Divorce and the Special Needs Parent

the professorDivorce can be visceral and terrifying for most “regular” humans, but for parents with fragile children, the stakes go WAY up, and, as I’ve been separated from my husband of 10 years for the past three years (most people assume I’m divorced since I legally changed my name back) those fears simmer just below the surface for me all the time. It’s hard to talk about them, but I’ll try.

Chances are good that you’ve heard the statistics: Eighty percent of marriages of parents of children with autism end in divorce. For most people I know with special-needs kids, that’s a terrifying statistic. And most people can imagine it to be true, because it usually doesn’t take long to realize that autism (and other special needs) can do a real job on a marriage. Different people handle big events differently, and there’s no guarantee that you and your partner will handle things in a compatible way, starting with the diagnosis – if there is a diagnosis. Some really proactive parents get started addressing the issues even before a “qualified professional” tells them what those issues are. Often one parent sees the issues and jumps on them, if not right away, then as soon as he or she can wrap his or her head around it, while the other parent buries their head in the sand and denies the need to done anything – the autism equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and shouting, “I can’t hear you!”

It’s tough to have a serious conversation with someone who denies the reality you deal with on a daily basis. As a result, conversation often drops off. If you’re the action-oriented parent, chances are you get burnt out and exhausted and would like to share the burden of the difficulties: diet, therapy, supplements, etc. But the spouse doesn’t want to hear it. He or she just wants to go back to the way things were — which is, of course, impossible. That was me and my ex.

My husband thought we owed a tremendous debt to Bryce’s speech teacher for getting him to talk, even though I told him that therapy five days a week wasn’t really doing anything. There were days I had to cajole B-Boy for 20 minutes to get anything out of him at all. The only times we saw big gains were immediately after we added a biomedical treatment. When my ex expressed such appreciation for speech therapy, it was clear he wasn’t listening to me at all. I wasn’t sure why, but I got a hint later when he admitted that he was jealous of me, because I got to “save” Bryce. So maybe he was listening and the disconnect was really just a form of denial. Either way, it’s tough to be on the the receiving end.

Of course, not all marriages work this way, but it seems that a shocking number do go through some variation of this. Some survive it, others don’t. In general, communication is tremendously important in a healthy relationship. If you can’t share the task of “saving” your child, what can you share?

Another common issue in many marriages is the allocation of resources, in other words, money and time. Which areas in the family get the money and time first? Chances are, in a special-needs family, there is never enough money or time. That means that priorities have to be set. Conflict on those priorities is a major source of friction. This is one reason why you’ve got to keep the communication lines as open as you can. Parents who communicate with and appreciate each other are much more likely to hang tough for the ugly disagreements on where to apply their precious resources.

I’ve noticed that there’s one area that gets shafted for almost all special-needs parents: “together time,” also known as “date night.” Burnt-out folks find it difficult to plan fun activities for themselves and their partner. Spending money on it can also be difficult when you’re balancing it against this week’s organic food or speech therapy. But doesn’t it seem that marriages where the relationship is a top priority are more fun and more resilient? Chalk that up to another lesson learned.

My ex and I stopped spending any time together as his job got harder. He would send me off to the movies by myself sometimes. I’m sure he was thinking it was what I needed – to get “away.” But more than getting away, I needed to reconnect with him. Everything was easier when I had a partner I could share things with than when I didn’t. (Let’s face it, I never would have chosen to take on the challenges I had if I’d known I would be on my own with them.) It’s easier to go through hard times with someone when you know you and your relationship are a high priority. How do you let your partner know they are high priority? By investing your time and energy, even if there isn’t much in the way of money.


Personally, I don’t buy those stats. Among the Thinking Moms we have one divorced mom, two separated moms, and one never-married mom (who is more like a widow), and two of those (myself included) aren’t even dealing with autism. Out of 24, that’s not bad. I think fear of divorce is rampant, though. All of us know people who are staying where they are in a less than satisfactory relationship or marriage, because of the fear of going it alone. I think the biggest fear is how on earth do you make it financially on your own? That’s certainly my biggest fear. I didn’t have a paying job for many years as my high-needs kids were young. My ex was spending that time building his career. That makes him much more employable than I am, despite the fact that when we met we were doing similar work and not getting paid all that differently.

