My Aspie Husband
After the excessively long post about who I am, one might expect something equally detailed about my 35 year old husband. This expectation will fall short as I opted to have John explain who he is for this post rather than attempt to define him myself. If you are married to an Aspie who is anything like my husband (and there is a high likelihood you are) you will enjoy this.
Me: John, can you summarize who you are for this blog post?
John: What do you mean who I am? Kara, I’m busy I don’t have time for stupid shit like this.
Me: This is important to me, I just want you to summarize yourself, even if only a few words. If you were to write a small blurb on “who you are” what would it say?
John: I wouldn’t do that so I have nothing to say.
Me: John, please?
John: Kara, you know who I am, you write it, I don’t know, just write it yourself.
There you go. That is my husband John and who he is (NOT EVEN CLOSE!).
I am not really willing to leave it at that so I will give you a summary (without my opinion) based on what he and his family have openly said over the years. It goes something like this….
John grew up in Michigan to parents who were married and was the second of three children (just like I was). He had a sister almost two years older and a younger sister six years his junior. John’s family dynamic was similar to mine in the fact that he was raised Catholic and made all of his sacraments (although his family was and still remains active in their church) and his father doggedly worked to provide for his family. His mother was also an incredible homemaker like mine was and held jobs outside of the home when the children were older.
Taken from his mother’s personal account:
John came into this world “different” from his sister and was incredibly challenging to his family from day one. John cried from the day he was born until he could speak and there was no amount of comforting (he did not like to be held) that would make it stop. As a child he was very talkative about things that interested him, in particular cars or anything that had wheels. His mother once regaled fascinating stories of how he would line up his toy cars for hours on end, day after day. John did not like to be around other children and play with them the way other children interacted and this concerned his mother so much she would “force” play dates with children of friends and family in hopes of getting John to socialize more. With this, she mainly observed parallel play on her son’s behalf.
As John grew older he faced more challenges especially in school whereby he would get in trouble a lot with the teachers and disrupt classes or behave in “mischievous” ways. His mother was always dumbfounded when he would do something that was clearly inappropriate in school, such as putting paste on another child’s clothing once in elementary school. John would always appear completely confused by why he was “in trouble” as though he truly did not comprehend what he had done to anger others and would often ask his mom, “Why are they so mad at me, I didn’t do anything.” While those around the family (and elsewhere) began to view John as a problem child, his mother always felt that he was a good boy and had a good heart, he never maliciously or consciously did anything to harm anyone else… he simply did not understand what he was doing wrong.
The more time that passed, the more “issues” his parents had to contend with in regard to John and school. They took John to therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists from the time he was very young in hopes of gaining answers about why their son was so different. Much like the dismissive rationale for his excessive crying as an infant being blamed on colic, the professionals blamed his behavior on ADD (now solely referred to as ADHD). He was medicated with the typical run of kid-drugs, from Ritalin to eventual Adderall as a teenager. Occasionally after changing a medication (by which his teachers were aware) he would get praise for his improved behavior giving hope to his parents that perhaps things were actually improving. Whether this “noticeable improvement” was due to the placebo effect whereby his teachers wanted to see him behaving better, or whether John attempted to tone down his personality so he would not have to go back to the doctor or his parents would stop being mad at him; is unclear. Regardless, John’s misbehavior would always come back with a vengeance and his parents would throw their hands up in the air beside themselves with feelings of failure or confusion.
With each passing year his parents would continue to seek out answers about John’s behavior and more professionals to help them understand and help their son live a normal and healthy life. John tried to please his parents and has told me many times that whenever he thought his mom was mad at him, or he did something wrong (since he had no idea what it was or how to correct it) he would just clean the house for her and that would make her happy (he does this in our marriage ALL the time!)
His mother fought to have special classes for John through his school years but was always told he did not fit the criteria and these classes were reserved for children with “real” problems. She once told me about how she waited for an incredible length of time to see the top child psychiatrist in the Detroit Metro area to take John to, hoping he would have answers. She never accepted that ADD alone could account for her son’s differences and she would often cry out, “You don’t understand, something is WRONG!” After finally obtaining the appointment she had been anticipating with such high hopes, and dragging her son there with her best friend (she literally described having to drag him off of the elevator as he threw a tantrum) she was met with utter heartbreak. She was once again told that her son had severe ADD and a conduct disorder. Rather than provide recommendations for cognitive therapy, she received stern advice to ensure they were enforcing rules and discipline for John or they would be looking at a child who would likely face criminal problems later in life (and of course there was adjustments to medications).
