Today Andrew answers: My husband is on the spectrum and refuses to seek professional assistance. I suspect that my 4-year-old son is also on the spectrum and isn’t getting the support he needs from my husband. How can I address this without my husband thinking that all I do is tell him what he doesn’t do “right” or “good enough”?
Hi! I’m Andrew from Generation Mindful's newest recurring weekly feature, Ask Andrew. In Ask Andrew, I’ll be taking any and all questions regarding the autism spectrum with particular emphasis on childhood development as an authentic autistic adult. Let’s get started!
For our fourth Q and A, you can watch the video and/or read my response below.
Q: My husband is on the spectrum and refuses to seek professional assistance. I suspect that my 4-year-old son is also on the spectrum and isn’t getting the support he needs from my husband. How can I address this without my husband thinking that all I do is tell him what he doesn’t do “right” or “good enough”? I don’t see him as “not enough” but I do see areas in which he could grow … just as I see within myself.
A: Thank you for your question, Blair. The topic of this one is very close to my heart because I get the impression your husband is going through similar feelings I did coming to terms with my autism.
It is important to stress early on, however, that I am not a relationship expert. My own history with romance is painful, storied, and often humorous at my expense. While I don’t have the time to discuss it here, if any of my readers would like to know more about the subject of autism and romance, be sure to sound off in the comments below. Ultimately I will strive to approach your issue through the lens of autism.
That being said, not having equal goals in your marriage in regards to parenting strikes me as a major red flag. Your partner having slightly different methods of parenting is incredibly healthy. But if parents don’t share the same basic goals and understanding of how they and their partner will be parenting, nothing good can come from it. As such, I heavily recommend sitting down with your husband and communicating your needs as well as your son’s needs to him as soon as possible.
If you can see a marriage counselor or therapist, please do so. It may seem like it should be something the two of you should just know how to solve, but that isn’t the case with something so serious. I know it can seem scary, but in my experience even if it's hard you will feel better afterward. Reaching out to me was already a great first step. Just ask my parents, who were brave enough to reach out for my help and just celebrated their twenty-seventh anniversary.
As for how to best communicate this, the best advice I can give anyone who loathes their identity as a person is this: just because you pretend something isn’t there doesn’t make it magically go away. If that were the case, I’d have “pretended” the coronavirus away in two flaps of a bat’s wing and I’d have seen my formerly most anticipated film of 2020, Black Widow, at least twenty-four times by now.
My process to coming to terms with autism can be summarized by two metaphorical burritos I ate. The first representing denial, the second representing acceptance. The denial one was cheaper to get, and it looked pretty darn good. So I eagerly bit into it.
And guess what? It tasted like pico de gallo! I hate pico de gallo! So I bit into it again to make sure, and to no one’s surprise but mine, it tasted like pico de gallo! I didn’t order this! And it went on like that for years and years, hoping for the delicious combination of beans, cheese, and rice and instead being faced with what the equivalent of stubbing your toe would taste like.
Eventually, I realized how futile the whole thing was, put down the bad burrito, and washed my mouth of the terrible taste. Bleh! As I gripped the good burrito in my fingertips, I finally admitted to myself yes, I am an autistic man, and nothing can change that. And the moment I chomped down, I felt a burden lift comparable to the titan Atlas handing the heavens over to the demigod Hercules.
Additionally, I think it would be effective if you were to ask your husband to put himself in his son’s shoes. If he was four years old and needed an adult to help explain to him why exactly he felt so isolated from everyone around him, what would he want that person to say? That way, you can prompt him to draw from his own experiences and form the bridge between his identity and his son’s identity.
I wish you the best of luck in your endeavors and hope everything works out for you. You clearly have a lot of love for your boys. As for the rest of you, just remember that a flavor you don’t like could be someone’s absolute favorite. Non-metaphorical pico de gallo absolutely belongs in a burrito. Just ... not mine.
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