Dear Neurotypical Husband,
Before you, I knew in my marrow that I would never be suited for a conventional romantic relationship. How could a woman who exists mostly in her own inner world, so tightly controlled, ever share a life with another person—until death do us part, no less? Every attempt I’d ever made at “normal” had failed miserably. I am too complicated, too particular, too cerebral.
I am much too much of everything. But, you don’t seem to mind at all.
When we received my autism diagnosis, I was surprised (but at the same time, not at all) and afraid that it would change things between us, but you smiled and said, “We always knew your mind was something special, sweetheart.” Because of that, I relaxed. I knew you meant it in the best possible way.
Thank you for reassuring me that there’s nothing wrong with me. Thank you for loving me with tight squeezes and direct language and morning coffee with one perfect teaspoon of cinnamon. Thank you for parking in the same spot at Target every single time, even though it’s not always convenient. Thank you for listening intently to my monologue about dragonflies.
That day when I clung to your hand on that busy sidewalk and stopped abruptly, overwhelmed by anxiety, you said, “I’ve got you, sweetheart,” and moved me gently around to the other side, away from the street, keeping me close, like it was second nature to you and I was an extension of your body.
Thank you for looking out for me when I’m confused about how to look out for myself. Thank you for rocking me gently while we wait in a long line at the grocery store. Thank you for suggesting I eat, drink water and go outside for some fresh air. Thank you for reminding me of the sequence of our plans next weekend—no matter how many times I’ve already asked.
When I was angry with myself because I struggle to understand how to be romantic, affectionate and nurturing—the way other women seem to be—you said, “We don’t have to love each other in the same way, sweetheart.” I cried, overwhelmed by the sweet ache in my chest and unable to find the words to tell you that the way you love me is exactly right and more than I ever dared dream of.
Thank you for would making no demands of me to pretend to be anything other than I am. Thank you for not taking it personally when I look at you blankly after you’ve made a joke and then ask you to explain why it’s funny. Thank you for watching that moody foreign film with subtitles when you’d maybe rather watch the latest blockbuster.
When I curled into your chest’s concave spot that is just my shape and size, and you wrapped your arms around me, you whispered, “I love you, sweetheart,” into my hair. I said it back, but I don’t think you realize what I mean is that in your heart I have found my safe and peaceful space, my happiest, hope-filled place. And now, my inner world isn’t just mine anymore. It’s yours too.
This piece was previously published on The Mighty.