilt your family into baby sitting by any means necessary.  There's some months where we considered getting out for a date night an emergency situation and we tell the family accordingly. I wrote a bit about that in a previous blog post here...



3) Make room for SEX

Yes the autism is going to affect your love life BIG TIME.  But there's GOTTA be room for it once in while right?  It may not always be the most romantic kind. We often have alot of wheeling and dealing and negotiating going on but it's worth it.  And if you can swing it for us there's sometimes nothing better than every couple of months using a sick day from work when you're not actually sick...and your kid is in school...if you know what I mean...   :-)



4) Get a better sense of humor...  Quickly...

Life's gonna really suck sometimes. Your kid is gonna do the CRAZIEST things!!!  But if you can just twist it on its head sometimes and look at things and seemhowmbizareelu comical they are it can really help.  I mean my kid is licking the window!!  That's freaking bizarre and funny!  




"Does it taste good?"  The wife and I have a warped un-PC sense of humor. We curse like sailors and say to anyone who will listen that we will be THRILLED if Kyles first words are "What is wrong with you motherf--kers??"  I really feel that our warped sense of humor helpsnusnget thru some of the dark times quicker than most...




5) Feel better by any means necessary...aka... Antidepressants are not a dirty word...

Really, no explanation necessary.... 2 years ago I finally bit the bullet and realized that I was kinda depressed and asked for help.  And the help came in a litte pill called...
Wellbutrin. For me, it did exactly what I needed it to do. It gave me more energy, more patience, and let me roll with the punches better.  I am still me, but a calmer, less intense, slightly more organized me.  My wife went on it about 6 months later and it has helped us both IMMENSELY. I wrote a separate blog post all about this that goes into alot more details about my experiences on Wellbutrin. You can read that one HERE :-)


6) Have solo activities that recharge your batteries...

If you can't get out as a couple as much as you'd like with the help of sitters, then at least make sure that you each have individual NON-AUTISM activities that you can do alone or with friends that will recharge your batteries.  I like to run and belong to a running group and once or twice a year I'll sneak away with some friends for an overnight running adventure (marathon or relay) in another city.  I'm also on my company bowling team.  My wife has several different groups of mommy friends and they are often going out for dinner, drinks, dancing, etc.  Encourage your spouse and give her the opportunity to take a break away from autism...and a break away from you as much as possible.  


7) Readjust your priorities.  

Many men feel like being the provider Mon-Fri is JOB #1 and then spending the weekend doing manly weekend work (yard work, repairs, etc) is JOB #2 and are therefore not present for alot of their kids lives/ activities.  Maybe an adjustment is in order. Maybe skipping the yard work one Saturday and going with the family to special needs gymnastics is more important and would be more helpful to your spouse.   

For moms who are type a personalities  vacuuming and ironing every day isn't as important as spending more time with your family. Also for you moms that need to have everything a certain way... You may be pushing your spouse away.. So what if your hubby puts your kid in mismatched socks or in wrinkled jeans?  At least he's involved and helping getting the kid dressed...

Just two small examples of readjusting your priorities but there are tons of others...


8). Live in the moment
. Try not to look too far behind or too far ahead.

Easier said than done but oh so important.  Try to live each day as it happens. Try hard not to compare it to what happened yesterday or what may happen down the road.  ASD kids make progress, ASD kids regress.  What your kid did yesterday he might not do today and vice versa.  Also looking too far ahead can get you in a funk. Will your kid be self sufficient as an adult?  Will he need constant care?  Looking too far ahead can destroy you and your marriage.  Yes, you need to plan for it financially and mentally, but dwelling on it is deadly...


9) Get rid of the "what ifs", the "blame game", and the "grass is always greener" syndrome as soon as possible...

I still have problems with this one...  Not the blame game so much.  There's no one to blame for my kid's autism....especially not my spouse...   But I often get bogged down in the what if's (what if I had a typical kid? would he love watching baseball with me?) and I still have a problem with the grass is always greener syndrome which I wrote about here....


