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)
I actually printed out this list of missed experiences of a Cassandras’ life and highlighted all but two of them to show JC how I felt. Here’s another great depiction, including comments.
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
- 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.
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Jane Walker says
May the Lord continue to lead you in this long journey to bless and uplift you and your family. You are so brave in sharing this part of your journey. I believe a former pastor and his wife have been dealing with this diagnosis for years and never had a name for it. He was definitely ADHD and diagnosed later in life. Thank you for all you do.
Thank you, Jane. It has come to my attention that autism in this form is more prevalent than anyone can imagine. I think education and understanding is key and I’m hopeful this will help future generations to have a better outcome for everyone.
Rebecca - NC says
What a huge step for you to take in the healing process!! I’m so proud of you and thrilled to see you blossoming into the person God meant for you to be. I have a sister going through this same thing after 25 years of marriage. The pain became so unbearable for her. But, like you, she is coming out of her cocoon of self doubt and is finding her happy place again. My heart is bursting with love for every neuro-typical wife who thought she was going mad, had no self worth or felt unappreciated and unloved. Bless you all and let those little lights shine!!! You are seen, loved and greatly appreciated!!! 🥰
I needed this and really wanted to portray that both of us are affected in the unknown of our situation. I’m rejoicing for your sister and will pray over her as well. Going mad is what I was doing and am still processing it all…so many years of pain and misunderstanding. What’s worse is being denied my feelings because he doesn’t believe he has an issue or acknowledge our children need help. Thank you, Rebecca!
Christine P. says
Thank you for sharing this. I went through the a very, very similar experience. We were married for 20 years. At the 10 year mark we were going through the diagnosis process with our son, and my ex husband kept say ‘this is me too’. I was getting answers/explanations for issues we had been having in our marriage almost from the beginning. Unfortunately there was also a side car mood disorder involved. And then our daughter was diagnosed as well. After 20 years and 6 marriage counselors we divorced. And after the dust settled we became friends. I am remarried to to very loving, affectionate, empathetic man. We host my ex husband at our home often. My ex and I are great co-parents and now grandparents too.
What a journey you’ve been on Christine. It sounds very similar to ours and I’m so glad you’ve found at happy place. Thank you for sharing as it helps me and others relate.
Judy Black says
My son, at least 2 grandchildren, ex-husband, and several very close friends are on the spectrum. I wish I had known before the father of my children and I divorced 20+ years ago. I also am a Special Education teacher so I have students that have ASD. I can relate!
It is just opening my eyes up so much more how prevalent there is not a “norm”, but a vast array of functioning brains out there. I mean, I knew no one is the same, but we tend to put people in boxes (if you know what I mean). I always looked at artistic, athletic, intellectual, etc., but this opens a whole new scope.
Thank you for such a educational message. Praying for you and yours.
Thank you, Donna. The more people learn, the more we can all grow.
In the drama that I experienced in my life, I learned to ask God what do you want me to learn? what am I supposed to do with what I have learned.? He was my constant strength, but I Did want to crumble. I didn’t understand. Why I had to be strong and endure. God never gives us more than we can handle probably is the best truth that we don’t like to hear. I wanted to be one of those people that just crumbled. I stood- I endured i prayed. I cried so many tears. I eventually got to a very good but different place, then I imagined. “Be strong and Courageous. Do not be afraid do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
Peace and blessings
I, too, say the exact same thing. When I was in ICU and considered near death, I told God that if even one person became saved because of my experience, it was worth it. I’ve had my fair share of hurdles, but the One who has never left me is Jesus, my Lord.
You are brave to come forward with your personal life. My son was diagnosed with Asperger’s at an early age. I knew something was different about him and had to do lengthy research to figure it out. This was the early 90’s and the only thing people knew of autism was those with severe forms of it. I found an article written by a mother on the same path as me, and that was the first time I heard the term, “Aspergers”. I printed out the article and took it to the doctor. He took the time to read it and got back with me to confirm my discovery.
From there my son got help through a special ed preschool program and therapy. I am now retired, but was a special ed teacher and knew how to meander the system.He was in regular ed throughout school, but had his struggle which I met head on. To any parents dealing with this, my biggest piece of advice is to never let your kids use autism as an excuse. They have to learn to deal with it in the world we live in.
My son graduated from high school and college with honors. There were several teachers I had to deal with along the way, so I always had to keep an eye and ear open about what was going on at school. He has a BS in biotechnology and chemistry and works for NASA. He is married and has a baby who I watch carefully for signs. As I say, we all have quirks, but some have more than others. You just have to learn to deal with them and live with them.