Then there’s the fear of having to do it all. Depending upon how you get along with your ex (if you have one), you may be alone at 100% of the IEP meetings and parent/teacher conferences (which, fortunately for me, are one and the same lately), do 100% of therapy appointments and school drop-offs/pick-ups, prepare 100% of the special-diet food, administer 100% of the supplements, and handle 100% of the sensory or PANDAS meltdowns. That’s a daunting prospect. And I’m not going to downplay it. It sucks! I get along very well with my ex, and he wasn’t working last year, so he did get to come to more conferences and do more school pick-ups than he would have otherwise, but he lives two hours away and that means he’s not exactly someone I can count on.

I think one of the biggest secret fears, though, is that the stress of divorce will end up being very, very hard on already fragile children. If you were already disagreeing on vaccination, therapies, supplements, and/or providers, divorce will amplify those differences. It’s one of the most difficult things in the world to trust your child to be alone with someone who seems to hate you. What happens if your ex is so pissed at you — and so used to not listening to you — that he or she takes your kids to get vaccinated the minute you’re not around?

Like I said, my ex and I get along very well, and he is a big supporter of what I do here, but even he got bullied into getting Bryce a DT shot in an ER last year. (I can hear your collective gasps in my head. Yeah, that was my reaction, too.) And, though my ex is generally supportive, he doesn’t do supplements beyond enzymes, and I can pretty much count on him plying the kids with sugar every other weekend. I don’t know how to mitigate this one. If you have a partner that flatly refuses to listen to you or take your concerns to heart, it’s a very real possibility that your child’s health will be in danger. My heart grieves for the children in these situations. The best I can say is don’t give up trying to communicate. My ex and I communicate much better now than we did the last year we were together. It can get better.

And lastly, I think, is the fear that if you split up you’ll be alone forever. Who is going to want to take on the challenge of a special-needs child or two or five? It is harder to find someone who is up for that challenge, but it is by no means impossible. It does require that you make an investment of time and energy in yourself, though. Depressed people who hate themselves don’t find partners, for good reason. Would you want to be with someone like that? I was lucky enough to find an absolutely awesome guy, who is also a special-needs dad.

You may also fear that you’ll hate being alone so much that you’ll fall for someone who isn’t good for your kids, and you may not recognize it until it’s too late. Lonely rebounding parents do this all the time. How do you make sure it doesn’t happen to you? I think not introducing your kids to someone until he or she has been in your life for at least a few months is a good first step. If you wonder if you should introduce them, then you probably shouldn’t. Your intuition is telling you something. Then, when you do introduce them, watch for red flags. At this point, it’s important to keep in mind that your kids are your top priority. They depend on you, and they are with you at least until they become adults. That’s a huge responsibility. Take it seriously. Don’t settle for someone who doesn’t take it as seriously you do.

One last thing: If divorce is inevitable, find ways to remind yourself to love. As they say in the movie Love Actually: “Love is all around.” It really is. All kinds of love: love for your parents, your child, your friends, and your siblings. Every bit of practice you get loving makes you better at it.

~ Professor

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55 Responses to Divorce and the Special Needs Parent

  1. Nelly says:

    My husband found someone else after 38 yrs. of marriage. we have a 33 yr old girl with Down Syndrome who adores her father but will not be able to go visit him (moving to South Carolina – we live in New Jersey) because her kids, ages 6 -12 are very aggressive and under psychiatric care. I am going thru a divorce but my worst fear is if my daughter loses all her services (federal and the Division of Developmental Disabilities) due to something I could be missing or including in the divorce agreement. i.e.: they are not to have any more than $2,000 to their name, if I get child support from him, does it count as additional money she gets? will this affect her services?

