Traveling With My Asperger Husband. Asperger’s is now referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), but for my writing purposes I continue to use the former. Living with an Asperger husband isn’t easy. So can you imagine what travelling with him is like on vacation? I’ve been married for over 20 years. I didn’t know my husband was on the Spectrum until about 13 years into our marriage. My husband is a kind and gentle man. He is intelligent and can be hyperfocused in what interests him. I had been divorced for seven years and was a single mom to my then 10 year-old daughter when I met my husband. As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I have training and experience in understanding human behavior. He is a computer program developer so his “nerdy” disposition and odd behavior seemed normal, as well as cute when I first met him.
My husband and I have traveled all over the world. We’ve been to six of the seven Continents and hope to visit Antarctica sooner rather than later. We’ve been to some exotic places that some people only fantasize about going to. So you can imagine I was feeling fortunate and elated when we went to some of the wonders of the world. These vacations and destinations I share are during the days I didn’t realize my husband was on the Spectrum. There are characteristics of Asperger’s that made travelling challenging.
I develop our trips which include making all the plans. From airlines, hotels, food, scheduling, etc. So while on holiday I expect ease and enjoyment. I also expect my husband to exercise some kind of help if not through male chivalry. I noticed when checking into the airport and retrieving our baggage, he left the heavy lifting to me. I not only carried my own luggage but had to make sure his bags were securely removed from the baggage carousel. I also noticed he would let our daughter get her own bags, as well. We then would proceed to getting transport to our hotel. Again, I noticed he didn’t take the lead on procuring a taxi or find out where the shuttle bus is located. After about several trips like this I became frustrated and angry. I wouldn’t bring it to his attention because I thought common sense guided that process to help out.
The airport situation pretty much set the tone for the vacation. Of course, there were nice times, but I can truly say most of the time was confusing and frustrating. I became resentful. He seemed grouchy and non interactive when he was out of his normal routine and environment. He acted curt with wait staff and would become frustrated and irritable when sightseeing. I could tell something was wrong but never addressed my observations with him. Due to his sensitivity to bright light eating out doors under the sun was not a nice experience. Again, because I didn’t know what was happening I thought he didn’t like or want to eat outdoors. He’s not a picnic type of guy so I thought as much.
I’d make up my own narratives about what could be going on and say things to myself like, “I wish he’d stayed home,” “he’s lucky to be on such a great trip,” and “what the f**k!”
Traveling With My Asperger Husband
Peru Machu Picchu
An incident happened in Bali where I became enraged on our way home as I was fearful of being in a developing Country during a layover. I had purchased some wine for my father to thank him for house sitting. I purchased it through Duty Free and had my husband hold the bag for me while going through security. The security agent asked him what’s in the bag and he told them dinner wine. The security guard motioned him to an area where he appeared lost to the rest of us for about 30 minutes. My husband immediately followed the guards directive without even looking at me to see what was happening. We almost missed our connecting flight. He had to throw out the wine despite my following duty free instructions. The point of this story is my Asperger husband and his tunnel vision. It creates much chaos and havoc to me, the Neurotypical partner. I would have assessed the situation and explained to the guard of the duty free process from Bali to Taiwan and the situation could have been managed with less anxiety for all parties. When I tried to talk to my husband about it he blew it off as he said he was following the directive given to him. He offered no show of empathy or validating my ability to have managed the situation a little easier.
I am fortunate to have a partner who is up for traveling to exotic places. I appreciate that he tries to accommodate. I also appreciate that it is difficult for him in making changes to his routine. He is a sport about eating indigenous food. I will say we have a wonderful time. There are snags that come up whether you are in a neurotypical relationship or not.
Tips to manage our traveling include:
- Develop vacation plans together
- Be explicit with what is wanted/needed
- Talk about what the expectations are for the holiday
- Make a schedule for the days on holiday and what the activities are for that day
- Develop a list of what you want to do and what your husband wants to do
- If you are with family everyone can benefit from utilizing these tips
- Express thoughts and feelings sooner rather than later
- Find time at the end of the day to review the day and talk about expectations for the next day
- Carve out alone time so each can recharge one’s energy
Australia Uluru outback
For more information about traveling with your Asperger husband please contact me at CouplesCounselorSanDiego.com or call (858) 735-1139