The title is not meant to brag. My marriage has been full ups and downs like anyone else that has been married longer than two weeks. We struggled with romance, finances, in-laws. You name it (in my Rev. Shirley Caesar voice) we have probably argued about it and thought we were getting divorced about it. Why divorced?

Well, because I would make my needs known and things would stay the same. My husband would put in effort for a few months at a time and then cease. With this happening repetitively I began to feel bitter. I reasoned that he stopped because he truly did not care about me. I felt he was doing it just to hush me for the moment.

I came to a ton of conclusions which all amounted to if he loved me, he would show me, consistently, the way I wanted to be shown love. Simple things like love letters, flowers, romantic date nights privately or publicly were rare.

Prayer and worship kept me going no matter how big the disagreements were. Still I was growing tired of it. I would pray, worship, change. He would pray and stay the same. Truthfully, I was down right angry about it. Still, I stayed in prayer and in God’s face because we knew Autism might be a the root of it all. Autism. So what?

I must have asked myself that once a week. However, the issues we were having weren’t sudden. They were on going since the age of 11. (That’s over two decades just for reference.) He’s an encyclopedia about any video game or technical issue, but had a magical stutter which only surfaced when it became time to discuss our feelings or marriage. Just like our oldest daughter.

Our first princess was born four weeks premature and by the age of 4 was diagnosed with Autism. In truth, I had already done the research and I was pretty sure both she and my husband were on the spectrum. Initially, my feelings were mixed. I was glad there was a reason for the communication barrier between myself and my daughter. On the other hand I felt like I’d been stabbed in the gut by this idea that I would never be romanced in my marriage because Autism is a lifelong condition.

On top of that at least our daughter had an official diagnosis. My husband did not. Fear that he was just using the possibility as an excuse plagued me daily. Then toward the end of 2016 my husband took the first step, he scheduled an appointment with a therapist.

Just him taking the initiative was an answer to prayer. However, the closer we got to a diagnosis I noticed more anxiety in my husband. He finally broke down one night and revealed something which left me speechless and heartbroken. He revealed to me that this diagnosis carried so much weight because all his life he been trying to hide that fact; he just thought his brain didn’t work. Here sat the smartest, most intelligent mind I have ever met and he thought he was broken because he wasn’t like everyone else.

So when the call came that we had the official diagnosis there was no way I was missing this moment. I hadn’t missed an appointment yet, but this was the most important one. January 25, 2017 we went in with our two-year-old in tow. The therapist simply started, “Of course you have Asperger’s.” I immediately hugged my husband. A sense of validation and relief washed over me. He looked as if he wanted to cry.

He didn’t.

Instead, he smiled! I don’t even think it registered with him in that moment, but it was beautiful. When we left that meeting I knew one thing for sure. Praying, worshipping, forgiving and repeating is what got me here and those four things would keep both of us in this marriage forever. The entire journey from age 11 to diagnosis at 32 has inspired my second book, How and Why I Stay Married.

In the beginning when we got married seven years ago my husband and I had only committed to making dreams come true while keeping God first. We anticipated it would be hard work. What we did not anticipate was how much hard work it would be. I did not anticipate staring into the face of romance, which I write and teach about, trying to decide if I could live life without it.

It turns out I do not have to live without it. Through God’s patience I learned to receive love in the ways in which my husband could give it. My husband learned to desire the ways I needed affection. One of those ways is definitely spiritually. As it has become a part of the bedtime routine, now my husband initiates prayer. I get in the car and he always has on Joel Osteen. He refuses to give up Sirus satellite service just for Pastor Osteen. Now, is a far cry from where we began and we are still growing. I am a wife who no longer feels alone in the down cycles of our marriage. My husband has a word from God for me and I am learning to appreciate the time he takes to get that word to me (because it’s not always immediate).

In the future, I hope our story will bless others both on the spectrum and just otherwise special to not give up in marriage. I value our marriage for all things we have overcome and I hope other couples will as well.