10) Yell, scream, have fights with your spouse

Get it all out right then and there when you are mad about something.  It is much healthier than letting it stew and then giving them the silent treatment.


11) Get your asd kid and yourselves as much sleep as possible.

Your kid not getting enough sleep and being up all night is tortuous for,all involved. This may be controversial but I would say to do whatever you can, as early as you can to get your kid on a normal sleep schedule and when it's age appropriate explore the supplement melatonin (a complete life saver for us that I wrote about here) and if necessary stronger sleep aids.  Sleep is important for your kids and it's important for your sanity and for your marriage...

12) Get off the Internet and sit on the couch and watch TV with your spouse...

You successfully got your kid to sleep.  Now get off the Internet.  Stop researching that latest GFCF recipe.  Stop googling all things autism.  Stop trolling Facebook.  Stop reading Autism Daddy.  Turn off the computer and veg out on the couch and watch tv with your spouse....  Or better yet get, go,to bed... And get some sleep...or even better yet have some sex...  :-)


THE END
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If you're gonna shop Amazon anyway, can I ask that you enter Amazon by using the link above?  This way I can make a little money.  This blogging thing has been awesome & life changing for me... but I must admit that it's taking up a lot more time than I ever thought... so if I can make a few bucks it'll make it easier for me to justify....Love you all! Thanks!!



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62 comments:

  1. Thank you for taking the time to share all of this... I see quite a few things I need to be doing and haven't been..I am so glad I found your page :)

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  2. poe21 says.....

    so many of us asd parents forget about their spouse's cause they are wrapped with their asd kids. alot of what u said on this blog are so true. i am so glad that there is a parent that is willing to tell the truth in what they believe will make a marriage work, instead of just sweeping it under the rug and pretend that everything is ok when its not. thank u for putting things in view for so many of us. im glad i found ure page by accident. it has proven that im not alone on so many things and know who to turn when i have questions about my child.



















    '

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  3. Like I said on my page... I love this post!! I know you said before you wished you could write like some of these other bloggers but I think you are perfect the way you are and this is yet another example of your awesomeness. Thank you for sharing.

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  4. Love this..so true! Now if I could get the hubby to listen...

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  5. As with any marriage, sharing of the responsibility of the home is important. No one likes to be treated as the maid, chef and laundry person. Especially not you :)

    The element of "surprise" - Surprise honey I called and will be bringing home chinese for everyone. Surprise honey, I booked an overnight away and a Grandma sleep over for the kids. Surprise honey, I called the babysitter and we're going out to celebrate tonight. Remember SURPRISE! and use it AT LEASE once a month. SURPRISE, while you were out I did all the laundry and brought you a chocolate bar.

    The other way of expressing yourself...a letter or card of appreciation of your spouse. So important since men are sometimes short of words. Sometimes letters or cards express it better but write down sometime you realized you loved that person or really respected that person or really admired what they did.

    Lastly, the DAILY commitment to LOVE. Just holding your spouses hands, looking into their eyes and telling them that you take that commitment serious. That your glad you did it. How much you love them and love making love to them! It's the Glue - the body kisses that keep a marriage together. Never underestimate TOUCH. If the wife isn't interested, give her a massage (without being over the top) give her soft kisses, just squeeze her hand, turn on some music and dance with her : ) Kiss her forehead and her hand. Let her know you love her even more for standing beside you through thick and thin!

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  6. Oh, and yes, Autism parents are standing stronger than most couples. Marriage isn't something you "bail" on. People aren't putting the effort in and it's a "sham or scam" sometimes. Luckily, our community takes it "serious" and we have a much harder road. It just makes us stronger, more loving people ... pretty cool!

