Monday, November 14, 2011

In Sickness and For Worse

If you are not a person of faith, this post does not apply to you.  It is meant for Christians and may also apply to those who strongly believe they should keep vows and promises.

I am saddened by the breakup of two NT/AS marriages I've read about recently.  These were aspies who were very self-aware.  These aspies worked very hard to make their marriages work.  And the NT left them.  Now, I admit that if one is not a person of faith, I honestly don't know why the NT stayed as long as they did.  If all one cares about is personal happiness in this life . . . "GET OUT NOW!" would be my advice in a heartbeat.

But I am a person of faith.  I believe vows before God and promises to others should be kept. That doesn't mean it's easy to stay in an NT/AS marriage.  In fact, it's beyond difficult.  It's painful.  It's gut-wrenching agony sometimes.  Sometimes it just sucks.  It really does! 

And aspies are shooting themselves in the foot when they claim that autism is not a disability or a handicap.  Their partners are leaving them left and right because if this is not a handicap/disability or at least recognized as a serious hardship on others, then the aspie is just a jerk or a bitch much of the time, okay?  Aspie friends, if this is acknowledged as a brain abnormality, a disability, a handicap . . .  you will get more compassion from your NT spouse!! 

But of course, the aspie fights these terms.  Because the aspie cannot and does not realize it will help SOMEONE ELSE'S perspective and thus someone else's actions towards them!  They're not gonna get it!  And their partners will leave them, left and right.  Is that what you guys want?  Okay, you got it.  Enjoy life alone.  Is that what you REALLY want?!?

As for the NT spouses who are keeping their vows in sickness and for worse:  Think of this as sickness.  You know it's "for worse" already.  Think about your spouse as a handicapped person.  Think of them as having been in a car accident, or having gone through brain cancer and then brain surgery.  And they came out alive, but not quite themselves.  Their brains are altered and damaged to some degree.  This degree of damage causes much anguish for you, the caregiving spouse.  But they need you, and you promised to be there for them.

It helps to think this way.  What sucks is that you're the only one who knows that they are damaged.  Others think they are fine.  You are the compassionate, giving, stretched-thin, miserable and lonely caregiver and many times no one in the world knows what you suffer.  Which compounds the loneliness a hundredfold.

But you are not alone.  NT spouses all over the world know exactly how you feel.  Support groups would be invaluable for us, but they are incredibly rare at this time.  Ultimately though, you are not alone if you are a Christian.  Your help comes from the Lord.  And that should be, and can be . . . enough.

He gave you this.  He brought you two together.  He is allowing you to suffer.  He wants you to need Him, to go to Him, to depend and rely on Him alone to meet your needs.  He is waiting for you and promises to draw near to those who draw near to Him.

Something we NTs can learn from the aspie in this scenario is to do our work with an intrinsic motivation.  We can learn from their example not to strive for man's approval and adulation and commendation.  We shouldn't need others to pat our backs and tell us what a good job we are doing caregiving our disabled spouse.  We should love and live and give our lives for others as unto the Lord, and not unto man.

We are learning these things because of the suffering we experience in our NT/AS marriages.  We can become better people, better Christians, because of our troubles and toil in these marriages

Change your thinking. Focus on these truths.  Take heart. 

And don't give up.


  1. I understand that you're probably not feeling well? happy? at the moment but this is really quite a terrible thing to say and I think you might benefit from re-reading it and thinking about how it looks from the other side of the fence.

    You're judging people with aspergers syndrome on the basis of the behaviour of a few individuals.

    People with Aspergers Syndrome are different - and yes, at times, it can be quite a handicap.

    Different isn't wrong. God made us just as surely as he made you - and who are we to judge His creations and decide that one is inferior to the other? In fact, I seem to recall quite a few passages specifically about NOT judging others.

    From our side of the fence, neurotypical behaviour is often strange. It's only considered "normal" because you're in the majority.

    I have noted a lot of great qualities such as compassion and loyalty in people with aspergers which are sadly missing in many neurotypicals but of couse, everyone is different and we all make our own individual choices.

