HIS (my sons) autism meltdowns were triggering HER (my wife’s) meltdowns…
As I rolled in to the driveway, my wife (with a face of severe anger) looked out the window and immediately, I got a pit in my stomach. I thought, “What had happened THIS time? Maybe I should have worked late. it sure would be easier.”
But it was too late now, she’d seen me, I was home, and the nightmare had begun… again.
What was it THIS time? Basically, the same thing it was EVERY time. Four sons, two of them on the autism spectrum, seemed to be too much for her to handle.
Almost every day, I’d come home to a fight, or overwhelming crying, or a wife ready to “check out.”
All too common… I’d come home to…
“I CAN’T TAKE THIS ANYMORE!” She’d scream at me as I walked in.
This WASN’T the woman I married.
I had been particular when I was dating. I grew up in a home where there was tremendous stress… and I was determined to NOT have that in my home.
So, as I was dating and looking for a wife, I watched carefully to see if any “crazy” would emerge. And when it did, I WAS OUT! Way too many beautiful young ladies were “left at the curb” if I sensed ANY “wackiness” was inside.
But Shelly, my wife (and the mother of my kids) was the calmest, sweetest, most compassionate and loving woman I’d ever met.
And with our first two sons born, it all seemed to be going okay. They were pretty good kids, we were having a lot of fun, there was a lot of love in our home and we seemed to be creating the kind of family I’d dreamed about.
Then my number three and number four sons were born and after a few years, the dynamics started to change.
Initially, we just thought we’d lost all ability to parent… nothing we were doing was working. None of the parenting books were ANY help. They were over the top defiant, unable to follow simple directions, and frankly… turning our home in to what seemed to be like… A WAR ZONE.
Then… we got the first of the two autism diagnosis. And… surprisingly… we were relieved.
Now we can get them the help they need… and start to restore our happy home.
We took them to therapy after therapy and specialist after specialist and autism expert after expert (oh, yeah, it was a freakin nightmare getting them there.) We tried special diets (a nightmare) and ABA (a horrible idea) and even had their poop analyzed in France…
And NONE OF IT… was helping.
The meltdowns continued.
Was THIS our new life?
My wife was struggling. Our parenting styles clashed. We were becoming more and more distant and it was having a major impact on our happiness.
And… coming home to THIS wasn’t helping.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my wife and kids… but I really didn’t want to be there. I’d wake up dreading the possibilities of what MAY happen that day. Sometimes it felt like my world was caving in around me.
Then one Saturday morning at about 6:30 AM, it took a turn to EVEN worse.
We were awakened by the older of my two sons on the spectrum in full-on meltdown mode; he was running through the house screaming and kicking and punching and knocking things over. The standard coping methods of calming him down weren’t working.
Normally a meltdown could be expected to last anywhere from 10 to 90 minutes.
This one lasted four hours.
My two oldest “typical” sons were cowering in fear. It felt like the house was on fire, being hit by an earthquake, and being struck by a tornado all at the same time.
By the end of the episode, my son had smashed his head through a glass window and my – and especially my wife’s- nerves were somewhere between frayed and fried.
That’s when the real trouble started.
My wife turned on me; blaming and pointing the finger at me.
“If you would have done this, he would have calmed down faster.”
“You always make it worse. Sometimes I wish you weren’t here.”
The accusations flew and tears fell until I simply couldn’t take it anymore.
I grabbed my car keys, went out of the front door onto the lawn, and stared at my car through puffy, tear-welled eyes.
“I never signed up for this,” I raged in my mind. “I can’t handle it. I’m going to get in my car and drive.. and I’m going to keep on going. I’m done. I can’t live this way.”
And then, suddenly, a memory popped into my mind.
I thought about a conversation I’d had with my Dad years ago after I had made a stupid mistake in a ball game that had cost my team a sure victory. Humiliated and embarrassed, I told my dad that I wished the ball had never come to me; I’d rather the burden of victory or defeat fall to somebody else.
“No,” my Dad said. “If you’re going to fail, fail on your own terms. Don’t run and hide. Fight.”
Humbled by the memory, I turned to God. I knelt down and poured out my soul—right there under a pecan tree in the front yard. I told God that I was willing to stay and fight, but that none of the methods or solutions they’d tried had helped. What could I do differently? Was I destined to a life of hardship and misery?
God’s simple answer: The problem isn’t your sons. And it’s not your wife. It’s you. YOU… have to help your family heal…
I went back inside and apologized to Shelly. And I decided from that day forward, I would fix myself—and do everything in my power to better support my wife and my sons on the spectrum.
And as I adjusted my approach – each time I’d find what I was doing was not helping – I started to find answers.
I knew that my sons on the spectrum lacked the capacity to understand how to control their emotions and make sense of their world. I knew their lives were every bit as frustrating as mine—probably even more.
And I also knew that my wife needed a “different kind of support from me” – and I wouldn’t stop until I figured out how to get her the the kind of training SHE needed – so she could learn how to manage HER emotions when things spiraled out of control.
You see… when my sons went into meltdown mode, it triggered a “fight or flight” response in them. Usually fight.
But more importantly, I realized that when my sons melted down, it triggered the same “fight or flight” instinct in my wife. Sometimes fight, and all too often… flight.
In other words, their meltdowns were triggering her meltdowns.
When they’d meltdown… SHE’D meltdown right along with them. And that’s what I was coming home to almost every day. An exhausted, frustrated, unhappy, stressed-out wife.
Here was the difference – SHE (my wife) had the capacity to choose her response. They didn’t. At least not at that time.
So I went to work, searching for… and eventually FINDING the answers that solved the problems.
Now… when I come home from work… it’s a completely different story. And I’ve got my sweet, wonderful wife back.
Hey, it wasn’t easy. It took a lot of time and I made a lot of mistakes along the way. But it was all worth it.
The cool part… we now have a family that is in the top 1% of happy families… and my wife and I have a marriage that is in the top 1% of happy marriages… “That’s What She Said” (And I say, too.) Even though our kids on the spectrum STILL have difficulties.
The cooler part… is that I want to share what I did with you. So you can model that for your family… and get back to coming home to a happy wife, too.
Want to know what I did?
Click on one of the links and WATCH or LISTEN to a free training where I’ll share the three secrets I discovered that lead our family back to happiness…
And helped my wife learn to control her emotions and THRIVE… as we raise our kids on the spectrum.
There’s even a free guide (at the bottom of this page) you can download for your wife called, “118 Autism Strategies” so she can see that you WANT to help and support her.
It’s for a limited time so start today…
Or… grab a free copy of our 118 Autism Strategies book HERE
Get your copy today: HERE