Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

"I Don't Know Where We're Going": Marital Problems and the Young Family

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

"I Don't Know Where We're Going": Marital Problems and the Young Family

Article excerpt

His Turn

"I don't know what happened," Frank Jones(*),

a short and slender man in his mid-twenties,

said quietly. "I just don't know where to begin."

"I guess it all starts with our son, Frank Jr.(*), who just turned

three. He was born with serious problems. Last Sunday we

celebrated his third birthday and we had Jean's(*) family

and mine over. It seems that whenever we have the

families together, it's very tense. When everyone

went home, we cleaned up and we sat down just

by ourselves, I started to cry. I don't think I

have cried since I've been three years old.

I just don't know what we have for a

life. I don't know where we're going

and I don't know what we should

do. Sometimes I wish we

could start all over.

"I find myself

resenting attention

that anyone gives

Jean or my son. I also

have begun to envy my

friends whether they're

married or single. These

thoughts make me feel terrible

but I can't stop them. And, last

Sunday I felt I'd reached the end of my

rope. Jeanie told me she also felt discouraged

but couldn't talk to anyone about how

her life was going. She suggested that we come

to you to see whether you can help us make sense

out of what's happened to us and what our life can be.

"I can still remember when we got married. I met Jean

when I was 20 and she was 19. I had just finished at community

college and I didn't know what I wanted to do. Jeanie was

starting a nurse's training program. We went together a couple

of years. We had a great time together. We learned a lot about

what we were going to do and what kind of family we were

going to have. We decided to get married when Jeanie had

one more year to go at nursing school. A week after she

finished school, little Frank was born-two, months early.

"We were looking forward to a child and thought we'd have a big

family. I still remember the look on the obstetrician's face when he

came to see me. He told me that Dr. Ellison was going to see Frank

Jr. and would tell us what the score was. Dr. Ellison told us there

was a lot of brain damage. He wasn't sure at first whether Frank

would live and, if so, how well he would do. He was going to get a

specialist in babies to look at Frankie. And it seemed that life, a part

of my life, ended right then and there.

"We were both upset. I guess I showed it more than Jean. I tend

to get very agitated when I can't settle something. No matter how

hard we try, neither of us can remember that first week. Jean really

took care of Frankie--and I guess, me--for a while.

"From that time on, we've been surrounded by Jean's

family. She has two older sisters who live not too far from us.

It seems they're around all the time. It's unfair to look at it

that way, I guess, because they have been very helpful and

try to do what they can to help Jean. At this time Frankie

can do so little for himself, he requires constant attention.

But I haven't had any privacy--we haven't had

any privacy--since then. I began

to wonder whether I really will

ever have a wife again, or what

kind of a wife and

husband we're going to be.

"For about a year after the

baby was born, our sex life

was almost nothing. And I

guess that was both of us.

Jeanie certainly is, as I

am, concerned about

what would happen if we

had another child-would

the same thing happen? Since

then, that part of our life has not

been very satisfactory. Sometimes

it's because Jean is tired, sometimes it's

because I am tense. …

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