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When Love Ends For A Couple With Special Needs

John walks Lindsey Down the Aisle
Lindsey’s Dad walks her down the aisle

Two fall seasons ago, in our backyard, my husband walked our special girl down a grassy aisle. The bride beamed. So did the groom.

And both families held high hopes for a successful union.

Our “kids” had known each other for years. They’d played on the same Challenger softball team, attended special education classes together, and had been friends off and on since they’d graduated from Silverton High School.

“I thought I’d be married forever,” Lindsey said, averting her eyes and picking at a reddened cuticle. “I don’t believe in getting separated or divorced.”

But marriage is hard. Especially when your spouse gets sick. Really sick. “It was too much responsibility,” Lindsey explained, referring to taking care of an ill husband. “I got the worry gene. So when Nick was in the hospital, I worried all the time.”

Which is totally understandable. We’d all worry. As Nick recuperated, her husband found it too difficult to care for someone else, especially when he needed to concentrate on getting well. Which is also totally understandable.

Lindsey Atwell Picture“It takes two to make a marriage work,” Lindsey said, telling me what that meant to her. “I thought he’d hold my hair back when I got sick, and that I’d hold his ponytail when he got sick.” Lindsey waved her hands in the air, demonstrating holding Nick’s long, blond locks in her hands. “Marriage needs to be fifty-fifty.”

When Lindsey and Nick decided to end their two-year marriage, there was sadness and tears on both parts. “It’s nobody’s fault,” my thirty-four-year-old clarified. “We got married too young. We should’ve waited till we were older and wiser.”

Most thirty-something couples would likely think they’d waited long enough. They’d probably recognize that marriage is a lot of work. But when the couple has developmental delays, relationships can be extra daunting. Lindsey and Nick struggled with everyday issues. Disagreements were handled immaturely—more like ten-year-olds than responsible adults. And even though Lindsey and Nick sought counseling, hoping to improve their communication techniques, ultimately, this special couple didn’t have the abilities to deal with the stress of caring for another person. Especially when times were tough.

Now Lindsey has advice for other couples considering marriage.

She pushed a dark curl off her forehead. Her blue eyes darted right, then left. “Don’t rush into it. Get to know the person first.” She adjusted a rainbow-colored plastic headband, then continued. “Make sure you are marrying the marrying type.” Her face remained intensely serious. “In other words, make sure the person you pick wants to be married too.”

Lindsey said that the last three months (of singleness) have gone by very fast. When she and Nick were married, all of their marital distractions caused Lindsey to miss work. She often felt ill herself. “But I’m more focused now. I don’t miss so many days. And when I’m at State Farm, I concentrate on my job.”

Lindsey and Her State Provider, Brenda
Brenda (my daughter’s State Provider) and Lindsey

Lindsey told us that she’s taking better care of herself and regularly hangs out with Brenda, her new State Provider. “I like doing my own thing. I think being single is the best way to go because now my life is way too busy for a relationship.”

A lot of people have supported Lindsey and Nick in love, and in health, and in sickness. They have appreciated all that support and are grateful for the outpouring of concern and affection that has come their way.

But Lindsey has made a request. She wants you all to know: “Nick and I will be friends forever, but I’m moving on with my life. And I’m happy.”

Loving Lindsey Cover

My first book will be coming out September 26, 2017. If you are interested in learning more about Loving Lindsey: Raising a Daughter with Special Needs, please click here.

I share many passions in this world: antiquing, gardening, hiking, traveling, taking amateur photographs, writing, sitting on a white, sandy beach with my husband and sipping a frozen margarita—just to name a few. If you enjoy any of these things too, let's connect! The world is better with friends.

  • Adventures w/Riley

    Marriage IS hard!! I’m sorry things didn’t work out this time. Lindsey looks great and I am very happy to hear that she and Nick will be friend forever! <3

    • In some ways, I still hope Lindsey can find lasting love. On the other hand, there ended up being a lot more parental involvement than I ever thought. Although I don’t mind giving some advice and being there for my daughter, she doesn’t always appreciate my involvement.