  2. Jacqueline says:

    In my case after an 18 year marriage my husband cheated with a co-worker and divorced me. Our son who has CP and hydrocephalus was then split between his new home with her and her normal kids. It was very difficult because my son would come to my house one time full of flea bites because he doesn’t walk he would be put on a comforter at my house. He came back with a nail that apparently something had fallen very hard on it because it was completely blackened with blood under the nail. He came back with diaper marks so tightly on his legs that they left scabs where they had been.

    All this and I tried my best to relay my concerns but I was not allowed to have any contact with my ex, everything had to go through the “new” wife.

    Fast forward: 4 years ago they decided to leave the state/ they’re house fell into foreclosure. I was forced to have to put our then 22 year old son in a home because I couldn’t care for him by myself and work too. I actually found a really decent home for him but no one will ever take care of your child the way I would as his mom. But overall it hasn’t been that bad. As for the ex.. I still am not allowed to have contact the home tells me they haven’t heard from him at ALL.

    So I’m the one doing it all by myself.. My son had a major seizure attack and was in the hospital for 5 days.. I was there making all the choices, trying to decide the best things for him. To say I didn’t cry would be an understatement because it had been one of the first times I had to do everything alone.

    So, I see my son and try to bring him home once a month for a night or two but at the end of the second night I get so overwhelmed. He’s 160 lbs and for me to scoot him into a lift by myself, bathe him, get his food ready… well it’s a lot.

    It baffles me that this man I was with for 18 years and we had this special boy would just disconnect from him and have no contact. Recently I saw his facebook page there was not ONE picture or mention of his son. How can a father who stated to me when we were married “our son will never end up in a home, he’ll always been with us”.. how can he just disconnect like that. I see my son and I feel so bad about it, I feel like he’s never going to have a life beyond the home or his day program. And then I’m the one always brings snacks to the program for him and money so he can eat lunch when he goes out to the mall with this group. I pay for the extra’s at his home like the new TV and every sesame street video, his nike flyknit shoes because they’re lite and he can’t be barefoot during the time in his chair (they say he might hurt his feet).. And last week I took a day off from work so they could put him under sedation to clean his teeth and xray, they found 2 cracked molars they repaired..

    Ok I’m sorry I’ve rambled but I sometimes just fall apart and cry when I think of what happened and what I have to do. And this stupid dead beat ex who has moved over 1800 miles away and has apparently just disconnected and doesn’t care one bit.

    thanks for letting me vent

    • ProfessorTMR says:

      Any time. *sigh* I don’t understand that sort of thing either. It feels like betrayal and can be very difficult to heal from. Parenthood is difficult when one is on one’s own in the best of times. I hope that you can find someone that gives you joy and wishes to share the hard parts.

    • Truth talker.. U can't Handle the truth says:

      Did you spend quality relationship time with your ex? How have your other kids faired in the family ? Should one special needs child ruin the potential of a family? States used to care for special needs until it became to expensive. The fallout is horrendous on the family (ask yourself what the divorce rate was before the state stopped taking care of and mentally and physically ill). Two choices.. one sacrifice

  3. Alice22 says:

    Absolutely I completely agree. I think that any parent should put their children first, but it really does require extra patience to take care of a special needs child. And one or two meetings may not fully encompass the ability or patience of the person you’re dating. I have a 4 year old boy with autism and I’m currently divorcing my ex. I want to divorce while not harming or impacting my son. I was looking into online divorce (www.thistoo.co for reference) but i haven’t heard much about it so i don’t know if it’s a safe chioce. Any help would be appreciated! Thank you.

  4. Jordan Smallville says:

    This was SO informative and helpful. Thank you Professor.

    My ex and I are separated and we will be undergoing divorce.
    I do have a question for you… I found this website and was thinking of using it: http://www.thistoo.co … it seems to be for uncontested divorces and looks easy enough to use. I was wondering if you had any experiences with online tools for divorce applications, and whether it’s best to avoid lawyers in a divorce process if you and your ex can agree to the terms of divorce?