    Even though we feel it, we can't choose to show empathy the way that neurotypicals do. To do so would be to lie, something that doesn't come naturally to many of us. The best that we can do is to work with our partners to improve both our communication abilities and our ability to support each other in positive ways.

    I don't feel that God wants anyone to suffer in marriage. I think that He wants marriage to be a sacrament that we all love and respect. Our job as married couples isn't to accept our lot and suffer but to put enough work into the marriage to turn it into a truly beautiful thing.

  2. At the end of the day and the close of the light, it is only the vow that I made before the one true God that is the firewall that keeps me from running and probably drowning in my own search for happiness. This is not the marriage that I want in any way but I have to trust that it is of a higher design and purpose than I can possibly fathom. The years may only reveal pain and sadness for me but I hope that eternity will reveal a joy that I could never have And that is all that I have to hope for now.

    An NT spouse living in the house of Autism

    1. Thank you. I just found out about my husband's AS a few days ago. I printed your post out, will laminate it and keep it in my wallet for courage on the journey. Thank you Blue Orchid.

  3. Okay, so I am a Christian who believes strongly that we are to remain married pretty much no matter what. Id rather be unhappy than have a divorce.

    But I DO believe that divorcing in the event of abuse is perfectly justified. So since the AS/NT relationships are usually not abusive but then will cross over into the abusive realm VERY QUICKLY and with seemingly NO warning, what are we supposed to do?!? My husband is becoming aggresive towards my dogs again. If he follows the same pattern as he did last year then the next thing will be havingt more outbursts of anger (actually he had one a few weeks ago now that I think about it, complete with chair throwing...) and then after that yelling and cursing at me and throwing things at me. I WONT STICK AROUND FOR THAT! In fact, I have half a mind to give him the ultimatum that if he hits my dogs again then I do not feel safe staying here with him and will pack up and go to a friends house.

    AHHHHHHH!!!!! I HATE THIS! Aspergers isn't just being awkward socially, its a totally crippling relationship disorder! I could handle if he was just socially awkward, its the rest of the stuff that's hard to cope with. I'm terrified to have children with this man and that is the one thing I actually wanted out of life- even more than getting married I wanted to adopt lots of kids. But is he turning back into the abusive psycho husband???

    Im so confused and SO SO SO frustrated.

  4. NT Bird, Totally Agreed. Abuse breaks the vow and you should GET OUT NOW. Yelling and throwing things is emotional abuse and if you got in the way of the chair---physical abuse! A good first step would be to get your church leadership involved and if that isn't possible,just leave. Call the civil authorities if he is EVER physically abusive to you. Seriously sounds like you should get to safety ASAP.

  5. Gavin, it is SO helpful to hear your perspective. And to see so clearly how you can't "see" what I'm saying is helpful, too.

    I wonder if you have asked your wife lately (in these exact words) "are you happy in our marriage?" "Do I make you HAPPY in our marriage?" and if she bursts into tears at that question . . . then ask "WHAT CAN I DO to make you happier in our marriage?" I'm guessing you'll be shocked by her response (though she may be too stunned to respond at all).

    If she does say she's happy, I wish she would write a blog because NT spouses need to see a true success story of a happy NT/AS marriage. I have yet to find an NT wife who is STAYING BECAUSE SHE IS TRULY HAPPY in her asperger marriage. The only ones I know of are staying because of other reasons (financial, the kids, pity, poor health, vows made, or religious reasons). "Happy" doesn't come into the equation.

    Here's the perspective of the NT . . . we are NOT "happy". We may be committed, content, determined to stay. But, please . . .

    ASK her: "Are You HAPPY?"

  6. NT Bird - It sounds like you need to protect yourself (and any future children) IMMEDIATELY and thoroughly, whatever that means in your situation. You deserve better and so does he. You both will need help - if he is unwilling you must remember that you are doing him no favors by allowing him to be abusive (by which I DO NOT mean it's your fault he's that way, but that you should not stay and be abused).

    That said, this post is upsetting on many levels. While I agree that Aspies need more understanding, more patience, more everything, their challenges in life do not absolve them from being decent human beings.

