What do you think of when you think of autism? Nonverbal children rocking back and forth, perhaps banging their head? Autism includes that but also is so much more. What if I told you that autism includes that engineer, lawyer or stock broker who is married with children?
There once was a diagnosis called Asperger’s Syndrome. It basically was what was known as autism but without the communication deficiencies. That is an over-simplification but it gives you the basic idea. Asperger’s is no longer a diagnosis but is now included under the label of Autism Spectrum Disorder.
People with high functioning autism can be successful in many endeavours, including complex careers. But one of the challenges can be a marriage with a person without autism. Marriage is difficult enough between two people neurologically similar, autism makes things much more complicated.
I recently read the book, Marriage and Lasting Relationships with Asperger’s Syndrome by Eva A. Mendes. I really appreciated this book. One of the things I liked was how she described the partner without autism. Often a person without autism is described as neuro-typical. But as Mendes observes, just because a person does not have autism, does not mean that they are neuro-typical. Instead, Mendes calls a person with autism, non-spectrum (NS).
The majority of relationships between ASD and NS include a male with ASD and a NS female, but there are exceptions. Mendes includes examples from a variety of different relationships, including common law and same-sex relationships. What remains consistent is that the ASD and NS partners are speaking a different language.
Mendes tackles some of the most important issues in neuro-diverse relationships such as emotional intelligence, communication, sex and parenting. Each topic is illustrated by case studies from Mendes’s practice and then is taken deeper with her teaching.
A neuro-diverse relationship can be a challenge for both partners but there is hope. There are ways to strengthen the skills that do not come naturally. It requires hard work by both partners. Basically, just like any other marriage.
If you are in or know someone in a marriage where one person has ASD and the other is NS, I highly recommend this book.