Looking after your relationship


Many of the parents we speak to say their experiences bringing up a disabled child have brought them closer together. Some couples do become overwhelmed and separate, but with the right support both parents can play an active and important role in their child's life.

Looking after your relationship  

Just as each of you needs looking after, so does your relationship. These are some ideas for how you might build up your relationship. See what works for you.

  • Talk to your partner about your feelings and concerns, and let your partner know that you are listening to their thoughts.
  • Find ways you can share the work, even if your tasks are different, and above all recognise each other's contribution.
  • Recognise that you may have different ways of coping, and don't let this stop you giving each other the support you need. Often just a small change can make a big difference.
  • Make time for your relationship, for example by watching TV together. If possible try to have a date night - perhaps you could start a babysitting circle with local parents who have a disabled child?
  • Talk about your expectations and how things have turned out. What about the future? Share your hopes and dreams.
  • Think about when you first met. What attracted you to each other? Hold on to those memories and reinforce them.
  • Try to think the best of one another - grant each other the benefit of the doubt wherever possible.

Managing your differences

Differences can be exciting and bring new things to the relationship. But differences can also become troubling. Discussing differences is an important element of managing them.

  • Try not to drag out old disputes or argue for longer than necessary. A good rule is to keep it to under an hour, agreeing to talk at another time if the issue remains unresolved.
  • Give each other 10 to 15 minutes to explain their point without interruptions or criticism.
  • Judging, accusing and criticising are damaging to a relationship - you'll have to work hard to put things right if rows become acrimonious.
  • Try not to argue after drinking or act aggressively or shout. Always stop arguing if it appears to either of you that an argument may escalate into violence.
  • Remember that what a row is about is often not the real, underlying cause. Try to work out what is and address that.
  • Most couples argue and it is normal not to agree on everything. Be prepared to compromise.

Protecting your child from conflict

Difficulties between partners can leave children feeing vulnerable and anxious. You can help by bearing in mind some of these suggestions.

  • Children are sensitive to an atmosphere and know when things are not right. Be aware of any changes in your child's behaviour.
  • If you get caught in an argument in front of your children, let them see you make up, or tell them you made up. This teaches children about forgiveness.
  • Don't try to get your child to take sides, and remain united with your partner on discipline. Don't lavish lots of attention on them because things with your partner aren't working out.
  • Take time to help your child explain how they're feeling. Be sensitive to changes in their behaviour and make sure they know they aren't to blame for an argument.

Relationships under strain

  • Talk to other parents to see if they have any tips to offer - visit our parent support groups pages.
  • Don't be shy about asking for help from friends and family. It's better to get a little support early.
  • Think about what professional support is available, for example a relationship counsellor. Speaking to someone outside the situation can shed light on new ideas.
  • If your partner is not willing to attend counselling, attending on your own might give you some strategies to support your relationship. Visit the Counselling Directory website.

Visit our page on relationship breakdown and separation for more about relationship support.

Our Family Life Plus relationship site

You can also visit Family Life Plus, our relationship support site developed with relationship charity OnePlusOne.

Related information

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