How to start a post like this leaves me staring at my keyboard and screen. It’s not because of embarrassment or shame, but rather because I want to do this right. Many of you have noticed a change in me and I’ve mentioned having to go through a very difficult time. In addition, I said that I would share with you when I felt it appropriate. Today, I am coming to you as a wife that is bearing a very heavy weight. Within the last year, I have discovered that I have been married to a high-functioning autistic man for 24 years and had no idea – neither of us did. The intro to my neurodiverse marriage is what I want to discuss with you today.
Why would I want to share what is totally none of your business? Because after researching and researching, I’ve found an astronomical amount of other people in the exact same boat. Some have been married 5, 10, 20, 30, and even 40 years only to realize they are in a neurodiverse marriage. Likewise, this is a relatively new-found topic that offers little information from the people who are living it – like me.
What is more, I’ve also found that sharing my story, in all the pain and stress like when I birthed our stillborn daughter followed by a miscarriage because of a subchorionic hematoma, others find hope. They find someone like them, someone they can relate to, and that brings relief they’re not alone. Of all my posts, my baby story is one that ranks at the top year after year. I still hear from mamas going through the exact same thing. While it breaks my heart to walk down that memory lane at times, it brings healing to me and those on the same journey. I have learned time and time again that God uses our pain to help others.
First, I want to state with bold voice, I AM NOT trained in this area and am only looking to share what I’ve learned this past year. My story is my story, that’s it. I am going to work hard to give you all the resources while sharing a bit to understand. Believe me, my head is overflowing with emotion and information. In order to make this relatable, I’ve created a video as well for you below. Trust me, this isn’t easy.
When I state “neurodiverse marriage” I’m referring to a marriage that involves one or both partners having neurological differences such as autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, or other related conditions. In our case, I am considered neurotypical while JC, I believe, is neurodivergent (autistic).1 In order to make this possible to cover, I will be breaking up this into different posts as there is much to chew on.
As I’m assuming you all would be like me, you’re wondering how in the world did I not know I married an autistic man. Let alone, how did I not realize some of my children are autistic? Here’s the definition of a high-functioning autistic person (formerly known as Aspergers):
High-functioning autism is sometimes used colloquially to describe autistic people who do not need much support to function in their daily lives. It often means that a person can speak, write, read, manage daily tasks, and live independently. It means that their traits and behaviors do not create too many disruptions in their relationships, occupation, or education. (source)
JC and I were 16 and 17 when we started dating, so how could I know at that time what would lie ahead? Here’s an article that puts it pretty aptly. To catch you up to speed, please watch the video to understand.
As I mention in my video and will be saying it over and over, when you meet one autistic person, you meet one autistic person. (by Dr. Stephen Shore) Like many, I had autism pegged in my head as someone with obvious disabilities. Little did I know that autism could present in such subtle ways. In my video, I mention I noticed JC has OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) tendencies. As a new Christian at 18 years of age, my goal was to give 1000% to becoming the best for Christ in all things.
As well, JC and I focused on bringing our relationship before Christ. During our college years and after engagement, we attended young married classes and even parenting classes. I wanted us to be prepared. I purchased many marriage books like “Before You Say I Do” and “The Act of Marriage”, “Five Love Languages” and more. In hindsight, I’m now unlearning all that those books incorrectly taught us how to be in our neurodiverse marriage (or any marriage). I was making sure we did everything RIGHT.
We enter into our first year of marriage and I am wholeheartedly set on being the best wife. Meanwhile, both of us are in our junior year of college. I started noticing that every six months I would need to come to him and tell him that things didn’t feel right. As each year rolled by, I felt like I was a broken record. Finally, I gave up trying every six months and lengthened it to a year.
By the time I found out I was pregnant with our third child, I was in tears. Not because of joy, but because in my head was “I don’t want to have any more children with this man”. But…I just needed to try harder.
You see, JC is not harming me in any way that is obvious. However, it’s the lack of emotionally connecting, empathy, just recognizing me as a person. My neurotypical self was sending him body language signs, facial expressions, trying desperately to get him to connect. For example, I would even sit down with him with pencil and paper for both of us asking him to list five things he appreciates about me and five things I needed to work on. I would do the same for him. With high hopes, I’d head out to try again, only to find he completely forgot what I had written (even though he had the paper).
