Tim and I approach our relationship and our neurodiversity in many ways similar to any really good relationship. We deeply honor our differences and make space and accommodation for those differences.
Tim needs routine and hates change. I love spontaneity and can turn on a dime to change plans. That is one example. In this realm we’ve learned to make accommodation for each other. I try to always keep in mind that he thrives with a plan and is upset when plans change. I see the strength in living an ordered life, even for me. I’ve come to appreciate that his need for plans and follow-through has actually empowered me to accomplish stuff I might not have. To have consistency means, at times, that life is way easier.
At the same time, I know that one loses opportunities when there’s no room for change. And Tim has been able to acknowledge both my need for spontaneity and the missed opportunities when one refuses to be open to change. He has watched me approach life in ways he never would have. He turns things over to me that can’t be dealt with in scheduled, consistent ways, like figuring out how to renovate houses creatively by not following all the “rules” and doing unconventional things that turn out even better than the original plan might have been.
All couples, neurodiverse or not, have to learn to make accommodation for differences. With neurodiverse couples it is REALLY important to study each other to see what superpowers each brings to the relationship. Instead of longing for someone who mirrors how you are, it becomes imperative to see the amazing strengths the other brings, and then to nurture those strengths in one another, and put them in service of the life you share. Tim loves hauling things. I love color and texture. I’ve stopped feeling guilty that I don’t do as much of the physical labor and he appreciates and turns to me to make our home warm and beautiful.
Tim hates to talk on the phone. It’s stressful for him to make appointments or deal with business over the phone. He’s great at figuring out technology. I talk on the phone for him. He wrangles iTunes for me. He calls me “the other half of his brain.” I consider it an honor, not a burden, to help him. He chides me when I don’t ask for help hauling stuff in from the car. He makes me coffee every morning. I make sure we get together with people for thoughtful, deep conversations.
People who are married to partners with fewer differences don’t have to figure this stuff out. They don’t have to let themselves need each other so much. It’s less risky in certain ways. I’m happy for the differences because our life together seems richer. And it has caused me to grow, to learn to work so intimately with another human being who is so different from me.