Even before I met my now-wife, people who knew me wondered if I would ever find a woman willing to put up with me. And people (including me) who know my wife still wonder how or why she stayed married to me for so many years. As I understand it: I can be difficult to live with, at least in part because of my zealous reliance on systems and standards of my own contrivance, enhanced by blindness to non-verbal communication.
So how did I end up married to an amazing woman? As she sometimes explains it: I “tricked her.” I don’t disagree with that, but I emphasize that I did not do so intentionally: The problem is that people can be Special Interests. And when I became interested in my future wife, it didn’t matter to her that I was “a little weird.” Compound the blinding passion of an early romantic relationship with the focused attention an aspie brings to bear on his Special Interest: Detecting the atypical traits that will strain a life together under those conditions is like trying to pick out sunspots while staring directly at the sun.
I don’t think the challenges in a long-term ASD-NT marriage are different in kind from those of typical male-female marriages. At least in my case, it’s more a difference in magnitude. Remember this chart? It is with good reason that ASD is often classified as an extreme “male mind.”
All marriages face turbulence as the honeymoon phase winds down – the sun dims, and its spots become visible. In our case this phenomenon was magnified when my Special Interests, perhaps inevitably, began to wander. To continue the metaphor: My bright “Special Interest” light stopped shining directly into my wife’s eyes.
She says that I am not “emotionally supportive.” I don’t entirely understand what that means, but I know enough of my limitations to believe her. I gather that I was never “emotionally supportive” in the neurotypical sense. Rather, the intensity I brought to bear on her when she was my Special Interest could not be distinguished from neurotypical “emotional support,” and so it concealed the fact that I don’t provide or even grasp what that is.
But it gets worse: Review my posts on hypersensitivity and then imagine the effects of introducing the chaos of young children into my space and routines. Kids destroy ASD coping mechanisms when those mechanisms are needed most. With kids in our life, the mental energy reserves I had previously used to support my relationship with my wife were simply gone. She had to confront the previously unknown extent of my differences at the same time she most wanted a neurotypical husband.
Just as most couples struggle with the end of the honeymoon phase, most marriages are strained by having kids. Unfortunately, at least for my wife, those hardships were exacerbated by the concomitant discovery of atypical traits in her spouse that present their own challenges. Darling: I’m sorry.