His parents took the advice of these professionals because they hadn’t any other options and could not find any answers to explain their son’s difficulties, despite knowing there was something else going on. They were more authoritative with John, and John responded with increasing resistance that never got better. This led to a domino effect of a child that was “always in trouble” and “always grounded” for being bad (as John would finally tell me about this last year). John learned to mimic his peers in a lot of ways in order to appear “normal” the older he got and would spend a lot of time going to work with his father where he learned to build things and anything engineering-related one could imagine (his father was brilliantly talented and John inherited this gift in a profound way). John had a significant amount of resentment toward his older sister, who was a “perfect child” and got to do whatever she wanted. His sister and mother would later retell how horrifically cruel John could be to his older sister growing up and how he took the brunt of his frustrations in his youth directly out on her. While siblings certainly fight and can be cruel to one another, his older sister (who was entirely NT) was devastated by her strained relationship with her little brother, whom she staunchly defended whenever someone would say something cross about him.
John told me once that his parent’s friends were not nice to him, and I have heard on many occasions his paternal grandmother in particular, was unreasonably mean and judgmental toward John. John’s parents (much like my own) were truly devoted to their children’s well-being, especially their challenging middle child (rings familiar) who they actually lost friends over while he was young. Both John and his parents have shared accounts of friends who did not want John in their home because they “didn’t trust him” and he was accused of stealing on a few occasions. From what I understand, John’s parents abolished these friendships shortly after. In total, John’s mother and father tried everything they could for their son to both get him help, and follow the advice of the professionals who demanded strict rules and accountability to enable their son to grow into an independent and well-adjusted member of society.
When I think about it, my heart aches for their pain and struggle because Asperger’s was absolutely known to the mental health community when John was young. It was not readily diagnosed, but it was in existence. Had one professional been able to key into that back then, John and his family would have lived far different lives where a lot of blame and self-criticism would have been avoided. Instead of deciding that people were confusing and cruel bastards, John would have understood that he was different and that this was not a bad thing. His parents would not have blamed themselves and become enforcers of punishment and rules to decipher consequences; rather, they likely would have created rules and rewards to develop structure and understanding. John’s deficits would have been acknowledged and not judged, and his strengths would have been encouraged and praised.
John and his entire family were horrifically failed by the medical community they desperately counted on to help them. This is a saddening tragedy to think of all of those years ago… this is a disgusting miscarriage of trust and negligence on behalf of the same professionals who are still getting it wrong each and every day across the globe!
As John entered his teenage years he struggled the same as every Aspie teenager does, only having no idea “why” he was so different, he had to learn to make adjustments to fit in any way he could (in a world that made little sense). John began to hang around the “bad” kids because he learned that it was easy to make jokes and misbehave and have that group accept and like him. It was far less challenging to fit in with a peer group who was focused on topping one another in mischievous behavior than to try to fit in with the intellectual, sporty, well-behaved, and future-focused teenagers. John also had something going for him that not every Aspie child/teenager is lucky enough to possess. John had strikingly gorgeous blue eyes and was a very attractive young man, so the females never treated him poorly despite his awkward personality. Of course, John was very self-conscious and did not take advantage of this natural gift he had been given and was shy for the most part opting to date a girl through high school who was two years his junior and had parents so strict she could rarely see John outside of school or her brother’s presence. I am accounting for this part of his youth on my own using some of John’s short answers to questions about him and what I have gathered from his family and friends in regard to his teenage-dating history.
John did not work jobs like other teenagers and young adults do. He was encouraged to go to college or technical school and managed to squeak out very little by way of education outside of high school. He continued to work with his father in his early twenties and had jobs intermittently that his father assisted him in obtaining. For the most part, John made money as a young adult (until I met him) by doing “side work” his father or family friends set up for him. He was incredibly talented and could build anything put before him from his own mind and with little direction or education from outsiders. This skill enabled him to keep busy as an adult. He lived outside of his parent’s home several times (once with an aunt and I believe in an apartment or two) in his early twenties but I do not know much about how this came to be or where he lived exactly.
By the time my first husband Jeff was moving back and forth to Michigan and staying with John, he had his own one-bedroom condo that was paid for by his parents and he maintained rather well (and re-modeled himself). He was still living in this condo (and likely would have forever) by the time I met him in 2010. He dated women here and there, and although he always gives me varying stories about his past relationships and I will probably never know the real truth about who he dated, for how long, or why they broke up… I don’t believe he had a lot of long-term relationships or that he was a womanizer in any way (although with his looks I doubt it would have been hard for him to accomplish this). It seemed he mainly hung out in his condo with his cat playing video games and occasionally going to bars with his limited number of friends during his later twenties, and had a few girlfriends in between (of which he never lived with).
The following is an account of John’s childhood and life before meeting me that I was able to elicit from him a few nights ago when he was willing to entertain my questions for this post:
Me: What was your childhood like?
John: What do you want me to say, it was boring and easy and stupid.
Me: What were your parents like toward you growing up?
John: They tried to be strict but I didn’t listen to them when I got older.
Me: Did you listen when you were younger?
