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9 Lessons About Love From a Neurodivergent Marriage

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With my sixth wedding anniversary closing in, I decided it was time to share what I have learned about love while sharing life with my husband. My husband was identified as autistic a year ago; wow, has this shed some light on things for both of us. He’s an incredible human, husband and father. He has also graduated university, he’s successful as a software developer, and he flew under the radar growing up, because (for the most part) he didn’t need supports to succeed in school. This doesn’t mean it was easy. There are a lot of adults out there who fly under the radar; while they may not have needed services, their struggles are unique and ever present. What many people don’t realize is that neurodivergent (ND) marriages are unlike neurotypical marriages. I myself am neurotypical (NT), and my husband is not: but this means all of our marriage is ND, not just his part. When I need counsel, I need ND counsel. When my husband wants counsel, he needs someone who knows how to interpret NT needs to a ND person, and so on. This may not surprise you, but even a ND relationship has spontaneity and romance… it just looks a little different sometimes:

1. I have learned to be incredibly direct and clear about what I want and need, because he takes me at my word. I cannot count how many times I have rephrased something in my head before bringing it up. Why? Because he loves me and wants to make me happy… so I want to help him by being clear and easy to understand.

2. My husband and I eloped. Yep, doesn’t get much more spontaneous that that! Just like anyone else, we can have fun, joke and surprise one another (and our families). Our approaches are just a little different.

3. Unless we discuss it, he is going to do XYZ his way. This has actually been a really helpful factoid in our relationship. I know he won’t be off in the corner trying to read my mind or guess what I want for anniversaries or special occasions. He will ask me or handle it his way. There is no in between.

4. Playing off number one, we take one another at our word. If he says he will do something, I know he isn’t paying lip service. He would tell me “no” if he was unable to commit. For example, when we agreed to begin trying to have children, he was truly all in. He is loyal, a man of his word.

5. He is incredibly romantic. He will drop what he is doing to dance with me, anywhere, because he doesn’t care how we look to outsiders. (Man, he gets all the bonus points for this one. *swoon*)

6. When I am having a hard time, and he is struggling to empathize, he is unashamed to encourage me to speak with a close friend. This helps me come back with a little more clarity the next time we talk. (This also means he trusts I am not just airing our dirty laundry or complaining. I will process my feelings and focus on relationship building.)

7. He is a great daddy. It’s true what they say: watching a daddy (of any kind) bond with his babies is truly romantic. Watching him, knowing that connecting with little ones comes with added challenges for him, is incredibly endearing. It’s truly an act of love.

8. His love offerings are sometimes bizarre, but that makes them even better. Like when he bought me fake flowers because they would last longer. Or when he bought me a website when I had briefly mentioned wanting one in passing. (Another reason I have learned to weigh my words carefully — he is listening to learn.)

9. He laughs about his differences, which has helped me to laugh about my own. There are jokes or word-plays he just doesn’t get. It would be tempting to play it off as though he felt they just weren’t funny, but he is willing to admit the communication barrier and keep going. No pride in the way. This encourages me to be present and honest.

There are so many other points I could make, but I really want to hear from you! If you are in a neurodivergent relationship, what does romance look like for you?

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Getty image by monkeybusinessimages

Originally published: February 15, 2018
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