Finally I’ve settled on something to call my husband on this blog. He’s my counterpart. Not only is that term accurate it also calls to my mind Star Wars’ C-3P0 and R2-D2 which is a huge bonus in my opinion ❤
I’ve been married to a non-autistic (allistic) man pretty much for my entire adult life. He hasn’t really gotten a good introduction in my blog so I figured it was about time to write one. This post is not approved by him (I’m attempting to experience how it feels to completely disregard someone else’s perspective while posting about them publicly online), although he knows that I’m writing it and planning to publish it without his prior approval.
At the time we got married, we were very young still (barely out of our teens) and we had no idea that I was Autistic. None whatsoever.
Married life is not easy.
However, for years I thought it was easy because I was basically clueless about the fact that my counterpart was struggling. He didn’t explicitly tell me this and I didn’t realize that he was subtly trying to communicate any sort of distress to me.
On his side of things, he just assumed I didn’t care. There he was, trying to show me in every non-verbal way he could that he was highly distressed and there I was, totally unaware that anything was going on beneath the surface of talking about day to day things, childcare, meals, house stuff, plans…
His assumption would’ve been reasonable, if I’d been able to tell that he was struggling.
We went along like that for years. I’m still unsure of why he stayed with me, given his assumption that I just didn’t care, or why he stayed quiet about his distress for so long.
This isn’t to suggest that I didn’t have some misgivings about our relationship during those years. I sensed that there were bad things in our relationship, but since he never told me anything about them I dismissed that sense and told my gut to shut up.
After all, making assumptions and listening to my gut had never ended up well in the past so I’d learned fairly effectively to just dismiss it immediately when it popped up with inconvenient feelings that didn’t seem to be based in anything concretely real.
We continued forward through having three babies, living in poverty, moving across the USA (more than once), dealing with horrible accusations from some of his family members who apparently hated me, losing jobs, etc.
Then soon after our 8 year wedding anniversary, my boss/friend suggested I look into the possibility that I might be Autistic.
It all fit perfectly. Me being Autistic explained everything.
My counterpart was stunned. This information changed everything he thought he’d known about how I communicate and interact with people.
I’d not been particularly aware of the existence of subtext, for example. I had sort of learned how to say things without directly saying them, but mainly just in writing, and it didn’t always work the way I intended it to. And if someone else tried to use subtext to tell me something then it was pretty much guaranteed that I wouldn’t get the message they’d intended.
He’d often assumed that I was angry with him based on body language and tones of voice that I wasn’t even remotely aware I was projecting. These incorrect assumptions often had the effect of making me angry when he mentioned them, so I believe he stopped mentioning them after awhile and just chalked it up to me not caring.
Finding out that I really had been unaware and really had been telling the truth made a difference for both of us. For him, he was able to start to let go of his feelings (based on misunderstandings) that I didn’t care or maybe even didn’t love him at all. For me, I was able to feel validated in my experience of the world once I’d had it confirmed that I was indeed Autistic.
We’ve often still struggled since then, of course, but now we know how to better communicate with the other and to see any assumptions as probably incorrect. Asking for clarification is almost always a good idea when one has a relationship with a person who has such a very different neurotype.
Even this many years after learning that he’s allistic, I still regularly learn of new ways in which his social expectations seem completely arbitrary and are unfathomable to me. I’m fairly certain he feels similarly about mine too. We still frequently transgress against the other’s natural tendencies, but open communication (as soon as it’s possible, usually in writing) and listening with an open mind help a great deal.
Even though it’s very hard work to attempt understanding of his perspective and expectations, I’m forever thankful to have him in my life. He believes me, tries very hard to understand my perspective, and is usually willing to try and help me better understand his as well.