It’s hard to criticize my wife. I mean, she does live with me, and that should suck for anyone. But, she is gladly married to me. I sometimes think she has a blind adoration for me, and it confuses her when I am upset.
She has what I call Pollyanna syndrome, not an official diagnosis as far as I know. But, to her, everything has to be good and happy. It’s extremely naive, but it’s also a people-pleasing tendency, she’s accepted recently.
Over five years ago, I wanted her to go to therapy for herself. The goal was to get her to understand me, but really our kids, better. She thought she did. I thought she didn’t, especially the autist ones, wondering why their mother would go to bed when they needed her help. That sort of thing—the year of never staying up with a suicidal child. Yes, one year, every night, regardless of what I said. I’ve gone on about that too much, assuming she has changed.
Three therapists have told me she wouldn’t change. I didn’t accept that. She’s far too nice to want to hurt anyone, I’d argue. My autism therapist says I cannot count on my wife for emotional support. Our marriage counselor of three years has tried to explain things to her. We went right before the pandemic, after a holiday visit with my family. I was so upset and overwhelmed, but my wife just saw a crazy person. External events have almost no effect on her, and she thinks all my problems are internal. In a way, internal differences in my brain do affect me, but that’s not the same thing. I do have some underlying mood instability, but being in a hostile, toxic environment can impact someone. With that setup, I was not in a good place returning home. And, we came back, and my kids had stayed with my brother, a rather poor oversight, under the circumstances. I was desperate, and I called her and said she needed to come home. The rope was hung, literally. Fortunately, she had the sense to come home, as she has learned to take that seriously. My comment to her was, “Do you want to get divorced or do you want me to die? You pick.” She got the message: we started marriage counseling soon after.
While she resisted individual therapy until things got even worse last year, that was a start. Almost immediately, our counselor was stunned at my wife’s lack of reaction to things, especially when I purposely tried to demonstrate how unaffected she could be by what I’d say. Sometimes, with her jaw dropped, literally, I’d say to the counselor, “see, can you believe she is not reacting to that?” My wife would just sit and smile. I actually felt bad for doing it, but I didn’t know what else to do.
We had an excellent book on marriage, though my wife and I were opposite of nearly everything that was given in a stereotypical husband/wife scenario. Of course, that was an inherent flaw in the book, I thought, but, in a cis/hetero marriage, we are rather atypical. And, autism is atypical. And, at least one of us is autistic . . .
My wife has agreed to go in for a preliminary consultation about autism. I had to get rather upset about it, repeatedly, as she can’t understand my explanations. I even dropped some words I never had before. Maybe it’s just my explanations. Who knows? I learned this, in part, by how a person had to, lacking a better word, berate me to get me to understand how some people I thought were my friends actually didn’t like me at all. Similar to my wife, I was being naive, not only at that moment but for the years leading up to it. People had been warning me, just as I and my siblings had been warning my wife about my parents. It’s hard being duped for so long, especially when you have been defending those who end up hurting you.
In the same way, I can see how my wife—whether she is autistic or maybe just codependent, as she believes—can simply not process what my parents did and continued to do to me and my siblings. For me, I struggle to know how people would try or want to hurt me so badly, especially when I had defended them for years. For my wife, she struggled to know how my parents could hurt their children so badly, especially when they kept telling her it was the fault of their children. (After all, I probably deserved what my mother did to give me 20 years of nightmares, and I’m sure my sister was faking a 104-degree temperature just to get some “attention” from my father. My wife refuses to read my blog, but in case she did, this was sarcasm. She often misses it.)
I often tell my wife that we are both naive. The difference is that she doesn’t know it, but I do. I know it because I think all problems can be resolved. As a result, I get hurt or upset others who don’t like my attempts to do so or don’t see the issue I do. She simply doesn’t see that issues exist. However, I think both of us make both mistakes, now that I’m reflecting on it. Perhaps we are both codependent autistics. There’s a lot to explore there.
May wife may not be autistic. I mean, a female in STEM who liked to play tackle football with boys growing up and hated dolls is not a guarantee of autism. Lacking emotional depth is not either. Neither is having to be taught by your husband why a locked door on your child’s bedroom or on a bathroom at another person’s house means to knock and not just unlock it and go in. And, she gets mad when I make analogies, since she thinks I’m trying to trick her. These are not complicated ones, at all. I was a bit stunned to see a picture of a young Temple Grandin and see how much it looked like my wife’s picture at that age. Of course, it must mean nothing, that stare away from the camera and really similar facial features. Maybe I’m pressing on that, and I’m not about to show a picture of my wife as a child.
