Married to FASD

By: Wife, from US

3.0 1 review

I was married nineteen years before I realized my husband had ARND (Alcohol Related Neurological Disabilities). There are no physical markers but there is a genuine lack of practical knowledge and skills that make a marriage difficult. Normal behavior involving certain habits of daily living are hard if not impossible when a person has ARND. This may not be so apparent when the person is young but becomes more evident around middle age and older.
The two problems that turn up with consistency are bad judgment and the inability to connect an action with a consequence. In my experience, there are no ways to correct these mental deficiencies. A bad judgment call in one situation cannot be generalized to a bad judgment call in another situation. The outcome in one situation rarely matches the outcome in another situation. This generally means that any correction must be made over and over and repeated endlessly without the marriage partner being able to adapt or correct their behavior.
The result is that one partner feels ignored and disrespected while the other partner is is made to feel insufficient and ignorant. Apologies are not genuinely accepted because the behavior simply repeats itself over and over. And with age, the situation becomes more and more frequent.
The old trick of letting a child make a mistake until he/she learns doe not work with an adult with ARND. There is always a new mistake and it always requires a new learning behavior. And the new learning behavior itself does not always register. An action learned five or ten years ago is wedged in the other person’s mind like a concrete block and is not easily modified. Portions of conversations are remembered with religious devotion. “But you said…” is an oft-repeated phrase that quotes sentences said months or even years ago.
Sticky notes as suggested by Diane Malbin, are a great help until the stuckum gets old and the notes fall down and are ignored. Following the person around to correct or check up on every action is another option but one cannot just drop whatever they are doing to run off to see if that partner is performing the correct action. It is just not practical to be a 7/24 babysitter.
I am not sure if I have learned anything after 42 years of marriage and babysitting. I do worry if I can carry on much longer. Besides the bad judgment and the consequences, there are problems with communication, understanding, practical chores, injuries due to certain decisions and inabilities to self regulate that put many responsibilities on me. I am not sure these can be handled properly as we age.
I also believe there are many of us living under the same circumstances that may not be recognized because of the subtileness of the symptoms of ARND. And by not recognizing the causes of these behaviors, personal relationships may be irretrievably damaged or destroyed.