John: Yeah, I tried to.
Me: Why did you listen when you were younger?
John: I was a kid, what was I going to do, leave?
Me: How did you behave when you were older that was different, you know, when you say you didn’t listen?
John: I was always doing shit to get in trouble, I don’t know, how old are we talking about?
Me: I guess when you were a teenager?
John: I would sneak out of the house to hang out with friends and get bad grades and stuff, I don’t know.
Me: Were your parents nice to you? I mean, did you have a good relationship with them?
John: Yeah I guess. My mom and I were closer, she took me places and did things that my dad was supposed to do.
Me: Like what?
John: Like to sports games and stuff.
Me: Why did your dad not do those things?
John: I think because he was always working.
Me: Did your parents fight a lot when you were growing up?
John: No, not really. I mean, yeah, I guess… they did like everyone does I suppose.
Me: Do you think your parents liked you when you were younger?
John: No, I was a little asshole (smiles). Yeah, of course they did, I was their kid.
Me: Was there ever a time you thought they didn’t love you?
John: No, I don’t know, I never thought about that before. Maybe a little. I wasn’t really allowed to hang out with my friends, my mom wouldn’t ever let me leave the neighborhood when I was younger.
Me: Why was that?
John: I don’t know man… she was just nervous about EVERYTHING.
Me: Do you think that was because she was worried about how people might treat you?
John: I don’t know. (His older sister’s name) was allowed to do more shit than I ever was.
Me: Did your mom cry a lot? (I asked this because his mother told me she did)
John: I don’t know, I never noticed.
Me: John, are you answering me honestly?
John: No, I’m just saying this to give you a hard time. This is fun for me (looking irritated I would ask sucha stupid question since he was clearly talking to me about a subject he did not want to discuss).
Me: Do you think people understood you?
Me: Did you think you understood people?
John: No, I guess… I don’t know. I guess I tried, but I don’t know. (Paused for a moment) I didn’t really care.
Me: Who did you hang out with when you were a kid?
John: I just said I wasn’t really allowed to hang out as a kid. I just did shit by myself.
Me: When you were I mean.
John: Trouble makers I guess.
Me: Why did you choose that group to hang out with?
John: It was easier to hang out with them because they let you in. I mostly just did my own thing by myself.
Me: Did that make you feel sad?
John: I don’t know, why?
Me: I’m just asking, I want to know.
John: Yeah, I guess so.
Me: Do you think your mom was worried about you as a kid?
John: I don’t know Kara.
Me: I mean, she didn’t let you hang out, and it made you sad, so I am wondering if you thought she was doing that to you to be mean to you?
John: At the time, yeah I guess so, I don’t know. When I was a junior (in high school) I was allowed to hang out more.
Me: What did you want to be when you were younger, when you grew up?
John: I don’t know, how old?
Me: A kid, and then a teen?
John: I guess what my dad did since he used to bring me with him all the time.
Me: What about when you were… twelve?
John: Same thing.
Me: You never wanted to be something silly, I wanted to be an actress at that age.
John: I don’t know Kara, I guess I wanted to be a race car driver.
Me: But for the most part you wanted to do what your dad did?
John: Yeah I guess. I went with him all the time to work as a kid and teenager since I was always grounded.
Me: Is that how you learned to do what you do? (Referring to his incredible talent at building, etc.)
John: Yeah, I guess. I wasn’t allowed to go hang out so I did shit on my own a lot in the shed, he taught me a lot so I learned from him and on my own.
Me: Did your dad ever discipline you?
Me: Did you get spanked?
John: When I was younger.
Me: What did you think about that?
John: Umm… don’t do it again.
Me: Did you ever think about why he was spanking you?
Me: What do you think your parents did, discipline-wise, when you were younger that helped you?
Me: Nothing they did or said when you got in trouble made you behave differently or change anything?
John: Maybe when I was a teen being afraid of getting kicked out, that’s when I got a job and stuff.
Me: What was the first job you had?
John: I don’t know. I don’t remember.
Me: You don’t remember your first job?
John: Some supply place my dad got me a job at when I was like 16.
Me: If you had a kid who was like you, who had Asperger’s, what would you do different from what your parents did?
John: I don’t know. They didn’t do anything wrong.
Me: I know they didn’t. But is there anything you think they could have done for you, had they known you had Asperger’s that they could have done different, that would have helped you?
John: Maybe… (Another long pause) I think they could have taught me to think about how what you do effects other people I guess.
Me: How could they have done that?
John: They could have really explained it to me. I never knew what I did effected anyone else.
Me: Why did you have such a love of cars when you were younger, like your mom said?
John: I don’t know, I just always wanted to figure out how something worked. How does anything work? Anything you could think of, I wanted to know how it was put together. (Points to the porch door with more enthusiasm in this question then any of the others asked) Like… How does that door work? How is it attached? How do those hinge pins work? How do the screws and nails attach to the sill and jam to set up the house frame, etc.
