Marriage under strain

My marriage with a man with ASD is currently under significant strain. The diagnosis is recent and I have a lot to learn about supporting him and our family in this light, and about my own self care. We have a 1 year old and 3 year old, and this is a major area of strain as my husband gets very stressed by the chaos involved with 2 very young kids -- I know this is common. I would welcome any coping strategies for getting through weekends. We've been each taking one child and doing things separately as this helps my husband's stress, but we both feel we are growing apart as a result of spending little time together. I guess having a highly structured weekend with some routines might help. He gets very anxious about car journeys with the kids due I think to the unpredictability of whether they will cry/shout/get hungry/ need the loo etc.

We've also been through a prolonged trauma as our youngest was born with a life threatening birth defect, had major surgery and spent a long time in intensive care. She's doing better now, but it has caused extra strain and stress and my husband is suffering hyper vigilance too, which I recognise is really hard for him. He says he doesn't want therapy. He also has a demanding job. Overall his stress levels are such that at home he is in very withdrawn states most of the time, in which he speaks little and seems quite angry. He often attributes these moods to something I've done, but it will be something small (an impatient remark), and this state of mind will last all day. If I look at the bigger picture I'm sure his overall stress is a factor. I would really welcome strategies on how to respond when he is in a withdrawn, angry state. It doesn't seem he wants to be left alone as then he feels I am avoiding him, and finds that hurtful.

He tends not to accept his diagnosis, and he questions the validity of diagnoses/labels in general. I respect that this is a position, but it makes me feel very alone in how to best manage things for the family. Also, it means, for example, that he doesn't want to see a relationship counsellor with ASD experience, which is what I would find helpful.

Sorry for a long post. I'd be really grateful for advice relating to any part of these difficulties. If things remain this hard I'm not sure I can stay in the marriage, but I want to give it my best shot. I do wonder if it will get easier as the children get older -- have others found that?


  • I am the newly diagnosed ASD wife in a marriage with a NT husband and I know how much strain there can be on a relationship. It is hard enough for us in our late 50s with only our little dog to care for - I really empathise with you. At a similar stage of my life when I was married with two small children things were very difficult indeed.

    One practical suggestion I have is to use the Relate Live Chat service if you ever feel you need to let off steam or get quick support:
    The psychologist who diagnosed me gave us several suggestions to improve our relationship as a couple:

    • Keep my stress levels as low as possible through identifying causes of stress (minimising the risk of 'straw that breaks the camel's back' scenarios).
    • Use energy accounting to plan and schedule activities so I do not get exhausted and risk going into meltdown or burnout.
    • Have an emergency plan for occasions when I do begin to get upset (put space between us, do not discuss issues until I am calm).
    • Make sure I have some time completely alone and in silence every day to reduce sensory overload.
    • See a Relate counsellor to negotiate strategies and solutions that meet both our needs.
    • Address work-related issues that increase stress.

    I am using support from several sources. This forum, NHS IAPT psychology (GP or self referral is available in most areas), Occupational Health, Trade Union advisor.

    My husband has hobbies that give him time on his own too. It is very hard when you have children to get any space, I know. There is a parent to parent service provided by NAS where you might be able to get advice and support on coping strategies and relationship issues:

    It is great that you want to try and make your marriage work if you can. A lot of negative things are written about lack of empathy in autistic people whereas we are often deeply caring and loyal but just show it in different ways. It does get easier as the children get older in my experience. Very best wishes to you.

  • Are you able to get rid of the kids for the odd weekend/evening to the rellies for some 'you time'?

    If he's stessed out, having some kid-free/work-free/hassle-free/zero-demand time and doing something enjoyable may take the stress out of the situation.

    What do you like to do that takes his mind off the world for a while? It may take a little planning but a pressure-relief valve needs to be fitted.

    I doubt he wants to be angry, it's just a by-product of too many demands outstripping his ability to fulfil those demands. Unfortunately, when he gets to his limit of coping, he probably lashes out to the last, small request, at an inappropriate intensity when compared to the small demand of that request.

    Does he have any hobbies that let him wind-down?

  • Thank you so much for this really helpful set of suggestions. I really appreciate you taking the time to share them. Also, I totally agree about the capacity to be very caring and loyal. That is certainly the case with my husband. 

    All the best. 

  • Thank you -- really helpful. Yes, I think getting some help in with the kids is a good idea. He's too tired in the evening and doesn't want to go out, but I think I'll look into a few hours at the weekend if possible. Thanks again. 

  • Blimey are you me!  Un diagnosed my hubby has aspergers not known years ago sadly for me.  Days out I looked so forward to days in the country no sooner arrive we would be in the car to go home.  So many let downs and visions of lovely long days.  No not with my hubby traffic delays road works  we can't possibly stay longer a nightmare.  I would see other families playing ball games barbies  not us after the planned walk back in the car and home time you see all planed to get back for tea time.  I was pulling my hair out silently never made a fuss in front of the children didn't want to spoil their day out.  We also have a daughter with a heart defect already one operation under Papworth thankfully doing wonderfully alright has a part time job doing well  diagnosed with dyslexia.  Husband nearly lost his life two years ago stomach related had to have most of his bowels taken out.  Lord knows some days I feel down son has Asperger but has a great job he is living with a girl with Asperger .  Not down about his Asperger but about not being able to have long discussions with him or not getting a lot of answers back usually a yes or no or nothing!  Depression that I have sometimes  the only  planet I am fully on is with my daughter incidentally her partner has  mental issues as well.  I truly thought that I was going mad for years I was the only one on a lonely planet hubbys family all aspies my father and mother aspie  How do I make sense of normality!.  I not interested in routine in fact I find it boring I am more of a go with the flo love travelling take it or leave it love tasting food organized but not manic every opposite to virtually all my family relations except me and our daughter.  I have anxiety but have figured out no wonder considering I sometimes feel caged in.  My husbands anxiety is about time keeping mine is the usual politics health usual life events.  You can't ever change your husband but you can learn to have patience with them.  I am having to and it is helping me to cope better.  Change yourself and your behavior it may help.