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  • HOW TO TEACH EMPATHY TO SOMEONE WITH ASPERGER’S SYNDROME part 2-2

    Part 2: You can only teach yourself 

     

    I always wondered what it would feel like to have cameras rolling every day, documenting my life as it played out.  With all of the insanity in our home, I used to tell John that if we had a camera crew following us around, the ratings of our reality show would be through the roof.  I imagined if I ever had that opportunity I would be able to show the world how my marriage was only failing because of John and his behaviors, and that only then, would he feel sorry for the pain he had inflicted on me all these years.  I also thought it would awaken the world to what it is really like for an Aspie-NT marriage and perhaps draw light on Asperger’s syndrome in general. 

                    Since I am no one special and that clearly was not going to present itself as an opportunity for us (I am so lucky it didn’t), I decided to at least create reality tv for John. 

                    The day we purchased the Go-Pro camera and I strapped it to my forehead like a coal-miner, was the day I had to stop pretending it was all his fault. 

                    I had already been dancing around my bedroom singing angry love songs and writing the secrets to a happy life on my walls in the weeks before John and I almost officially called it quits (lost a lot of airline miles on that cross continental flight he never took). I felt empowered when I put that camera on my head.  I felt like I was finally doing something to fix us instead of searching for help that didn’t exist. I felt like I was finally taking action!

                    I was bound and determined to capture everything I experienced in our home and then play it back for John to see.  In the past, when we would fight John would always reflect on the exchange in a completely different manner than I perceived it.  He would deny saying things that I clearly heard him say, or making facial expressions that told me he was annoyed, angry, or not telling me the truth and then tell me I was imagining things.  He would accuse me of being nasty first, or an emotional basket-case.  He would tell me I never told him something that I thought I had clearly stated.  Our conversations would shift from one important topic to a million other small ones that had no bearing on the initial issue.  Asking about what we should do on my day off could easily snowball into how he doesn’t clean the house or I alienate him from my life on purpose and my day off would be spent scouring the internet for help and crying.  Neither of us ever appeared to be on the same page when we did try to talk with one another, so I prayed this personal documentary would help explain why. 

                    At first John was uneasy with the camera rolling and it was evident he was annoyed and wanted me to stop filming.  He spoke with a softer tone and was very selective about his words.  This lasted all of one day.  By the second day he was avoiding me and asking me to take the camera off my head.  After reminding him that he agreed to this and what the alternative was, he stopped asking me to remove it.  I made it clear to him that this camera was going to remain on every minute that I was awake and he and I were interacting with one another.

                    By the fourth or fifth day, the camera was ignored entirely and John and I were having the same blow up arguments and fights we had before he packed his bags.  If you really want to know if your husband is doing things on purpose or can control his behavior… a camera is a sure way to get answers.  Since I believed that John was truly unaware of his behaviors, I knew that after a few days of trying really hard to behave accordingly, he would continue being himself even with the camera rolling.  If someone is really a manipulative and purposeful ass, they will never let it show with a camera in their face.  

                    During the first two weeks of filming, I did not play back a single second of the footage to myself or John.  Since I was in control and knew I would not be showing this to anyone else, I had no difficulty being myself (I forgot it was on so often I would forget to turn it off when I used the bathroom).    

                    After filling up two data cards, John and I sat down one evening to look at some of our interactions with one another.  We went right to the footage of an ugly argument that had led to typical harsh words, yelling, and crying.

                    John, for the first time, was able to hear the way he sounded when he spoke to me and look at his own facial expressions and hand gestures.  He was able to see how he appeared, which was in stark contrast to how he thought he appeared.  This was still not easy for him and I had to point out some of his facial expressions and how I interpreted them at the time.  He was able to point out what he was thinking when he was making those expressions.  I think it really bothered him to see himself in that light and he asked if I could please erase the footage.  He never watched much of it after that evening, as seeing only small bits seemed to be enough for him to realize he DOES respond defensively and with hostility the moment I speak of anything pertaining to emotions… even when they are small things or important things for a husband and wife to be able to talk about or share. 

