I wasn’t entirely sure what Autism truly was until I met Gray. We dated for 3 months before I really noticed that he had Asperger Syndrome. Gray was helping me move out of my college apartment at the end of the fall semester and went across the hall to visit my friend and her roommate, who were getting ready to leave as well. When they opened the door, my friend’s pushy roommate yelled at Gray to take off his shoes because they had mopped. We went to the apartment, which was playing very loud music, and he didn’t say a word and stared at the floor. I got very angry at him for being so unfriendly to my friends, but after we fought about it I understood that he took the yelling very personally and was overwhelmed by the music. A neurotypical might have been able to handle the situation gracefully but he was not.
As we continued dating, I fell more and more in love with his mind and sense of humor. He is constantly reading comic books, nonfiction, novels, and watching films I had never heard of. He also has an amazing taste in music. Somehow he was a better listener and more open to me than anyone else I had met. He wasn’t the typical guy with the Big Kahuna complex. He treated me as a woman and not an object. He also treated me as an equal. I had come out of a terrible relationship with a football-playing frat boy and Gray was so refreshing.
The problems with my friends continued, however. He refused to hang out with my friends and according to them, that meant that he was distant, cold, and unfriendly. If he didn’t like my friends, how could he like me? I tried to explain to the people in my life that he didn’t deal with parties and social situations very well, and they insisted that they would be nice. But when he did come with me to gatherings, he either was completely silent or, when asked a question, completely dominated the conversation with a long lecture on a comic book or movie.
It took me awhile to embrace these things about Gray and to stop being embarrassed by him. I noticed that with new friends I was making in college, mutual friends with Gray, there was none of this judgmental behavior. Some people are more open-minded than others. Some people just refuse to learn about Asperger’s and accept people for who they are. My boyfriend, who has no theory of mind, was somehow more kind and accommodating than the friends I had had since high school, who claimed to love me.
Gray was diagnosed at age 12 and has been on medication and in therapy and counseling since. Because of his hard work learning and about himself and disciplining his temper, most people do not notice his Aspergers. He is better at dealing with his emotions and with unkind people than I am, most of the time.
Gray has given me a life I didn’t know I wanted. I knew I was not a typical person wanting a typical marriage. He proposed to me randomly while watching Family Guy together on a weekend that he was very sick. He is very lucky I don’t like romance, big gestures, or cliche proposals at sunset. In the 15 seconds it took for me to process and answer, I thought about the struggle that lay ahead. I knew that he would never get empathy and theory of mind, and that we may struggle with lack of affection sometimes. I knew that he would never be comfortable in social situations and would always be happiest away from people. But all the hardships that lay ahead are worth it to me because he is an irreplaceable person in my life. He is one of the best people I know and we communicate about everything. We value self-motivated learning and ideas, and will always be able to pursue them together. He makes many sacrifices for me as I do for him.
No one can be sure if any marriage is going to work. That’s why it’s a commitment. I said yes because he is my family now. We continue to teach each other to be who we are and stand up for ourselves.