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  7. As a Woman - I have a word of advise for WOMEN. I was lucky enough to have a Mom who shared this with me. ALWAYS, keep your spouse first. Without your spouse, you would have "no children". It takes two. As a MAN, always consider your WIFE first, then your children. The "couple / pair" who made it all possible deserve "equal" respect. Respect your spouse, as much as yourself and remember "they are your other half" literally. You need to talk to them first. Never let anyone (even the kids) come between that. You committed first to your spouse...which made the kids possible. We have a tendency of getting our "Priorities" mixed up and this causes all sorts of unnecessary stresses in our lives. Keep your spouse first!

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  8. Amazing! thankyou!
    I am lucky I have a husband much like you, hands on and with a sense of humour.. but I still found useful advice in there! xx thanks :)
    It is things like this, that make me take a deep breath and say 'It is normal - for the abnormal' - as in... the stuff we are all going through, is pretty normal... for us with non-neuro typical kids!

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  9. So true are marriage has lasted and still going strong. Date night once a month for us. Get away weekend every 3 months.

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  10. Well written i too are lucky and have a husband like you we have two children on the spectrum.When i read this it made me cry,because like you say you are so wrapped up by autism you forget about your husband or wife.Happy New Year to you all.

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  11. From a Dad with 3 year old twin boys and one with ASD, I love this. As someone wrote above, this is very well written and to the point.

    I saw the "Donate for Kyle's ABA" above. We feel your pain in that area for sure. For a man in my late 40's, Joey's ABA has really put a burden on some of the things I was looking forward to at this age. It is very expensive. For people who don't know about ABA, it has been a wonderful tool for Joey. He has made great progress since we started ABA. It will not "cure" his Autism, but it really helps Joey and us deal with it.

    Keep up the good work.
    Mark

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  12. I left out one thing in the above comment. For a man in my late 40's, "I would not trade anything for the life I have now my wife and twin boys. Joey is a blessing and has taught me so much about life and what really is important."
    Mark

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  13. Where can i get that bumper sticker: "My autistic kid will lick your honor student"??!!! WANT!!

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  14. I can't remember the last tome my wife and I "had a date". We go out separately, but due to my sons special needs, finding a sitter is impossible. :(.

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    Replies
    1. This is so true for so many of the couples out there...when you have no sitters, you can't get out.

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  15. All so true....love reading your posts....keep'em comin'! My ASD son is almost 5 now, and date night never comes soon enough for us.....def some great advice in there....thanks:)

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  16. Brillant list, couldn't agree more with it!!

    Thank you so much for sharing!

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  17. Love the 12 ways-but I think it should be 24. Both husband AND wife need to equally participate.

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  18. I just finished reading this to my husband. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I'm happy we have each other to deal with ASD little guy and our other two children, who by the way are the greatest to there little brother.

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  19. just stumbled upon this today.
    of all the autism blogs I've been reading....and I've read quite a number...yours is the most " practical, face-it, it is what it is,so now do what you gotta do, truthful, refreshingly honest...and witty.
    thank you so much for this down to earth & honest blog!!!!

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  20. PERFECT!!! I have a pretty fantastic hubby and ticked everyone of the 12 items on your "list" and pretty much preach these to my friends in the same boat.... Hoping they get through it as we are!! He is my best friend and the only person I can rely on and vice versa... Thank you it's good hearing from the male perspective!! I can't imagine living this life path without him by my side.....

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  21. This is a great post, you could teach my ex a few things! Of course he couldn't put down the beer can long enough to "get" it.

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  22. Thank you so much, for opening your life in the way that you have. I have no clue who you are and yet feel as if I know you. You are every mother and father of an ASD kid, that stayed. I relate so well to a lot of the things you write about that it seems to come straight from my own life. Again, THANK YOU!!

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  23. You and your wife are such model autism parents. I know your life/marriage/everything probably isn't perfect... but the fact that you think about these things are attempt to live life to the full, along with your son, is incredible.. I take my hat off to you!

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  24. OMG, LOVE it!!!! Also love what u and ur wife hope his first words are. I laughed so loud!!!!

