People with intellectual disabilities have the same emotions and drives as a typical person. They fall in love, look for comfort and companionship, and dream of a lifelong partner. Yet both parents and clergy often put an end to that dream quickly. I understand. As a parent of a daughter who jokes about boyfriends and likes to dance, I know that someday I will play the part of an overprotective parent. I also know the quickest way to make a long winded pastor speechless is to ask him to officiate a ceremony between two intellectually disabled adults.
The 2010 Tribeca Film Festival Award winner Monica and David follow the life of two thirty somethings who decide to get married. The film focuses on their wedding and the first year of marriage life. An honest analysis indicates that many of the same struggles they encounter are actually very similar to those that every newlywed couple finds. Just as anything else, people with disabilities are just like you and I.
To be sure the supports are still there, intentional conversations were held, and detailed plans were made and rehearsed endlessly. The success of their marriage is largely due to the close ties they have with family and community -- but isn't that true for all of us? Perhaps one of the lessons this teaches us is that marriage relationships would become healthier if we were more interdependent with one another.
As people with intellectual disabilities live longer and assimilate more, pastors will need to be ready to sit down with them and those close to them. As a keeper of the sacrament, pastors will play a role in counseling both the parents and the couple into charting an unwalked journey. Relationships are key. A great way to do this is to become engaged in the development of a person centered plan years before wedding bliss even appears on the horizon. This overprotective dad will thank you for it.