Amira Young looks at honesty in relationships about mental illnesses.
I have a friend who I met through my university who has Asperger’s. It’s a pretty well-known version of autism, and he lives a normal life for the most part. He works for a major news organization is a very successful advocate for his condition. That being said, his Asperger’s comes with certain difficulties. And dating is a problem when it comes to his mental issues.
At one point, he asked when to tell a girl he’s on a date with that he has Asperger’s. Although she would probably be able to tell, I remembered talking to someone who worked with autism after my divorce, and wondering if my ex had some version of it. He had mentioned to me many times that he had a “learning disability” growing up, which is an enormous spectrum that can mean anything from mild dyslexia to very serious autism.
Either way, there was something amiss in those years together. A’s behavior was beyond weird; it was downright abnormal sometimes. He would scream and writhe on the floor during sports events when he would get excited, scaring the crap out of whoever was around. His tantrums were frightening, and I worried one day he would get carried away and hit me. He was socially awkward, preferred being a hermit and couldn’t stop himself when it came to saying horrible, mean things, particularly to me. When I asked him to stop, he would scream, “You’re censoring me!”
He didn’t understand basic human concepts, like how actions speak louder than words. There were gaps and events that were explained away in his life story, not to mention excuses that were made for certain things that, now looking back, I don’t know why I believed in the first place. But one thing was for sure – there were a lot of secrets that I only just began to uncover as I left. And even my in-laws were part of the deception. They wanted the illusion of perfection. And that doesn’t come with a diagnosed mental illness.
Recently, the Good Men Project and Andy Behrman tackled this issue. Behrman suffers from bipolar disorder, and has issues in his marriage although he was upfront with his wife. I give him credit for being upfront with her, because it’s hard. But it’s better to be honest and know the demon you’re facing and work on it as opposed to me, who still doesn’t know how to classify the beast I was married to.
It’s pretty clear there was either a serious mental problem with A that either had no diagnosis or one that was hidden from me during the duration of our dating and married life. What was abuse to me might have been a part of a medical condition he had that I wasn’t made aware of. And in any marriage or relationship, hiding something like that from a person who commits their life to you is completely unacceptable.
Sometimes, I compare this to my own physical medical condition, which I can fortunately hide while dating. You wouldn’t hide that from your partner, because you never know how it would affect your lives or when you would need them to provide medical information if G-d forbid something happened. A mental condition is just as serious, and often it has direct ramifications on everyday life with the person you’re living with.
You can’t have 100 percent honesty in any relationship, but when it comes to something that would be make the very foundations of it buckle, it has to be said. Conditions like Aspergers’ come with some issues that need more explanation and leeway for that person, such as social awkwardness or an overwhelming inability to censor hurtful things, and they can be downright painful to deal with. And their partner has to be able to understand this about the person that they’re with, accept what they can and know what they can and can’t tolerate for themselves as individuals.
The truth was that, if I didn’t know a serious medical diagnosis from my ex-husband’s past before we were together, then I really didn’t know him. I was never truly a part of his life, and I never got the true intimacy that you really need in order to make a relationship work. By keeping me out, no matter how much time and effort I put in to save my marriage, it was all for naught. My marriage was already doomed. Would have it been easier if I knew? I am leaving that in the “what if” pile of questions that have been accumulating since the day I fled my home, and the events of that day may have been a direct result of his potential illness.
I know the road to love is not one without a lot of bumps and curves, no matter what condition you brain, body, mind or soul is in. But I think that everyone is worthy of it, no matter who you are. The key is knowing what to do with it once you have it, and to do right by the person you’re sharing it with.
photo: thomasleuthard / flickr
Originally posted on ladivorceevita.com