Homeadults with learning disabilitiesNeurodiversity’s Affect on Marriage

My husband loves loud music. When I say “loud music”, I mean bass shaking the windows and being unable to hold a conversation with another person loud. Loud, LOUD music.

Naturally, that doesn’t go very well when I’m as sensitive to sound as I am. It has caused problems in the past, but we’ve reached an agreement.

He can play his stereo at ridiculous levels a couple of times a week, or as a de-stressor after a hard day, but never at night or when I’m trying to work. If he’s had a particularly hard day and needs the noise to get rid of some of the anger, I have no problem with taking a break for him to decompress.

Marriage is one of those things that doesn’t get addressed in most schools, outside of the fairy tale “and they lived happily ever after” model. It can be a wonderful thing, but it’s almost always a challenge to keep healthy for a long period of time.

When one or both partners have learning or developmental difficulties, it can be even harder.

Pointers from the Dyslexic Partner
We’ve been married for ten years, and we’d been together for two or three years before that. When people ask how we did it, I usually come back with something flippant like, “Well, we both like Ninja Turtles. How could we go wrong?”

This is true, even if he does like Leonardo more than Raphael, but there’s more to it than that. Long term relationships have quite a few levels, just like people do. We kind of fell into the union without a plan, but we were able to address the problems as they arose.

After thinking about it, I’ve pinpointed some areas instrumental in forming and maintaining a strong relationship.

  • Compassion
    I strongly feel that the first emotional step towards dealing with issues is mutual compassion for our unique situations.

    He knew I was dyslexic early on in our relationship, but neither of us realized the impact it would have on our lives. He learned how to help me with things I have difficulty with, like deciphering official documents in a short period of time and cooking, while I learned to let enough ego go to let him do so.

    A year after our wedding, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Our world was turned inside out. We both suffered terribly, as did our marriage, but we muddled through. I learned how to be a caretaker throughout his recovery, and found the strength to deal with the every day stuff that came up.

    Without that basic compassion to help us understand what the other was going through, I don’t think we would have made it.

  • Compromise
    This is a huge one in any marriage. It has less to do with skill sets and more to do with personalities. It’s also one of the hardest things for a lot of folks to master.

    The music thing is a great example. So long as I’m not in the same room as the speakers when he’s playing, the noise won’t hurt, but there’s no way I can concentrate on anything with the bass going. However, loud music is one of his coping mechanisms.

    We learned to establish a way around the issue. He’ll use headphones the majority of the time, so I don’t snap from pain and frustration, and I’ll tolerate short, sparse periods of noise, so he doesn’t snap from not having an outlet.

    He’ll also use the time he’s home alone to crank the music up, of course, but that’s not something I care about, since I’m not there at the time.

  • Communication
    The key to any partnership is communication. The only way to achieve any sort of compassion is to share what each person is going through. Talking is a good method, but so are exchanging notes or texts during busy times.

    If you need special accommodations, like to-do lists, let your partner know without embarrassment. There’s no shame in it, after all.

    For example, I have issues with sequences, so my husband’s learned to write instructions down and put them in a clear order after demonstrating the task. In fact, he did that for our snow blower during last winter’s final storm.

  • Lack of Judgement
    This one speaks for itself. Who wants to be around someone who constantly judges them? Right on the heals of that judgementalism comes criticism, and there are few better ways of sabotaging any sort of relationship than constantly pointing out a partner’s flaws.

    If there’s something the two of you want to work on, take the time to sit down and discuss the issue before making a plan to tackle it.

  • Strengths Versus Weaknesses
    We all need to remember that no one is amazing at everything all the time. Folks with learning disabilities, developmental disabilities and other issues may be weak in specific areas, but those weaknesses are always countered with strengths.

    When it comes to partnering with someone, it’s important to divide household tasks according to each individual’s strengths.

    For instance, my husband a pretty great cook, but if there’s a way to damage clothing, he’ll find it. Because of that, he does the majority of the food preparation in our household, while I take care of laundry. That way, neither of us gets food poisoning and our clothing stays in decent shape.

    Although we have different skill sets, we’re both equally important to the relationship. Playing to each others strengths is part of what’s kept us together and in good health.

  • Space
    I know it may sound a little strange to people either starting a new marriage or to folks who want one, but allowing each other enough space to be themselves is vital. Yes, you’re in a relationship and yes, you’re creating a new family, but you’re both still individuals.

    It’s extremely easy to lose yourself to the concerns of the other person. When my husband was having his issues with bipolar disorder, I made that mistake, and I paid for it with my health.

    Of course, it’s harder when you have kids, but I’m betting your children appreciate one-on-one time with each of you while the other enjoys some ‘me’ time of their own.

While all of these tips can be applied to couples without the challenges we face, they’re doubly important to those of us with neurodiversity concerns.

If you’re lucky enough to find a relationship you’d like to sustain for the long haul, you’ll need to figure out how to tackle both long and short term challenges. These six points are what helped us in our journey, and I hope they’ll help others as well.

What pointers would you give?

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