    • ProfessorTMR says:

      Personally, I’m all for tools to make the process cheaper. Divorce can be very expensive for both parties. In addition, lawyers can often INCREASE the level of animosity unnecessarily (think about it: they get paid by the hour), so anything you can do to reach a consensus without their help might also be good. I don’t personally have any experience with online tools, but I suspect that they would be pretty good. What you might want to do is hire a mediator for a couple of hours to facilitate the process or even run your agreement by a lawyer you TRUST (try to find one who cares more about your mental health than wringing “every last dime” out of your ex) just to make sure you’ve thought of everything.

      • Alice22 says:

        Oh I didn’t see this comment! This is perfect! I was thinking about hiring a lawyer but wasn’t sure if they would be able to help with a process that is designed to be done alone. Thank you!

  5. Cindy says:

    Hi, I am sharing this post as I am challenged with so many things at the moment. My son is a graduating senior this year and has high functioning ADD/ASD. He starts college in the Fall 2016. His father is out of my son’s life as he does not want to pay for any support for my son. Without my 100% dedication and financial support I was able to provide, my son would not be in a position where he sits today and off to a nice college. I have lost (2) job in 2 years. The first layoff was a job relocation, the second job just did not work out as my manager was a micro-manager and I do not do well being micro managed. I have not remarried as it has been difficult to find a nice man that would be there for me and my son. I am engaged now to a man that I met years ago. We are at a point to plan for the wedding, etc. In our conversations, I discovered that he does not want my son to live with us (at his house as he does not want to move) should he not be successful in college any may have to go to a community college for a while to get back on his feet so he can figure out what college/vocation tech school to attend or live at home until he found a job after college. He has trouble dealing with my son’s disabilities. Had my son been his kid, no problem with living arrangements. His fear is that my son will live at home for forever and not go on his own. He is OK if my son lived with us between breaks and Summer only. To the contrary, my son wants to go on his own and has the ability to do so, it just takes a bit longer. My son can drive, work, keep a 3.7 grade point average, etc. He does lack close friends.

    My internal reaction is that my son needs a loving home, not abandonment like he got from his father and I need to hold off on the marriage and perhaps move on as I come as a package with my son (not just me). He too has baggage as we all do. On the flip side, I am excited to look for a new job!

    Looking for thoughts if anyone else has had this type of situation. Thank you!

    • ProfessorTMR says:

      I haven’t been through that kind of thing, but my instinct would be to hold off on marrying till either the fiance got on board with as your son’s parent you will do what is necessary to help him succeed. If he loves you and wants you, he has to understand that as a mother certain things are non-negotiable.

    • jess says:

      Seriously i would be holding off the marriage thing, if this man cannot accept your son it will eventually end in tears. I hate to say this to you. But if the man wont accept that there is a possibility that your son may one day have to live back at home with you, then he is not the man for you. I think you have answered your own question. here. Imagine if you did marry the man and your son came home and the man didn’t want him. That would hurt so much,. you would have lost your independence, and your home, any money you had if you got divorced would have to be shared between you and the new husband. I met a man he took on my five children and two of them are high functioning ASD. We came as a package. He is a good man i married him and we are still together 11 years later. It does happen. dont settle for second best. Good luck X

  6. MrsAnnie says:

    My granddoll and this little girl Tiana inspired me to write this children’s picture story book. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B018II0TAG “Divorce Through the Eyes of a Child;Dear Mama and Dad”

  7. edward b says:

    49 year old dad of two boys , one 26 and Autistic with mild to moderate mental retardation, second son fine 19 years old and off in college. My wife and I just cannot seem to fix anything in our marriage anymore. I have given up and her as well. Our issue is our oldest son and hiw he will react to the news when and if it comss. I have thought for years about leaving but my boys have always been the reason I stay, just getting to a point were it is so depressing just thinking about the day and having to deal with wife. Pretty bad huh that dealing with an autistic with many issues is more fun than being around wife.

