Why Do Relationships End?

Dear Friends,

One of the hardest experiences to hit special needs parents is to watch their children struggle through wanting and needing friends. And isn't this a struggle true for all of us? Don't most people consider friendships pretty high up on the line as an indication of a good life? The desire and the need for companionship is part of our human nature. Our physically and mentally disabled children have no less need, have no less desire for good friendships.

I've read many books on parenting and fathering special needs children. I write this next thought from a father's perspective, since I am a dad, but without fail every book I've read lists feelings of isolation as one of the most common emotional experiences a special needs father goes through. For myself, I know this to be true, so if it's true for me, and it's written about in every book I've read on the subject, it must be true for many, many dads working and coming to terms with raising their special needs child. I also know a lot of dads go through times when they just give up on the idea of having really good friends who will share their experience with them.

However, as hard as those times of isolation might be, they pale in comparison to how it feels for us to see our children go through terrible loneliness wanting so badly for friendship that is meaningful, interactive, and sustaining.

I could not begin to count the number of people who have moved in and out of my younger son's life. Literally, it's been a blur. People step in, make promises, act like they want to be permanently involved, and then disappear, often without even a goodbye, or an explanation of how life has moved on. So how do I answer him when he asks me, “why don't any of these friends last?”

I'll be honest, it causes me to take stock of my own life and think back on how many people I have known, how many friendships that for one reason or another just didn't stick. And then I conclude that if I cannot adequately answer the question for myself, just how do I answer it for my son whose challenges to friendship are far greater than anything I will ever experience? I try to explain to him that "people move on, life is a growing process, that people come into our lives for a time, just as we come into theirs, and when it's time we move on." But I will be the first person to admit that's a pretty lame explanation.

Seeing our special needs children give up on friendship is like a huge weight settling in our heart.

My son, in his indomitable sense of humor, has written in the past to new people in his life, “Is my dad paying you to spend time with me?” And yes, once or twice that was true.

This is way too big a subject to cover in one short essay. The quest for true, lasting friendship is one of the age-old pursuits of mankind. It's the stuff of novels, Bible stories, and endless movie themes. I have seen people surrounded by more friends than they can manage, and I see people now with big support groups and many people involved in their lives, and I always appreciate that – because I know on the other side there are a lot more people going through seriously challenging life circumstances without much companionship to encourage them, or to share the load. And nowhere is this heavier than in the lives of children and adults carving out a life while shouldering disabilities, disease, and other special needs.

So my question of “why do relationships end?” goes unanswered. Instead I ask myself, “what am I doing to make a difference?” While that is only one reason why I started AMG4D, it's a big one. I believe the opportunity to make a positive difference in someone else's life is one of the greatest foundations to friendship.

In a culture of play-dates, power lunches, over-committed time planners and mega-churches, are simple, honest and enduring friendships a thing of the past? I sincerely hope not, not for myself, and not for my children, and not for the many children with special needs that are longing for that kind of time-honored companionship.

I hope you will take the opportunity to learn more about the mission of AMG4D, (the Adam Matthew Group 4 Dads & Families). As we grow we are developing a team of contributing writers, so you will be hearing from many voices on the subjects of living with Special Needs. We always welcome your comments, questions and ideas! And if you would like to write an article for us, please be encouraged to do so, along with other opportunities how you may be involved. 

What can we do for you? 

My best, 

Brian Wulf