For 12 years, I hid this truth from myself and from the world. Last October, I wrote an article about how I had anger issues. (If you want to read about it, click here) Today, I made the decision not to have to carry this burden or feel responsible anymore about this.
I was married to a man with Asperger’s Syndrome (undiagnosed). Some people call this high functioning autism. Through more than a decade I lived a life of extreme ups and downs, mostly stressful times because I was basically alone in the marriage. Sometimes it got lonely but most of the time I was not because I am a very self sufficient person and I have a deep hunger for learning. The process of learning helped me to see my situation as a learning school, even though for many years, I had no idea which direction I was heading, and what I was really learning.
Today, in a social chat group I surprised myself by saying quite honestly and without malice (although I was not sure that was how it was perceived) that my ex is autistic. A friend told me to let it go, let it go. Maybe he thought I was just trying to jab at my ex. It was curious because I was just being very transparent. But more importantly, I realised that I just came out of the closet! I was being honest, for myself.
It didn’t matter if they believed me or not. Or if they thought I was just being a crazy ex-wife. But it mattered to me, because I carried this burden for far too long and I only shared this with a select few people in private but never in groups or public. How the public want to use this sharing is up to them. But I share this in the hope that others, who may have carried the burden of certain truths in their own lives, who may have been too embarrassed, too scared, too ashamed to tell others, or a fear that no one would believe them, would know that the time will come for them to unburden the load they carry and that it will be ok.
So why this is such a big deal for me? Firstly, a few days ago my daughter for the first time told her friends without reservation about her experience with her father, so to know this, is very liberating. She is no longer afraid to speak the truth about her experience. And I want to honour her emotional experience and not shut it down as something to be ashamed of, or feel guilty about.
The other reason why this is such a big deal for me is that, the pain and burden of being married to a man with aspergers takes you on a journey you could never imagine especially when you were unprepared for the truth. No one told me this would happen. I did not see this until after having lived with this man for more than a year. The thing about aspergers is that it is so hard to detect, and only after extended periods of time of living together, you begin to see a pattern.
It is a toll that wears you down on so many different levels, and you have to pick yourself up all the time. Without any support or help because nobody would believe that your spouse is not a normal spouse anyway. You think you are in a normal marriage, but the reality will hit you that it will never be normal because it can never be normal. I went through months of therapy with someone who specializes in counseling wives married to aspergers spouses. I was so shocked to realise that there is a whole world and whole dimension of this world that really existed. And the things I experienced were also experienced by others. Having this knowledge was very healing. Some of them stay in the marriage because they received help and the spouse is willing to accept diagnosis and assistance. Some of them leave because the spouse is in denial and do not want to be diagnosed. And for some, they just know that no matter what, they will never be happy in a marriage that is and never can be equal.
The burden of responsibility was not balanced in my marriage, I had to always carry the heavier burden in all things, from finance to parenting and so on. Easier menial tasks could be assigned to him, however it took a long time to convince him that our chores were split so unevenly for too long. The burden does things to your mind, and slowly you enter into his world. You do things in fixed schedules, you do things to suit his needs (as a family you never go to crowded places, you never go to amusement parks with your child as a family as the over stimulation cause the spouse to be extremely grumpy and short tempered, you never eat at new places at a whim, you may have to watch him eat the same thing for weeks, you may also have to watch him cut up his food in small pieces of the exact same size, you never go out and stay out for extended periods of time (more than 3 hours) together because if you do, you will suffer the consequences of being shut out and you become invisible to him), you may also get shouted at in public, you have to pick up the pieces, you have to put out fires created by him, and your needs will never be met. Basically in times of crisis, you will be alone. When I mean alone, I am not talking about being physically alone, although this happens a lot too. But mentally and emotionally you are alone in the marriage. It was like being a single person with an adopted child/cat/dog you no longer wanted and it was wearing you down so heavily, I know this sounds horrible, but this was the feeling I experienced.
Entering into his world also meant you want to do what he did to you. He shut you out, and during the occasional time when he wants to enter your world, you shut him out as a defense mechanism.
So you see, it was a big deal to be able to declare and come out of the closet of being an asperges man’s wife. I take responsibility for my sharing in this article. But I do not take responsibility for what he does not want to own in our years together, nor do I take responsibility for him not accepting this.
Interestingly, we have never danced together. Not even once in all these years we were together. And there are many things that we have never done together, and never will.
Now I am happier than I have ever been. It was a sad marriage, pathetic even at times. One good thing did come out of our marriage – my beautiful daughter.
I am happy to say that my daughter and I dance together!
P.S. I also want to say that there is absolutely nothing wrong in being married to a man with aspergers syndrome. Things can be worked out, if there was honesty and integrity and desire to make it work. But the spouse with aspergers must take responsibility to be diagnosed, seek help and learn to live in a world and a family who are neuro-typical. And the neuro-typical (NT) spouse has to make many adjustments for the marriage to work. And the couple definitely do need external help as the NT spouse will not be able to do it alone.