People with Down syndrome have the same desire for love and companionship as anyone else. While it may present some additional challenges, many people with Down syndrome do get married.
Can people with Down syndrome legally get married?
In most countries, people with Down syndrome have the legal right to get married as long as they have the mental capacity to consent. This means understanding the rights, responsibilities, and consequences of marriage.
While people with Down syndrome often have mild to moderate intellectual disabilities, most adults are capable of consenting to marriage with the right supports in place. Their disability alone does not prevent them from marrying legally.
What are some benefits of marriage for people with Down syndrome?
There are many benefits to marriage that people with Down syndrome can enjoy as much as anyone else:
Marriage provides a life partner to share experiences with. People with Down syndrome often say they want to find love and get married like their siblings and peers.
Marriage can provide a sense of social inclusion. People with Down syndrome may feel like they are full members of society when they have a spouse.
Having a spouse can increase independence for some. A married couple can live together without parents or other family members.
Married couples have options like filing taxes jointly, sharing health insurance, and inheriting assets that may provide financial advantages.
A spouse can provide comfort, encouragement, and support during difficult times. Married couples take care of each other emotionally.
Marriage often brings physical intimacy and companionship. People with disabilities have the same needs for sexuality and intimacy as anyone else.
What are some additional considerations for people with Down syndrome who want to marry?
While people with Down syndrome can legally marry and benefit from marriage similarly to anyone else, there are some additional things to consider:
Capacity to consent
Extra care should be taken to ensure a person with Down syndrome understands marriage fully. Some adults may not be capable of giving informed consent, especially if they have more significant intellectual disabilities.
Impact on government benefits
Marriage can impact eligibility for government programs like Medicaid and SSI for people with Down syndrome who receive these benefits. Extra planning may be needed.
Some adults with Down syndrome continue living with family members after marriage or require assistive living services. Housing needs should be considered.
Adults with Down syndrome often benefit from job coaching, life skills training, counseling, transportation assistance, and other support services. These services help marriages be successful.
Like any couple, individuals with Down syndrome may benefit from relationship counseling before and during marriage to build communication skills and overcome challenges.
Birth control and family planning
Reproductive healthcare decisions, including birth control options, should be discussed to make informed choices on starting a family.
Financial planning, healthcare decisions, and other future planning may require earlier and more frequent discussions for couples impacted by Down syndrome.
Do people with Down syndrome get divorced?
Yes, divorce or annulment is legally possible for married couples where one or both spouses have Down syndrome, just like for any married couple.
Reasons for divorce may include:
– Irreconcilable differences
– Lack of commitment
– Abuse or infidelity
– Financial disagreements
– Communication problems
– Interference from family members
– Changed needs or life circumstances
Divorce can be upsetting, but sometimes it is the healthiest choice. Support services like individual and couples counseling can help make thoughtful decisions.
What percentage of people with Down syndrome get married?
It is difficult to know exact statistics, but one survey from the United Kingdom found that:
– 6% of adults with Down syndrome were married or in a civil partnership.
– 9% were living together as a couple.
– 42% would like to be married or in a long-term relationship but were not.
So at least 15% of adults with Down syndrome were in long-term relationships, and many more desired marriage. Rates may vary in other countries.
What are some challenges people with Down syndrome face when marrying?
Despite their desire and legal right to marry, people with Down syndrome may face these challenges:
Finding a partner
Specialized dating services for people with intellectual disabilities are limited. Many utilize mainstream dating sites and apps that present challenges around disclosure and inclusion.
Overprotection from family
Parents and siblings may discourage marriage out of overprotectiveness, doubting their abilities, or not wanting to lose influence.
Disapproval from society
Unfortunately, stigma around disability and sexuality persists. Not everyone recognizes the rights and needs of people with Down syndrome in this area.
Need for support services
Adults with Down syndrome often rely on caregivers and professionals to teach relationship skills. Support resources need to be expanded.
Adults with Down syndrome are more likely to be unemployed or underemployed. Their limited income can put marriage goals out of financial reach.
Examples of successful marriages when one spouse has Down syndrome
Despite the challenges, many examples exist of successful long-term marriages when one partner has Down syndrome:
Maryanne and Tommy Pilling
Maryanne and Tommy married in 1988 after meeting through a theater company. Tommy has Down syndrome, and Maryanne supported his dream to be a professional actor. They lived independently and celebrated 25 years of marriage before Tommy’s death in 2013.
Kurt and Cecilia Szilagyi
Kurt and Cecilia married in 2018 after dating for two years. Cecilia has Down syndrome, and Kurt appreciates her joyful spirit and compassion. Cecilia enjoys married life and hopes to be an inspiration to others with disabilities.
Jamie and Ian
Jamie (last name not disclosed) and Ian dated for 10 years before marrying in 2016. Jamie has Down syndrome. They credit couples counseling with helping them build a strong relationship as they navigate Jamie’s medical needs.
|Maryanne and Tommy Pilling||Married 25 years until Tommy’s death. Tommy had Down syndrome and was an actor.|
|Kurt and Cecilia Szilagyi||Married in 2018. Cecilia has Down syndrome and appreciates Kurt’s support.|
|Jamie and Ian||Married in 2016 after 10 years of dating. Jamie has Down syndrome.|
Like most adults, many people with Down syndrome desire loving relationships. With the right supports in place, people with Down syndrome can have successful long-term marriages. While some challenges exist, legal marriage is attainable for most. With greater societal acceptance and support services, more adults with Down syndrome can achieve their dreams of marriage and lasting companionship.