    As we all know too well, there's no way to know what is actually happening in someone else's marriage. It's not fair to judge the NTs and say that they are leaving just to pursue happiness and imply that makes them less Christian. I don't believe that God wants any of us to endure abuse - and that standard for what is considered abuse is for God and the people involved (and the legal system, if required) to judge.

    Yes, we need to do everything in our power to help our aspies and to understand them. But they can't hide behind their differences and act like jerks, or worse. They share responsibility for making a marriage work, and in my mind it means bringing some happiness to their spouses.

    Would you tell someone married to someone with any other condition to stay if their life and health were threatened because it's not their spouse's fault but the disorder?

  7. These insights and comments are like gold to me and always speak that I'm not alone out here. Thanks to each of you so mucn. NT Bird - I hear you clearly. And I've been hit hard and had to duck things thrown at me by my Aspie wife. The one in the ribs - which really hurt was because I tried to break up a fight between my Aspie wife and our oldest son - Aspie / SPID challenged. Please forgive me folks for being so numb and tired but honestly I'm just living worn out and up against the "firewall" of my marital vows every day. And one more note for NT Bird - when I began this journey of discovery that has taken me from being in the dark about Autism to expert, it wasn't long before I made sure that there would be no more children. Despise me if you will, but I'm overwhelmed with my Aspie / SPID spouse and the thought of having four Autistic kids as well would send me over the edge. Hmmm, maybe I'm over the edge now and just don't know it! Happy? I don't even know what I would say to that. Truly the tears that might come would rain down for each of the 13 years that I have been but a wedding guest at my own wedding gone wrong.

  8. Hey Anonymous,

    I do and would tell anyone whose life or physical health is threatened to get out quickly (as I said in the comment above to NT bird).

    Gavin, isn't it interesting that the NTs who read my posts see me being TOO SUPPORTIVE of aspies and too critical of NTs, and the aspies think I'm too critical of aspergers! I'm fighting FOR aspies, whether you can see that or not. I've got some aspie kiddos and I'm fighting FOR them. I'm honestly acknowledging the bloody war that it is to fight for them but I'm doing it. And I'm trying to win others over to your (and their) side. Really, I am.


  9. Aspmom - I posted and didn't see your comment to NT Bird advising getting out, and I'm glad that we're on the same page there.

    But I reiterate my point that there's a fine line in many of our homes between what is and isn't abuse (particularly emotional abuse). I think that many NT spouses probably endure a lot of emotional abuse, and that much of what you have written about makes me think that you have as well.

    It's a gray area and quite difficult to navigate. The suffering is real, even if the pain wasn't intended by the AS person. Forgiveness doesn't mean you have to put yourself in harm's way, and that includes your own emotional health.

    It's more than a matter of pursuing personal happiness. I think many NTs stay because they have so much hope, and they wish to help foster understanding, AND because they believe in the vows they took. They have hope that they can change a little and their aspies can change a little and that they'll fall in love again and then the whole family will be happy.

    It's also about showing the kids (especially the aspies) what's right - and there's no clear answer. Do you stay and possibly send them the message that it's OK for spouses to treat each other poorly? Or do you leave and risk send them the message that aspies aren't marriage material? None of it is that simple, but these are the things that it'll get distilled down to when people ask "why?"

  10. I've come to the point where I have no more "hope" that the aspies will change, even a little. I'm trying to accept that they can't change, so I have to learn how to live with who they are (or else leave).

    I know aspies can learn to perform acts of service/kindness when instructed/requested to do so and eventually those may become habit. I can accept that. I know they can memorize the right things to say, though they may need lots of reminders of when they should say them.

    But staying with the hope that the aspie will "change" is no reason to stay. The only reasons I can find, or can see lasting amongst ANY NT/AS marriages, are religious/moral reasons.

    Emotional abuse is a reason to leave. I don't believe emotional NEGLECT is a biblical reason (see my post on "Why Divorce Is Not An Option") for more on that topic. Yelling, cursing, saying horrible things about you . . . sure--LEAVE quickly!