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  25. I love it, nice and have lessons for this blog, thanks to you Autismdad...as a single mom, raising alone, spent more time, with him so hard raising it,hubby is far away working.
    Mabuhay and More Power!
    Angelzmom/kristian

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  26. There's a book in this and I wish my ex had read it!

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  27. Agree on every level. I was talking with our new occupational therapist and after disclosing our circumstances, me bipolar, eldest son asd & adhd she asked if 'dad still around?' and seemed surprised that not only was he around but was hands on and had been around for 22 years (although for first 11yrs he only had me to put up with). She said I was lucky and when I challenged 'why' she just said it wasn't the norm in her experience. Why is it deemed almost acceptable for the dad to walk away but it actually makes the papers here if a mum does it. My son attends an autism specific school so we are friendly with a lot of asd families and a sadly unacceptable number are single mum families with asd the prime culprit and comments of others being 'lucky' too frequent. It's not luck, as you said it's teamwork etc and we also find it's instinctively knowing when one of you is having a down day and automatically stepping up to let them have time out x

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  28. THANK YOU, I REALLY NEEDED TO HEAR THAT

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  29. My ex was just in extreme denial . . . His story was nothing is wrong, I lied to the doctors, etc., etc. And to this day, he still is. He won't do anything with our son that makes him confront his differences.

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  30. Love these 12 things! They r hilarious, and so true at the time.

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  31. Great advice. We do pretty much all of these except for 2 of them:

    #2 is nearly impossible for us as any qualified sitter we can find usually bails out after the first time so we've pretty much given up trying to find anyone. As for relatives, mine live on the other side of the country and hubbby's live on the other side of the planet! For us, arranging a date night is a nightmare!

    #5 Didn't go the antideppressant route, but I finally found a good blend of herbal supplements and simple yoga that works for me.

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  32. My wife pointed out this blog post of yours and suggested that I read it. She said that your viewpoint on marriage is very similar to mine when you are fighting the battle together with autistic children. I am currently an active duty servicemember and last year while deployed to Iraq I launched my own blog to espouse some of the very same principled and suggestions that you have here. From one blogger to another, and for what it's worth, I wanted to share a series of posts that I wrote last summer that relate the "Army Values" to our roles as husbands and fathers. It was directed toward those fathers in the military that have the dual burden of military service AND autism, but I think it apropos for all fathers. I cover each of the topics of Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity and Personal Courage. The nifty acronym creates by the Army for all to remember from these values is LDRSHIP, or "Leadership" - can't we all use a little more of that in our culture of irresponsiblity. At any rate, here is the link if you or any of your readers may find it useful! I look forward to reading more of your material! Thank you for the stance you take for all of us fathers living with autism!

    http://pathwaysinautism.com/2011/08/army-values-applied-to-the-military-dad-living-with-autism/


    Mike Barrett

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  33. love it... awesome... I do many of these things... I would add make no apologies for my kids or the way we are as a family... I basically said to my family... We are who we are... and we don't apologize for it...just as you don't apologize for your family or your non disabled kids... LOL... funny as hell... and it works...

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  34. Great blog btw!!!
    My husband and I have several intellectual disabled adults living with us in our home..for 7 years now its been our passion. We both share the care for our clients (my husband is amazing). We do much volunteering for Special Oyympics as well. I love your blog as it shows exactly how my husband and I relate in our marriage, so we must be doing something right!!! :) We have been married for 12 years now and when we rely on each other, though we have difficult days with our autistic clients who are like our own children, my husband and I have grown so close in love and nurturing of one another. There is no time around our house for petty arguments as we are kept busy constantly with each client. My husband and I go on dates,take time for ourselves together and apart and laugh about the oddest things, and though we are constantly unplugging the toilet and patching and cleaning walls, our clients see our happy home and are content in knowing they are safe and loved too!

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  35. Thank you for this post. I have a child with Apraxia and finally admitted to myself I have been suffering from depression, for some time. It is getting better.
    I think we need more date nights!

