Autism is tough because it causes a lot of stigma in the world. People automatically assume you are less capable or less than as a person.
There is a long way to go to fully understanding autism, and in the meanwhile, the way society stigmatizes it can be a lot.
So when Reddit user avieavs found out that her husband had a degree of autism, she was understandably worried. But then when both she and her husband found out that his parents had known all along and just never told him—she was furious.
Afterwards, she received some backlash.
In order to make sure she wasn’t too out of line, she went to the popular subReddit “Am I The A**hole” or “AITA”:
“AITA for telling my in-laws that they would be responsible if me and my husband divorced?”
Our original poster, or OP, started by setting up the context in which her husband received his diagnosis.
“First, some important context. Last year me and my husband had our last child and the pregnancy was extremely complicated and life-threatening to both the baby and myself. At one point there was a 30% chance of both of us being alive by the end of it.”
“Due to this I also have is some complications that are going to impact me for the rest of my life. During this time my husband was terrible.”
“He did not support me at all and would get quite angry whenever I wanted to talk about it. He brushed It off, didn’t help around the house with the other kids, and got to the point where he was emotionally abusive.”
After this, OP wanted a divorce from her husband, but they agreed to go to counseling in the meanwhile.
“About a month after my daughter was released from the NICU my loving and caring husband came back but I was destroyed and told him that I wanted to divorce.”
“Obviously we started going to counseling and during this time we found out that he had Asperger’s Syndrome and was just really good at masking.”
“Afterwards our entire relationship made a lot more sense to me, we always knew he was socially awkward and he has a lot of quirks and all of our arguments can be traced back to symptoms of his autism.”
When OP’s husband finally got the courage up to tell his family, the unexpected happened.
“Now, after months of him not wanting to tell anybody he finally got the courage to tell his parents about his diagnosis.”
“Their response? ‘Oh, we always knew that. you were diagnosed with autism at 2. But we didn’t tell you so that you can have a normal life.'”
OP and her husband were understandably furious, considering so much could be explained by his autism diagnosis.
“I was furious, like I said all of our arguments have always been because the symptoms of his autism. So much hurt and pain for both of us could have been avoided had we known.”
“My husband could have learned better coping techniques as a child, and I could have learned better coping techniques earlier in our marriage.”
And OP most definitely lost her cool a little.
“I was so mad at them that I screamed that their selfishness could have cost us our marriage and may still. My husband was pretty pissed too and we both hung up the phone.”
“Now I’m getting phone calls saying that I took it too far and that his Asperger’s diagnosis shouldn’t have any impact on our relationship if I actually loved him.”
Redditors helped OP see where guilt belongs by declaring:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
- NAH – No A**holes Here
Redditors said that OP was most definitely not to blame.
“NTA – Sounds like your in-laws don’t really understand mental disorders at all and don’t care to. You have every right to be upset and resentful and so does your husband. ESPECIALLY your husband.”
“I’m so sorry. I am glad you have his diagnosis though and it sounds like you’re doing everything in your power to rebuild your relationship. I hope it works out well for you both.”
“Also, Aspergers has a strong genetic connection so teaching your children about it is super important.”
“If your in-laws can’t respect whatever you need in the future, I would strongly consider distancing from them.”~AuroraWolfMelody
“NTA. He should have known about his own medical history, they shouldn’t have with held that from him.”
“Also, had he known he could have learned ways to deal with his emotions or other things you’ve argued about in a more healthy way.”
“By trying to help him they have hurt him and you and I think it is reasonable for you to be upset but it’s even more reasonable for him to be upset.”~Just_another_Lesbo
“NTA. You are totally correct that their choice to neglect your husband and ignore his diagnosis has impacted how he functions as an adult.”
“I encourage you both to continue marriage counseling (maybe find out if there is a therapist in your area who specializes in cases where one or both partners has a neurodivergiance) and your husband should be in individual counseling as well to try to learn the skills that he should have as a child.”
“This reminds me of when I worked as a camp counselor and there was one girl who was just different and we couldn’t figure out how to work with her.”
“Everyone was relieved when the week was up and she went home. Then she was back the next drop off day and kept coming back for several more weeks.”
“I finally asked her parents if she had a DD diagnosis and they admitted she was autistic but they chose not to tell us because they didn’t want her to be treated differently.”
“Yes, we would have treated her differently by giving her accommodations and knowing how to work with her better.”~sodoyoulikecheese
“NTA. Him having Aspergers does affect communication and some of his behaviors, and he never learned to cope with it because his parents didn’t tell him he had it.”
“They were neglectful for not telling him. Their actions had a long lasting impact on him including parts of your marriage.”
“I’m wondering how they managed to hide the diagnosis on his medical records, it’s one thing to never say anything about it, but if it was diagnosed then it should have been written somewhere.”~Interesting_Path_648
In fact, what husband’s parents did was nothing short of ableism, according to Reddit.
“NTA – ‘it would work if you really loved him’ is putting literally 100% of the responsibility on you and 0% on the people actually responsible for raising a competent human being.”
“Just based on what you said, I’d still go for the divorce, but I obviously have not lived your experiences.”~ohmoimarie
“I feel like I’m experiencing deja vu. Had a similar moment with my MIL a couple weeks ago where she casually mentioned my husband’s diagnosis when he was a toddler as well, and pulled the same ‘we wanted him to have a normal life’ BS.”
“She saw nothing wrong with this, especially after watching us go through 8 months of evaluations for our own son last year to receive his ASD diagnosis.”