                    I watched most of the footage over the next week (I kept filming as well during this time).  I was absolutely dumbfounded when I realized I rarely ever use clear words with my husband when I am attempting to communicate something that is important to me.  I use so many hints and colorful descriptions and a ton of other nonverbal methods of communicating.  When I watched that footage I had finally identified that despite being COMPLETELY aware of John’s cognitive empathy deficit, I was still continuously using 90% nonverbal language to communicate overall.  I learned that whenever John tried to speak to me in a calm way, I was often the one to turn the conversation hostile (more than I realized) because I was reading too deep into his nonverbal language and could not process that it was not reflective of what he intended to communicate 90% of the time.

    When John does try to “hear me out,” I interrupt him or start talking a mile a minute every time he is silent for a moment and I try to force the conversation to keep going.  I never gave my husband a chance to try to decipher what was happening “in the moment” so he COULD communicate effectively.  Instead I came at him with machinegun fire dialog that he couldn’t keep up with causing him to instinctively defend himself.  I could have been ranting about wonderful things, but my words came at him so rapidly he couldn’t take them in fast enough to see that I was not attacking him.  With his quick-fire retaliation, I turned any good or meaningful attempts to talk into disaster.  I had no idea I was doing this (in the moment) until I was able to see it for myself.  All those years I thought I was communicating effectively, I realized I was failing miserably.  I had no idea how awful I was in communicating with a man who lacked cognitive empathy and finally understood that without intending to, I was the one causing most of the breakdown.

                    I felt like a real dirtball. 

                    I felt embarrassed. 

                    I apologized the best I could to John, but I don’t think he really understood all of what I was apologizing for.  Armed with this new insight I had to sit down and focus on all of the things I would need to fix if I wanted to effectively communicate with my husband.  This was not an easy thing to do. 

                    The very first step was to take all of the years of anger, frustration, and sadness and put them away to address at a later time.  This meant being willing to start over fresh and pretend nothing had been a failure in the past.  I had to be willing to do this or I was not going to be emotionally prepared to take the baby steps required of me to alter the way I communicated. 

                    Step two:  I had to stop mincing words!  When I did this (and I always did this) they were not getting through.  I also knew I had to learn to walk away.  I am an emotional person and my feelings really did (and still do sometimes) get in the way of ever being heard by my husband. When I was feeling a strong emotion at any time when I was interacting with him, I had to immediately prevent myself from vocalizing them.  I began to walk away and dissect what I wanted to say into the simplest language I could come up with. I had to watch the speed by which I said things, because if I did not, John was going to latch on to the first thing that made sense to him and use that as his focus and gear the conversation back to a place he could participate in (and not in a good way).  I had to learn to suppress my immediate desire to fire back if he didn’t seem to be listening to me, or said something I found hurtful.  Once I had a grip on doing this and found the right words to say, I began to say them… and then immediately walk away.  I would give him time to process what I said.  Within a week of working really hard at this, John began addressing what I said to him shortly after I said it.  In the past, he would never address anything I said and pretend we never spoke.  Mainly, I realized, this occurred because he really had no idea what I was ever trying to say to him so he had no ability to address my words. Eventually John began to acknowledge things I said, tell me how he felt, or that he understood what I was saying, sometimes apologize for inadvertently causing me to feel hurt, and work on resolutions with me. 

    Holy crap… my husband was beginning to show me emotional empathy! 

                    I had to work incredibly hard to not use my body language or facial expressions to send messages to him (I still do).  Of course I continued to use all of those nonverbal means because I do it naturally, but I became aware that they were not assisting in my communication and were effectively useless with my husband without the right words being said.  I had to work even harder at not using any hidden language to communicate.  It took a while to realize I had expended so much energy in the past using hints and indirect means of getting points across when I could have just said them with simple words.  I began to say things like, “I am feeling angry with you right now for A or B” and then say, “Maybe we can talk about it a little later so I won’t feel angry anymore and we can have a good day together?”  Then, you guessed it… I would walk away.  I got my points across without being mean or sarcastic, and I gave my husband time to process them without standing in his face forcing a response.  The more I did this, the sooner he would return to talk to me about things.  My husband never wanted me to be angry or upset, so when I told him I was (with a clear non-accusatory reason) and then offered a solution to fix it, he always took advantage of that opportunity.  My husband never wanted to fight with me all these years, he just did not understand why we were fighting or how he could prevent or fix any of it.  He is not perfect and still irritates the snot out of me, and I’m sure I annoy him as well.  We are still a married couple and are not about to agree on everything or have perfect communication by any means. 

