I had a dysfunctional childhood to say the least. Nevertheless, after a lot of hard work and counselling I came out the other side a positive, happy young adult who looked forward to a peaceful and fulfilling life. Then I met my future husband: the undiagnosed aspie. I made the mistake of believing that if I could overcome my painful issues then he could too. I grossly overestimated the importance of our relationship to him and my role in his life. Change is not required when one has all of his needs met. It was me who was desperately unfulfilled.
Parents of children newly diagnosed with autism report that they grieve the loss of the child they thought they had. As someone who has been there, I can confirm this is true. I experienced the same thing when the realisation set in that my husband was afflicted too. It is terribly confusing, the very person who should support you through difficult times such as these was the one inflicting the pain. He also had the advantage of being blissfully ignorant of it! Yet my moral compass prevented me from lashing out at the injustice of it all or even blaming him, because it wasn’t his fault. It wasn’t my fault. Nobody is to blame. But the behaviour of an adult IS their own responsibility. The lies, deception, blame, shoving, slapping, choking, spitting, destruction of property, bullying, screaming, intimidation, manipulation, blackmail, threats, name-calling, humiliation, neglect and denial of basic human needs is the responsibility of the individual who inflicted it. It is unjustifiable, even with a diagnosis of a pervasive developmental disability.
For me, one of the most challenging aspects of this disorder has always been the timing of what I call ‘aspie attacks’. Abuse is the inadequate person’s most powerful weapon. It serves him well when confronted with a situation he cannot cope with. Sadly, with AS that is any situation that necessitates open communication and every circumstance that requires an emotional response. In spite of this, I learnt to function in daily life on my own but it was adversity that made the marriage truly unbearable. If life is a journey, a road to be travelled with the support of another, how inconvenient to be only human and need someone to lean on when faced with chronic illness, injustice and the passing of loved ones. In these times of dire need, I naturally turned to my partner seeking empathy, support and solace. Unfortunately, my needs created such an overwhelming feeling of inadequacy within my aspie ‘husband’ that a meltdown was always triggered. Just when I was at my most vulnerable, I would become the subject of unspeakable abuse. The timing of the unavoidable meltdowns had catastrophic consequences to my emotional and psychological wellbeing and was understandably fatal to my marriage.
Without a living witness to any of this horrendous abuse I suffered, the outside world could only assume that I was the problem. My own mother had suspicions I was using drugs because my explanations of what was happening made absolutely no sense. There was no logic to them. Any attempts to confide in friends or reach out to others were met with the ‘why don’t you just leave’ conundrum. I couldn’t answer it coherently at the time and eventually just gave up on trying to be understood. I would tell these people now that it was not just a constant barrage of accusations, lies, verbal abuse and psychological assault. There were elaborate and relentless attempts to change my sense of reality to the delusional aspie one. It wasn’t enough that he believed all his fabricated rants about my actions, thoughts, feelings, expressions, intentions and behaviours. For some reason, perhaps to feel justified, it was imperative to him that I believe it too. This wreaks havoc on a person’s sense of self and leaves not even a moment to gather your thoughts, lick your wounds and formulate an exit strategy. Any time on my own was a review of every word and every action in an attempt to reconstruct the tattered pieces of my raped soul.
So in the eyes of all who couldn’t see what was really happening, we became the square peg couple that were put in the round hole category of domestic violence. However, I felt that battered wives faced a less difficult challenge as they had periods of time between abusive episodes. There is support from professionals and the community and usually a partner who is responsible with finances, household maintenance or raising children when they are not abusing. Partners of AS do not. We are the hidden hostages of Asperger Syndrome.
For me, the wounds are healing but the scars are deep. I am healing because I've spent 5 years establishing some personal space and can see things clearer now. I am still working on my escape plan. It is a silent game of chess that requires me to conceal my thoughts, feelings and intentions while I continue in my roles of sole parent, household accountant, maintenance person, carer for my disabled daughter, chauffeur, cleaner, cook, laundrette operator and zoo keeper (we have a few pets!). I can add the role of secret agent to the list while I carry out the mission I have code-named ‘Operation Survival’.J
After 25 years of psychological gymnastics, I refuse to be destroyed. The greatest defence in this situation is to maintain my honour, integrity and self-respect. All those things that an aspie is biologically unable to comprehend let alone provide. Our NT traits are our greatest and most under-utilised asset. I don't need my husband’s sincere and heartfelt apologies, forgiveness or remorse (anymore). I apologise to myself, I forgive myself and I intend to spend the rest of my life making it up to myself for what essentially, I have put ME through. I have a long road ahead but I know in my soul that I can be positive and happy again. I am leaving my painful past behind and once again looking forward to a peaceful and fulfilling future.