      I’m glad they will be friends forever. If she ever does find love again, I just hope it is with someone who will treat her extra special.

      • Brendamomofmyson

        I think your very special daughter is VERY wise! Her advice for others is beautiful, and her attitude is inspirational. God bless her and Nick, too, as they continue through life separately, but as friends.

  • Kristi – Finding Ninee

    So for selfish reasons I suppose, I really did hope that Lindsey and Nick would be forever but I understand. My first love(s) and my first marriage weren’t forever either. Still though, I’m relieved to read that Lindsey seems to have such a great attitude on it and that she’s finding joy in other places. Maybe, possibly, that’s also a gift of hers. To not obsess over the why. You know?

    • She has a much better attitude than we do. The line that cracked me up the most was the one about getting married too young…that they should’ve waited until they were older and wiser.

      And I think you are right, Kristi. Maybe Lindsey does have a gift–not to obsess and be mean spirited. Sometimes I think we could all learn from her. She has a kind heart and I’m proud she is moving on without being vindictive.

      • Adventures w/Riley

        That line cracked me up too. 😀

  • christine

    Such a sweet girl you have. I’m glad to hear she and Nick are still friends. It’s been a rough year for them.

    • It has been a really rough year. I’m glad we are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

  • Joan Lee

    Linda, Lindsey brings a smile to my face, and I do something from her and the postings on the blog. Many blessings of love and happiness to such a fabulous family. You’ve got the world in your hands Lindsey. Enjoy the ride.

    • Thank you Joan. She does keep our life interesting. That is for sure. I’m so glad you left a note. I’ll pass on your kind words to Lindsey.

  • Smart girl to figuring it out now rather than later. I just saw @kristifindingninee:disqus comment below and I felt the same way. Just like we fall in love with the love of characters on a television series and we are disappointed when it doesn’t work out. But it is a fact of life. I’m glad to know they will remain friends and I’m happy to know she’s happy.

    • I am guilty of this myself Kenya. I want so much for my daughter and wonder if sometimes I am responsible for introducing dreams to her that actually may be my dreams (I’m sure we are all somewhat guilty of this). I thought Lindsey would be capable of having a successful marriage. I guess it could be that she was just not married to the right person. She says she is never going down this path again, and for right now, I’m grateful for this vow. Thanks so much for dropping by. I’m glad she is happy too.

  • Hmmmm….

    Thank you for sharing. It really is brave to know when a relationship as friends is better than marriage. That is wisdom.

    • Yes, that is wisdom. I totally agree. Thanks for leaving a comment.

  • Airy K.

    I just discovered your blog today. I live in eugene and I have spent my entire life surrounded by advocates for those with disabilities. My dad was the transition coordinator for the district and my mom works at private school for children with autism. I have worked in the behavior classroom as well as with senior and disabled services. I just want to say how eloquently you write, how honest your experiences are, and what a champion for the cause you are. I truly appreciate your insight and openness, especially with sensitive subjects. My afternoon has been spent going through older posts!

    • Thank you so very much. I try. I haven’t been writing as much on the blog lately because I’ve been concentrating on my book–the period of time my daughter ran away with a predator. It was devastating for me, for our family. I hope you’ll share. And please follow me on FB at Out One Ear so you can keep up with new posts. I love having new readers. Welcome.

      • Airy K.

        Thanks for the FB page. I’ve been recommending the blog but also mentioned you were working on a book. I look forward to its release. I know so many local people involved in advocacy and I will continue to direct them to your sites for first hand knowledge and candid experiences.

  • Linda, when we were together, we didn’t touch on the why of Lindsey and Nick’s marriage ending. What a common sense approach Lindsey has taken to their relationship, and I trust Nick has too. I have a cousin a few years older than me with developmental disabilities and she tried marriage once. It ended similarly. In the end, it’s best for both parties. I’m sorry it didn’t work, but you and I know when you’ve got all your neurons and synapses working like they should marriage still isn’t easy.

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