(Honestly, I am not sure if that is even what he said verbatim because he was talking too fast for me to type and keep up. He went on and on about how the door on our porch was constructed and how to take it apart for a significant amount of time.)
Me: As far back as you can remember, you thought like that?
John: Yeah (same enthusiasm began to reemerge) I mean, why is that door attached, what is holding it together? It isn’t just a solid piece of metal… then I realized….
(Another long tangent about how a basic door is constructed.)
John: That kind of stuff interested me. How stuff works.
Me: But not people?
Me: Why not people? Why weren’t you interested in how people work? The way they think, or why they act the way they do?
John: I don’t know.
Me: You don’t know?
John: Yeah, that’s what I just said.
(Appearing agitated I questioned his response and had taken the conversation in a direction he did not like, especially since I had finally asked him a question moments ago that he finally DID like)
John: People are different and I don’t fucking understand it….OBVIOUSLY.
Me: I didn’t mean to upset you John.
John: I never thought about it, I never wanted to. I couldn’t figure it out, so I never cared.
Me: What do you mean you couldn’t figure it out?
John: You can’t figure people out like objects. They have infinite complexities to who they are so you can’t figure people out… even the ones you spend a lifetime getting to know… you don’t know. Like, you think you know your little sister so well, but it’s not like she’s going to tell you if she likes licking assholes or anything. You wouldn’t know that, so there is no way to ever know everything about a person like you can an object.
Me: Ummm, ok. I like the obscure gross example you just pulled out of nowhere to try to compare knowing a person vice knowing an object (I smiled still a little stunned he said something so random and not typical of a subject he would ever willingly consider discussing).
John: I’m just saying, you can’t ever really know a person.
Me: What if I told you I could? I could ask my sister if she liked licking assholes and then look at her face and even if she denied it, I would know for certain she was withholding the truth.
John: No, I’m skeptical about that.
Me: Ok, we can go on about that one. Why do you think you gravitated toward me?
John: I don’t know Kara. I don’t know. I just liked hanging out with you.
Me: Was it because you liked me, or was it because you liked the way I made you feel, or maybe both, or neither?
John: I just liked hanging out with you, you do things I like I guess… like fishing.
Me: Did you like how I made you feel?
John: I guess, sure. (silent for a moment) I guess that was the real reason.
Me: Did you ever wonder how you made me feel?
John: Not really.
Me: Do you care to hear why I gravitated toward you?
John: Sure… why? (Clearly looking uninterested in my question but realizing I wanted him to say yes)
Me: It was because I thought you were empathizing with me and you were the only person who could understand how I was feeling and what I was going through at the time we met, and that made me feel good. (There was absolutely nothing about my words that appeared to strike him in a cognitive/emotional sense or resonate with him at all)
Me: Isn’t that ironic?
John: Yes Kara.
Me: Are you happy?
John: Right now? (Puts his hand over his face) Yes I am, until you say some stupid shit and then I am not. (Smiles at me with his hands over his eyes)
John: Yes… I am.
That was all of the conversation John was willing to entertain. I was so thrilled I got that much out of him I decided to use it to give a glimpse of who my Aspie husband is in lieu of creating my own extended summary. As I describe who we are as a couple in the next post, you will get only my opinion.
UPDATE: John read this post about him and was (and has been) very angry and hurt that this is all I had to say about his past before meeting me. He felt that I only had negative things to say about him in lieu of all of the good from his past. He said I left out how many jobs he had (and got himself) and how he worked at some of them for years at a time. It is my understanding that he felt I portrayed him as being lazy, although I was attempting to highlight the difficulties he had due to his unknown Aspergers, not that he was lazy.
I have been asking John for many years to share his past with me. He did not do this. Often his recollection of the past was brief and sometimes contradicting to what he had told me on other occasions. I attempted to explain to him how difficult it was for me to write “about” him when I only knew a little and was not entirely certain what was reality (or what he had told me when we first met so I would not think he was “different”).
I cannot tell you how incredible it is that John independently came to me to tell me that my writing hurt him. Even more incredible… he sat down beside me to talk about it.
Don’t get too excited… he may have come a long way to get to that point, but there is still a gap in our communication line and I am struggling to fill it. You see… after discussing with John why the post about him appeared so impersonal and empty and thinking he understood that I was wanting him to share what he wanted it to say…
He said, “It’s fine. You know me, you write the stuff I just told you.”
Obviously the hope I had for his input went right out the window.
I have now come to the understanding that John believes that I know everything about him and falsely assumes that because he knows, I should also. Perhaps I will be able to get this point across to him in the coming weeks and we will be able to construct a follow-up post to who John is on here and I can share the “words I found” that made it “make sense” for him.