10 Things to Know About Mixed-Neurological Relationships
- A mixed-neurological relationship is a relationship between a typically developing person and a person with high-functioning autism. High-functioning autism in adults can be difficult to recognize. Many older adults on the autism spectrum were never diagnosed as children. Many grow up, get married and have successful careers without knowing they are on the autism spectrum.
- Mixed-neurological marriages are every bit as much mixed marriages as mixed-orientation marriages or mixed-faith marriages. In mixed-neurological marriages the incompatibilities are neurological incompatibilities rather than sexuality or religious incompatibilities.
- Autism affects communication and communication is an essential part of marriage and adult relationships. Communication is an essential part of marriage and both partners in mixed-neurological relationships tend to experience distress related to communication difficulties. Typically developing people and people with autism communicate differently.
- As autism has a genetic component, many mixed-neurological couples have children on the autism spectrum. As autism is more easily recognizable in children than adults, many parents on the autism spectrum are diagnosed only after a child is diagnosed. The presence of children on the autism spectrum contributes more stress to the parents’ marriage.
- In the early days of mixed relationships, both partners may believe they have found great compatibility. The typically developing partner often finds great enjoyment in helping the partner with autism navigate social situations. The partner with autism may find the typically developing partner to be more accepting than other people.
- Later on in relationships, both partners tend to experience great dissatisfaction. Typically developing partners feel deprived of emotional, social and sexual connection. Partners with autism feel controlled and manipulated and as if typically developing partners aren’t doing enough for the marriage. Typically developing partners, meanwhile, finds themselves feeling drained because they give too much.
- Mixed-neurological marriages look very “normal” from the outside. Extended family members, community members and colleagues usually have little idea that so much distress is going on within their friends’ and loved ones’ marriages.
- Mixed-neurological marriages are vulnerable to domestic abuse, most often psychological, sexual and financial, although sometimes physical abuse does occur. While marriage is a foundational component of society, it is inappropriate for professionals, clergy and loved ones to encourage individuals to remain in abusive relationships.
- Mixed-neurological marriages are vulnerable to high-conflict divorce. Sometimes, mixed divorces cost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. Attorneys are the only ones who benefit. Both partners and their children experience extreme duress.
- Autism is not easy. It is not easy for people who have it and it is not easy for their loved ones. Both partners in mixed-neurological marriages need resources and support — not only the partners with autism. Both partners are equally important. Neurodiversity includes everyone.
Anne Janai, M.L.A.