“It’s unbelievable to me (and my husband) that his parents blatantly prevented him from having more opportunities for himself and his social well being.”
“We were so disgusted with them that we ended up deciding to go completely NC right then and there and don’t plan on looking back anytime soon.”
“I’m not suggesting that be the case here, but I am going to give you a giant NTA and throw in a big virtual hug too because I know first hand how difficult it can be to try and partner with someone ‘undiagnosed’ on the spectrum.”~AmbienNicoleSmith
“NTA there is a woman I know through family who didn’t tell her son that he was diagnosed with ADD and a mild learning disorder (along the lines of dyslexia but I believe it’s something different). It ruined his life that she did that.”
“He never learned to cope, was made to feel like an idiot in school, and turned to drugs to self-medicate his ADD symptoms.”
“He never knew anything about this, and found out when he was in his 30s. After the first few weeks of taking his ADD medicine he called his sister in tears saying he finally felt comfortable inside his own head. After 30 years of living like that.”
“F**k your in-laws. In the future I hope that actions like theirs lead to legislation stopping it. It’s technically medical/emotional abuse in a way.”
“For example, imagine not telling your child that they had a physical condition that later ruined their life or caused persistent problems. It shouldn’t be any different for neurodivergent kids.”~WembleyToast
“NTA. You make very valid points. Them not telling him could never automatically make his life more normal.”
“On the contrary, I bet there are sooo many issues and conflicts he has had in life that could have been avoided if he had known this about himself.”
“And given better tools to help him deal with life earlier in life.”
“There is a good chance his parents have done serious and maybe even permanent damage to your husband through their silence.”~ceeceetop
After all, how could husband’s entire life have been different if he had known this from the get-go?
“NTA. Your response was emotional, but it’s true. They withheld a valuable piece of information that directly contributed to your relationship.”
“Whether their intentions were selfish or not is debatable, but they should have had a talk with you both when they found out you were having issues.”~VCWCVW
“NTA. My father has Asperger’s and as a bonus was adopted and raised by emotionally abusive and neglectful parents.”
“He wasn’t diagnosed until around six years ago, after three kids and 15 years of marriage, and regular meltdowns over little things causing holes in the walls and damage to our things.”
“He has been financially, verbally, and emotionally abusive to my mother and by extension me and my sisters as well.”
“When they first got together, my mom was vulnerable after the passing of her own mother and thought that he was a genuinely good person, until they were married and his true colors came out.”
“She has always wanted to leave but thought it could work, then didn’t because she was having another child, and now it’s because she knows that if she fought for divorce now he would completely screw her over financially and also fight for custody of my younger sister since she’s not old enough to have her own say.”
“He finally started being medicated and has gone to therapy for his issues and although it’s a lot better than it was, the trauma for all of us is still there and so are his controlling behaviors.”
“Two years ago his adoptive mother came to visit and while out to lunch with my mother casually remarked about how she thought about warning my mother to what he was like but decided she didn’t really care.”
“My whole life has been a struggle and while I know many others have it worse, I know that I will likely always suffer because of what I’ve experienced, and though I will always be kind to them I can never forgive my dad or his mom for their actions.”
“To be clear, most people with mental illness as well as those on the spectrum are NOT like this, neither are those who have been raised in horrible situations.”
“Mental illness of any kind cannot be an excuse for treating others terribly, nor can being raised in a bad situation.”
“I don’t go around telling people to suck it up because I have it so bad, I don’t invalidate others struggles because they’re ‘superficial,’ and I don’t treat people like garbage and blame it on ‘my anxiety’ or whatever.”
“I know that my father has had his own struggles and I am sympathetic to that, but there came a point where he CHOSE to be carless of how his actions to purposely hurt my mom affected his children.”
“It is possible to have a good relationship with your husband, but only after proper therapy and treatment, which will be specific to him.”
“However, if you already feel like it’s too far gone, GET OUT. While you still can.”
“Do not wait around for him to change because he likely won’t, and do not think of staying just so your children can have ‘proper parents.’ It is NOT worth it. In the end, I hope you do what’s best for you and your children. Good luck.”~LeenaQuinn
“NTA by ignoring his diagnosis as a child, they not only nearly caused you two to divorce but likely made his entire life much more difficult.”
“He probably struggled with friendships and emotional situations because he wasn’t taught how to cope.”
“Where I might give them some leeway is dependent on how old your husband is.”
“If he is over thirty, I can see a parent in the Seventies/Eighties and very early Nineties being told that it’s far better to just force your child to fit in and there wasn’t as much recognition and tools for parents raising children with high functioning autism then.”
“Though that doesn’t excuse them not telling him when they noticed his cold behaviour whilst you and the baby were hospitalised.”~Dashcamkitty
“NTA. As someone who is in the same boat as your husband (I just found out last December, even though I had repeatedly and specifically asked my parents as early as 9 years ago).”
“They want him to life a ‘normal’ life? That’s not the way to go about it. It’s much easier to know that you’re neurodivergent and approach the world from that angle, understanding yourself and your environment better.”
“His parents could’ve given him that, but they took it away without his consent. Call them out for what they’ve done. They should face the consequences of their own actions.”~AquaVirgo
While this doesn’t at all absolve the actions of OP’s husband, he clearly lived a life of struggle with very few coping mechanisms that might have been avoided with a diagnosis at a young age.
Counseling is the way to go here, and thankfully OP and her husband are in it. We hope it leads to some productive healing.