While I will fill in the gaps in future posts after my intro to my neurodiverse marriage, I want to get to create a summary. In the video, I mention the progression of the last few years. There have been so many times I catch myself thinking I’m going crazy. As my kids have aged, they have been showing more symptoms of autism that I didn’t realize. Not only am I now gaslit by my husband, but my children are doing the same. Oftentimes I swear I said something or didn’t say something and they’re telling me the opposite. This kind of living has been and is making me physically sick.
As matter of fact, I believe I’ve suffered from Cassandra Syndrome over the years.
Many might be familiar with the term “Cassandra Syndrome,” which references the Greek Mythology character, Cassandra. When she does not return Apollo’s love interest, he curses her – she is allowed foresight into the future, but she is unable to share it with anyone. Cassandra is left alone with her burden of truth – unheard, and unable to convince anyone of of what she knows to be true. Neurotypical wives are thought of as “Cassandras,” because nobody believes what they say about their experience in a neurodiverse marriage. She is often met with, “but he’s so nice!” (source)
What also saddens me is that had I known what I was battling, I wouldn’t have made life worse for them. I didn’t know that my verbal approaches to solve problems were causing them stress. All of my well-intentioned efforts to help were making things harder for them to process. Moreover, only those that have lived this can fully understand what I’m speaking about.
I’m at the point where I am healing, learning, and trusting God to lead me in the next steps. I’ve set boundaries, not only for myself to heal, but also so that I don’t cause more pain. I’ve found that I was grandstanding after separation (dishing back what I have been receiving) and know that that is not me. I’m finding Larissa again and it feels so good.
Maybe you find yourself in the same situation. You are not alone.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 19:11
THERE IS HELP & HOPE
Studies have shown that when a man is facing a late diagnosis, 75% of the time because his wife comes to the realization autism is present. While there is counseling and coaching available, it is not recommended you or your spouse see anyone that does not have neurodiverse training. It can make your situation worse. Furthermore, we need pastors and counselors to be trained in neurodiverse relationships. Well-meaning clergy are doing more harm than good in this type of situation. Additionally, both the neurotypical and the neurodiverse have suffered and need counseling/coaching.
Here are some resources for you to explore based on my intro to my neurodiverse marriage with more to follow in later posts:
- Neurodiverse Christian Marriages Network – Dr. Stephanie Holmes and her husband, Dan, are a neurodiverse couple that didn’t come to the diagnosis until recent years. They have articles, videos, podcasts, courses – so much to offer and have been a huge help to me. They also offer course to those wanting to expand their counseling or ministry to include neurodivergent counseling.
- Barbara Grant – a neurodiverse life & couples coach. She has helped me even when not an official client.
- Leslie Vernick – biblical counselor for broken marriages
- Grace Myhill – neurodiverse couples coaching
- AANE – Asperger/Autism Network
- 22 Things a Woman Must Know if She Loves a Man with Asperger’s Syndrome by Rudy Simone
- The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man’s Quest to be a Better Husband by David Finch: a wonderful read written by a man who didn’t let his diagnosis stop him.
- Life-Saving Divorce Book and her site Life-Saving Divorce by Gretchen Baskerville – she offers groups on Facebook and help
- Flying Free by Natalie Hoffman – helping women of faith navigate difficult relationships
- The Great Sex Rescue and She Deserves More by Sheila Wray Gregoire
- Bare Marriage (read comments) – also by Sheila Wray Gregoire and full of so much wonderful information and awesome podcasts!
- Why Women Who Leave Lose Twice – I find myself in this article over and over again
- The Autism Effect on Marriage – a blog dedicated to those feeling the affects of autism on them and their marriage
- Autism Experts – world’s largest organization by and for autistic families
- Emotionally Healthy Relationships (book & workbook suggested by Dr. Stephanie Holmes)
- My Pinterest Board
As you know, I am here to encourage and inspire. Not just in DIY of all things house and home, but to focus on family and well-being. I am open to questions about the intro to my neurodiverse marriage, so feel free to ask. Additionally, I’d love to hear from you in comments. However, if public posting is not your thing, please feel free to reach out via email. Please pin and share because there are many out there searching for hope. After that, here is Part 1 and Part 2 of my continuing story.
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