A week or so ago, I came across a blog entry by Karin Friedemann entitled “Asperger’s Syndrome Wives Need Understanding.” (I haven’t provided a direct link to the page because it appears that she may have plagiarized some of her material from an earlier article written by Carol Brigg, which you can find here.) Whereas I appreciate Carol Brigg’s article, because it is thoughtful and well written; I have to admit it was Karin Friedemann’s blog entry that made me feel like someone finally fully understood my life. As I finished the article and read the comments that followed, I wanted to cry. My insights into the life I’ve been living are more accurate than I realized, and I discovered I wasn’t alone.
You see, I believe my husband has high-functioning Asperger’s Syndrome. Please note that I am not saying my husband HAS Asperger’s, because he has not been tested for it. To be fair, he could just as easily say, “I think my wife is bipolar” because, quite frankly, when you live within the grip of codependency long enough, you begin to act bipolar at times. I’ve been to enough counselors, however, to know that if I truly were bipolar, they would have told me by now.
I’ve been married almost 20 years, and I knew very early on (especially once we had children) that our marriage was not like other marriages. I would frequently cry out to my husband, “This is NOT how God intends for us to live!” I first began to suspect Asperger’s in my husband when I listened to my two older children complain about what it’s like living with their younger sister (who has been diagnosed with ADHD, Nonverbal Learning Disorder, and PPD-NOS, which many of her therapists and case workers suspect is high-functioning Asperger’s). It occurred to me that their complaints about her sounded just like me when talking about my husband. Prior to that “aha” moment, I had also begun to notice many similarities (physical, mental, emotional, academic) between my Aspie daughter and my husband; so when I came across Karin Friedemann’s blog entry, it was like finding the missing link. Suddenly, all of the puzzle pieces I had been sorting through over the past 20 years began to fall into place and make sense. The interesting thing is that when I mentioned the article to some of our current healthcare providers, many of them had the same response, “I was wondering about that,” or “I’ve been wanting to ask you about that.”
The article talks about what it’s like being married to a man who has Asperger’s. The comments that follow it give a bird’s-eye view of the hell it can be. My heart goes out to my husband if he does suffer from this disorder, but I still struggle with whether or not the best thing to do is stay or to leave. I realize that sounds a bit heartless and cruel, and I certainly don’t intend it that way.
The fact is that after years and years of internal torment, frustration, and dysfunction brought about by undiagnosed issues that go untreated, when does one draw a line and say, “That’s it. I have reached my saturation point. If I stay in this situation any longer, the bad negates the good. I have become worthless to what God is calling me to do, I have become a negative person with nothing good to say, and I don’t want to live like this anymore.” When the distractions and responsibilities of the codependency bog you down to such a degree that you are suffering, your children are suffering, and you are accomplishing nothing, isn’t it logical to ask yourself, “Is it really wise to stay here?” (This is AFTER you’ve struggled through the question, “What is God trying to teach me in all of this?”)
In my insecurity 20 years ago, I made a poor decision. I thought God would help me grow to love my husband, but I have grown to dislike him immensely. I am not proud of that fact. It fills me with shame and guilt. Who in their right mind marries a man they know they don’t love? Who in their right mind blogs about stuff like this? Well, I’ve already alluded to the fact that I may not be in my right mind, so here we are.
The truth is, life is messy. As much as we would like it to be cut and dried with a nice thick manual to refer to for each messy thing that crops up, we don’t have that. (Before all you fundamentalists get on my case, I know we have the Bible, and it truly is a manual for right living. My point is that sometimes we really wish God would have put an index in there with specific page references for the problem we are currently encountering. We would like the solution to be written out in step-by-step format with additional instructions on where to get the ingredients necessary to make it all work. We want answers that are tangible and easy to see.)
I am not a proponent of divorce, which makes my life right now even messier for me. I don’t believe staying in my marriage is the right thing… two wrongs don’t make a right. God knows, I’ve been trying to make it right by denying self, pretending my needs don’t matter, praying, and bearing a mountain of responsibility alone, but I continue to feel like my marriage is cursed. I remember Beth Moore teaching in one of her Bible studies that God does not bless something He hasn’t ordained. When I told my friend that I thought my marriage had never been blessed because perhaps it wasn’t something God ordained, her response was, “How can you say that? Of course He ordained it; you’re married!” But I beg to differ. I believe God allowed it, because He knew He could bring good from whatever happens; but “allowed” and “ordained” are not the same thing.
My children don’t like it when they hear me make comments about how unhappy I am in my marriage, because they take that one step further and think it means I wish I had never had them; but here again, I beg to differ. What if part of God’s purpose in allowing their father and me to marry was because each of them was supposed to be born? We all know that God has planned out, in advance, the day of our birth; and He is intimately involved in the intricate details of forming us in the womb. Each of my children was destined to be, and I firmly believe each of them has a special calling on his or her life. The difficulties they are going through do have a purpose. God will use them for good. And God will bring good out of what I’m going through. The hard part is this messy middle part.
I struggle with putting so much of this in print, but I truly believe there are others of you out there who are struggling in your marriages, too. I’m sure there are children out there who feel like my kids do. The truth is, life stinks sometimes. The question is, what are we going to do with the smelly parts? Are we going to let them define us, or are we going to use them as catalysts for change? I think we need to take a good look at our lives and ask some serious questions:
- What does God say about this? (Even if you can’t find a specific page number indexed to your liking, His Word does give guidelines to get you pointed in the right direction.)
- When does the way I’m currently living become so unbearable that I simply can’t do it anymore without causing myself (and/or those around me) serious physical, mental, and/or emotional harm?
- When has the struggle to keep things together negated the benefits of staying together?
- Is the message I’m giving the world (or my children or my spouse) a negative, ungodly one? If I make this change, will that message become a positive, God-centered one?
Your problem probably isn’t Asperger’s, but it may be something just as debilitating. Maybe it’s an alcoholic spouse or an adult child spending every dime he has on drugs, and he keeps looking to you to bail him out. Maybe it’s your teenage son immersed in a pornographic world he can’t escape from, and you’ve done everything you can think of to help him. Maybe it’s your pre-teen daughter caught in the trap of anorexia. Whatever the issue, it can lead to a vicious cycle of codependency that destroys the entire family.
The truth is, I don’t want to get divorced, because I know my heavenly Father hates it. But I also know that I simply cannot go back to the marriage I had. God keeps laying before me Matthew 5:29-30:
If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.
I used to blame my husband for my misery. God has shown me it isn’t my husband so much as it is the marriage the two of us have built together that is the offensive thing in my life. What remains to be seen is if it is the marriage that needs to be cut off in order for the remaining body(ies) to be spared being thrown into hell.
My signature verse is Romans 12:2:
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
I’ve made this verse my signature verse, because it gives me hope. I may not be able to change people around me, but I can change myself. I can choose to think differently. By opening myself up to the transforming power of God’s presence in my life, I will then be able to test the thoughts that cross my mind and come to understand God’s will for my life. And whatever His will is, it will be good!
For those of us trapped in a world of codependency, LORD, I ask for Your wisdom and discernment to make some tough, life-altering decisions. We cannot change those who are near and dear to us, but we can change ourselves. Divorce may not be Your plan for any of us but neither is living a life of misery and frustration. You sent Your Son to die for us so that we might have life, and have it abundantly. Give us the strength we need to follow through, in love, with whatever needs to be done to get ourselves and our loved ones in a better place. Amen.