                    Cognitive empathy and nonverbal communication are not functioning abilities for my husband and the moment I began to understand what that meant (and work around it) was the moment things began to improve. 

                    This concept doesn’t seem very difficult, right? 

                    IT IS! 

                    It is beyond difficult to learn to communicate without using nonverbal means. I promise you, even if you think you are doing this… you are not. If you were, you would already be on the road to an improved marriage. I truly believed I was accomplishing this basic means of communication with my husband and he just wasn’t responding appropriately to me. It took watching actual recordings of myself to realize how far from this I was. Even after watching a specific argument or failed attempt to talk with John, I STILL had to go back and watch it several times to pick up on all of the ways I tried to talk to him through nonverbal means. 

    I begin to express how difficult it is for me to learn a new language. I cannot accurately guess how challenging it will be for you to do it. Just as everyone is different when it comes to their capacity to become fluent in one or more foreign languages, everyone will be different with this. 

                    I am not suggesting you are the cause to all of your problems, as I was not the cause to all of mine. The cause was a lack of knowledge about cognitive empathy. With the majority of our communication toward our husbands being nonverbal, or verbal but with a whole lot of words that came out fast and obscure… our husbands weren’t hearing us.  When you compile that over years, you get two people on two different pages with so many misunderstandings and subsequent shitty behavior that everything turns to misery.  You get a wife who feels unacknowledged and unloved and a husband who feels attacked and afraid.  The wife than attempts to communicate with even greater emotion and confused/mixed messages waiting for her husband to just “get it” and the husband builds up more fortified walls and stops all efforts. 

                    Communication is the key to any successful marriage, and quite often, using simple words works to begin fixing NT marriages.  In an NT-Aspie marriage, it is the only way to communicate.  Your husband is not going to suddenly get to know you so well he can pick up on all of the nonverbal ways you communicate, he hasn’t the ability to do so. 

    So you have to make the change. 

                    I still do not know if John is sold on the cognitive empathy theory and he still shows zero interest in discussing it with me.  I am fine with this because it does not matter if he agrees or disagrees with me, or simply does not want to think about it, he is trying now and it doesn’t matter if he comprehends why.  I think to John, I am just being more rational and finally communicating effectively with him.  He likely has no urge to figure out why I am suddenly a happier person, he is just happy with the changes. 

                    Since I am now applying this knowledge daily, I am seeing positive changes in every aspect of our lives.  John is more motivated than he has ever been and I am finding myself more accepting of his quirky behaviors and more encouraging and supportive toward him than I had been.  The better I get at this new method of communicating, the better we get.  He is in a happier marriage because he is finally able to begin talking more and getting a response out of me that shows I care how he feels.  He is willing to approach a conversation if he senses I am upset or angry or he may have inadvertently said or did something that upset me.  Sometimes he overthinks things now because he is finally aware that he does not always come off the way he intends and tries to explain himself (something he did or said) without my saying a word.  He is trying so hard to identify feelings I have before I say anything to him so he can show me he cares and this is something I always prayed for.  Every day that I watch my husband try harder to communicate with me, I feel motivated to try harder myself. 

                    That is how this marriage thing is SUPPOSED to go, right?

                    To date, John and I have not gone back through the years of miscommunication and hurt feelings we both had.  I initially thought I would someday want to hash out all of the years of pain to be able to finally let them go.  A strange thing happened as things began to improve… I began to understand all of the circumstances and instances that led me to be angry and hurt before and they didn’t hurt so bad when I reflected on them.  I no longer saw a cruel and insensitive man who was selfishly and purposely causing me pain.  I stopped feeling the need to address any of the past because I realized they truly were all caused by a series of unfortunate misunderstandings and fear.  With a better means of preventing them from reoccurring, they no longer weighed me down.  We both know we hurt one another, John may still not understand how or why, but he is no longer causing that hurt in me so it doesn’t matter if he ever understands how I perceived things when they were at their worst.  He used to get so angry when I brought up the past and say, “How can I begin to get better if you won’t stop bringing up the past?  I can’t win with you!”  I would then respond that I couldn’t stop bringing up the past because he kept doing the same crap in the present.  Now, the past is in the past for the most part because the worst parts are over.