    • ProfessorTMR says:

      Sigh. It can be so difficult, can’t it? You have stayed together this long. Is there any possibility that there is some reluctance in both of you to give up entirely? If so, it might be worth exploring that. There has to be a willingness on both sides to put down the defenses and see things in a new light. If it can’t happen, you might be surprised at your son’s reaction. He has probably long since sensed the tension and would love to see it end. Many people find that even children who are nonverbal are aware of so much more than we know.

  8. Athomedad says:

    I’m a Stay at Home Dad with twin 8 yr olds, one with mild CP and an intellectual deficit.
    My wife is the bread winner ……that’s hard to bear. We are not in love and seem to be ‘just hanging in there’.
    I think the hardest thing is being around my wife’s constant unflagging negativity and I am thinking about the most loving way of broaching this with her. This is something that was present before kids and it is something she seems to have inherited from her Mum. I feel so relieved when she leaves for work. A lot of her concerns are around our daughter’s health maintenance, finance etc. there isn’t room for anything except therapy/ work / housework.
    I’m sure we could tackle all obstacles if we were coming from love and appreciation rather than fear and mania, but it’s hard enough dealing with my own deficiencies without having to tread carefully around hers as well. Anyway I know that’s my next big conversation with her ‘ being responsible for her thoughts and understanding that she wields them like a wrecking ball’.
    Obviously telling her our relationship is emulating turning her parents and that she’s having a negative impact on her kids will take some diplomacy.
    I get her fears and concerns but I’m sick of them running and ruining our lives.
    Any pointers?

  9. Messy says:

    Husband found someone. He wants to be “happy,” sorry things worked out like this, really? What’s really messed up; the women is a nurse! Doesn’t want to pay me a dime. house is getting foreclosed on , the one my mother co-signed for. Our oldest is 18, he thinks it’s not his problem.

  10. Shel says:

    I could have written this , this is exactly what I am living. Now I may loose the only security I had, my home with a 12yr. Old boy with down syndrome. Thank god he is healthy , but education is a nightmare and I’ve been there every step and dad seems to hate me for it. Yes, becuz financially we r struggling, but he’s mainly just gave up feeling he is getting” jipped”sp? Selfish and I’m giving it my all and then some to our son. Sad story. Finding help is not easy..

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  12. Christine says:

    Well, I am one of those statistics. My ex and I separated 14 years ago when our son with Autism was 4 years old. We later found out our other child is transgender. I have been extremely fortunate to remarry to a man who is amazing. We have a six year old daughter and a 3 year old son besides our almost 18 year old and 16 year old sons. 18 year old Ryan is mostly nonverbal. My husband does everything to help including taking Ryan for bloodwork, showering him in the morning when I am running around with the younger ones or helping him with his toileting needs. Perhaps he didn’t understand everything he was taking on when he married me but he hasn’t flinched once. Perhaps by sharing this I will give hope to someone out there who is thinking they will never be able to find someone that will help them take on the challenges they have in their life.

  13. channa says:

    wow..all these amazing women..I am so honored to be part of this online community….now I will share a bit my story….i escaped with my autisitc very sick son from a very cruel abusive sociopath.
    I was terrified of men for a long time and raised my son five years by myself fighting autism like a soldier on a mission.
    I found a man…or you could say we were kind of thrown together by the fates…and he thinks I am awesome:) he believes in me…believes in the work I do to recover my son….and he thinks I am really strong women..he,he. we have had some bumps in the road with his teenage son and my specail needs son….but we found love…amazing take your breath away kind of love..

