Years ago when I had found out I was pregnant again with a fourth child, my husband and I didn’t know whether to be happy or concerned. Life wasn’t bad, but I was really too busy to slow down and my anxiety was just getting under control. I was at the point where my other kids could do more things for themselves and my husband was deployed too much for me to get his help while being pregnant. We knew it was just something we had to accept and we would make the most out of it as I loved all my children.
After a few months I went in for an illness and upon telling a new doctor of my pregnancy, he wanted to do some tests. When the test results came back, they found that I had miscarried but my body still thought it was pregnant, so I was still going through all the pregnancy stages. I refused a DNC, which required them to go inside and clean me out. Sometimes it can help move things along, but other times it can cause infection. I don’t believe in medicating myself due to my first son’s traumatic birthing experience so, as an all natural person, I decided to let my body take its toll and rid the excess pregnancy itself. It was a long month waiting for my body to progress itself and realize it was no longer pregnant. Thoughts of my first child birth loss began to fill my head and I spent many nights pacing and humming to myself in order to control my depression and anxiety.
Finally, one evening my body went into false labor. I was experiencing labor as my body tried to purge itself and I laid in the bed as if giving birth. It didn’t last more than forty minutes, but when I asked my husband to stay with me, he squeezed my hand and simply said:
“I’m just out in the living room on the computer. I’m not far.”
I became angry that I was going through this loss and pain again and he couldn’t even stay with me. It made me think about how much I had gone through for him, and I wondered if this was really worth it. As with anything else, I dealt with it on my own. After years of raising three children, practically on my own, I had experienced much loss and pain, but healing was all on my own. I rarely asked anything from my husband. He didn’t have to cook, clean, take care of the kids, walk the dog, go to school meetings, attend therapy sessions for his two Autistic kids, or even pay the bills. Even when he was not deployed, I did ninety percent of everything and as the kids got older, they had chores to take the trash out and clean the yard up. I did everything else and wrote books, did speeches, and ran a non-profit organization. He did not have any responsibilities except his work. In fact, the military did everything else for him, scheduling his doctor’s appointments, telling him when to go for dental exams, and making sure he was healthy for a mission. His career was first and foremost and many times I felt like I had a roommate instead of a husband. I had to keep reminding myself that he did not mean to be the way he was. My husband was Autistic and did not know how to communicate or how to comfort.
Living with an Autistic child is one thing. When my son and daughter were diagnosed with Autism, I accepted it. As a parent, you know what you must do and how to keep things under control. You are the mom. No matter how bad it is, your Autistic child is still your child and you are the parent. However, when you are married to an Autistic partner, it is a completely different zone. The person you lean most on, the person you look to as a comfort and a voice of reasoning, does not turn out to be that person and you feel as if you are raising another child at times. You are alone a lot of times and it’s like crossing a tight rope every day, a balancing act of sorts. It takes a special marriage to work when you have an Autistic spouse.
Things I have learned to accept while being married to Autism:
- Emotions are few and far between but they still exist. Even if the facial expressions are not there, my spouse can still be hurt. However, if I am hurt, I must tell him exactly why and explain it in comparison to something he understands.
- Bluntness is key. Things need to be said straight out instead of subtle hints or guessing. This includes gifts I might want or things I might like. I will rarely be surprised because I must tell him what to get me or where to take me for dinner.
- I must tell him what needs to be done around the house as my spouse will not see what I see when there is a mess on the stairs or in the kitchen. I must tell him exactly where to put something instead of “Clean the kitchen for me”.
- Romance is not going to happen because my spouse does not know how to be romantic. Instead, I must compromise by telling him what kind of flowers I want and I must set up the dinner reservations.
- Yelling will not solve anything. If I yell at my Autistic spouse, he will close up and walk away. He is not confrontational and his system will literally shut down. Thus, he will not listen to reason, as there is no “reason” to him when yelling.
- I must learn to deal with his weird hobbies and procrastination. Time is not of concern to him and when he is fixated on something, there is no getting him off the subject until HE is done.
- Write everything down and text it to him, post it on his computer, write it on his hand, whatever I must do to get him to remember! Autistic people are naturally absent-minded and forgetful.
- Give one things to do at a time! As with the above forgetfulness, giving a lot of things to do at once is overwhelming and it will be forgotten anyways unless you have a list, in which case, you must keep in mind that the procrastination may kick in.
It takes a strong person to raise an Autistic child, but an even stronger one to be married to an Autistic spouse. However, IT CAN WORK! My husband and I have been married for 25 years this year and I can’t imagine life without him. The most wonderful part of being married to an Autistic husband is that he is truly dedicated to me and our kids and he is the most sincere and loving man I have ever known. I hope someday my Autistic children can find the happiness we have found.
Have you experienced a struggling relationship but made it work? How did you overcome adversity and come out on top?
A great read for those married to Autism is The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man’s Quest to Be a Better Husband