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Communication Misfires in the NeuroDiverse Marriage

Nicole Mar (Neurotypical Wife)

As I’ve mentioned before, one of the most challenging aspects of being married to my AS/ND husband is communicating. Our brains are so different. I am a pretty emotional person. I make most decisions with my heart. My husband, on the other hand, is incredibly logical. He looks past the emotional aspects of an issue and goes straight to asking himself if the decision is the most logical. This often means, “Is it the most affordable?” With a little imagination, you might see how we could butt heads in a variety of areas in our neurotypical and AS marriage.

Two strategies we use to help communicate successfully is giving each other feedback and feedforward. These two communication strategies have taken us from the brink of divorce and constant conflict to a place of relative peace. And when I say relative, understand that we are still not a typical couple, but we are polite and civil and, yes, even intimate in our communications. We’ve reached a place in our relationship that in the darkest of times, I never imagined we could achieve. These strategies have worked for us–a high conflict couple–and maybe they can work for you. So how do these strategies work?

Understanding the Core Reality

The foundational aspect of these two strategies is understanding that my AS/ND spouse needs both time and rules/guidelines to process my concerns. When I come to him in an emotional state, teary eyed, incoherent, and overwhelmed, he has no way to process these emotions. All he does is absorb them and defend himself. Then, like clockwork, the difficulty goes from tempestuous to disastrous.

Following the Rules/Guidelines

So, now we have communication rules. He knows when we will talk about our differences. He knows how the communication game is played. He knows to come prepared. I know to give myself time to calm down. I know to follow the rules. I know to come with my list ready.

Being Heard as a Benefit

One of the best aspects is just being heard. Often, in my neurotypical and AS marriage, I have not felt that my husband has heard the cries of my heart. I have felt ignored and unloved in many of our communications, but by following these rules, I now feel that he can listen to what I have to say, receive the message, and together, we can work towards compromise.

Compromising as a Benefit

And for those who are entrenched in these marriages, you may also find that compromise is nearly impossible, but with feedback and feedforward, we now enjoy the acceptance and enjoyment that result from sharing our thoughts and then working towards a solution that is feasible for us both.

Trying Feedforward

On a specified day and at a specified time each week, my husband and I sit down to talk. We make sure it is free of distractions and is private, so the children can’t hear us. Sometimes this means we have to sit in the car in the garage. We set a rule about how long each of us is allowed to talk–free from interruptions of any kind.

Taking the Next Step

After each person has shared, the other person has to apologize. The apology is simply to say, “I am sorry that what I did caused you to feel this way.” Then after the apology, the person has to ask “What could I have done differently to prevent you feeling this way?” This gives the opportunity for the offended to share how she or he would prefer to be treated.

Feeling Empowered

After each of these sessions, we both feel so much better. My Asperger husband has said that he doesn’t enjoy feedback, but he likes that I speak in a way that makes sense to him. He seems to receive what I have shared since, thereafter, he makes a real effort to change. He has even thanked me for presenting my concerns in a polite and respectful manner and has shared that because of that, he feels more motivated to try to do better.

Feeling Whole

I feel better after these sessions because I am not bottling up resentment and anger. I am not lashing out at odd times because I feel neglected, rejected, or verbally abused. I am not being a doormat and just “taking it” for the sake of my children watching in an effort to keep the peace. I have come to understand just how dangerous to my health and well being my toxic emotions are. I have seen how radical improvements in my outlook have helped my children in ways I could never imagine.

My Final Thoughts

Whether you stay or leave your neurotypical and AS marriage is up to you. You know what is best for you and what you have been through to keep or sustain the marriage and at what costs to you and your family. Only you are in your situation and know if it can work, but what I will say is that with prayer and strategies like feedback and feedforward, my husband and I are seeing a glimmer of light. We are both feeling hopeful that we can find our way forward with love and respect. And where there is love and respect, there is a willingness to meet needs that make no sense to the other person.

For example, my AS/ND spouse knows that I have a need to spend time together and exchange loving words. He has no need for either of these, but because I do, he makes an effort. He schedules a date night monthly. He comes up with something nice to say daily. And on my side, I know that my AS/ND spouse needs time for himself away from the pressures and stressors of life. He needs quiet from bustling noise and neurotypical expectations. I try to honor, instead of complain, about his daily alone time knowing that he will make a little room for me and our children.

It isn’t perfect. It isn’t what I expected in marriage. It isn’t what I truly wanted, but we are moving forward, hopeful in Christ, trusting His guidance and plan, and believing that something beautiful can come out of this.

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28.

We learned these skills with our ND trained coach! Navigating new communication skills with an ND marriage usually requires a third party helping you through the process.

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