I sat on the deck in the hammock this afternoon while Beans was playing in the paddling pool beside me and my mind drifted to my husband. My amazing, intelligent, funny, sexy husband. I was thinking about what it’s like to be married to him, watching my daughter – because all young autistic people grow up. They grow up into older autistic people, and there’s always lots of talk about young kids with ASD but not much about older autistic people.
Cj and I have been married ten years now, and despite us only realising he was autistic seven years into our marriage – we kinda take a lot of things for granted because we fell into our rhythm in our own way, unassisted. There’s lots of stuff that happens by default in our marriage because we’ve found that’s just what works, so it happens without thinking. What stuff do I mean?
I never expect Cj to be able to order on the spot at a cafe or restaurant when we go out. The choices, smells, people, environment all overwhelm him. After a few explosive and frustrated arguments when dining out early in our marriage we figured out that giving Cj a menu to read online beforehand and me choosing the restaurant was just easier.
I write anything I need Cj to remember of an evening on the whiteboards in our kitchen. Stuff like: put the laundry on, make muffins or do the dishes.
But then I don’t expect Cj to do the dishes much because he has major sensory aversions to it. Which is fine.
But he makes the best pancakes. I’m talking: picture-perfect, fluffy, amazing pancakes. He’s actually an awesome baker, period. His incredible attention to detail means he makes all our daughters birthday cakes – no contest. But don’t ask him to make hand-formed bickies!
There are definitely tricky things, too. A self-confessed “emotional void”, my husband struggles with “feeling” any emotion. He doesn’t get how I can be excited about stuff, and he kinda doesn’t get sadness in a matter-of-fact way. Or during the times when I’m feeling unwell, hormonal or really needy and clingy. Sometimes I have to use our whiteboard to write expressly what I need during those times: chocolate, ice-cream, cuddles & compliments. I’ll never forget the time I had my wisdom teeth out and wrote what I needed on our whiteboard during our recovery and Cj was the most incredibly compassionate, loving carer to me during that. Right down to the “bring me liquids regularly” and “tell me it’ll be okay”. He was so beautiful.
What other things?
We try really hard not to plan social outings on both weekend days. Because Cj finds social stuff in excess incredibly exhausting and tiring. He’s totally cool for me to go out all day both days if I want (I don’t often) and he’ll hold down the fort and parent our four daughters awesomely and keep our zoo together while I’m gone. But he just doesn’t want to go out all the time himself. He finds work tiring (despite changing roles recently and is now in a position where he gets to use all his amazing strengths to his advantage and he’s totally kicking arse) and then he has to come home and wrangle our four spritely daughters alongside me.. yeah. It’s a lot. I get that.
I don’t play music that is too grungy or poppy in the evenings because it drives him crazy. But I definitely turn it up when he’s not home.
I don’t expect him to talk a lot in the evenings. We try and cap our evening chit-chat to half an hour to an hour most days and then cuddle on the couch, but we text all day and he’s always there if I need more from him. He likes to zone out on computer games in the evening once he’s finished listening to hearing me vent about usual motherhood challenges.
And you know. Yeah we argue. Our arguments are heated and passionate, but that’s to be expected when two people are so different. My husband and I are total opposites in every way: he’s introverted, I’m not. He’s a science and math geek.. I’m not. I’m flighty, sweary and unpredictable, he is not. I learn through making mistakes (often big ones) and he rarely makes them because he’s planned it out already beforehand.
Thing is, we meet in the middle on the important stuff. We are both always willing to listen to each other and be open to learning. Our lives are far from boring and always interesting. They definitely have their challenges and I’d be lying if I said some days I don’t just want to throw my hands in the air and give up. But you don’t give up on people you love.
And I don’t really even think I shock him that much anymore.. he’s used to my antics, I guess they’ve become his normal too.
Autistic children do grow up into autistic adults. And I’m lucky enough to be married to one of them (even if some days he does drive me fucking bonkers).