And like eggs, we got to look back and think about how each year had cracked. The first couple of years were fabulous- moving, dreaming, settling in. But around year 3 came children- and autism, and Tourette’s and sleeplessness and a true sense of family and a true sense of connectedness far beyond just two adults hanging out together.
We talked late last night about how those middle years- those middle years- those were tough years. Those were the years that we put our heads down and plodded on. How we kept talking, talking, talking, but the joy of planning and dreaming was replaced by the necessity of reacting, responding and realigning. How Fate, who had been so kind to bring us together, seemed intent on putting up obstacles in our path. How one dream job after another fell apart. How the constant drumbeat of worry wears away even the most optimistic of spirits. How anxieties and health issues become reflected in our middle-aged bodies.
We talked about how around Year 9 it hit a low point- a point of decision-making, a point at which you decide to hang in there, or you decide to end it. We talked about how autism and Tourette’s and anxiety splintered us and yet glued us. How continual challenges and continual stress can reshape how you see yourself and how you react to things. And yet, how neither one of us could fathom leaving the other one alone to deal with it all- how we knew that our children’s strength could only come from parents who could share the stress between us. How we forgave and learned and went to counseling- and how like steel, became stronger for the heat of the endurance. As a friend of mine put it, “It may have been your children’s issues that drove you apart, but it was those same issues that that kept you together.”
We talked about how we’ve been recovering since that year, that low year. How Years 10 and 11 were rebuilding years, renewal years. And how at the end of Year 12, we’re a family, together, friends and lovers. We can laugh again. Different than we were before, different than we were in the beginning, but still laughing.
While there is no good research data, word-of-mouth seems to indicate that the divorce rate of families with autism hovers around 80%. While I don’t think that it’s the autism itself, autism provides a serious continual stressor in any marriage- just as poverty and loss and illness can play on other marriages. Such stresses force you to reconsider who you are, what you need- truly need, not just want- in a mate. It’s hard to have dreams together when your plans are crumbling around you.
I am ridiculously fortunate. I have a husband who accepts, who learns, who has the strength inside of himself to look at things and try to change them. I have a husband who also believes that commitment is for the good times and the bad- the passionate and the hum-ho. I have a husband who knows that he may fall off the path he has aimed for, and dust himself off, talk to me and get back on a different route. I have a husband who knows that I can fall off my path, dust myself off, talk to him and get back on a different route. I have a husband who talks- and listens. And he has a wife who talks- and listens. And we each have someone who can make the other one laugh in the midst of it all.
Research has that found that couples who were on the edge of divorce but decided to “stick it out” were just as happy as any other couple after five years. I can’t say that it’s always true, since I knew several couples who “stuck it out” and are still miserable, but I know that our dozen years have provided us with a few great years, quite a number of awful years, one terrible year, and several good years.
It’s made for an omelette of a life together. And last night, when we got to spend the night away (thank you, Vicki!)- away from the dog whining, the children’s whining and our own whining- we remembered our way. I am blessed to have found my soul mate, my best friend- my husband.
Looking forward to the next dozen and the next dozen after that…