  14. Jan says:

    The struggles couples have is one of the reasons that The (autism) Parent’s Retreat has been so wonderful for Literally 100s of couples over the last 17 years. This special event offers couples a chance to get away for 30 hours, to meet other couples ( a God Send for Dads some of whom have never had a conversation with another Dad,) relax, attend small group discussions, read and for some get some much needed uninterrupted sleep. Making it even nicer is that it is a fairly small event only about 30 couples (and a few single parents too) there is usually dancing Saturday night and ten food is amazing.
    My husband and I have been very lucky and have been able to go every year. One year after the retreat he wrote me a note and told me that over the weekend he had this profound moment where he was deeply struck by his love for me and our family and that there was nothing more important than that. His words were heartfelt and very surprising to me since we had been through some hellish times in our over 20 years of marriage.
    If parents want to more about this even that takes place in RI go to http://www.community-autism-resources.com and click on the events link.

    • Professor says:

      That sounds like a fabulous program! In the first year after our baby died, my ex and I got a scholarship to go to a SIDS conference and meet a lot of other parents who had been through the same thing. It was HUGELY helpful. Thanks, Jan!

  15. Wayne says:

    What is missing from the discussion of divorce or separated is all the parents that are together but act towards each other as divorced. How many families where the parents do not spend any time together and do not want to? How many families where the parents sleep in separate rooms? How many families where the parents only console with each other when absolutely necessary? How many families are there where it is only for the children, a matter of convenience for the adults?

    • Professor says:

      Actually, I did mention that we all know couples who are staying together because they fear going it alone, for any of the above reasons. I don’t believe it’s a huge percentage, but I do think it’s likely to be at least slightly higher than the general population.

    • Messy says:

      #1 Children don’t asked to be born. #2 A child’s needs come 1st # 3 Go and talk to a professional if your having problems. #4 Don’t compare others lives to yours! Everyone has a different normal. I could go on…..

  16. shell says:

    I believe that the statistic showing that up to 80%of special needs parents are divorced is wrong…I believe it is higher when focusing on parents of Autistic children. The parents rarely have time to answer blogs. There is no proof that it is lower than 80%, just conjecture as in the same kind of “Supposed Proof” that vaccines are safe. Safe? How could any thinking parent see that they are safe when 1 in 6 kids are currently developmentally disabled, 1 in 5 are now neurologically impaired, 1 in 10 ADHD and so on…All which began when the US passed a law that stopped you from suing vaccine makers in regular courts and suddenly kids went from a few to more than 70. Just in the past few weeks Vaccine court is awarding 4 more families for Autism-like symptoms as a result of vaccines. That will bring the 2 BILLION, 300 million dollars already paid way higher!Recovering Autism, ADHD, & Special Needs, will come out in 2 weeks and it will provide help.

    • Professor says:

      The link (the blue word stats) that I provided is a STUDY, not a blog, that showed divorce is only slightly more common in families with autism. Personally, my experience is that the divorce rate is about the same as that for the “general” population, but more couples may be staying together out of fear of going it alone than in the general population. That 80% statistic is pretty familiar to me, though. I heard something very similar about parents who’ve had a child die, and couples who have experienced infertility (both things I have experienced). I don’t think it was anymore correct for those than it is for autism. I think the visceral fear people feel make them BELIEVE those statistics whether they are true or not.

  17. Robin says:

    Today’s blog really hit home. I am a separated mom of a special needs daughter. A teenager to add more stress to the situation. Her dad has never understood her behavior, how to handle his reactions around her and the daily demands. I do it all. When they are with him it is a free for all. No rules, no food exceptions, nothing. The Disney world dad. I struggle daily trying together her on a better diet, to motivate her to do schoolwork, discipline. It is a never ending battle.

    • Professor says:

      *sigh* As the mom of a teenager with ADHD, I totally get the never-ending battle. I understand the need for a dad who doesn’t get to see his kids often to be a “good guy” and do what he thinks the kids want, but I wish more of them put the good of their children first. Do you think there’s any possibility that you can get him to understand how important it is for your children’s sake to put their health at a higher priority?

      • Robin says:

        The sad thing is the dad lives right across the street and he sees the kids all the time. He blames her ADHD and Aspergers on everything. Never looking at the fact that maybe if he changed her diet and provided boundaries things would be different. He can’t stand conflict and I think he feels better when he puts her down. It is a very sad situation and very upsetting for me. I feel like. All of my efforts are down the drain after two days at dad’s.