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  36. Some actually go so far as to believe healthy relationships are typified by greater conflict. Regardless of how family familiar or socially acceptable these fantasies may be, however, they often don’t match reality.marriage

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  37. This is exactly what I needed to read! Thank you! Number 8 hit me hard. I need to let go of those thoughts as much as possible. Please keep writing!

    P.S. This one I laughed out loud to because it describes my husband and I so well:
    "We curse like sailors and say to anyone who will listen that we will be THRILLED if Kyles first words are "What is wrong with you motherf--kers??""

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  38. Awesome post! I agree wholeheartedly with everything on there. :)

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  39. Thank you for posting! Father of a 19 yo autistic son, and I realized years ago that many of these, particularly the "Us against the world" and the "sense of humor" are probably the most critical things that my wife and I share that have kept us together.

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  40. Though these are things we deal with on a day to day basis I would like some direction on dealing with my husband as far as dealing with my son who is Autistic. I feel he could be in denial and is trying to treat him like a Typical child. Could the Autistic Dad address Discipline of an Autistic child. My husband doesn't understand screaming at him which causes him to have a melt down (when there are other options) isn't the best way. He thinks my son should be able to be disciplined by him but doesn't realize he's not discipline but scaring him since he doesn't know what he's screaming at him. Any advice would be nice. rjaffeux@hotmail.com

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  41. My husband left us. I am now left raising my 8 year old daughter on my own, even when I was married he barely helped out and blamed me for everything. Sometimes it is best to walk away if the other person is toxic and not willing to do their part. Now he sees her every other weekend which means I get 2 weekends to myself which is more than I got when we were married. If one partner is unwilling to put on any effort to help with raising their children, the other parent has no choice but to act as both parents. It is hard raising a child as a single parent but i prefer it to staying in a horrible marriage.

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  42. Very happy to see your blogs, I really gets motivate to read your blogs and agree with your point of view.
    steve jobs 10 commandments | dissatisfaction at work

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  43. Every piece of word you wrote teaches me about many many things. Thank you so much!. I'm so moved and touched. Thank you for creating this wonderful blog for everyone.
    Jihyeon from Korea

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  44. This is a great article. we experience many of the same things you do. I have cleaned poop from the walls. I wish I could get my wife to read things like this and apply them to our lives. She is a great mom but almost too great. She is there for all our kids not just our son with autism but that leaves no time for her and I. I get really sad when we cannot do anything together. I try and tell her and she says this is our life and we have to deal with it. She is right and wrong. Yes we have to deal with it, and we do, but if we do not take care of ourselves some and our relationship then what good are we to any of the kids. Thanks again for the blog. I will try to apply the things you have listed.

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  45. Dear Sir, You're a wonderful dad and writer. I am blessed that to have married the most wonderful man in the world. My son, does not have autism - because he cannot be tested. He is non-verbal, developmentally approx. 18 months, with epilespy and mobility challenged. He chose to marry us any way. In my opinion, he is a man among the greatest and strongest I have ever met. Your words of wisdom are many that we live by. Collectively, we have five boys, Andy is the youngest. But the one important thing you forgot was to tell each other every day, every chance you get that you love them. You never know when that opportunity will be gone.

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  46. My Name is Ms. Tracy Smith, I was married to my husband for 13 years and we were both bless with three children, living together as one love, until 2009 when things was no longer the way the was [when he lost his job]. But when he later gets a new job 6 months after, he stated sleeping outside our matrimonial home. Only for me to find out that he was having an affair with the lady that gave he the job. since that day, when i called him, he don’t longer pick up my calls and he nothing since to come out good. Yet my husbands just still keep on seeing the lady. Until I met a very good friend of my who was also having a similar problem, who introduced me to a very good love spell caster. But i told her that if it has to do with things that i am not interested, but she said that it has nothing to do with pay first. but the only thing he was ask to do was just to go and buy the items to cast the spell, and that was what she did. And she gave me the spell caster e-mail address and phone number. When i contacted him, i was so surprise when he said that if i have the faith that i will get my husband back in the nest three [3] day, and off which it was really so. but i was so shock that i did not pay any thing to Dr.obadam, but my husband was on his knells begging me and the children for forgiveness. This testimony is just the price i have to pay. This man obadam is good and he is the author of my happiness. His e-mail address obadamtemple gmail.com

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  47. Another fabbie blog AD. Thank you for finding the time to do this. Your blogs always make me smile in one way or another. You can't put a price on that !

