The Benefit of the Doubt

coupleMany books and articles have been published on the topic of what makes a marriage or relationship succeed.  At the top of my list I’d put willingness to give the other person the benefit of the doubt.  Rather than looking to find negative reasons for unexpected words or behavior, it’s generally best to presume good intentions and inadvertent misunderstandings.

I have Clay’s blog to thank for making me aware of a news article called “Asperger’s Saved Our Marriage.”  The article describes the emotional turmoil of a mother who is told that both her sons are autistic, has a long and grueling struggle to find schools for them, and becomes frustrated when her husband doesn’t seem to understand why she is so upset.  One day she finds him sobbing, and he confides to her that he believes he’s autistic too.  Feeling relieved when he gets an Asperger’s diagnosis, she chooses not to divorce him after all, having been reassured that he didn’t mean to be unsupportive.

Clay describes this as a story with a happy ending because this family’s understanding and attitudes have been much improved.  With more knowledge, they can make better decisions and long-range plans, he points out.  Now that the father has recognized how many of his own traits mirror those of his sons, he will be more able to give them comfort and advice.

All of Clay’s observations are certainly true enough.  Still, I couldn’t help but to imagine how very differently things might have gone for this family in a society with other resources and expectations.  What if a parent could find a good school for an autistic child just as easily as for any other child?  What if discovering one’s own autistic traits as an adult meant simply a useful insight, rather than cause for tears and depression?  Perhaps being less easily upset than one’s partner could be accepted as a natural human difference, rather than needing a medical label to justify it.

What if autistic people in our society were given the benefit of the doubt?

on 04/28/10 in featured, Society | No Comments | Read More

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