Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Love is a Challenge

Loving anyone is challenging. The love brings us to places we might not have thought we were strong enough to handle - and sometimes to places we were hoping to avoid.

Loving someone with a disability is extremely challenging - I should know because I did it for over ten years. My ex-boyfriend (life partner, live-in significant other - take your pick) was not neuro-typical. He has Asperger's Syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism. Because he is high functioning, it was often easy for me to forget he had a disability. It was at those times I forgot that it became an issue.

I haven't written much about this before, because I didn't want to come off as a martyr or as a show off. However, I am starting to realize that loving someone with a disability has helped form me and change me in many positive ways. Unfortunately, it also showed me my limitations, and my failures.

I knew what I was getting into - he told me about his disability on our first date. I researched it, and felt I would be able to handle it. And, most of the time I handled it well. However, there were times I handled it poorly and I often wonder if that didn't help to kill the relationship.

While one might not normally think that a relationship with someone who has a disability could be advantageous, in this instance is was. People with autism don't tend to lie; their brain doesn't process information in the same way as a neuro-typical brain, and so when asked a question, they will often just come out with the truth. Of course, a lot of time that truth is not filtered, so if you are asking someone with autism a question (i.e. "Am I fat?") be prepared for a completely honest answer.

So, when our relationship was on the rocks, if I asked a straightforward question (are you dating someone else), I would get an honest response. One I could trust to be true.

Navigating the dating waters now is kind of tricky for me. I have come across liars aplenty. Thank goodness I have a pretty good b-s meter, but still... some lies get past me without being noticed right away. When this happens, I miss the honesty I had in my long-term relationship. But if I were to be really honest, there are things I don't miss as well.

I don't miss dealing with the OCD and the over-analyzing. I don't miss the times of lethargy - when he simply couldn't move or take care of himself, so I had to step in and do it all - (even sometimes encourage him into the shower). I don't miss the germ phobia and the sleepless nights. Nor do I miss the fact that we never went to any of the fun things around Reno together because he could not be in a crowd - so, no Artown events, Street Vibrations, Hot August Nights. If I wanted to do any of those things, I would have to do them on my own.

For the first time in over ten years, I feel like I have a life. I didn't realize how suffocating and small my world used to be until our relationship ended. Don't get me wrong - I didn't want our relationship to end. But end it did, and as the saying goes: When God closes a door, another one opens.

This particular open door has led me to good friends, fun activities, and a great period of growth. But I don't ever want to forget that my relationship was also a period of growth and self-awareness. I certainly would not be who I am today had it not been for the challenges that the relationship provided me. For that, I am grateful.

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