    But there is a such thing as a kind of "good" marriage possible with NT/AS couples. It looks like very compatible roommates who work very well together and have similar interests. It can look (and be, I suppose) quite pleasant. The NT just has to be content with that level of relationship (roommates) . . . and drop the desire for a deep, emotional connection. That kind of marriage may be emotionally very sad for the NT . . . but it can still be "good" and "productive" and a safe and loving place for children to grow up in.

  11. Thank you all for your advice. I hear you. I hear you. At the moment, I do not feel justified in leaving. Last spring/winter when things were very bad and clearly abusive I did involve our church. The pastor began trying to do some anger management counseling with my husband but of course it was ll geared towards a neurotypical and at the time we had no idea my spouse was dealing with AS. So it really wasn't working for him but my spouse was giving it an honest effort. He feels genuine remorse and shame over his behavior. He's trying VERY hard- reading his Bible more, going to the men's small group at church, talking with the pastor, etc. He has a deep desire to be a good and loving husband and I see him rededicate himself to that goal every single day.

    I think the "abuse" I am seeing are actually autistic melt-downs. I cant remember if I read it in a blog or a book but I remember reading that when an autistic child becomes really really overwhelmed they are often given to violent outbursts. This is often triggered by sensory issues. The reading I saw also said that they have very little control when they are in that state of mind- almost like a seizure and that most feel really badly about it after the fact. It was advising caregivers to allow them to rage and just make sure the child and everyone else was safe during the raging and to work on reducing the triggers that lead to the raging in the first place and to teach children how to identify when they are becoming overwhelmed so they can work to prevent the rages themselves.......So, with that in mind (now that we know about the AS) when I see my husband raging, I also see the little boy he used to be. The little boy with AS that nobody knew what was wrong with him and mainly, nobody TAUGHT regulation skills to. My husband grew up in a single parent home. We not believe his mother who was raising him also has AS. He was essentially by his two delinquent brothers who were only a few years older than him. He was bounced around to various schools for children with behavioral issues and when his mom thought he became "too much" as a second grader he spent 6 months in a mental institution for "extreme ADHD." Despite all of this, by the grace of God he grew up to never get in a legal trouble, join the military and turn into a reasonably well-adjusted and loving man. One who sometimes has outbursts. At the end of all of his outbursts he can be found stroking his head, and staring into space in a quintessentially autistic pose. Call me nieve, but I really see a LOT of potential in him to grow and learn other ways to deal with this. I see how much progress he made with NO help and believe that with his willingness to change, he can learn to control the outbursts too.

    Friday of this week we have our first appointment to begin the formal diagnosis process which will lead to treatment of his AS. My husband is nervous, but totally on board. he wants so badly for our marriage to work and for both of us to be reasonably happy. So Im gonna keep holding out, a little longer. As long as I see movement in a positive direction, I want to stick with it. That said, I will not allow myself or my dogs to be abused and/or put in danger. If it comes down to it, I will leave and we can continue working on things from separate living arrangements.

  12. Aspmom, I feel your pain. I am in an NT/AS marriage and it is very difficult. The difference is that I am the aspie.

    My husband says there is nothing wrong with me, and unless I get a diagnosis he won't believe me. He tells me I'm just a witch and I make bad choices because I'm lazy and don't care. He tells me I'm useless, that I'm nothing more than a babysitter, and he treats me like one of the children.

    I want so badly to function better, but it is difficult to do with no support. I beg him to help me, but he tells me I'm a grown woman and should be able to do things on my own. Being a stay at home mom, most of my issues that he is bothered by deal with managing the home. At times I've asked friends to help me and my husband ridicules me. He's embarrassed that I would allow people to see our home a mess. When I told him that I would like to get counseling to help me, he made me feel so guilty about the money that I would be spending that I just decided to drop it.

    It is sad to hear you say that you have no hope that aspies will change. My only hope is that I can change. I have to admit, though, I really don't want to change for my husband. I think it is awful that he only shows me any kindness when I'm performing to his standard. I also must admit that there are times that I rebel because I hate that I am made to feel like I have to strive for man's approval. Because this has been my experience with most people in my life, I live as if this is how God views me as well. My hope has been that I can change so that I will be more acceptable to God. Now, I know this is not right. I know that there is nothing I can do to earn God's love. I am loved and made acceptable by the blood of Christ. But it is still difficult to walk in that truth when most people treat you as unlovable and unacceptable based on your conformity to their desires.