Good luck to you. I know you must be panicked about your kids, but you will learn what they can and can’t handle. My son’s biggest issue was crowds, so we never went to the mall and other crowded areas. I kept him involved with activities where he could excel…soccer and scouts, and limited it to two activities as to not overwhelm him. It worked and he is a delightful, quirky adult, who has limited activities in his life. He has a small group of friends, many from middle and high school. He is happy in life and that is success for me!!
What a courageous mama! Thank you for sharing your story. I’m not at all panicked about my kids because it all makes sense. If I hadn’t homeschooled them, I wouldn’t have been able to curtail their studies to their individual needs. I know God had His hand in it all and I was chosen to be their mother for a reason. Also, I’m with you on the excuse 1000%. We all have difficulties that cause each person to live and thrive if we work with it instead of against it.
Larissa, seems to me your creativity is how you have been coping all along! Taking things apart and putting them back together in a different look. I feel for you and hope your ‘recovery’ goes well and you continue on the road to you. All the best!
You nailed it. I started my blog (paid my $10) on Mother’s Day 11 years ago because I was fed up of being ignored, had more to offer, and I knew God could use me. Little did I know how far that would go. Hugs!
Whew girl…..So I’m am in tears for you right now. I just want to reach out and hug your neck Larissa. I had a feeling.. but I knew you would share if and when it was right and God led. I know it has been a painfully rough, and lonely road for you, and I am happy you are strong enough now to share your pain with all of us. My sister is a special Ed teacher/para professional. Most of what I know comes from her and my own extensive research. Like you- once I hit on something I fully dig in. I am also a fixer and people pleaser. I knew God drew me to you because we are just so much alike, and I’m pretty sure if I lived closer to you we would be fast friends!! This may seem weird but I do have sisterly love for you and I pray for you, your kids, and JC often. God bless you.
All hugs welcome!! Yes, I am a people pleaser and hard-hitting empath, so I want to help folks all the time. There is a plan and I’m trying to clear my brain clutter so I can clearly hear His still, small voice. Continued prayers for you as well.
It’s amazing to me, even, the name of the blog you created that 11 years ago, was really about you starting a new journey…”what was lost now is found”. It was the beginning of the process of finding Larissa! ❤️ This is a huge process for all of us and many do not even begin. Once we give Jesus our life, the changes begin. And it is not an EZ process as you know so very well. I’m SO grateful you shared your heart about the experiences you are dealing with in your marriage. I attended support groups at my church for adult children of alcoholics, which was a lifesaver for me years ago. God guided and led me to a church with a whole program in their curriculum concerning addictions. It was unprecedented at the time; I had to drive an hour each way but there were no other resources like it close to me. What I learned about growing up with an alcoholic parent was life-changing. I’m still not perfect and fall back to those people-pleasing ways too, but just to now have the insight, the eyes of my spirit opened, helps me to find truth in the situations. Just as you are experiencing. God bless you and keep you and make His face to shine upon you, dear one, and grant you Peace as you continue your journey to wholeness. Thank you, thank you for sharing. It is in sharing that we are healed; others too! Love and hugs to you faith sister! ❤️
Yes!! God knew it…it’s so amazing. I’m delighted you found the help you needed right when you needed it. It floors me how open many are even though I still come across judgment because I’m in a covenant marriage. I’m learning more of the truths in the Word and detangling the lies I was led to believe for far too many years. Thank you so much for your words of encouragement, Mary. They mean so much!
Laura F says
Thank you for sharing 🙂
I’m praying that any who need to read do so and it helps someone who needs it.
Cindy DeCoursey says
Larissa, I spent some time with this blog post (the links & your video) earlier this morning. Coming back to check e-mail I saw it again (I had marked it “new” so I could re-visit it.) This time round I decided to reply. I’m sure you’ve been told that you are brave for sharing. And you are. As so many of your blog followers did, I emoji-hugged you when you shared your health issues. Seems that today’s revelation is a culmination (so I made a rhyme there) of so much interior suffering and difficult/ enlightening work that has brought you to acknowleding and sharing of stages of this new reality for you. I now more appreciate the photo you shared a bit ago of being with your family members which had to have been such a good place for you…and photos of places of decadent and indulgent “comfort” that any one of us would dream of. I will hold you in my prayers that you will begin breathing more fully and deeply each day.
That hug is felt today for sure, Cindy, because without hearing from those that are along for the ride with me, I would have given up long ago. God knew I needed this blog and I had to have a fire in my belly to dig in and start it. It’s not been easy, but I’m doing the best I can. Oh the joy on the day we see our Savior standing in the clouds calling us home. God is good!
