‘No one wants a lady with a crippled child,’ says the narrator. Affair stories began to emerge. We both choose to cling to each other.’ ‘He is my best buddy,’ says a single special needs mom who finds real love.

“I have three children, one of whom, Ben, has a variety of difficulties. He has spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, ataxia, epilepsy, and severe developmental delays, including communication and gross motor functions. He’s a nonverbal 3-year-old trapped in a 20-year-old body, and he’ll need constant care for the rest of his life. You can imagine how afraid I was to be a single mother responsible for him alone.

I’d tried three times to terminate my marriage, and each time, fear came in, filling my mind with doubts. For 17 years, I had been in a domestically abusive marriage that had taken its toll on my emotional well-being. I lacked self-confidence and self-esteem. Nobody would desire a lady with a disabled child; my spouse had instilled in me. If I left him, I’d be alone for the rest of my life. So, for the past six years, I’ve been going through the motions. I didn’t like the guy he’d become and no longer loved or appreciated him. I fought tooth and nail to preserve our family together. I put up with the abuse and put my emotional well-being on hold for as long as I could.

Ben had knee surgery, soft tissue lengthening, and significant osteotomies in November of 2014. He didn’t make a full recovery, and there were other difficulties. I felt so alone each night as I lay next to him and wondered what I was doing with my life. That’s when I recognized my marriage was over in that hospital room. We got Ben home, and for the next three months, I focused on his arduous rehabilitation while going through the motions of married life. I visited with our marriage counselor alone to express my concerns and seek advice. I hired a lawyer in February of 2015.

I picked myself – my happiness – for the first time in my life. My life had devolved into a living horror for me. Daily, I had to deal with much hate, wrath, and verbal abuse. But I had a great support system. My wife cut off all communication with Ben. That, in his opinion, was my punishment. Caring for Ben alone every day would make me realize how much I needed him. That was not the case. I regularly visited a psychologist for over two years and worked on myself. I was in a good mood; I felt content. I felt liberated and could take a deep breath. There will be no more walking on eggshells.

Ben had grown so large by January 2016 that I could no longer carry or raise him. I couldn’t bathe my oldest son if he weren’t home because I couldn’t get him in and out of the shower by myself. My new focus was on achieving 100 percent accessibility in my home to care for Ben without injuring myself. I hired a contractor six months later to install an accessible bathroom with a roll-in shower. Victor was a pleasure to work with. Every day, I looked forward to conversing with him. He was pretty knowledgeable and possessed a great deal of compassion and sensitivity. His interactions with Ben astounded me. It piqued my interest in learning more about this individual!

Courtesy of Diane Neves

Victor returned to paint my kitchen a few months after the bathroom was finished. We got into a long discussion after he revealed that he had recently divorced. I couldn’t believe how much we had in common. To keep his family together, he, too, spent many years sacrificing his mental health, disregarding his feelings, and attempting to make everyone else happy. We both had wives who believed that marriage came first, that keeping the family together was more essential than anything else, and that seeking pleasure for oneself was selfish. They’d blame menopause or accuse you of having mental health problems that necessitate medicine.

Victor and I started conversing for hours every day. It began with us discussing our husbands, children, the dissolution of our marriages, and what was going on in our lives daily – sharing each other’s drama. There was a modest adjustment after a few weeks. We began to anticipate our conversations with one another. Our conversations began to revolve around ourselves. We swapped personal stories, favorite items, bucket lists, and trip destinations. We were reminiscing about our childhoods, our loves and dislikes, and how our days had gone. A lovely friendship blossomed.

We took the risk and met in person for coffee after four weeks of talking and texting one other every day. It was impossible to deny that we had a connection; it was surreal. We sat for hours talking, neither of us wanting to leave the other. We had a great time laughing. It was stunning. But it wasn’t long before our spouses were aware of our existence. Our lives were quickly spiraling out of control due to the severe levels of hatred, wrath, and verbal abuse. Our husbands were hell-bent on destroying our reputations.

