Over 20 years ago I met this handsome, fascinating man while working as restaurant managers together. He was obnoxiously funny, blunt with his words, confidently himself, and always the life of the party.  I could not believe half of the shit that came out of his mouth.  He said what others wouldn’t or shouldn’t, and I couldn’t get enough!  I was always laughing and smitten with his humor waiting for what he’d say or do next.  He quickly became one of my favorite people and a great friend. As a friend, he was honest, loyal, and had a heart of gold.  He was a reliable source of consistency and made me feel incredibly safe.

Our amazing friendship took a slight turn one night after sharing a bottle of wine – perhaps that was the plan all along.  How would we take our amazing friendship to the other side? Well, we figured it out and from then on, we became inseparable. In fact, we have been that way ever since.  

The roller-coaster of life has taken us on a wild ride. With tons of ups and some unfortunate lows, it has been our strong friendship that has always prevailed and kept us in-sync. He respects me and my desires and I only want and wish the best for him. He can pretty much get away with anything!  I am weak for this man; I always have been.   There is never a dull moment, ever!  All the things that drive me crazy about him are the same things that I adore.

We married in 2001 and the rest is history. Back then we were just starting to experience life.  I was in my twenties, carefree, naïve and oblivious.  There was no talk or presence of autism in my life, I did not know anyone who was on the autism spectrum, nor did I understand it yet.

Anxious to start a family of our own we wasted no time and had our first child (our honeymoon baby) within our first year of marriage, our second was born in 2005.  Our children became our world.  We loved and embraced every milestone with excitement and joy.  Slowly, yet surely, we noticed unique characteristics that were setting our children apart from those close and familiar.  Nothing earth-shattering, simply different. My son started jumping a lot and was becoming fixated on a multitude of puzzles and games. My infant daughter seemed to look right through me.  I felt a lack of connection with my daughter and my son was spewing out a vocabulary I didn’t even understand.  My son’s fists clenched so tight looking awkwardly uncomfortable and my daughter resisted crawling and communicating with words.  There was a lot of joy and happiness, but I knew in my heart something deeper was emerging in our household and in our lives.   

When my daughter was seven, we had her assessed for autism.  Following her diagnosis, our pediatrician asked my husband and me if we would be willing to do genetic testing, for which we had already done for my daughter.  My daughter’s results came back showing two chromosomal inversions.  Genetically speaking, these chromosomal abnormalities pointed towards autism.

Interested in learning more my husband and I sent our samples to the geneticists and waited for our results.  Being the joking type of people we are, we kidded around about whose side it was from, who had more idiosyncrasies, who was smarter, etc.  It would be a tough battle, me with my obsessive behaviors, anxiety, and creativity, against his rhythmic walking, lack of filter, and numeric memory.  Regardless, the results wouldn’t change a thing.   Honestly, we really did not care.  It was for science, and if it helped specialists better understand autism, we were all for it.

What we did not expect, was a letter from the geneticists attached to my husband’s results.  The letter read, “abnormal male,” and, ‘If you are planning on having children, please consider genetic counseling first.’  I thought, “Did they seriously just say that!?”  With an already 7 and 11-year-old, that wasn’t an option, how insensitive.  I don’t believe it would have stopped us from having children in the first place, but for future reference maybe they can consider softening their tactics.  We discovered through the results that my husband has the identical two chromosome inversions as my daughter. 

Although annoyed and hurt by the insensitive letter, my husband was able to put that aside.  He was left to absorb the results and accept his reality.  Surprisingly, the facts didn’t upset him, it was the realization that he was misunderstood his entire childhood that brought him to tears.  Being on the autism spectrum wasn’t a bad thing, it was reassuring to him.  As he slowly recovered childhood memories over time, everything was making sense, he made sense.

When my husband was young, he certainly gave his parents a good run behaviourally.  When they tried to get him help, they were often unsuccessful or given a misdiagnosis.  Autism was not completely understood at the time and it wasn’t commonly diagnosed.  My husband was told by more than one teacher that he wouldn’t amount to anything. He got used to being referred to as the ‘bad kid’ and the ‘troublemaker’. As a teen, he decided he might as well live up to his reputation.  With an autism diagnosis, he can now move forward with his hurt and anger from the past.  He realizes he was simply misunderstood, they just didn’t know better. 

Later, my husband had a formal autism assessment, confirming the genetic results.  Along with his assessment, we had many a-ha moments.  It opened my eyes and helped me to better understand him, and our relationship.  For years I took a lot of his actions, lack thereof, and specific personality traits personally. So many aspects of our life became clearer.  Our challenges made so much sense.

-Does Not Seek Comfort from Others & Has Difficulty Recognizing Other’s Feelings-
My husband and I have always had a relationship based on the concept that I love him, he loves me, and that is that. I learned that my husband does not yearn for the warm and fuzzy, the touchy, feely stuff as I do.  Just as my son doesn’t like to be touched, my husband doesn’t require cuddles, hugs, and other forms of affection like I do to feel good.  One day I realized that if I specifically asked for what I need, he will do it without hesitation, otherwise it is not a thought.  In fact, my cues, expressions, and gestures usually go unnoticed.  This took me years to figure out.  Do you know how many times I questioned his love for me because he doesn’t show it the same way I do? 