Caye Cooper says
Larissa: Sending you prayers for your continued strength, courage, and power and ask God to amplify it 10 X! I had no idea that you were struggling, but being an empath myself I would send you energy and illumination. Know that you and your family are in my prayers. Please take care of yourself and your health. God bless!
It’s crazy because I really believed it would get better if I just kept trying to be a better wife. Thank you for your caring words, Caye.
Deborah Richards says
A Neurodiverse Marriage: One Wife’s Story – Focus on the Family https://www.focusonthefamily.com/marriage/a-neurodiverse-marriage-one-wifes-story
I know you did not ask for any more reading. I found this article helpful in understanding and thought you might get something out of it.
Praying for you and your family. Sending you virtual hugs.
I actually linked to it in my post above. Yes, it resonated and was one of the first articles I read. Thank you for the prayers and hugs!
I will be praying for you guys!
Love in Christ,
Thank you, Kat. Continued prayers for you and your family as well.
Dee Turk says
I believe that the Lord is going to use your experiences to help many other women who are suffering in silence and have no knowledge of what is happening in their neurodiverse marriage, and now we’ll have a name for it and can move forward hopefully toward understanding, and healing. Larissa, you know I think you’re incredible, you have the biggest heart, and are a precious sister in Christ. I pray for the Lord’s blessing upon you and your entire family. Wishing I could give you the biggest hug, and know that I am from where I sit. Much love and prayers, Dee
Dee, you’ve always had such words of encouragement for me and I adore you for that. I do know God will use this. I pray for discernment for my future.
Shirley Vastine says
Larissa, all I keep thinking is, you take broken things and remake them to be beautiful. You see a problem and wheels turn until it’s fixed.
Sadly,if someone can’t see their brokenness, they won’t seek the help of our true rebuilder, Jesus.
You and your family will wholeheartedly be in my prayers. My hope is that you be strong, and that your heart and soul find peace and healing, so I see the light of joy in your eyes, something I’ve often wondered why I did not find.
He is my joy (Jesus) and I know that I can trust in Him. It’s a learning process to unwind all the mess over the last two decades and I’m trying to give myself time. There are good days and not so good, but I do have that Joy. Thank you, Shirley.
G’day Larissa, I’ve spent the day thinking about you and whilst I could write a book here …. I’ve decided you don’t need more reading. :-). There are millions of us out there who have and are walking this path with you. We’ve got your back, girl! And I hope you are planning to throw one hell of a birthday party this year. I’d even travel across the Pacific to attend! My son’s favourite book for me to take to school to share with his class was: All Cats Have Aspergers. It is a simple explanation and all kids grasp just how different cats and dogs are and that yet each is wonderful – they just don’t make the best marriage partners, without a lot of compromise. I’m now having a little rethink on whether or not I should be continuing to hope for my son to find a caring partner. I’ve never thought about the effect of such a relationship upon the other person. It is food for thought indeed. I do step in to support my much younger sister-in-law though, so I think I would be keeping a weather eye out for any daughter-in-law. That is the advantage of being in a family where the genes have popped out in various people with varying degrees of functioning, all noticed after my son’s diagnosis, no one rubbishes the experiences of all us NTs who have married into this family. I am praying for such familial support for you.
I love that you’re sharing with me, Cathryn. It means I’m not alone. You mentioned your son…that’s my focus…raising my kids both autistic and not to be the best they can be for themselves, for potential relationships. I don’t want ANY of them going through what I’ve lived. For me, JC is so nice that he couldn’t possibly be a problem (in other’s minds) so I have been ignored and unheard my entire marriage. Thank you for the love. And as for my upcoming birthday, I don’t plan to celebrate it as it often leads to sadness. I’ll be thanking the Lord for another year, and preparing for my daughter’s birthday the day after mine.
Denise Loeb says
Larissa, I am so sorry that you are going through this. I have had a hard time dealing with some issues in my family and pray that God has a reason for this and is there to guide me through it. I have a joke that I may not be able to get into Heaven because I have a LOT of questions of why certain things have happened! Mother Theresa also has a quote (although mybe not exact, but to the same effect…), “I know God will not give me more than I can handle…but Why does He trust me so much!” WIll be praying for you and your family for the strength and support that you need. Although we are all sending long distance, faceless prayers, know that you are appreciated and loved more than you know! Vent away!!! Also – I read a very good book when I had my own stillbirth – “When Bad things Happen to Good People”….helped me not to blame God… Sending Love and warm thoughts…
You are a precious soul, Denise. Thank you for taking the time to show love. Yes, I have heard the quote from Mother Theresa and agree! I’m ready to not have so much “wisdom” to share. 😉 I’ve also heard of the book (have little time to read these days), but I’ve only heard good about it. Hugs to you!