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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Marriage & Autism -Guest Post by Renee


Today's Guest Post is  by fellow autism mama and writer, Renee from "It's 5 O'Clock Somewhere".  With a blog name like that...how could we not relate to one another? Renee also runs a Facebook Community  of the same name.  Please drop by and check out her blog and join her on Facebook.
Renee & Her Family
They say opposites attract, don’t they?  I’ve heard that all my life.  I always thought there was some truth to that but it wasn’t until I met my husband that it really, really rang true.

When we got together our obvious physical and personality contrasts are what people noticed and would comment on often.  He’s above average in height and I am the size of your average 4th grader. He rarely talks and I’m a chatterbox.  He prefers solitude to any kind of social interaction while compared to him I am a social butterfly.  He has no filter to speak of and since I am super sensitive, I try to think before I speak so feelings aren’t hurt. Oh, and there’s one other that’s worth mentioning:  my husband has Aspergers, and I do not.  

Okay, those are just a few of the differences between my spouse and I, but at this point anyone reading this can grasp the idea that we’re not exactly alike.  It wasn’t until we were married for a couple years that I really began to see how wide the gaps were.  It was rather like pulling back the layers of an onion; with each layer I realized there were even fewer similarities than I thought.  

Not surprisingly we’ve had a rocky road over the years.  It hasn’t been all bad but it’s been a struggle at times to keep it together.  After five years of marriage we decided to try to have a baby.  I thought he had grown up enough at that point to be the father I knew he could be and it was time.  We were blessed with a gorgeous little boy in August 2002 and settled into family life with the child we both adored.  When our son was just shy of turning three he was diagnosed with autism which naturally rocked our world and forced us to reconsider whether the second child we were thinking of was a good idea.  Mutually we decided that we should just focus on the child we have and do all we can to get him the help he needs.  To anyone on the outside we seemed like we were a united front in that goal and for a while we were.   

Shortly after our son was diagnosed my husband began to suspect that he himself was on the spectrum as well.  He didn’t want to see a doctor and get a formal diagnosis so he took a series of online tests that made it very clear that he was indeed an Aspie, as they’re commonly referred to.   It was shortly after that that anything autism related began to fall on my shoulders.  He no longer wanted to be as involved as he had been in our child’s treatments.   I began to think that my husband felt like he had caused our son’s condition and that thought made him withdraw from being a part of our son’s therapies.   We discussed that and I told him truthfully that I didn’t blame him or any one thing for causing our child’s autism but there was a backing away on his part that was very noticeable and upsetting to me.  

When he told me that he was on the spectrum I did a ton of research on the subject.  I read books and articles about being an NT (neurotypical in clinical terms) married to someone with autism.   Suddenly little quirks of his began to make sense to me.    What seemed to be such cold insensitivity before began to bother me less.  I’m a sensitive person so I cannot say that each comment that he said rolled off of me.   I tried to see it from the standpoint that he was unaware how his words or actions (or in many cases inactions) affected me.   I started to understand why he’d forgo going anywhere with us unless it was a special occasion he couldn’t get out of, such as a major holiday or wedding.  He’d never offer up a reason when I would ask him why sitting home was more appealing than getting out, and I started to realize it was just easier and definitely more comfortable for him just to not go.

Now, let me say this:  coming to the realization of those things doesn’t put an end to them bothering me. I just found myself working harder to try to understand where he’s coming from.   He still says insensitive things without thinking, isn’t able to recognize human emotions (i.e when I am pissed off or hurt) unless I tell him, and is extremely difficult to drag out of the house unless necessary.  It’s very frustrating most of the time, so I vent.  I vent to him and to those I trust, and I try to deal with it in whatever way gets me through it. I tell him exactly how I feel and how it often feels as if I am raising two special-needs kids instead of just one.  He’s unflinchingly honest with his feelings, so I am the same way with him.   When he chooses to stay home instead of going out with us, I try to make the best of it and enjoy my time out with our son as my date.  The questions and comments still annoy me, but at this point I am so used to it and the people who invite us to functions are used to seeing us show up as a twosome instead of our whole family.  

It’s not all bad, this being married to an Aspie business.  For one thing, since they’re pretty much incapable of being phony in any way, you always know where you stand with them.  They don’t just say things because it’s the polite or socially acceptable thing to do.  When they do or say something nice, you know it’s genuine and not just an empty compliment that people sometimes feel they have to. That’s something I appreciate about him and always tell him so.  Another benefit is that since he’s very focused on details, he often is able to see things that I don’t, especially with respect to our child.  Our son has a more classic form of autism but my husband can often understand why he’s upset and heading towards a meltdown, whereas I am not always able to.  He is, in a sense, the autism whisperer in this household.

Every marriage or long-term relationship has its challenges to face.   I’ve heard of situations that make our differences seem like nothing.  He is who he is and I am who I am:  the same person who went into this marriage with the best intentions and the highest of hopes.  It takes work like everything else in life but there are times, not all the time, mind you – that it is worth it.