There are the everyday 6am texts to me about her Nerdle score, though she stopped once I pointed it out. And, so on. Potentially, she’s just the most normal person in the world. I do feel unlucky she is hypo-sensitive, and I am hyper-sensitive. That part didn’t quite work out in my favor. But, many other parts have, as long as we can both not skew too far in any direction. She got flustered when I asked her a question about being happy all the time and if she was willing to give up some of her happiness to help someone else. “Why would I give up any of my happiness to help someone?!” She was not happy, but really I think it was autistic confusion. I know how that works.
I am irritated my wife doesn’t want any of my thoughts before her meeting with a psychologist next week, since I went to my autism evaluation with over five years of research, data, and results of tests I had my family fill out about me. I’m afraid she will do what she can to thwart any autistic diagnosis. Of course, that might backfire, especially if the psychologist is paying attention. I’m also going to try really hard to get her to take some things in.
I’ve told my wife that it would be great if she were autistic. She gets mad and says she doesn’t have a problem. That really hurts me and a couple of our kids, though we’ve learned to accept she doesn’t understand. At least, they have. My concern remains the health and safety of our children. She must take that more seriously, and I think she finally is. (Not staying up once in a year with a suicidal child . . . that, to me, is insane. And, to be clear, I mean she lost virtually not a minute of sleep while I was getting 3–4 hours.) I have to hope she is clueless and not heartless. As my one son said, the one who had that year welcoming in all the mornings with me (it was a bonding experience, to be sure), nobody can be that clueless. You can’t fake that. That’s my hope for my wife, and my mother, and also for me. The danger is using that excuse for people who are not autistic and do know what they are doing, thought I’ve been told nobody likes to look stupid. I’ve just gotten used to it, I guess.
There are so many presentations of autism. If my wife is, she got a very lucky one, save for the people who she is sometimes oblivious to. It’s caught up with her, whether autism or something else. But, I was right about this. She can change, or, at least, fake it. Empathy can be learned, our marriage counselor told her a while ago. I just will settle for fake empathy, as I told my wife this past Christmas. Just pretend like you care. That is good enough for me, and far better than I’ve had most of my life. She, by the way, is not hypocritical. She doesn’t expect much emotional connection from anyone. Furthermore, she does her thing, and, as long as nobody gets in her way, it’s good.
We walked today and talked. We played a game today and did some other things. And, it’s a Monday, and we were doing what we should be at this stage in our lives, at least with each other. So, life is good and getting better with us and our understanding of autism, codependency, and toxic relationships.
Today, my wife called my sister. Yesterday, she texted her, as I told her she needed to apologize to my sister for minimizing her experience being sexually assaulted by my father. I also had her call my one brother to apologize for setting a boundary that didn’t allow him to come to his own mother’s house, even though everyone but her wanted to see him. He stayed away just so the rest of us could be together. Of course, then she didn’t even stay there most of the time and wondered why I was so upset about it. But, that has spurred on this new round of progress. I’ve decided to eschew the normal advice and actually be the agent of change. I was getting too hurt the old way.
But, I’m working on her still, much like my someone had to try to convince me of the bad and toxic people who were intent on ruining my life, well beyond my imagination. It took him over five years to do it, and it really took a horrible sequence of events before I had to accept what he’d been telling me. Even now, it feels so wrong, so devastatingly wrong. So, I guess it would be unfair of me to be critical of my wife for doing the same thing I have been.
We both are getting it, finally. I guess it just took long enough and bad enough things, and that’s always unfortunate. But, it’s better than never figuring it out. My wife and I both can be stubborn, and that can have some advantages.
We do have each other, and our kids seem to be well. That is a lot more than many people have, autistic or otherwise, and I certainly want to acknowledge that. Moreover, maybe it can give hope to some autistics who think they will be stuck alone. It’s difficult, but there are actually people who like us and find us fun and engaging, interesting, likable, and loyal. You just have to make sure to be careful, since it’s hard to tell sometimes who will use all your good traits against you. Perhaps, like my wife and I did, you can use family, such as siblings you trust, to help in that process. Certainly, someone without an ulterior motive would be good, and family sometimes can, I admit. I hope my kids can find someone as good as my wife to marry, if they want to be married or in a long-term relationship. I also hope that person will open to understanding them more quickly than my wife has of me. But, finally, we are getting somewhere, together.
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