                    I doubt if your husband is going to agree to the Go-Pro experience, so it may not benefit you to suggest it.  Perhaps if he was willing to read these posts he would see that it served to wake ME up to start changing my ways.  I think the reason we hit a dead end when we try to get our husbands to make changes for the betterment of our marriage, is because everything comes out as blame and finger-pointing in their direction (who wouldn’t want to fight that?).  To be able to tell them (or show them through an example like mine) that the fault is on both ends, as are the solutions, perhaps they would be more willing to entertain the idea of change. Afterall, this is not going to be an easy thing for you to do and your husband will need to be patient with you as you begin to shift the way you communicate; he will need to back off himself when it comes to firing back when you are coming at him with intense emotions.  John was able to do this because he saw the footage of himself, but I imagine it would have been more challenging for me to begin communicating better if he was still dodging all attempts at trying.  If John and I were not truly calling it quits, I doubt if he would have agreed to me filming our daily lives, so don’t be discouraged if your husband says “Hell NO!” to the idea.  It is not easy to wear that sucker on your forehead every day either and it got a little uglier before it got better; I almost hurled that camera at the wall a few times.  Not everyone is in a position like I was, whereby I am the main financial provider for the family and could afford to risk ending our relationship if it came to that.  For my marriage, the camera was a necessary thing because neither of us would have believed our own actions until we had them shoved in our faces (especially me).  It gave us the time out we needed to experience humility and desire a personal change.  That’s the hardest thing about our dynamics… neither of us want to change ourselves, we want to blame the other person for what is going wrong.

                    If you are unable to get a Go-Pro type of reality check, that’s ok.  Try to really become more aware of yourself.  Read everything you can about cognitive empathy and how much of your daily lives are focused around this ability.  Try to put the hurt on hold.  Learn to speak slowly and clearly.  Learn to walk away until you can communicate effectively.  Be patient.  It may take a while for your husband to begin trusting your new method of communicating.  He may be suspicious of your motives at first, or instinctively put his guard up anticipating hostility or a meltdown on your behalf.  He is justified in being leery of your new behavior.  Don’t get discouraged.  Eventually, if you really make an effort at doing this every day… you are going to get a positive response out of him. Even if you think your husband is the most stubborn of all Aspies, I promise this can help.  I still believe John was the very worst example of what can go wrong for an adult Aspie (as far as negative behaviors are concerned) and if you don’t believe me, go back and read some of my other posts (See: WHY AM I SO ANGRY?).  The very first time your husband comes to you to resolve a conflict or try to make you feel better, you are going to have an “Ah Ha” moment and feel a little more inspired to keep trying. 

                    Give it time, and give it your best efforts.  You might be very surprised with the outcome…  I was.

     

     

     

     

     

    This is the size of the camera I actually had strapped to my head for weeks!


  • HOW TO TEACH EMPATHY TO SOMEONE WITH ASPERGER’S SYNDROME part 1

    Part 1: It can’t be done, can it?

              Ok, so I know you NT wives wish there was some easy method of getting your husband to think the way you do.  Hell, I think every couple out there wishes they could get their spouse to just “grasp” what they are thinking sometimes. 

                    We think we want this but honestly, it would probably suck royally if our spouse DID know everything we were thinking on any given day.  What we really want is for our husband to be able to empathize with us a little more; or in an Aspie-NT marriage… at all.

                    Why can’t our husband ever empathize with us?  We have tried everything we could think of over the years (and decades for some) and yet we still come up short.  They just don’t appear to comprehend or care how we are feeling. 

