Thursday, July 16, 2015

Autism Answer: Moving in with my Husband (aka Learning to Live Together)

I'll admit, moving in with my husband is one of the least challenging challenges I've had to overcome in my life. But it was a challenge. One that was filled with fabulous, evergreen, life lessons!

My hubby and I have been happily married for fifteen years. We are as different as two people can be (he's black, I'm white, he's a hard working mechanic who's never left his small town Texas life, I'm a free spirited Canadian hippy type who never learned to stay in one place, he's twenty-three years older than me) yet our marriage is a comfortable and nourishing one. And it was always simple, too.

Mostly because we truly love and respect each other, but also because for thirteen years we lived in two separate homes.

Me in the woods where the kids (we have four sons--three are from my previous relationships) could run wild and make unlimited amounts of noise, and he in town where he could work on cars and watch the news. Our homes were not far from each other and we were together often, but there is a gift in not having to learn to live together as well.

Eventually, though, there was also the gift of learning to live together.
My hubby and the boys: Working Togehter

The house I was staying in with my boys was sold and we packed up any belongings we felt compelled to keep and moved into the tiny trailer house with my husband. By then two of our four boys had moved out on their own so we weren't crowded, but we were challenged to learn life more consistently together.

At first, I was an uncomfortable mix of overly polite and quietly defensive. Not defensive for myself but for our sons and their strange habits. Which is, admittedly, defensive of myself and my parenting, but I digress.

Our two youngest boys have social issues and sensory sensitivities that make them quirky and unusual. This is a lovely thing! But for my husband, who had always known about the quirks but never had to live with them, it was hard. He was now faced with a feeling of needing to parent. Because he was there in the middle of the night when our sixteen year old son wanted to empty drawers and invent stories and tape stuff together, he felt an obligation to teach this away. And when our fourteen year old son would hide in his room singing and laughing and watching videos and burning incense and eating sporadically, only coming out to go to school or to get a drink of water, my husband would feel a need to tell him to come out of his room and stop watching videos. 

On Money: Living together has meant that our vastly different views and beliefs on how and why money should be spent is much more in our face. When I choose expensive organics, my hubby sees it in the fridge. When he watches television, I see it in my living room (and on our children).

This has become a gift, but we had to make it one! Learning to argue and show and explain why we believe in spending money the way we do has made us better at teaching, while it's invited us to dig deeper into our beliefs about money. It's encouraged us to remember the value of patience and compromise, along with the value of sticking to your core belief when you must. Often, I must!

My handsome hubby and I are going to live together and spend money together for a long time so it's worth the discussions and flexibility. It's another important lesson I use when I step out into the world with the desire to listen, love, and be heard.

At our home in the woods, we had the freedom to be ourselves and with that freedom we grew confident in many ways. We also grew dangerously anti-social in other ways. So I knew that I wanted to learn life in town; life with people and social expectations. Not so we could become what was expected of us, but rather so we could grow more connected and compassionate. Human beings are social creatures, and we are no exception. 

So I allowed myself to be defensive with my hubby, but I also pushed myself to keep my eyes open. To see what others were seeing and to learn what lessons I agreed with- to raise the bar, as my mom always says.

Because my husband and I respect and love each other so much, and because we both believe in and are amazed by our impressive children, it didn't take long to love this more together life. My hubby has found comfort in the sound of our son awake in the night building cities out of trash and I've found pleasure in teaching him to respect our sleeping hours with quiet. My husband understands now the toll being social at school places on our other son and I adore the creative ways I've found to get him out of his room.

Also, I've gotten fabulously gifted at recognizing the difference between an annoying habit and a true problem. It's rare that my husband and I have to work something out between us, an issue or contradiction that's truly problematic, because mostly--as different as we are from each other-- we're coming from the same place. So when we do need to deal with something in our marriage, we both feel a deep respect for each other's point of view. Sure, it's frustrating when he keeps arguing for his wrong point of view (tee hee!!) but it's also not something we're working on only after a mountain of itty bitty issues have piled up. Living with my husband has given me the gift of seeing clearly the things to simply let go of. And I've become a better sister, mom, and friend because of it.

Our marriage has grown stronger and our sons have grown stronger and our dreams and futures are starting to grow more concrete. Because now we're truly and completely doing it together.

Moving in with my husband has challenged me to learn and value true collaboration. Not just with my immediate family where collaboration and comfort have almost always come naturally, but from outside of us as well. From people and places that have gifts and experiences to offer that I may have missed if I hadn't begun to incorporate new folks into my world. If I hadn't gained the skill of knowing the difference between annoying and truly problematic, and the value of allowing both the exist while collaborating and working together. 

Moving in with my husband has brought me a huge step closer to truly moving in with the world. 

And that is one great big huge fantastical evergreen life lesson!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)

A long ago picture of my hubby and me!
*For more fun stories and life lessons be sure to check out my book Spinning in Circles and Learning from Myself: A Collection of Stories that Slowly Grow Up. Available in ebook and paperback on Amazon, Barns & Noble, Powells, and Archway Publishing.