I have spoken with several couples or hear of couples whose marriages are falling apart. It is common in our culture and even more so among families with special-needs children. They separate or get divorced and often point to the stresses of the special-needs as the source of their failing marriage.
I disagree. We cannot blame special-needs, finances, or "falling out of love" with our spouse for divorce. Here is why I say this...
In our culture, we have taught ourselves that people fall in love, find our "soulmate," and marry. We base our marriages on romantic ideals and emotions. What happens when the emotions subside and lose their punch? What happens when those romantic ideals and expectations never come to fruition? What happens when the prince or princess we married turns out to be a wart-covered frog? We quit. We get a divorce.
If our marriage has a flimsy foundation, it eventually collapses. There may be situations where a couple doesn't divorce legally, but in their heart and daily life they are all but divorced. The source of the problem is the heart, and by heart I am not referring to our seat of emotions. I am referring to our character and whole person, who we are.
It is out of our heart that problems flow. Selfishness, anger, bitterness, and pride are produced in the heart and when our situation squeezes us, those things are wrung out into our marriage. The challenges of having special-needs in the home can bring blessings to be sure, but there is a lot of stress involved. There is strain on finances, time, and energy. These challenges are not the source of our marital problems, but they certainly can highlight or expose the weaknesses of our heart.
Many marriages have thrived and grown through tough circumstances because the couple decided to commit even when they didn't feel like it. Our culture hates the idea of an arranged marriage, but at some point we have to arrange our marriage. At some point, we have to decide to be married and work at it in spite of the emotions we may feel. Emotions come and go, so they are a pointless foundation for a relationship.
The best way to work on our marriage is focus on change in ourselves instead of focusing on changing our spouse or our circumstances. I must be the best husband I can be, regardless of what my wife does. She in turn should work at being the best wife she can be, but even if she doesn't, that doesn't mean I am off the hook and can stop trying to be the best husband I can be.
The way I can be the best husband is to have a relationship with Christ and seek Him first. He calls me to love my wife and give myself up for her as He did for us at the cross (see Eph. 5). While He was being nailed to the cross, those He was dying for mocked, spit, and cursed Him. The disciples He died for had abandoned Him, yet He stuck to it. That's the kind of husband I am to be. My wife, likewise, is to do her part regardless of what I do or fail to do. She is to submit (yes, I used the "s" word!) as she would to Christ. Why? Jesus submitted at the cross to God's plan and He did not assert His rights as we Americans so love to do. This does not mean my wife is a slave or that I am some despot in the home. It means we both surrender to the lordship of Christ. As each of us submits to Christ and draw closer to Him, we draw closer to each other.
No situation or circumstance can break a marriage like that! That's the kind of marriage that is best for the children, special-needs or otherwise. That is the kind of marriage that is most satisfied and unified. It glorifies God, transforms our hearts and the hearts of others. It is the kind of marriage that flourishes through both blessing and pain.