we are the 10-20%


June 3, 1995

St. Bartholomew NYC, NY

As we were preparing to leave the hospital years ago, our social worker pulled us aside to warn us about all the obstacles parents face bringing home a child with health concerns. “And your issues are a bit broader. Be careful. The divorce rate for couples who have children with special needs gets as high as 80-90%.”

I didn’t hit her, but I wanted to. I’m not sure why she thought it would be helpful to share those statistics with us – what she thought we would do with the knowledge. All it really did (other than make me want to hit her), was make those numbers ring in my ears. At that point, we were convinced Jack’s “specialness” was temporary, but the numbers still rung. As we returned to our lives, and it became clear that maybe we were indeed a “special needs” family, I couldn’t help but revisit the grim statistics. I wondered what made special needs families so vulnerable. Why families wouldn’t gain strength through their challenges and why anyone would EVER add to already complicated lives?

Dan and I got married agreeing that marriage is forever. Few things were on our unspoken list of deal breakers. My parents have stayed married, merging two cultures and two distinct family dynamics, along with a mound of issues while raising three children. Dan’s parents also stayed together through a maze of life and parenthood, until his mother passed away. Every couple has their issues, but both sets of parents were great role-models. Teaching us that if you can get through the tough days, partnership has wonderful benefits. As a couple, Dan and I have had a few friends and family members end their marriages, and none have them have done it easily. It’s a struggle to witness and nothing either Dan nor I would want to duplicate.

So why is the divorce rate for couples who have children with special needs as high as 80-90%? My only conclusion is that, like many tests in life, having a child with special needs highlights any cracks you may have in your marriage’s foundation. Dan and I seem to have an extra sturdy foundation. I think the strength comes from liking each other. It’s that simple.

When Dan sends me his nightly text telling me that he is on the train heading home, I smile. I’m excited to see him. When I tell Dan about my day, he listens. Like all married couples, we have our moments (occasionally months) of frustration/anger/your #$$%ing kidding me, but generally we enjoy each other’s company. And, we both adore our children. We also share the same values and goals and are one of the few people in each other’s lives who really understand what it’s like to live in our home. Our challenges have made us stronger.

Wednesday we celebrated our 20th Anniversary – 20 YEARS!! I feel very confident that we will continue being part of the 10-20% who choose marriage. I don’t think I could manage this life without him. Thank you Dan for being my husband. I love you more every day.

Love, Jess


June 3, 2015

St. Bartholomew NYC, NY

(the doors were locked – we had to laugh)