      • Professor says:

        Wow. That is really sad. Unfortunately, the requirements for becoming parents don’t include maturity. Anyone who feels better putting down a child, especially a child whose self-esteem is likely to be fragile already, has no business being a parent. :-/

  18. Holly B says:

    Thanks for this, Professor. The 80% stats were made up and have been proven a number of times to be false, but it sure feels like they are real to many of us. 🙂

    My biggest advice to divorcing parents is to understand everything that’s at stake and how it can affect your child in the long run. Get EVERYTHING in writing, even things that MAY happen later. Start here – http://www.tacanow.org/family-resources/divorce-advice-for-special-needs-families/

    • Professor says:

      Thanks, Holly! So glad to have TACA’s resources available. And, yep, I think you’re right about it FEELING real. 🙂

  19. Susan I says:

    Wow this really hits home for me!!! I divorced 3 yrs ago. While we were married, we tackled autism together. I concentrated on biomed, while he focused on education. We both trusted each other in the beginning, but as the years wore on, that trust wore away and resentment set in. He resented that I was home all day with our son, and I resented that he was able to escape to work and interaction with normal people. By the time we actually divorced, our son’s behaviors disappeared. His ATEC had dropped from 115 to 45 due to the biomed interventions. After I divorced him, he became very resistant to any biomed. He actually tried to get the judge to make me stop all supps. Luckily the judge was smart enough not to allow this. But I am currently trying to treat parasites, and the protocol is impossible to do w/o his cooperation. And like your ex, he fills him up with sugar every other weekend and every Wed night. SUCKS!!!

    • Professor says:

      *sigh* Oh, Susan, I feel for you. Treating parasites seems to be really important (if the experience of Thinking Moms can be trusted, and usually it can), but it has got to be really hard to accomplish on your own. I’m going to say a prayer that your ex sees the light.

  20. Michelle Banicki says:

    Wow, this one hit so close to home for me. Very similar situation, I’ve been separated for 2 years now. I was the parent, after diagnosis, who jumped in head first and took on 100% of the responsibilities, biomed, DAN doctor appointments out of state alone, school IEP meetings alone, therapy, etc. The situation became ugly when I’d have to spend what the ex referred to as “his money” and spent too much time catering to my son with autism and a neuro-typical baby girl. We had zero time for each other, I was exhausted. Depression turned into anger with him and eventually denial, he turned to drugs and after 2 years of battling he eventually became abusive. So besides the stress of autism and going at it alone, I now had a husband I couldn’t count on at all and dealt with domestic violence. He refused counseling. My son was regressing and both kids were having nightmares and wetting the bed constantly. He’d get angry when our son would get into something he shouldn’t and call him “the retard.” I couldn’t take it anymore and trying to make him happy was taking a toll on my son’s recovery process. He later admitted to me he wasn’t in love with me anymore after all the stress I had put HIM through and we went our separate ways. It was heartbreaking, but I found a wonderful man who has been nothing short of amazing. He has a special bond with my son and he’s making more progress now that ever before. My kids are happy, thriving, and my son is meeting new goals and achieving milestones at an amazing pace now. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

