Hi, I have high functioning ASD (I just got myself diagnosed a few years ago) and my wife has self-diagnosed ADD (but officially undiagnosed). We just got married a few years ago.
We couldn’t be more opposite in nearly everything. Personality. Interests. Hobbies. Lifestyle. Parenting. Finances. Time. Sleep. Expectations. Organisation. Food. It seems like our brains are wired so differently and our preferences are so different that we clash on the tiniest things, we get so frustrated at each other, and then our ways of dealing with conflict are so different that we get even more hurt & offended whenever we try to talk about the problems. At first she would yell at me loudly and storm off like a child, and I would retreat in shock or try to calmly listen & understand.
Eventually I got frustrated at her constantly ignoring me & never listening, so I started to stand up for myself more. Then we started to have giant shouting matches, and it seemed like i couldn’t say one thing different to her opinion/way of doing things without it leading to a giant argument. A lot of our dates were ruined by the same old arguments over and over. Often it was over miscommunications and trivial issues. I’ve never liked conflict & grew up in a peaceful home, and the only other time I experienced this kind of toxic arguing was once with an ADHD friend. But I found myself more and more drawn into this unhealthy pattern, and I think I contributed because I never knew how to handle intense conflict before in my life, so as I learnt how to stand up for myself, I sometimes didn’t know how to express my anger appropriately. Often I was ashamed of how we argued. But she would tell me that everything is fine, it wasn’t arguing, it just felt normal to her.
She also would never express empathy if I was trying to communicate that she had hurt me. Instead she’d always find a way to twist it around to be all about her, and say I’m jusging and accusing her - all the while being very free to make everything my fault and never admit any responsibility for any problems. But she would DEMAND that I say sorry for things! No apologies, no admitting when she’s wrong, though she is slowly improving in this. She started saying sorry this year. And for the first time in our whole marriage she was the first one to say sorry a few weeks ago!
Thankfully we’re getting somewhat better at stopping arguments now and we switch to talk about something positive instead. But it seems like we can just never see eye to eye. Differences get avoided if i do things her way. But it’s slowly killing me having my needs and wants constantly ignored over time. I’ve stopped doing all the hobbies i love. I feel emotionally numbed and can’t really feel anything, except sometimes a terrible, sick in the stomach feeling. I have been very careful to keep issues private and not publicly say anything bad about her, the only chance I’ve had to unburden and get help was to share in private with a few close trusted friends. But she was super offended by that and she thinks I was spreading lies about her to everyone. I found out she was paranoid, secretly checking all my emails and messages and everything. Now I feel trapped, unable to get help for either of us. She forces me to be fake to my friends and family and pretend everything is okay. But she feels free to frequently say all kinds of bad things about my parents behind their back, even though they’ve been incredibly generous to her too.
I still keep trying to be kind and gracious to her. I thought maybe she needs a good role model to learn how to say sorry and understand, empathise and encourage others. She has experienced too much rejection & conflict in life. So I resolved a few times to just hold my perspective inside and try to affirm her. But it seems like unless I make a lot of noise than nothing changes. I tried encouraging her to Get her ADD diagnosed (she first told me about it) but she said it doesn’t affect her much and she wishes she’d never mentioned it to me.
I also try to help her understand the perspective of others when she concludes that they are judging or attacking her just based on some unrelated neutral statement. It’s like anything which ‘can’ be interpreted negatively, even in the slightest way, is taken automatically as a huge offence. It doesn’t matter if someone explains that they didn’t mean it that way. Sometimes SHE tries to explain to ME what I really meant or what I really said or what my real motives are. And claims that I think I’m always right because I know what I said and she misheard/misunderstood it.
I really feel confused. She is normally a very kind, respectful, peaceful, social person in public and with other people. And I know she has good character traits like being gracious, quick to forgive, loyal, generous, hard working. I don’t know if this is RSD / extreme sensitivity to rejection. Is it emotional abuse? Am I being manipulated? Or is it just a symptom of ADD and she just isn’t able to understand empathy and other people’s perspectives? Maybe it’s all a reaction to her perception that I’ve broken her trust. She had told me that she is incapable of feeling empathy or even learning it. How is that possible? Even with my autistic struggles with emotions, I can still feel very strong empathy at times and my close friends consider me to be a very supportive person.
Now I know that autism can often cause problems in marriage too. So to be fair, I don’t always get humour (but i can still crack a hilarious joke sometimes), I’m slow to learn social norms (but have many strong friendships), and I struggle with multitasking (but I’m still organised enough to keep a full time career). I have poor fashion sense and I have a few weird quirks. I can be indecisive and forgetful. But I am aware of my issues and actively trying to improve them. And I’m open to receive feedback and advice about these things so I can improve myself.
Please help me understand what’s going on! And how to improve things. The one thing she’s said she’s open to is seeing a marriage counsellor together.