-Animal Whisperer-
With three dogs in our home, we are obvious animal lovers.  To say we are obsessed with our dogs is an understatement.  However, I must admit my husband takes it to a whole new level.  He clearly bonds more easily with animals than humans, and always has.  Over the years my husband has brought home an array of animals, in which I have had to lay down some ground rules, so we don’t live inside a farm.  The unconditional love a pet can offer is unlike that of any human.  Pets don’t talk and ask questions, they are always happy to see you, and they gladly accept any kind of attention without expectations, the relationship is super easy.  At any point in our day, someone is interacting with a dog, whether it be kissing a dog, snuggling a dog, or speaking to one in a cooing voice.  Heck, I don’t get as much kissy- kissy, huggy- huggy as the dogs do!  99% of the photos my husband takes are of our dogs.

-Appears to be Insensitive-
As newlyweds, I found myself often insecure.  With bouts of self-doubt and a need for reassurance, I would get a blank stare in return.  I realized early on he was not going to reassure me.  He didn’t understand my emotional issues, and certainly didn’t know how to engage.  I learned I would have to sort them out for myself.  His inability to humour nonsense is actually an amazing quality to have.  This beautiful man has never been jealous or insecure in our relationship, it is not in his make-up.  His trust and belief in others are unparalleled to anyone I have met. 

Difficulties with Small Talk & Eye Contact-
At times, when I sought out conversation just because, I was often disappointed with the results.  Incapable of faking interest, he struggles with small talk.  His lack of eye contact has made me feel unheard many times.  I realize now, eye contact is a sensory issue and it is hard for him to look someone directly in the eye.  It’s especially difficult after a long day at work where he has had to force himself to do it all day.  For him, eye contact was a taught behaviour, it did not come naturally.  Working in the hospitality industry for years he knew he had to do it to gain trust and respect, but looking the part wasn’t easy.  Sometimes I’m fine chatting while he stares elsewhere, and other times I request his eyes on me.

Socially Disengaged-
We’ve had our struggles getting out and socializing with others.  We have a few selected friends that we spend time with, but for the most part, we hang out at home.  My husband’s job is extremely social, so after his workday, he needs downtime.  He has always been extremely supportive of me going out and having fun without him when he has no desire (mental energy) to socialize.  It has become clearer with time, that when he is mentally drained from his day, the idea of converting with others is the last thing he wants to do.  For years, I did not understand, and again I took it personally.  Since learning about the spectrum, I fully get it now!  Like their father, my children have always required down-time after a day of stimulation.  

-Intellectual, Detail Oriented, Persistent with High Integrity-
My husband is a workaholic.  He loves a challenge; he is super intelligent and self-educates regularly.  My husband’s forthcoming, honest, and factual approach in his career has assisted him in achieving great things but, it has also caused some snags along the way.  He is extremely ethical.  He has absolutely no problem calling out someone for their wrongdoings (and in some cases illegal doings).  He is confident and sure of himself.  He has always fought for what is right, and as far as bosses go, he is the best, always having the backs of his staff.  I have always believed he is a mathematical genius.  His head is always filled with numbers, he is a problem solver.  He is an advocate for others and won’t stop until people listen. This man is driven, persistent, relentless, he is a doer.  Never has he let anyone down- when he says he will take care of it, he does exactly that.  There are no wishy-washy characteristics.  What you see, is what you get.   He is unapologetically himself all the time, and I love him for that.

-Sensory Issues, Particularly with Noise-
My husband despises background noise.  He can quickly get agitated when there is too much going on in a room.  Watching TV with him can be the utmost challenge, for all of us.  With 2 kids and 3 dogs, noise is unavoidable in the house.  It is extremely difficult for my husband to enjoy a show he can’t focus solely on.  The same goes for board meetings and conference calls with work.  If too many people are talking at once, he cannot contain his frustration.  Luckily, he has a great sense of humour and will use it fully in work situations to help camouflage his irritation.  Here, colleagues don’t’ get mad at his blunt approach because they think he is kidding- but he’s not.

-Adheres to Daily Routine-
I have always driven my husband bonkers with my tardiness and relaxed approach to just about everything.  He is not only on-time for everything, he is always the first one there.  He is a master planner.  Every night, he lays his clothes out, plans the next day, and makes notes for his notes. He is extremely dependable, reliable, and predictable. As I scatter around, trying to get everything ready to leave the house he will be in the car honking the horn without fail, every time.  I don’t know, perhaps I do this intentionally, subconsciously of course.   His rituals and daily routines have existed for as long as I have known him.  

At the end of the day, when you are surrounded by the autism spectrum, like me, the characteristics, and behavioral traits become your normal.  I am a minority here.  My husband hasn’t changed from our restaurant days, he’s just grey, a working professional, and all grown up.  Most importantly, he still keeps me laughing! Oh, and if I may… to the teachers who didn’t believe in my husband all those years ago- he wasn’t bad, he was brilliant, you just bored him.