As the blog title suggests, I am married.
‘Married? You can’t be autistic then!!’
AUTISTIM MYTH ALERT!!!!
Yes, autistic people do get married and they (wait for it….) reproduce!
Being married doesn’t make me any less autistic. On the contrary, it’s taken a mammoth amount of mental, emotional and physical effort to get to the relationship part and even more to be able to maintain those relationships whilst juggling home life, parenting, and working as well as trying not to break down from the strain of it all..
And I did break down, twice!
I met both husbands while I was masking. I didn’t know who I was, let alone that I was autistic!
Four years after my son got his autism diagnosis (when I was 46) I was diagnosed too, as is often the case with parents of autistic children. I worried about how my ‘severely’ neurotypical husband would feel about having an autistic wife? I mean, he’s always had an autistic wife, obvs, but the diagnosis didn’t appear to bother him. In fact it was the case that it answered a lot of questions for him about me. He’s still here. He hasn’t run for the hills and I’ve not broken him yet, so maybe there’s a chance of the ’till death us do part’ bit?
That said, my husband used to be a lot more laid back than he is now but he is trying to co-exist with two autistics – one post-menopausal with severe anxiety issues and the other who is currently going toe-to-toe with puberty. As most every autistic human will know, puberty and a brain that plays ball is hard enough but puberty (or menopause) plus autism is a different level of shittery, right? So it’s a tough gig on Planet Autism at the moment but my husband is hanging on in there! (ish)
Almost every relationship I’ve ever had hasn’t been easy, the exception to this was my father who was definitely not autistic, but was a wonderful human being to be around. In almost every way, I function far better in my own company. When I’m around other humans I have to try and navigate tone, facial expression, and body language as well as trying not to say the wrong things. Due to a severe case of the emotional dysregulation’s, I invariably overreact and this has been a constant argument of my husband’s..
‘Why do you always have to overreact?!’
I never had an answer for this until I was trawling the autism blogs one day and came across a post where the autistic blogger was describing how she ‘majorly’ overreacts to everything and how she came to understand that it’s ’emotional dysregulation’ – which isn’t unique to autism but is very common with autistic people.
The biggest and most important component in any relationship is ‘give and take’. Without this most relationships – NT, autistic, or a combo- will eventually fail. The problem with an autistic/neurotypical relationship is that there will be some things that an autistic person cannot be flexible with because to do so would be detrimental to their mental health and wellbeing. But, where possible there must be some degree of flexibility for any relationship to work. It should never be the case that one half of the partnership has everything their own way..
Would I be any happier being with another autistic? I don’t know, but given that everybody who has ever been horrible to me is (to my knowledge) NT, I doubt that I would be dancing among the daffodils if I woke up tomorrow with a different brain?
Here is what I think is the key to a successful autistic/neurotypical relationship.
- Trust. Without this any relationship is screwed.
- Pick your battles: Autistics are generally right about everything (joking, not joking) but sometimes you’ve got to let them think they’ve won one. [Think: is this worth an argument?]
- Read books on neurotypical behaviour.
- Casually leave books about autism on your partner’s desk, bedside table – by the toilet.
- Try and accommodate your partner as much as possible.
- Give yourself (and them) space.
- Give clear communication of needs.
- Encourage your partner to have interests & a social life away from Planet Autism; this is for your sanity as well as theirs.
- Never use autism as an excuse for being a dick.
- Do not tolerate abusive behaviour from your partner
On the matter of abuse..
Abuse is word which is difficult to apply to someone who we know loves us and who means well. But the simple matter is this. If it hurts, it’s abuse.
The problem is that there are different ‘rules’ in relationships. A spontaneous bear hug might well diffuse a situation in many neurotypical relationships but it can seriously backfire when someone is autistic. My husband knows to ask if he can touch me when I am stressed and doesn’t take offence anymore when I back away like I’ve just spotted a Dementor. This is because I’ve educated him on how touch affects me when I’m overstimulated and he understands that it’s not about me rejecting him; it’s about me controlling myself.
I also have to look to my own behaviours to make sure that they are not abusive. For example: if my being about as ‘tactful as a turd’ hurts my husband’s feelings then I need to work on my communication because, quite frankly, I would rather be hurt than know that I’ve hurt him. This is why communication needs to be clear. This way, we not only improve our relationship but we improve as human beings too! Hurrah!
Sure enough, there are days where I wish that I was living somewhere remote (but with internet and where Tesco will deliver) and I’m sure there are days where my husband would gladly drive me there and dump me on the doorstep, but I’ve been around enough people in my life to understand that having a neurotypical brain isn’t key to happiness or contentment. If it was, so many neurotypical people wouldn’t have anxiety, depression, or take their shit out on other people, and the divorce rate with neurotypical marriages wouldn’t be so high..
Relationships (with me) are hard work. I’m under no illusion of this. I am hardcore and those who take me on need very wide shoulders indeed. To use an analogy with dogs, my canine equivalent is one who wears a special Hi-Viz jackets such as, ‘GIVE ME SOME SPACE’, I’M NERVOUS’, or ‘STROKE ME AND I’LL TAKE YA FARKIN HAND OFF’. In contrast, my NT husband is the human equivalent of a soppy old deerhound who survives quite nicely on regular meals, love, and a sofa all to himself. That said, even he has his ‘Hi-Viz’ moments, which I suppose is unsurprising when you know that he’s been living with an autistic lunatic for the best part of 20 years. Given this, he’s bound to be slightly fraying around the edges, right?
Until next time..