“The same goes for you wives: Be good wives to your husbands, responsive to their needs. There are husbands who, indifferent as they are to any words about God, will be captivated by your life of holy beauty. What matters is not your outer appearance—the styling of your hair, the jewelry you wear, the cut of your clothes—but your inner disposition.
Cultivate inner beauty, the gentle, gracious kind that God delights in. The holy women of old were beautiful before God that way, and were good, loyal wives to their husbands. Sarah, for instance, taking care of Abraham, would address him as “my dear husband.” You’ll be true daughters of Sarah if you do the same, unanxious and unintimidated.” (1 Peter 3:1-6, MSG)
If there was ever a good model of the type of woman Peter describes in the above passage, it would be Cindi Ferrini. A woman who loves God and her family, doing everything in her power to pursue His righteousness with a “gentle and quiet spirit”, Cindi generously shares what the Lord has hidden in her heart over nearly 33 years of marriage. During 30 of those years, she has been on the adventurous journey of parenting her son Joey, who faces the challenges of cerebral palsy, epilepsy and cognitive delays. Additionally parenting two other children, Cindi and her husband, Joe, have been intentional in making their marriage healthy. This made Cindi an outstanding guest for our #SpnMin TweetChat on Thursday, April 12, 2012.
What were the takeaways Cindi had to share with our participants?
- We have a passion for marriage and strengthening it. That is what drives us. BUT, we are only as expert as our transparency.
- Marriage and a special child is tough. MUCH ISOLATION. Perhaps that’s the hardest.
- EXHAUSTION: (I write also, by the way on time management) and feel that we need to pace ourselves. We women need energy for us, hubby AND kids.
- First we need to look at our “list” of what we do each day. What can “go”, what NEEDS to stay? NEEDS trump (everything else).
- When we neglect ourselves we really are hurting our marriage and family.
- Women to tend to do more. Joe and I have learned to divide and conquer. (We write about it in our book UNEXPECTED JOURNEY.)
- I think both (in the) community and IN marriage, ISOLATION is something to be worked on PURPOSEFULLY and INTENTIONALLY.
- I recommend getting into a community. Facebook, REAL FRIENDS, family…but realize NOT EVERYONE “gets” it and can’t help.
- Keeping marriage strong: TALK, share, divide and conquer so you BOTH get to do what you want to do!
- Strengthening sexual intimacy area is important (I’m not shy about this and it’s not cuz I have it all figured out, either!)
- (Regarding) outsiders…keep those who FILL you close, and those who DRAIN you….far far away. (Our special kids stick like glue!)
- Friends even don’t always “get” it. I have friends of 30+ years that were shocked to learn I help shower our son. I have learned to love them through it. One friend now has a grandson with special needs. I am so INTO helping and loving on them. I don’t want to be bitter, so working to love them is what I want to do. This friend is now helping with Joey occasionally. It just worked out that way. LOVE ALWAYS WINS!
- Let me share: Pray for your spouse. Before you each leave for the day ask, “How can I pray for you?” Share a sentence or two and pray.
- (Regarding a) counselor: Take the children if needed, too. BUT, ask counselor WHAT IS YOUR SPECIALTY. We went once when Joey was young to be sure we were raising him right. Doctor had no clue. He was a great guy, but no clue to special needs and all that means.
- Have date nights. You can’t have gelato in Italy? Well take a walk to the neighborhood shop. Can’t travel (it’s tough!) – go to library and plan a dream trip JUST IN CASE! I have a young mom/friend with 2 special needs girls. I made us passports, and whenever we get to go to LUNCH, we go to library (get book on a country) and have a lunch somewhere that is of that country, stamp our little passports and say we’ve been there. Corny, but we love it!
- RE: Friendships….those are important too, as a spouse can’t be expected to fill all of our needs. We both need friends. Friendships for men may be different and varies, but if your husband likes golf or a sport, let him do it and get “refreshed”. We all need (that). Joe and I have been very careful about letting each other use our gifts and talents. When he is out/away, I hold the fort and vice versa! Ask yourself (and have spouse do it, too) WHAT FILLS ME UP? WHAT REFRESHES ME? Then find a way to do it. (God honoring, hopefully!)
- Dad may have a difficult/even harder time, but when a couple works together, they can both get through the hills and valleys.
- Mutual respect, mutual caring, mutual honesty! We need to remember we each process and approach things differently. It’s great to see how God supplies (when one is up….) So important to TALK, work together, spend time together, and be sure you’re on the same page. We’d have weekly meeting as a family.
- Dad’s are not normally the nurturers anyway, so we must accept that since it really is usually (NOT ALWAYS) the women who nurtures. I love that Joe will “rough” Joey up. Not really WRESTLE but be A GUY with him. I’m not interested in doing THAT!
- Men need to be held accountable if they are making excuses, just like we need to if we are. We ALL tend to justify our behavior.
- ALSO, ladies, sometimes we don’t LET our spouse do all we do. We have it all “ready” for them. I tell young gals, “Allow your husband to see what you do, and allow him to fail like you did.” He will appreciate you. AND YOU WILL APPRECIATE HIM!
- We might want comfort, but what we all do is not easy, comfortable or fun. BUT LOVE helps us get through it. Not OVER it, through it.
- Most important thing about marriage: TEAM work (Together Each Accomplishes More). Anytime we do things together, we strengthen our marriage. Going separate ways just further leads to the isolation we talked about.
- Perspective: Having a Godly perspective is so important. Allow each other to see things from different perspective because that is how we LEARN new and different things. The women who has time with friends but too tired to connect with hubby has a wrong perspective. Friends may come and go.
As you can see, there are MANY aspects of our marriage that we can work on in small ways to increase the health of our relationship. Here are additional tools that are available for your use regarding the topic of maintaining a healthy marriage while parenting children who have special needs:
- Special Needs and Marriage (Cindi & Joe Ferrini’s 8 part series for Focus on the Family)
- Cindi and Joe Ferrini…The Unexpected Journey of Relationships (Dr. Steve Grcevich’s follow-up post to our chat which includes the Ferrini’s video presentation for the Inclusion Fusion Pajama Conference)
- Special Needs and Divorce: What Does the Data Say? (By Key Ministry’s Dr. Steve Grcevich)
- Cindi Ferrini has also graciously offered our participants her book Unexpected Journey at a deeply discounted rate. You may send a check for 10.00 to Creative Management Fundamentals, PO BOX 360271, Cleveland, OH 44136. There is no shipping and handling cost to you, and it’s priced at 1/2 off! You may order as many copies as you wish.
Thank you to Cindi and to all who contributed to such a fruitful conversation!