One of my chronic anxieties that despite fairly frequent reassurance otherwise continues to persist is that my husband resents me because I’m autistic. That may not be stated entirely accurately, but essentially, because of my difficulties or “symptoms” from being on the spectrum (especially sensory-wise and communication blindness), I worry that he hates being with me or at least wishes he was married to someone “normal.” I may be my own harshest critic, but I’m certainly fully cognizant of the abundant baggage I carry, the burden that I am, and the cons or drawbacks I bring to a relationship inherent in my personality and diagnosed conditions. Besides the spectrum-related challenges, anxiety, PTSD, and chronic depression, my health issues also impede the viability of normal “fun” activities, such as eating out at restaurants or grabbing a drink at the bar. Overall, my life would make for one of the most unappealing dating profiles imaginable and that certainly eats away at my self-esteem and confidence. Sometimes I wonder, what do I possibly bring that’s at all positive to this relationship? I feel like a big drain, an incurable tumor, an inescapable vortex of disappointment and heft to carry. When we have little disagreements, especially that are the product of my “issues,” I worry everything is my fault because I’m damaged or ruined or “me,” and that it’s only a matter of time until my husband says he’s done. I can’t really change certain difficult aspects of my mental or physical health: I can’t become unallergic to all these foods, I can’t fix my connective tissue, I can’t seem to rid myself as quickly as I’d like from PTSD, I can’t dull my sensory sensitivities to much of an appreciable level, and despite focused social skills training, there are certain body language, tone, and communication “norms” that are entirely foreign and uninterpretable to me. I’m sure it is frustrating for my husband, as it is also shameful, mentally defeating (like sometimes I also don’t know how I’ll go on myself!), and soul-crushing for me. I’m not practically suicidal but I do get this emotional exhaustion from the all of the issues I bear and I wish I could throw in the towel sometimes. I just get to a point where I’m so fed up, depleted in terms of resilience, and frustrated to my wit’s end. From time to time, family members or friends will comment something like, “I admire your strength and I don’t know how you go on,” and my response is always, “thanks, but what option do I have?” Like I said, these problems are not optional or readily modifiable. This is my life. At the same time, it’s important for me to note that except for some of the trauma-related issues and some of my severe health reactions, my issues are “first world problems.” To me, they are formidable obstacles, but I am fully aware of the true problems and emergency situations that some people around the country and world endure on a daily basis. Their realities make my complaints and struggles laughable. I really do keep this perspective in the forefront of my mind on a daily basis, as part of my routine prayer and meditation practice, and I task myself in moments of pain and emotional weakness of my fortune, reminding myself to be grateful for everything I have and all that I am. Admittedly, it’s simple but not always as easy as telling myself I should have no complaints in the grand scheme of things and to “buck up, Buttercup,” but I’m human and weak sometimes, and my reality (though “better” than many people’s) can be all that I can handle, and barely so! I have to cut myself some slack and not come down so hard on myself when I am on the brink of emotional fatigue and collapse. As long as I’m trying my best, I need to be patient with my shortcomings and allow myself some grace.
As for the blight that I am as a wife, I don’t know exactly how to remedy that. It seems that continuing to work hard on self-improvement and trying to become the wife I’d like to be (and that my husband deserves) is the best course of action, albeit slow. Again, patience is not my strength; luckily for me, it is one of my husband’s many admirable qualities. It may be my scarily low self-esteem or an accurate reflection of my self-worth, but I don’t deserve him. It’s a constant whisper in my brain that sometimes, after a fight or new diagnosis or problem, becomes a shout. I don’t want to be the reason my husband’s life is harder or worse than it could be otherwise; like all partners (I imagine), I want to be the reason his life is better, sweeter, and richer. I’m currently taking a course specifically geared toward AS women with NT partners, with the hopes that I’ll learn strategies and tools that will help me be the best wife I can be. I’m also continually trying to find ways to translate my special interest for love of him into practical ways he can experience and enjoy that deep and loyal love. I care for him more than I know how to quantify or qualify. I hope, in time, this is effectively conveyed at a faster rate and more prominently than the stain that I am and the drain that I am wears him thin.
* Because the content of this post is so personal and affects my husband, I had him read it before I posted it. He responded:
My Dear. The Beatles may have said “love is all you need.” But it’s just not true. Love can do a lot, but life is hard. Love won’t stop me from being drained by life (not by you), or losing my temper, or saying the wrong thing. But I still love you, very much, and you do make my life sweeter and I do know how much you care for me, and hope that my actions, many of which you may not be able to see, communicate to you my true feelings for you louder than do your insecurities.
We then had what I consider a very good conversation about love, our relationship, feelings of worthiness, and our mutual appreciation for one another. Sometimes in a heated moment, he may lose his cool and phrase things in a way that perpetuates the way I internalize anxiety and insecurities about my deservedness of his love and to be his wife. That said, he said what I deal with is largely what I deemed above as “my scarily low self-esteem.” Apparently, despite the little demon in my brain that tells me otherwise, I’m doing pretty well as a wife. I will take that compliment and try to start believing it, all while refusing to give up my pursuit of improving as a partner and continuing to shower him with as much love and appreciation as possible.