Being a Spouse or Partner When You Have a Learning Disability
Maintaining a long-lasting and satisfying relationship with a spouse or partner is challenging enough. But having a learning disability (LD) may make it even harder. You may want the relationship to be a stronger one, but you don't know how to make that happen. Some of the behaviors associated with your learning disability may annoy your partner, and your partner's criticism of you may cause you to feel dissatisfied with the relationship.
Dependency can be a big issue when it comes to learning disabilities and relationships. You may both have different views about dependency and control. If you are overly dependent on your partner because of your LD, you may both grow tired of the "patient-caregiver" relationship. After a while, you may find that you are no longer emotionally attached to the relationship.
It may make you feel better to know that relationships are hard work for everyone. Maintaining a healthy, satisfying, and long-term relationship takes daily effort and clear, open communication. Both you and your partner or spouse need to be committed to it.
Tips to Build a Stronger Relationship:
- Have a good understanding of your strengths as well as your challenges.
- Understand how your disability affects your behavior and your ability to communicate.
- Your partner or spouse should understand that learning disabilities could interfere with many aspects of everyday life.
- You both should understand that some tasks might take you longer to do than they take other people.
- Be as self-reliant as possible so that your partner does not feel overburdened or in a patient-caregiver relationship.
- Explain to your partner the accommodations you need. For example, if you have trouble following a series of directions and your partner asks you to do three things after dinner, reply with a direct statement, such as "Please write down what you need, or give me the directions one at a time."
- Agree to trade-off household tasks so you handle the ones that you can comfortably do. For example, your partner or spouse could pay the bills and balance the checkbook, while you could do the grocery shopping.
- Be open to improving your social skills. Ask your partner or spouse to give you feedback on things you should or shouldn't do.
Pointers to Build Good Communication:
- Be direct and specific about your needs. Ask for what you need from your partner; don't expect him or her to read your mind.
- Avoid criticizing your partner's personality. For example, don't say "You're so messy!" or "You never listen to me!" or "You always think only about yourself!"
- Try not to use "You" statements when there is a conflict. For example: Your partner might say, "You were going to tidy up the living room, but there's still a bunch of papers and books lying around! Can't you ever finish anything that you start?" And you might respond, "You're never satisfied with anything I do!"
- Instead, use "I" statements. Your partner could say, "When I find the living room cluttered, I feel unsettled. I would appreciate it if you would pick up all the junk mail and books." And you could respond, "When you criticize my efforts, I feel bad. I'll be happy to put away the books, but I'll need to know if you want any of these catalogs before I throw them away."
- Look at your partner or spouse when he or she is speaking. Pay attention to the gestures and facial expressions he or she uses. If you're not sure about what's been said, ask for clarification. For the two of you to have open and honest communication, you both need to be sure you understand what's being said.
If you and your partner want help in working through your communication problems and building a stronger relationship, you may consider seeing a family or marriage counselor. It is important to select a counselor who understands how learning disabilities can affect relationships.