By Marcia Hinds – Megan and Ryan’s Mom
Marriage is supposed to be “for better or worse.” It certainly has the potential to be “worse” when you have a kid with autism. All children need a loving and intact home. So please don’t let your mission to help your child get in the way of what you need to do to keep your marriage working. Our marriage almost didn’t survive Ryan’s autism diagnosis. And the financial burden of running two households after a divorce usually interferes with providing the therapies our kids need.
I hope you don’t treat your husband the same way I did when we were still stranded on Autism Island. I was so overwhelmed by all I needed to do to help Ryan that I sometimes made the mistake of relegating Frank’s importance to that of a piece of furniture. I didn’t give Frank much consideration or attention because I was on a mission to save my son and couldn’t seem to focus on much else.
At the time both of us felt helpless and couldn’t understand why Ryan was so difficult. Neither of us could talk to the other about the terrible circumstances we were trapped in. Why bother to talk when almost every conversation ended with me crying and Frank frustrated because he couldn’t fix things? Frank thought I was too soft and I knew he was too tough. And Megan, Ryan’s sister, just got what was left after we were done dealing with Ryan and each other.
I forgot to consider that my husband also wanted what was best for our children. I was so busy disagreeing with him I couldn’t see that. I just wanted him out of my way so I could fix the kid. My husband recently told me that the dads he has spoken with often say their wives are great mothers, yet expressed considerable pain over not being shown love, affection or anything else. I used to be one of those wives.
I should have realized that my husband was hurting too. What I didn’t realize back then was that I held the key to changing the situation. My husband needed to feel appreciated, respected, and shown a little affection. There would have been a lot less arguing if I had done that.
The same behavioral methods I used to change Ryan’s behavior would have worked with my husband. I should have ignored what Frank did wrong, but I usually didn’t. Instead I criticized and lectured him about what he needed to do to help our son. I could have used what my husband valued to bring him over to my way of thinking and complimented Frank when I saw him being the dad I needed him to be. A compliment followed by a full-body hug, would have worked better than arguing or ignoring him most time. The lack of respect and fighting interfered with what needed to be done to help our son.
I should have treated Frank the same way I wanted to be treated. But we were both emotional spent and sometimes didn’t see things clearly. I sometimes wondered how I could feel such resentment towards the same man I once loved more than anyone else. We both needed to talk about happier times and what made us fall in love. That would have helped us remember what we liked each other before we became entrenched in autism hell. If I treated him like I did when he was my boyfriend and I was still trying to impress him it would have worked better. I should have done a lot of things differently then, but I didn’t. That was a huge mistake.
By changing my behavior and by making Frank a part of our team and part of the solution, I could have made him an ally instead of the person standing in my way. The bottom line is our fighting interfered with helping Ryan. Because of the fighting, our typical daughter didn’t have the loving atmosphere all kids need to feel secure. My message to my husband should have been we are in this together as equals. That was what was needed to help our marriage survive the autism diagnosis. Because of the stress the autism diagnosis brings, many marriages don’t make it. We were almost one of the casualties. Fortunately, my husband never gave up on me or our kids no matter how many times I pushed him away.
NOTE FROM MARCIA HINDS – Megan and Ryan’s mom:
Ryan became an aerospace engineer, because he received proper medical treatment combined with behavioral, and educational interventions. To preview my book, “I Know You’re In There – winning our war against autism” go to Amazon or my website www.autism-and-treatment.com
Contact info for Marcia: