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By Mary Gable

The count is two to one: Two couple’s counselors have said my spouse is on the spectrum. One has disagreed, but affirmed he struggles to express empathy.

Looking back, I want to crawl under my weighted blanket and hide. But today, a pesky fly wouldn’t leave me alone. So, I sit at my laptop and write, trying to make sense of the journey—the “is he or is he not” train of confusion.

I’d hoped this last go round would cement the truth I’ve worked to understand for ten years. Golly… Pause with me as I soak that in. Ten. Whole. Years. It’s been over a decade since I entered that bookstore. Passing time while waiting to pick up my children, I meandered through the self-help aisle; opened a book on autism; and read a list of traits that described my spouse. Later at home, I introduced him to the idea, hoping only to better bridge our communication divide.

Within weeks, we met a church member who said he was a licensed counselor. Not long into our conversation, my spouse said, “He thinks I’m on the spectrum.” From there, the counselor stated that he works with people on the spectrum. So, once home, we talked about it and decided to see him. After several months of work, the therapist agreed with my hunch that my spouse is on the spectrum. So, I tried to adjust, accept, and do better.

Before continuing with our story, I just want to emphasize that at this point, we’d worked with the therapist of his choice. One he sought out. I hadn’t had the guts to pursue validation. He took the first step.

About four years later, I hit a new low. After spending time with a Stephen Minister from church, she said, “I’m willing to listen, but I think you need counseling.” Arriving home, I found an email from a friend I rarely hear from with the name of a local counselor who specializes in neurodiverse couple’s therapy. After working with the second rofessional locally in person for several months, again I heard, “Yes, he’s on the spectrum.”

But since my spouse’s assessment was done through therapy work, his children balked. They felt that the therapists who’d assessed us as we worked to reconcile conflict weren’t trustworthy. So, five years later, as tension built, my spouse reached out to a third counselor and the “he said/she said” debate began again. So, before I offered my thoughts in our latest first-couple-session, I asked the counselor how they assessed for Autism online given such divided perspectives. The professional encouraged trust in the process, and I obliged. I shared story after story, during our four or five sessions—and then asked the same question again when the therapist asked if we had questions as our last online assessment appointment ended. Again, it was implied I should trust the process. Thus, a week later, I sat dumbfounded when the therapist asserted that based on my spouse’s answers, he was not on the spectrum. To be fair, to truly understand our therapist’s thoughts, I should submit to more sessions and give the therapist an opportunity to explain. But I’m so exhausted from years of he said/she said debates, that I’ve chosen personal sanity instead.

At least for a time, I need a mental break. It’s not so much that my spouse may not be on the spectrum, but that by asserting he isn’t, without affirming my experiences as his wife, he left me to carry a heavy load. Again, that may not be a fair statement. Maybe there’s a plan I know not of. But for now, I have no energy to defend, explain, or prove myself anymore. Because there’s a good chance that if the therapist doesn’t believe my husband is on the spectrum, he carries concern about labels I’m not willing to face. And since my husband’s family members have asserted that very thing, it’s a bit too much for me to address right now. I can only munch humble pie a little at a time. And that’s what’s been served up. A deep dish of humble pie.

Fortunately, during the years I operated under the diagnosis of a neurodiverse marriage, I learned that one of the most important aspects of survival centers on my relationship with God. A dear friend told me just this morning, “We often want to believe our homes should be safe places. But in truth, the only reliable place of safety is deep within us; where our soul connects with the God of love.”

Faced with the sea of doubt, I can honestly state that day by day, God has shown up, affirming his deep, abiding love for me right now… today… smack in the middle of this unwanted dead end.

While his family may disagree, I’m confident that my pursuit of a diagnosis was only to help our marriage. Not to undermine my husband. We’d been steeped in conflict for five years before I happened upon that book about autism and was struck by the similarities in my spouse. I even repeatedly voiced dislike for the terms neurotypical and non-neurotypical because that terminology elevates one neuro type over the other. From God’s perspective, neuro typical or not, we are all one under the cross, in need of the Savior’s love and mercy. Equal. Broken. But different for sure. I’d simply hoped that by understanding that difference, we would be empowered to communicate more effectively, and love more devotedly.

So, what do I do now? I lean ever more onto the same cross I’ve been leaning on all my life. I trust my reputation to the One who made me. I take long walks. I huddle under my weighted blanket and bat those pesky flies.. Then, I get back up; believe in me; and use the techniques I’ve learned, regardless of a diagnosis. Detached and determined, I speak love in my home. Is this easy? Not. At. All. But it’s possible due to the grace of God.

Mary Gable also contributed to Focus on the Family. Her article can be found here:

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