    I do want to change though. I want to be able to love God, my children, others, and yes, even my husband, as I am commanded to. I'm not sure what that is supposed to look like for me, but I know that God did not redeemed my life and place me in these roles just to have me fail. I want to say with Paul, "But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor 12:9-10). I guess that should be my hope.

  13. Well, I'm back and I've done the deed, yes aspmom, I do really value your input.

    It took me several days to work up the courage and one night without sleep. You see, I kept thinking, what if I ask her if she's happy and she says "no". How will I take that?

    I was sitting next to my wife at dinner and the kids had just toddled off to bed. (not to sleep, just to jump around on them as usual).

    I was looking at my wife trying to ask but my lips wouldn't move. Somehow she picked up on it and said, "what are you trying to say?".... I still couldn't blurt it out.

    I talked about how someone had asked me a question and how I wanted it answered - and how I hadn't slept because I couldn't figure out how to say it.

    Eventually I calmed down enough to say it.

    She's mostly happy.
    She wants more appreciation and she wants me to try harder. We tried talking about appreciation and what that means but I mostly got more confused. I know I'm stupid in that way.

    I'll blog about it eventually when I get my thoughts sorted.

    In the meantime, I'm trying - and I WILL get better.

    The next day I bought her some flowers and told her that it's to show that I appreciate her. I know it's not much and I know it's cliche but its a start.

    In the coming weeks I'll try to find that elusive appreciation goal.

    Thanks for pushing me to ask the question.

  14. GAVIN, YOU ROCK!!!

    I am SOOO impressed and I bet she is too! Wow!

    I have told my husband I need flowers (cheap ones as long as they are from a certain store so I trust they won't be wilted) EVERY SINGLE WEEK. And you know what? He does it. From the (approved by me) nice grocery store. EVERY WEEK a little bunch of fresh flowers. A visible reminder that he appreciates me. EVERY WEEK. And after a week, they wilt, and I wilt, and then the fresh, new ones are a reminder...he really does care and think about me.

    Hope you keep it up!!!

  15. "And aspies are shooting themselves in the foot when they claim that autism is not a disability or a handicap. Their partners are leaving them left and right because if this is not a handicap/disability or at least recognized as a serious hardship on others, then the aspie is just a jerk or a bitch much of the time, okay?"

    Sometimes not only a jerk or a bitch but an aspie supremacist (I've seen people claim that Asperger's and autism make them *superior* to NTs, people with William's, people with Down Syndrome, etc.).

  16. About the flowers, that's so sweet! :D

    Speaking of flowers, it may occur to your spouses (like it did to me years ago) that a potted plant is even better than a bouquet because the plant's still alive and won't wilt for a long time (as long as you water it, feed it plant food, move it to a larger pot when its roots outgrow its current pot, etc.). ;)

  17. Hey, I value the symbolism of the weekly wilting flowers replaced by new ones. I wilt after a week of not being shown any appreciation or attention. And then I get a fresh new reminder that he was thinking about me! :)

    No potted plants for me. That's too symbolic of an asperger marriage! He thinks the marriage can just stay alive and not wilt for a long time as long as basic physical needs are met--food, water, shelter.

    Fresh flowers in a vase, weekly, please! :)

    1. This is AMAZING! I had a serious boyfriend who would buy only potted plants, as I think about him he was/is definitely an aspie, my husband does the same (if he ever buys any which is pretty much never)...I guess I was doomed to be in an aspie relationship from the start. Wish we had known about this 20+ years ago when I was single....

  18. "No potted plants for me. That's too symbolic of an asperger marriage! He thinks the marriage can just stay alive and not wilt for a long time as long as basic physical needs are met--food, water, shelter."


    Back when I switched my own personal preference to potted plants, it was because I felt so ssorry for the flowers when I saw them wilt...

    "Fresh flowers in a vase, weekly, please! :)"

    Yeah, your husband should remember yiour preference because it's yours! :)