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  48. Awesome and you are so right. Your attitude seems very similar to mine and I think we're going down the right road. I agree with your priorities regarding alone time and intimate time in particular. Now best get myself feeling all ill for work tomorrow ;)

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  49. Your wonderful blog is always so full of comments I hesitate to post my own paltry words but I just wanted to say that its good to be able to read the life adventures of others and know that there are so many others whos life have changed and continue to.. alright enough words...lol just wanted to say keep on posting and thanks.

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  50. This is a Great Post with Great advice! I wish my Son's Wife had of seen this, she was the one to bail out, not him.

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  51. Thank you so much for this!

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  52. Good tips! We've found it challenging to have time to just have normal conversations with each other since having a baby. We'll sit out on the deck and have a glass (or two....ish :))) of wine once the baby is asleep.

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  53. spot on - now if I can get the mrs. to read this and apply . . . wishful thinking

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  54. Thanks Autism Daddy - truer words were never said. You posts and blogs are always informative, helpful and, most importantly, funny & real. My only question would be - How do you know when its time to stop trying to keep it together?
    I rarely have doubts about anything you say, but I have a much different situation at my home, and I am concerned that #8 (Try hard not to compare it to what happened yesterday or what may happen down the road) will lead some into false denial. Me? I married a man whose wife has passed away and who was left with 5 children, 4 with ASD's. I asked for this life, and walking out when things got bad was not an option. However, although I love each of them dearly, if I had seen the situation clearly, and opened my eyes as to what could be, and if I had been able to plan for the future, I might have done some things differently. There is a reason we do not see hundreds of adults with ASD's in the community. They are not around. Autism is dangerous and it kills. No, not directly. It kills the children/adults who cannot verbalize their pain or symptoms, it kills when they are not supervised properly and run away into traffic or worse. It kills from the absolute inability to get proper medical care because they won't let a doctor touch them. It also kills caregivers - the ones who are unprepared to deal with a dangerous or even difficult adult; it kills caregivers from stress, high blood pressure, improper nutrition, and depression.
    No one tells you that there will, in every single case, be a change "post-puberty." Puberty for our kids ends around 17 - 19. Its likely there will be a complete turn around, as I did when my ASD daughter (non-verbal, stims, other health concerns) went from being a pleasant but typical ASD kid who just sat around and stared when she wasn't rocking - to being a psychotic, depressed, aggressive and violent adult who needs to be kept inside most of the time and restrained unless she gets her way. Next up is my youngest, at 18, who is just finishing puberty. He's tall and strong, handsome and affectionate, has some words, the ability to make short sentences, can dress and feed himself, but is otherwise non-employable and will need constant care and supervision or he runs away.
    If I had know that these kinds of changes were possible (not even likely, but possible) I would have done some things differently. Yes, I would still have taken them in as my own - but I would have prepared earlier, been ready for what was to come (physically and emotionally). I would have had help in place. I would not have been in shock, considered myself a failure and become severely depressed. To this day, I keep saying "I should have known," "I should have prepared differently," "I should have expected these changes." The teachers, educators, administrators, psychologists and psychiatrists, social workers and therapists - None of them will tell you. They'll say you can't tell, you can't predict, just wait and see. Don't believe it.
    From my perspective, its become fairly easy to tell and to predict, or at the very least, be prepared. Parents should be prepared for the worst, advised of the possibilities, warned about the danger - because when it sneaks up on you, you will not have the necessary safeguards in place.

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  55. I really need to change some things and priorities, but im not findig the way. Keep sharing your ideas,it can help me! Thank you.

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