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Understanding and Navigating Neurodiverse Relationships in Christian Marriages

Based on the Podcast Discussion of Dr. Holmes and Leslie Vernick

Blog Generated by Dr. Holmes &  ChatGPT based on the podcast transcript

Listen to the entire podcast here:


Welcome to a deep dive into the intricate world of neurodiverse Christian couples. I had the pleasure of hosting Leslie Vernick, a seasoned relationship coach, author, and licensed clinical social worker with over 35 years of experience. Our conversation today illuminates the unique challenges and solutions within neurodiverse marriages, particularly between neurodiverse males and neurotypical females in evangelical circles.

Leslie Vernick: Insights from a Veteran Relationship Coach

Drawing from her personal experiences and professional expertise, Leslie gently guides individuals towards transformative changes in their lives. She focuses on empowering women to voice their thoughts and feelings constructively, find peace in adversity, and actualize their dreams.

The Core of Healthy Marriages

Leslie begins by debunking common misconceptions about healthy marriages. Contrary to the idealized Hollywood narratives, she emphasizes that the essence of a healthy marriage lies in trust and safety, not in perfect romantic harmony. In a healthy marriage, trust and safety are foundational, enabling partners to express themselves freely without fear or restraint. Mutuality, reciprocity, and the freedom to be oneself are also vital components of a thriving marriage.

Breaking Trust: Beyond the Obvious

While infidelity and abuse are often highlighted as trust-breakers, Leslie points out other subtle yet significant ways trust can erode in a relationship. These include feeling unsafe to disagree or express oneself, experiencing a lack of care and empathy from a partner, and encountering unreliability in fulfilling commitments. These issues can deeply affect the stability and safety of a marriage.

Neurodiversity in Marriages: A Special Focus

The conversation takes a  turn when addressing marriages with neurodiverse and neurotypical partners. Leslie and Stephanie explore the additional complexity that neurodiversity brings to the dynamics of trust and safety in a relationship. They discuss how the literal, concrete thinking patterns of a neurodiverse partner can lead to misunderstandings and misapplications of biblical teachings on headship and submission, further complicating the relationship.

Case Studies in Neurodiverse Relationships

Real-life examples from Stephanie's practice bring to light the unique challenges in neurodiverse marriages. One striking example involves a neurodiverse husband's unilateral decision to reject community support for his wife during her cancer treatment, driven by his personal preferences and discomfort. This incident raises critical questions about the balance between accommodating neurodiversity and ensuring the emotional and practical needs of a neurotypical partner are met.

The Intersection of Neurodiversity and Selfishness

A crucial part of the discussion revolves around distinguishing the limitations posed by neurodiversity from outright selfishness or pride. Leslie stresses the importance of recognizing when a neurodiverse individual is genuinely struggling to understand a partner's needs versus when they are unwilling to acknowledge or cater to those needs. The conversation delves into how neurodiverse individuals can learn and adapt once their partners explicitly communicate their needs and expectations.

Empathy and Understanding: Keys to Progress

Leslie emphasizes empathy and understanding as essential for progress in neurodiverse relationships. She draws parallels with cultural and racial differences, underscoring the importance of acknowledging and respecting each other's experiences and perspectives. This empathy must be a two-way street, where both partners strive to understand and accommodate each other's unique viewpoints and needs.

Misunderstandings and Misapplications of Scriptural Teachings

The dialogue also touches upon the misinterpretation of biblical teachings in neurodiverse marriages, particularly regarding submission and headship. Leslie and Stephanie discuss how these misinterpretations can exacerbate issues in the relationship, leading to a misuse of Scripture to justify unmet needs or lack of understanding.

Conclusion: Building Bridges in Neurodiverse Christian Marriages

Our insightful conversation with Leslie Vernick sheds light on the complexities of neurodiverse marriages. It highlights the need for clear communication, empathy, and mutual respect in navigating these unique relationships. For neurodiverse Christian couples, understanding each other’s perspectives, accommodating each other's needs, and correctly applying biblical principles are key to building a strong, healthy marriage.


This blog post captures the essence of the rich conversation between Dr. Stephanie Holmes and Leslie Vernick, offering valuable insights and guidance for neurodiverse Christian couples striving to build stronger, more understanding relationships. Used with Permission this check list is from Leslie’s Book, Emotionally Destructive Marriage. Is your marriage emotionally destructive? Two chapters in Stephanie and Dan’s new book are devoted to abuse in ND Christian Marriage. The book is slated to come out June of 2024.

According to Leslie Vernick, these are signs that you are in an emotionally destructive marriage.

Answer each question:  Often      Sometime       Seldom      Never

1. My spouse calls me names, such as stupid or worthless, or uses sexually degrading terms.

2. My spouse pressures me to do things I do not want to do.

3. My spouse uses the Bible to criticize me or to get me to do something he wants me to do.

4. My spouse dictates how often I can see/talk with my family of origin or who I may have as friends.

5.  My spouse undermines me with our children.

6.  My spouse speaks poorly about me to others (his family, friends, neighbors, church people).

7. I don't feel free to challenge my husband or disagree with him.

8. My spouse breaks things around the house when he's angry/upset and/or screams and curses at me.

9. When I tell my husband my deepest feelings, he laughs at me, ignores me, or uses them against me.

10. My spouse disregards my needs or badgers me till I give in to his demands.

11. My spouse calls or texts me often, wanting to know where I am, what I’m doing, and who I'm with. 

12. My spouse monitors my emails, social media, and Internet use.

13. My spouse accuses me of things I did not do.

14. My spouse demands my attention when I'm busy with something or someone else.

15. My spouse does not like it when I get positive attention or affirmation from other people.        

16. My spouse tells me I cannot tell anyone what happens between us.

17. My spouse uses sarcasm and ridicule to get me to stop talking or to change my mind.

18. My spouse refuses to listen to my point of view.

19. My spouse blows up when I ask questions about why he did something.

20. My spouse has threatened to harm me.

21. My spouse uses physical force to get me to do something he wants or something he doesn't want.

22. My spouse uses physical force to coerce me sexually.

23. My spouse withdraws from me if I don't do what he wants.

24. My spouse refuses to respond when I ask him questions—or ignores me for long periods of time.

25. My spouse changes the subject when I try to bring up something that's bothering me.

26. My spouse refuses to engage or participate in everyday family life.

27. My spouse plays mind games with me or tells me that he's the one who is being mistreated by me.

28. My spouse says the problems in our marriage are all my fault.

29. My spouse acts one way in public and another way at home.

30. There's a double standard with what's acceptable behavior. He has more leeway than I do.

31. I have no voice regarding how our finances are saved or spent.

32. I have no idea what my husband does with our money, even though I've asked.

33. My spouse omits information, which keeps me from knowing the whole story about things.

34. I feel trapped and/or crazy in my marriage.

35. I don't feel I can be myself and feel trapped in my marriage.

36. I feel like his mother in my marriage.

37. I feel tense and/or angry around my spouse.

38. My children are afraid of my spouse.

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