                    As I have said before, there are two types of empathy we are waiting for; cognitive and affective (emotional) empathy (if you have not read that post, stop here and read THIS first).  Nine out of ten times you need cognitive empathy to be able to feel the affective kind (Kara-Stat).  The good news is your husband already has emotional empathy.  So you don’t have to teach that one; sweet, we’re halfway there… unless the Kara-statistic is legit, then we’re only 10% of the way there.

                    Yeah, yeah, I know.  It doesn’t always “feel” like he has even 10% of his empathetic ability functioning.  I get it.  Remember, affective/emotional empathy is when you are aware that someone is hurting, it makes you feel hurt, and you want to alleviate that emotional anguish for the plagued person.  Since your husband is very rarely AWARE that you are hurting, he can’t exactly respond appropriately or give a crap about feelings he doesn’t know exist.  Your husband does not have cognitive empathy; the ability to pick up on facial cues, body language, and underlying meaning behind words that indicate what someone is thinking/feeling.  No matter how hard you try to get your feelings across to him, unless you verbalize them in a clear, non-threatening and non-accusatory way, he isn’t going to be able to ever give you the emotional empathy you need to feel better and move forward in a happy marriage.   

                    It is vitally important to comprehend the difference between the two types of empathy if you want your marriage to be happy.

                    Most professionals out there will dismiss my claim that those with Aspergers are entirely absent of cognitive empathy.  Actually, I think almost every professional would tell me that I am not correct in this blanket assumption at all and there are so many other factors involved.  I will also bet that these professionals are not neurotypicals married to an adult with Aspergers who went undiagnosed well-into adulthood.  It is easy to say “No way, it isn’t that simple” when you are not actually living with this dynamic.  These professionals can counsel, provide therapy for, or study hundreds of thousands of people with Aspergers, but until they are intimately involved and see what we NT wives do… they are just not in a position to discount something that really is so simple.  They are definitely not in a position to do so when there is about as much information out there to back my theory as there is to refute it. 

                    Neuroscience and genetics are still lacking in the study of empathy and those who have made it their life’s work to study empathy (Simon Baron-Cohen being one of the few) tend to lean more toward the idea that cognitive empathy IS entirely absent for aspies.  Baron-Cohen also seems to lean toward the idea that affective empathy is also so far removed that he struggles to commit to the fact that Aspies DO have this ability.  Again though, most professionals are studying those with Asperger’s syndrome and their interpersonal relationships from outside the box.  If they don’t know what it is we NT wives saw in our husbands that made us fall for them in the first place, it is easy to dismiss that we DID see emotional empathy in the beginning.  We knew the man we loved was different (and certainly not cunning enough to be a sociopath) but we felt loved by him once… and that kind of love cannot exist without emotional empathy.  Due to misunderstandings and a lack of knowledge about what Asperger’s syndrome actually meant for our communication abilities within the marriage, we watched the feelings of love and security that come from emotional empathy fade to the point we began to convince ourselves we imagined it in the beginning.  Even Baron-Cohen suggests that our husbands had a mimic-like behavior of “normal men” in the initial days of dating but did not actually possess empathy toward us.  I disagree with this and I will bet that a large part of your pain came from questioning those early days and wondering how you could have been duped into seeing something that did not exist.  You were not duped, you just behaved a little different back then as well, and your husband had not yet build up a defensive fortress to keep you out.

                    So here is it:

                    Your husband does not have cognitive empathy and you really cannot teach it to him in a useful way (perhaps someday).

                    IT IS THAT SIMPLE

                    It makes me sad that everything is so over-complicated and I will say for the millionth time that lumping Asperger’s syndrome into Autism did NOT help this.  Instead of focusing on therapy that could help make sense of everything that snowballed from this ONE cognitive deficit, we exist in a society that has no practical advice to give adult men with Asperger’s syndrome or the NT women who are married to them. 

    (Don’t hate me Aspie women or NT men… I know you exist just the same)

                    So why should you believe what I am telling you when I cannot scientifically prove my theory either? 

                    For starters, I have seen the changes I prayed for occur in my marriage when I am patient enough to turn off my own instinctive style of communicating (for a second) and utilize the language my husband can comprehend.  