Instead of recognizing the facts and the reality about why both of our marriages had ended, rumors of infidelity and many affairs began to circulate — half-truths and embellished tales offered to everyone who would listen. Parental alienation occurred when we forced our children to take sides and included them in our personal affairs. The actions and behaviors were entirely out of character and unhealthy. It was a disaster. We had a decision to make. We could either part ways and cope with our mess, or we could stick together and continue to explore whatever was going on between us. We both opted to cling to each other. We went out on a date the following week and spent the evening talking and laughing. It was beautiful, and there was no going back after that evening.

We were inextricably linked. All of the bad things we were both going through drew us closer together. We didn’t have to wait long to move in together. Our capable children shunned us. Nothing could be more painful for your children to have no interest in you, in what’s in your heart, in your sentiments, or your pleasure. That’s a challenge. Because the only thing you can control in your life is your actions and behaviors, we respond with kindness or don’t respond at all when faced with bullying, harassment, or name-calling. We only think about ourselves and the good things in our lives.

Despite all the outside influence, we tried our hardest to settle into being a couple. Victor got to know Ben better as time went on. They, too, formed an instant bond and cherished one other. Victor had figured out all of Ben’s daily care needs, and things were going swimmingly. Ben experienced a medical emergency five months later. He had a twisted bowel and needed emergent surgery, which we were unaware of. We were close to losing him. That was the moment I believed my ex-husband would finally let go of his hate and resentment and come to his son’s bedside. He, on the other hand, did not.

Courtesy of Diane Neves
Courtesy of Diane Neves

Ben needed a colostomy and did not heal well from the procedure. It was a never-ending series of complications. We were in the hospital for six weeks, and he didn’t seem to be thriving, necessitating yet another surgery to install a g-tube. On the inside, I was a wreck, clinging to life by a thread. But I wouldn’t let myself be exposed. I was used to not needing anyone and handling things independently after 18 years of special needs parenting. My Victor, on the other hand, was not pleased. He wanted to look after me, and he wanted to look after us. When something with Ben was going on, he was like a caged animal.

Courtesy of Diane Neves

This felt like a watershed moment for us. I had no choice but to open up to him or risk losing him. So I let him see me fall apart. I was shattered into a million pieces. For the first time in my life, I allowed myself to be entirely vulnerable. He reassembled my body. He helped me get back on my feet. That day, he took over the special needs parenting reins, and he’s been pulling Ben and me through everything life has thrown at us ever since.

Coming into your life and loving your children takes a remarkable man. But it’s unheard of for a father to go in with both feet when he has a child with various problems who will need 24-hour care for the rest of his life. It reveals his actual character and his ability to love.

Victor’s father, mother, and one of his siblings have all died since we’ve been together for almost three years. Ben has had two medical emergencies three operations, and we’ve spent a total of ten weeks with him in the hospital. Even though life is so precious, some people cling to resentment and bitterness rather than love. Rather than choosing to listen, attempt to comprehend, rather than choosing forgiveness.

Courtesy of Diane Neves

Every time we take a stride forward with our children, we appear to take five steps back. My children are gradually warming up to me, especially my daughter, who needs and desires her mother’s presence. Victor’s son is also starting to see the light. However, outside influences constantly hampered him, which hurt our hearts. And no matter how many times Victor reaches out to her, Victor’s daughter refuses to be a part of his life. He hasn’t seen her in three years, and I know that a piece of his heart will always be crushed as long as she refuses to let him date her.

Victor and I are closer than we’ve ever been despite the tragedies in our lives. On February 23, 2018, we tied the knot. This lovely man is not only my husband but also my best friend, soul mate, and life’s love. We are two beautifully shattered people who have discovered each other. Who both gave up so much to cherish what counts — ourselves?”

Courtesy of Diane Neves
Courtesy of Diane Neves

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