Neurotypical partners in ASD marriages often feel alone, with little understanding or support from others. The psychological trauma experienced by the neurotypical spouse is not widely understood by helping professionals, and certainly not by the average person. Ongoing Traumatic Relationship Syndrome is the most recent language of a neurotypical spouse’s distress in response to the chronic emotional neglect in her marriage. It is still sometimes referred to as Cassandra Syndrome, Cassandra Affective Deprivation Disorder, or Emotional Deprivation Disorder as well. In this space, the neurotypical partner’s perspective is given precedence.
The neurotypical pain in an NT-AS marriage is often deemed unacceptable to articulate. Neurotypical or non-autistic spouses who disclose hurtful relationship patterns are shouted down as discriminatory, ableist, stigmatizing, stereotype-perpetuating, and even abusive for revealing unsavory aspects of marriage to ASD partners. The sentiment seems to be that neurotypicals have no room to complain – our society is built for neurotypicals, not autistics. Neurotypical (or allistic) spouses should recognize their privilege, and remain voiceless about their suffering in a neurodiverse marriage. Plenty of spaces on the internet are dedicated to mocking allistic partners who identify with the concept of Cassandra Syndrome.
The world of neurodiverse marriage is only composed of two people. Neurological advantage does not exist for either partner in the exclusive world of a marriage – both partners are equally disoriented by one another’s differing expectations. Sadly, when experiences are shared online, it appears many autistic individuals project an attitude of contempt toward the pain of neurotypical wives. It’s a microcosm of the dynamic too often present in neurodiverse marriages – the autistic partner expects to be fully heard and accommodated, but the neurotypical spouse’s experience is secondary – and received as a personal attack for being voiced.
While the perspectives shared here are certainly not representative of ALL neurodiverse marriages, it does depict the experience of many neurotypical spouses who are married to autistic individuals (though, the ASD male presentation is more attributable in posts – female ASD often looks quite different in many regards). Frequently, wives in particular come to me and tearfully share that marriage might not be so hard if they had only known what to expect. The divorce rate between neurotypical + autistic partnerships is around 85% (based on a combined average of studies). It’s imperative to cultivate transparency around the neurodiverse marital dynamic, and provide resources that reduce trauma and improve outcomes.
The sole purpose of this blog is to share the most hidden and unknown sufferings of a neurotypical (allistic) partner in a difficult or high-conflict NT-AS marriage. It is not to give equal representation of the autistic partner’s experience – their voice is welcomed and heard in other arenas. It is not to offer strategies or solutions – coaching provides that service. The blog’s purpose is to merely share the story of an allistic partner’s life, as experienced inside a difficult NT-AS marriage – because it is often unwelcome elsewhere. Not all NT-AS marriages are difficult. I write about the most problematic dynamics that can arise in neurodiverse marriages, because it is THAT perspective which does not have a voice, and is often shouted down as ableist. Ongoing Traumatic Relationship Syndrome deserves to be known and understood as a possiblity in ND marriages, because it exists, and has life-long impact upon the well-being of both partners.