Marriage,  Special Needs Parenting

Making a Way in the Wilderness: Marriage and Special Needs

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This is day 4 of 31 Days of Supporting the Special Needs Family. To view the story behind this series and the series contents, please visit the landing page. Today, Katie from Wonderfully Made is guest posting about the how her son’s autism has affected her marriage. 


Making a Way in the Wilderness: Marriage and Special Needs

Five and a half years ago, on a sunny spring, day in April, my husband and I held each other’s hands and promised to love, honor, and cherish one another through good times and bad, rich or poor, sickness and health.

Over the course of our marriage, we have faced an autism diagnosis, unemployment, Crohn’s Disease, countless ER visits, hospitalizations, seven moves (the most recent of which was across the country, a thousand miles away from family) and much more. Each day we have to power through odds that are stacked against us.

I would be lying if I said it has been easy.

About a year ago, my husband and I realized we needed help. We were suffering under the weight of the many challenges and needs our family faced, and our marriage was in trouble. The stress of five years of financial strain, medical problems, hospital stays, going to daily therapies for our precious son while also caring for our beautiful daughter, and moving from place to place, had finally worn us down. We were exhausted physically, mentally, and emotionally, and we needed help.

We needed help to find one another again, to fall in love again, to bring romance back into our relationship, and, ultimately, to put our marriage first.

So we reached out to a marriage counselor. There were sessions filled with anger and frustration. Emotion and tears. But there also was hope and healing. Slowly but surely, we re-dedicated ourselves to the vows we had made on that sunny, spring day five years before, and began to see not only who we married but why we married, and, in turn, realized our love was deeper than the day we took our vows. That God had created something new in us. And our marriage began to blossom in ways it never had before.

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19)


Making a Way in the Wilderness: Marriage and Special Needs

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As parents of a child with special needs, we are wandering in the wilderness. We are thirsting in the desert. But through both arguments and tears, laughter and joy we can walk together as a couple and, because of that, as a family.

To the husbands and wives who are facing great challenges in their families and their marriages, who are questioning their vows and their faith, know you are not alone in your doubts and your exhaustion. Also know that you are loved and that you will make your way through the wilderness. He will always make a way. All things are possible through Him. (Luke 18:27)

I promise. I do.


Katie is the blessed wife of an Air Force veteran and mother of two (soon to be three!) precious children. Her oldest child, Jack, age 5, was diagnosed with autism in January 2013. Later that year, Katie felt the Lord calling her to share her family’s journey and she launched Wonderfully Made, a blog dedicated to encouraging women along their journeys of faith, motherhood, marriage, and special needs. It is her deepest hope and prayer that what she shares at Wonderfully Made will encourage you to laugh, cry, learn, accept, and rejoice in what makes our children and each of us who we are—perfectly and wonderfully made by God.

You can find Katie at, on FacebookPinterestInstagram, and Twitter.

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  • Jennifer A. Janes

    Thank you for your honesty. I know that my husband and I are still married after 13 years because of God’s grace in helping us to stay committed to one another. Life is not for the faint of heart!

  • Tina McGrevy

    Great post, Katie. My husband is in the Army National Guard. We have 3 boys and the oldest was born with Smith-Magenis Syndrome. Long separations are hard enough, but add in special needs parenting and life can get particularly difficult. It’s always nice to know that we are not alone.

  • Katie Emanuel

    Thank you, Tina! My oldest of two (soon to be three) has autism and, though my husband works long hours, I can’t imagine juggling everything if he were deployed. You are an amazing mom!

  • Astrid

    I love this post. I am the one with disabilities in my marriage, but I too can relate to the hardships of marriage when challenged by issues. I was already disabled when we got married, but still, you know, sometimes both partners dream that they or their parnter will change and make it all great. When in reality, we didn’t promise each other a rose garden, right?

  • Katie Emanuel

    Astrid, yes! I think you put that so well. We dream that everything will work out just fine, that at some point it will all just get better, but the reality is we cannot have the dream without the journey, and sometimes we find the dream we had is not the one to chase after, after all. Thanks so much for reading and for sharing your experience. I love reading your perspective!

  • Out One Ear - Linda Atwell

    You are so right–all these types of stressed put strains on marriages. There were a couple times when my special daughter was young, I wondered if my husband and I would make it. But I read an article that said the best gift you can give your children is a happy marriage. John and I worked even harder on ours. It’s been a wonderful 32 years and I’m hoping for another 32.

  • Evanthia

    Despite the fact that so many of us face serious challenges in our marriages and could really benefit from counseling, I’m always surprised to see that many people still feel there’s a stigma about it. I appreciate your openness and honesty, Katie, because to me, this is the essence of blogging: giving people a glimpse into your life to walk away with some bit of inspiration or hope. Beautifully done!

  • Katie Emanuel

    Evanthia – yes! You are so right. There often is a stigma that comes with counseling when really, it should be just the opposite. I think many folks feel like they have to keep trudging through because there is a negative connotation associated with therapy, but it truly is such a healing and helpful process! And thank you for your encouragement. It can be tough to “put it out there,” but I think you put it so beautifully when you said “the essence of blogging is giving people a glimpse into your life to walk away with some bit of inspiration or hope.” I love that!

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