  21. Diana Gonzales says:

    I’m so glad you found love again! My story’s a little different though. I found out I was pregnant for LoRenzo the night after my ex’s sister and mother’s funeral. My childrens’ grandma and aunt were murdered…over 20 dollars. This, of course along with the extra pressure of a new baby and then custody of his sister’s son, court proceedings, sentencing of the murderer, more court proceedings and interviews to finalize custody. He really wasn’t paying attention to what was going on with our son. His life became a downward spiral. I was left alone with our kids as soon as I got off work so he could go find the answers to life’s woes in a bottle. I wanted him to come back, afterall we went from having a healthy 5 mo old baby girl to adding a traumatized 5 yr old who found his mama and nana and the a baby that at 2 mo got very sick and only got worse every time he had a “well check”. I noticed that my health was not what it used to be either. My hair was falling out, I was depressed ant fatigued and my heart started to do crazy things in my chest when I had any heightened emotion, like the new fear of going to work and leaving the kids with an alcohlic. As much as I loved him, after a year of waiting for him to snap out of it, I left an 11 yr relationship. He wouldn’t allow me to take his nephew and that was sad for all of us. But mostly the child who was bounced around with no stability and nothing to count on but a drunk uncle. It’s scary to do this by yourself, I won’t lie. So scary that I went into Vfib…2x. But there was no other alternative. It has been a solid six yrs of being on my own with my kids. LoRenzo is getting better and because he is getting better, I’m getting better! I recently had the cardiac loop recorder removed and taken off all heart meds and yes I still take med for anxiety but I can’t risk the alternative. My ex has recently given me the child that he kept so spitefully years ago and I have now a 13 yr old boy who after all this time, still calls me mom! My point is ,yes, it’s scary, it’s hard and it’s maddening at times but if it is necessary it is. I would hate for peopleto stay in a terrible situation in the name of what’s better for their kids. Staying would’ve caused my children much harm. I know, because a teenager who still calls me mom, told me so. I will spend the rest of his life making up for not fighting harder for him but I think he understands. Now at 41, I welcome love if it comes but I’m not lonely or alone. It took all this time to be with myself to be myself to love myself. I’m pretty awesome and the next guy will be lucky to have us! Sometimes, a break up is a blessing!

    • Professor says:


      I’ve been reading your comments (and status updates on Facebook) and they’re always so inspiring. I KNOW that there’s a great partner out there for you. Your energy is very attractive. So glad to hear that your health is improving as is LoRenzo’s. 🙂

    • channa says:

      diana you bring tears to my eyes….so moved by your story…

      • Diana Gonzales says:

        I truly hope that if someone is in a similar situation and is scared to leave, understands that it will do the children more of a disservice than staying. You still hear people say “I have to stay for the kids sake” Truth is sometimes, you have to leave.

  22. Lisa says:

    Great points…as a divorced mom of a child with autism, I can say that it is more often than not easier to deal with the autism now as a single parent than when I was married. There was the constant disappointment of not having any real help addressing the autism, not having the partner who pledged in front of our family and friends to be by my side, and not having him at least try to pick up the financial slack that my being forced to work part-time had done to our situation. I felt so relieved when it was over–it was one less “thing” that I did not have to deal with. And then when could I deal with more effectively? The autism. My son started to get better. My appreciation for being a good mom got better.

    Sure, there are hard days, and I can’t say I am flush with funds. But I am flush with respect for my autism journey, and what I have been through. I know truly who I can and cannot count on in my world right now. My son and I are like the Baltimore Ravens, a comeback team. We never say never, and we will never quit.

    For those parents out there in difficult marriages, living in fear of the unknown is scary. But everyone deserves to be happy. Hugs to you all.

    Happy Monday!

    • Professor says:

      Thanks, Lisa! You have a great perspective. It CAN be a relief to acknowledge what was true all along, and no longer have to fight the person who is supposed to be your partner in life.

    • Kelly says:

      Yes! I felt the same way and thought I was crazy. It truly is a relief to not have to deal with the disappointment from my ex not meeting expectations. I have sole custody of my twin boys (one mild, one moderate) and we are doing BETTER without the ex in the house. His sister commented last week that I seemed so relaxed and that she was truly happy for me and the boys. It is because I now accept and take all responsibility for them. Now, when the ex does come through for us, it is a happy surprise. Amazing what a shift of perspective can do! I do wonder if I ever will meet someone, but for now, not a priority. I can peek on Match.com without being a paying member! LOL!

      • Professor says:

        I met my honey on okCupid.com. Free to join! (You have to get the hang of it, though, and that can take a while.)

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