Married (With Autism)

So I got married in October ’16, and diagnosed autistic in January ’17. I went in for an evaluation at my wife’s request: having a bit of background in youth development, my “lack of executive function” was glaringly obvious to her as she was (probably) considering murdering me over the distribution of wedding chores—talking to strangers on the phone stresses me out, creating timetables and budgets stresses me out, and I suppose being responsible for important things stresses me out most of all. These are all areas where she is hyper-competent, and on that basis I felt fairly safe trusting her with the details of our impending nuptials.

But even before we were planning a wedding, she had kind of become the keeper of our social schedule—even managing communications regarding plans with my family (it seems if I don’t answer texts or emails or voicemails right away, they tend to not get answered). In the past month or so, however, I’ve noticed my brain being blissfully clear of plans we’ve made, to a point where I have forgotten even about events I’m invested in and have weighed in on planning (my recent birthday dinner with the family jumps to mind).

In my single and dating lives before marriage, I was a reasonably competent adult male. Bills got paid, I made my own plans to go out—business got done. But somewhere between marriage and diagnosis, it feels like my brain has shifted into neutral in the presence of a motivated and capable planner. Have I lost something in the course of these two big life changes?

It’s not all doom and gloom, of course: now that we switch off kitchen duties, I’m cooking more, more frequently, and with greater variety than I did before, including for dinner parties with friends. If I’m not more Johnny-on-the-spot in my cleanup chores, I’m at least doing them better and more frequently. But I can’t deny I’ve given up a sense of agency I had before and miss, and yet haven’t taken steps to get back. As a married man or as an autistic man—or both—I’m not sure what this says about me or my path forward out of this.

Any thoughts?

Yours in neurosis,

-T
[EDIT: I have no idea how the pop-culture headline gag escaped me.]

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4 thoughts on “Married (With Autism)

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  1. T it does sound like you’ve allowed yourself, whether consciously or unconsciously, to shift into neutral a bit. And though that may make you feel less stressed be mindful that your wife has probably had to accelerate that much harder to keep the ‘family’ car moving which, in the long run, may burn out her engine. Admittedly neurotypicals are probable able to tolerate a lot more stress (That’s an over simplified generalisation I know) so she will probably be able to cope…and it may be that your brain has given itself permission to wind down a little knowing that you now have buffers and control measures in place to protect you but, though I don’t think for one moment that you’ve intentionally taken your foot off the gas, don’t forget to remind her of how much you need her or appreciate her. Ned.

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    1. Thank you for this, Ned. I certainly do want to be mindful of not overstressing my wife. I feel like in general, we’re pretty good about taking time to ourselves to de-stress, but I’m going to have to be more mindful of sharing the load. I’m hopeful that keeping this blog will help me internalize the changes I need to make to adjust to married life. I appreciate the observation x

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  2. I am experiencing the same issues. I’ve been married for 7 years but diagnosed for just one. I’ve always masked my problems as best I could but it was my wife who suggested I speak to someone about a diagnosis. Since she’s became aware AND since my diagnosis I feel I’ve been slipping into neutral too. it’s definitely something to note and I thank you for this post and drawing it to my attention. I’m relying too much on my wife’s ability to cope rather than trying to cope myself.

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    1. I’m glad my observation could help! My wife and therapist both have called me out recently for selling myself short and asking too little of myself. This was clearly an issue before my diagnosis and wasn’t a reaction to it, so maybe that coasting in neutral has been a part of how I’ve coped with the undefined but nevertheless real limitations of undiagnosed autism. Seven months in, I’m still trying to feel out the borders and dimensions of my weaknesses, and I hope that will permit me to become more active at the things I can do—or learn to do—well.

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