My ASP and I just had our 18th wedding anniversary! We’ve been together for over 20 years now. ASP said to me, “18 is the age for an adult, so I guess our marriage is an adult now.” This was so sweet. We’ve been through SO much together; there were years when I never would have believed our relationship could be happy and mature like it is now.
Another thing he said was, “What can I do for you?” which is something I hear a lot from him. He’s very attentive to my needs, is very affectionate, and is expressive about his love for me.
Doesn’t sound like an Aspie, does it? I assure you that he’s an Aspie through and through. I once had Cassandra syndrome, depression, an auto-immune disease, and was so miserable in my marriage, I felt so trapped, that I wanted to end my life. I think it was hitting bottom that convinced me to set aside all of my pride and treat ASP the way he needs to be treated, even though he definitely didn’t deserve it. It felt like more punishment at first, but I was willing to do anything. The pay-off has been so worth it! It was the best decision I ever made.
Here’s some background on my decision. Both of our children, ds age 16 and dd age 13, have Asperger’s. I watched them grow from happy, loving, normal toddlers into, well, Aspies. Watching them and ASH led me to believe that Asperger’s is largely an anxiety disorder. Most of the Aspie behaviors that were a problem seemed to be built as a defense mechanism, a wall erected to keep others from hurting them. They are terrified of strong, negative emotion. The other big fear they have is of failure. They are naturally competitive perfectionists.
I thought about how these fears would apply to an intimate relationship. ASP wouldn’t want to be too affectionate or loving or attentive because this would make him vulnerable. He wouldn’t initiate sex or a date or anything else because he was afraid of being turned down. He’d disappear into video games at every opportunity to escape the possibility of upsetting me, which to him feels like punishment. I don’t think he was aware of the reasons for his behavior; the Aspies I’ve known don’t understand themselves or their emotions very well. But I was convinced that I had figured him out.
So here is what I did: I decided to do all I could to lower his anxiety. I didn’t raise my voice, I didn’t criticize him, I didn’t get upset about him in front of him, I minimized using sarcasm, and I was generally patient and tolerant of him. It took me a while to get the hang of all this, but I did (never perfectly though).
Another big help was that he went to a psychiatrist and got medications for anxiety, depression, and ADD. The anxiety medicine was so helpful! I am so grateful that he was willing to get help. He hates taking medicine and is now back to being med-free. He was medicated for about two years.
ASP’s anxiety became manageable. He started telling me how he really felt about things because he was no longer afraid that he’d upset me. We had long talks about his fears regarding me, and I did a lot of calming and reassuring him that I did love him and I wouldn’t leave him no matter what. After so many years of me wanting to leave, it took about a year for him to believe that I was staying. Once he had that straight, he really started to change. He started to hold my hand, kiss me spontaneously, and tell me he loves me. One night he confessed that he had been miserable in our marriage too, but he just had no idea how to make it better.
So much is better now, but not everything. He still lacks theory of mind. He has no idea what I’m thinking, what I want, or why I do the things I do. This kind of sucks. I want my partner to know me and anticipate my thoughts sometimes. But in the bigger picture, this is a small thing. And he’s learned to do some things to let me know he wants to meet my needs, like frequently asking me what he can do for me. He used to be so inconsiderate that I wouldn’t have believed he was capable of considering me before he acts, but he is and he does!
I now have a husband who pampers me and puts me first in all things. If I want anything from him, I just have to tell him, and he’ll do it. He’s loyal and devoted. He loves me like no NT could. He never resents anything he does for me or the kids. And now that he’s made these changes, I know they are for good. Once he makes a rule, he sticks with it, and now, thanks to some sacrifice on my part, he has lots and lots of rules to please me. It’s wonderful!
I wouldn’t trade my ASP for a normal guy ever. He’s the best, and he gives me so much that only an Aspie can give.