Dear Future Daughter-in-Law,
As I write this, your "fiancé" is only 12 years old, sitting at the computer next to me playing Minecraft (as usual), and you are just a vision in my head. Today, you're probably more concerned with the latest Taylor Swift or Justin Bieber drama than with your future husband.
Yet, it's you I worry about the most when my son yells at me at the top of his lungs during a meltdown, or insults my cooking without realizing it, or tells me he hates me when I force him to turn off the computer to do homework, or forgets to say "I love you" because "words aren't important."
Some mothers write letters to their son's future wife to read at a bridal shower or rehearsal dinner, telling them all the things they admire about them and promising to share of themselves as they give their baby boy to the new woman in his life, but I know my letter can't wait until those events. Because unless someone who knows both the habits and quirks of my son and the needs and emotions of a woman in a relationship steps in and gives you all the advice you don't want to hear, your relationship will never make it to the altar.
I know this because my son is exactly like my husband, your future-father-in-law: they both have Asperger's syndrome.
I know this letter is important because it's exactly the thing I wish someone had written to me in the beginning of my relationship to save me years of struggling, fighting, blaming and crying — thinking it was all me and wondering what I was doing wrong.
Here's what I wish I had known when I was starting out: the things to know before you marry a man with Asperger's.
1. He will hear everything you say...
...regardless of what room you are in, even if you say it under your breath. Apparently, he can even hear through pillows, walls, shower stalls, windows and from several rooms away.
2. When you think he's ignoring you, he's not.
He is hearing and absorbing everything — and will remember it forever.
3. He will use his amazing memory to recall every time you have ever made a mistake — and he will remind you.
It's not that he is trying to shame you. He just wants to help you never make that same mistake again.
4. He is laser-focused on whatever he is doing at the time.
So when he is thinking about or doing something that doesn't involve you, he is not thinking about you. It's not that he has stopped caring about you, he simply trusts you'll be okay until he's finished doing whatever it is he's doing.
5. He doesn't want to have to explain how or why he knows certain things — he just does.
And the fact that you don't is just irritating to him. He loves to teach, but he gets annoyed that there are things you don't already know.
6. He is honest and literal to a fault.
If he doesn't like something, he will tell you. If you ask him a question and he gives you an answer, don't doubt it or think he has an ulterior motive, because he doesn't. This is also why you should never ask him questions like, "Do you think I need to lose weight?" or "Do you like my mother?"
7. He gets very defensive when he gets embarrassed or scolded.
He views it as disrespectful and has no tolerance for it. The upside is that he will understand when you call him out for embarrassing you, even if what he said was "the truth."
8. If you don't communicate with him, he will make you miserable without even realizing he's doing it.
If he says something that hurts your feelings, tell him! If you want to tell him something but you just need for him to listen and not give you his advice on it, tell him. It's in his nature to correct and fix everything, including himself, but he can't do that if you don't tell him what needs fixing.
9. He is extremely schedule-driven.
Being late is a sign of laziness, and last-minute changes drive him crazy. This also means every project will take twice as long to complete due to his need for planning, preparation and research.
10. Emotions are, in his opinion, silly, distracting, and inefficient.
Crying and drama just kills a good debate. At the same time, when he's arguing with you and gets heated, he's not being dramatic, he's just passionate about making you understand that he's right.
11. He doesn't understand or exhibit empathy, but that doesn't mean he doesn't care.
He just has a hard time putting himself into another person's shoes. But he does care about people and animals very much. He doesn't want to cause pain or make people sad, but he cannot see why anything he does should make someone else angry.
12. He says what he means and means what he says.
There are no hidden agendas, innuendos or undertones. He just does what he wants and what will make him happy.
13. He has a tremendous sense of humor, but a terrible filter for what's appropriate in mixed company.
He may make an off-color joke or say something off-the-wall and not realize he was being offensive. He doesn't mean to offend people, he's simply saying out loud what most people think to themselves.
14. He doesn't see Asperger's as a disability.
It's not something that is curable, nor does he see it as a weakness. It's simply who he is.
My son once asked me if he would ever grow out of Asperger's, and my reply to him was, "No, Buddy, you won't. But if you're anything like your dad, you'll grow into it."
My hope is that by the time he meets you, you will see all of the traits I've described as the traits that make him the uniquely brilliant man you fell in love with. And I'm certain he will love all of your quirks too.
15. He loves you...
...even though he isn't telling you this in the way you want to hear it.
Words are just words to him. In his opinion, anyone can say "I love you." In his mind, he is telling you that every time he fixes something for you, makes something for you, spends days planning to surprise you, sits through a musical with you or wears that scratchy shirt that drives him crazy just because you like it.
And the reason I know he loves you (and you should too) is because when a man with Asperger's realizes that another person makes him better, happier, and more complete, he allows himself vulnerability enough to let that person in. I was that woman for my son's entire life, until you came along. oh
I'm sad to know that I will someday have to give up the honor of holding the key to my son's heart, but at the same time, I'm certain that with the knowledge and understanding I have just bestowed on you, you will never break it.