Is Marital Satisfaction Possible for an ND Couple? Part 2
To catch you up, check out the post the week before...
Finally, I see 4 C’s. The first is Conflict Resolution. Conflict is measure by frequency, intensity, and duration of arguments. The AS person has a fight/flight/freeze component more easily triggered by any form of conflict or disagreement which can result from a wife simply saying, “Did you remember the milk on the way home as you promised?” This small issue can trigger the fight/flight/freeze component as the Amygdala just signaled a “danger/distress” response if perhaps the milk was forgotten. Understanding how the couple resolves or does not resolve conflict is crucial to planning the next phases of counseling.
Next is Communication, and by this I mean simple communication skills about logistics or factual details of the home. AS is usually accompanied by ADHD or anxiety disorders, which affect memory and higher executive functioning. Learning to communicate in clear, direct, concise ways is important in this couple dynamic. The wives will tell me, “If I cannot count on him to remember to pick up something at the store or to attend a child’s event, how can I trust him with my feelings and dream and sharing?” So building consistency, dependability, and trust and learning precise, direct communication is key, and this is where TA is helpful to examine basic communication patterns with the couple. Frequently, this couple is navigating these marriage issues and parenting a child on the spectrum adding to the complexity of marriage and family systems.
The third is Conversation. When there is consistency in basic communication we move onto sharing feelings, dreams, desires, issues within the sexual components of marriage and sharing. In this stage it is possible to regress because emotional processing is difficult for the AS person. AS/ASD comes with the symptom Alexithymia (the inability to verbalize a feeling state at the time of feeling the emotion).
As we move through these phases the goal is Connection. Connection will look different for each couple. The NT spouse will have a higher need for connecting/relatedness than the AS spouse who has a higher need for autonomy. The AS spouse usually prefers to connect with tasks or activities (as in side by side type play from childhood), but the wife will want more meaningful connections. Finding what that means for this couple with the dynamics in this system is customized. There is no set way to teach or coach connection.
Divorce rates are very high in this marriage dynamic, and it is important to understand AS/ASD, how mixed neurological wiring impacts a marital relationship when often the AS spouse is not diagnosed or has been misdiagnosed. Sometimes due to abuse, neglect, indifference and lack of repair be it NT or ND marriage, the marriage may not be saved. At that point the focus must be the safety of the individuals in the marriages. Leslie Vernick reminds us, "Jesus did not die for institutions and organizations, He died for individuals." I agree with Leslie Vernick and agree with the stance on being pro-marriage and pro-covenant, but covenant is broken through infidelity, unrepentant porn use, abuse, lack of repair and toxic or negative daily communications cycles.
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