Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Asperger's Syndrome; Hard on a Marriage

Over 12 years ago I met my husband and we were engaged only after 2 short months. We were married 4 months after that. Too short? I wonder sometimes.

I didn't know he had Asperger's Syndrome. Heck, he didn't know he had it. He thought he was just kind of weird. I didn't seem to notice or care maybe. Or maybe we made a good match since he seemed so forgetful and stress free, while I was always so needing to organize, stress, and control everything. Hmmmm...

I don't know which has been more difficult---the time we were married before we knew about his Asperger's, or the time since we realized and accepted it.

Before, we were always arguing. Well, I guess I was always yelling at him not understanding how he could forget to do things so often or not see the need to help me out here or there. Or how could he spend all his time playing video games and lose so much track of time, or why he got so upset with me if I changed something in the schedule. Why did little things upset him so much, yet big things seemed not a big deal? Amongst my yelling, he would always see the need to be better and promise me he'd change, yet it would all be forgotten by the next week.

What a pain I am. Really, I must be the most nagging, mean, and awful wife. Why do I expect so much? Why can't I just accept him and not want to change him? Why am I so pushy? Why did I have to push him so hard to get through college, and get a job and all that? I'm just a mean nagging wife who acts like his mother. That isn't what a wife should do.

I suppose after we figured out he had Asperger's it changed things a bit. I could understand now that he wasn't trying to be lazy or ignorant or mean. He really didn't see the need for doing things, and he couldn't understand his emotions when things didn't go as planned or he didn't understand how I was feeling and what I expected of him. He was trying to not get overfocused on unimportant things, but it was difficult. I knew he loved me and wanted to do good, it just didn't come out the right way.

So, yes, we still had our fights, yet I couldn't get as mad because he wasn't doing things or not doing things to upset me. I still got angry, yes, but what could I do? All I could do was say that I know he didn't mean this or that or that I knew he couldn't handle this or that, but I was still frustrated.

As I wrote in the previous post, I started taking care of more and more hoping it would make things better. Yet, I soon became very overwhelmed and feeling like this was not an equal partnership. I'm sure many little girls dream about when they get older and get married and how they will be taken care of and live happily ever after. Well, my picture of being taken care of was not working out. Why did I have to do everything, plan everything, figure out everything, fix everything......etc...etc? I just didn't want to do it anymore.

I was tired of being stressed because of all the times he was supposed to be somewhere but had forgotten or lost track of time. I was tired of being his constant reminder or sort of beeper to tell him when to come home from work and when to go to the dentist or when to pick up the kids from an activity. I was tired of getting to work late all the time because he hadn't gotten home on time to watch the kids. It was all wearing me down.

Well, he went on a business trip and for a week things were different. Not different for what regular things we had planned, but for this week I was all alone. I didn't have his help or an extra driver for the kids' activities, and I didn't have a helper to get the kids to bed or clean up or make dinner, but yet somehow everything went so much smoother.

How could this be? I had to do everything on my own. But then I realized it---it was because I was in control. I didn't have to worry about him remembering to leave work on time or getting a kid to dance class on time or exploding the kitchen while making dinner. (OK, I'm exaggerating there.)

And all of the sudden I was confused. I was confused with my emotions and feelings of independance. I felt as though I wasn't missing him. I was almost relieved he wasn't there. And what a horrible horrible feeling that was! What was wrong with me? Why would I think such awful things? I knew I loved him, but how could I feel this way?

So, yes, when he came back from his trip I told him some of these thoughts that had come to my mind. I told him I was tired of always having to be the one to call people or figure out what to do when things broke or blew up. I told him I was tired of always stressing out whether he will be home on time or get to an appointment on time. I just didn't want to do it anymore. I'm sure I talked for a long time and probably said pretty awful things, and to my dear Aspie husband, he took everything word for word and very literal. And for me, a non-Aspie, I'm sure most of my words that didn't mean to be literal were all taken like knives to his chest.

What an awful wife I was! And yes, my dear husband was deeply hurt and terrified that our marriage was over. He couldn't understand I would say things I didn't mean.

So, over the next few days all disaster broke lose for he felt the world was over and yet I was just getting over another "fight". Yet, we didn't see eye to eye. He wanted to change. He wanted to be more independent. It was just hard for him. He always had a plan and intended to be places on time, or remember to do things, yet there was always something else to draw his attention elsewhere or it was too difficult to talk to people or talk on the phone. And, yes, I understood these were all things difficult for someone with Asperger's, but it just upset me so. I didn't want to always take care of everything. And, I didn't accept that I needed to. I was willing to help, but I didn't want him to have to depend on me so much. He admitted it as well. And why not? He said I was always telling him when and what. Well, then that was my fault. I was more than a nagging wife. I had taken away his independance. How could he be able to do things on his own if I was always jumping in front and taking care of everything?

So, we talked and talked and talked....and figured a lot of things out. He was very successful at work. He got things done. People depended on him. He met deadlines. He was on the ball! He could do things. So what happened at home? I guess it was a lot me and my over controlling self, but he knew there were steps he could take to help out more or be more on time.

So, as any married couple, we talked and sorted things out, and even talked to a counselor to get our feelings out. It didn't last more than a few days. We value marriage and the committment it is. We love each other and our children. We want to do what is right.

Who is to say that any marriage can be difficult no matter what is mixed into the batter? So he has Asperger's Syndrome. So. I'm sure I have a bit of OCD. So. Maybe that makes us work.

There have been so many "specialists" or "experts" who have written articles about how marriage can't work with Asperger's Syndrome. Well, I think that is wrong. People have all sorts of differences, Asperger's may be one of them, but who is to say it is any harder than another couple that have their own issues? I won't accept it. Although I know we will continue to have our arguments and misunderstandings no matter now hard we try to understand one another, I know we will also continue to work our hardest to keep our marriage strong and love each other. You have to want it. We won't give up or give in to the statistics. And we will work to teach our son with Asperger's to also value marriage and relationships as we have full hopes for him falling in love one day and getting married as well.

For those of you out there working with your own marriages with Asperger's in the mix---hang in there. Sometimes it may feel like there is no hope, but I believe you can get through it if you want it badly enough. Work together. Fight to understand. Strive to accept your differences that cannot be changed, but try to work on those differences that can be adjusted.

To me dear Aspie husband, I know it isn't often you read my blogs, but I do love you and I'm sorry for the bazillion times I say the wrong thing and do the wrong thing. Just as you're trying to understand the weirdness of my neorotypical brain, I'm trying my best to understand yours. Together we can figure things out.