    Humor this analogy for me:

     

    Imagine that English is your first language and you took a few semesters in French at school and enjoyed it enough that you decided to go on a study-abroad trip for a semester to solidify what you had learned.  While in France, you met an incredible man in the grocery store who took your breath away and gave you an instinctual feeling of comfort. To your complete joy, this French man was equally smitten by you and the two of you could not deny the magnetic connection you had made in such a chance encounter. You spend the entire semester with this man and by the time you are supposed to return to the U.S., you had both fallen passionately in love with one another. Even though you barely spoke his language, it had been enough to communicate the words required to solidify this magnificent bond… but neither of you realized HOW MUCH French you still had to learn if you were going to keep this magic from fading as fast as it appeared.

    Now imagine that you and this man cannot stand the thought of being apart and you make a bold move to take your love to a new level and get married so you can stay in France with him.  You know that this is risky, but you also know in your heart that you cannot walk away from this gut-feeling that you have to take this risk!

    At first, the transition to a new world is exciting and you embrace the new culture and your new love’s environment with incredible enthusiasm. Eventually though, you find it more and more challenging to acclimate to this foreign land and even more difficult to communicate to your husband how you are feeling.  Sure, your French has improved a bit, particularly when you were highly motivated to learn as much as possible in the initial days of romantic infatuation… but now you need to be fluent in the language if you want to express your needs and feelings to your new spouse in a way he can comprehend.  It is not until you try to talk about the complexity of your emotional feelings that you realize how very limited your communication ability actually is in his native tongue.

    Imagine if every time you tried to get your feelings across to him, he looked at you with indifference because you weren’t making any sense. The more frustrated this failure to express something so important (to someone so important) becomes, the worse you become at articulating your needs in French.  Imagine if everything you tried to convey came out as confused messages to your new husband and you become so overwhelmed you begin defaulting to English.  Regardless of how hard you try to explain your feelings articulately in English to him, he is unable to comprehend a word you are saying.  Your French husband does not know a SINGLE WORD in English and he has less comprehension of your communication attempts than when you were using poorly-constructed French.

    You want to step in here and say that if your new husband LOVED YOU, than HE would try to learn ENGLISH and the two of you could meet in the middle… right?!?!?

    Well, try to imagine that he has a neuro-deficit in the lobes of his brain that control language and he hasn’t the neurological ability to EVER understand English… despite how much he wishes he could (for your sake).

    What do you do?  There are really only three options to consider:

    1. Do you leave this man you fell in love with? A man that you “could” learn to communicate effectively with, but it requires your efforts to learn a second language as fluently as your know your first one?  

    2. Do you stay in the marriage and defiantly continue speaking English and praying he is going to magically comprehend your words someday? Do you staunchly refuse to learn French better because it “isn’t fair” that you have to be the one doing all the hard work?

    Or…

    3. Do you accept the things that you cannot change, remove blame and fault from your husband (who wishes more than anything that he could understand and speak English for your benefit, because he adores you)… and do you just try like hell to learn to speak French every single day until you can communicate with the same ease you do by utilizing English?  

    #3 is the option required of you to apply the cognitive empathy deficit your husband has to effectively bridging the gap of communication in your marriage.

    YES, IT IS THAT SIMPLE. 

     

                    Simple does not mean easy.  This is no simple task to ask of someone… not at all! Not by a long shot and HOLY CRAP do you have your work cut out for you if you want to take on such a challenging endeavor.

    Is it worth it?

    If you consider that analogy, what would you tell that woman?  Would you tell her to just suck it up and work hard to learn French because it is something that she “is capable” of doing, and he is not? Would you tell her that if that is ALL that truly stands between her and the love of her life’s potential for effective communication and a happy future, she would be a fool to not at least TRY?  

    The thing is, even in a dynamic like that (which makes more sense to people than this cognitive empathy deficit often does), no one is thinking about the incredibly justifiable resentment that woman is going to feel as she puts forth the majority of initial effort to bridge the communication gap in the marriage.

    If someone could promise that woman that at the end of her seemingly one-sided and exhaustive efforts; her husband would be on the other end ready to join her in a mutually beneficial marriage with equal effort for the remainder of the relationship… would it seem like an easier choice to make?  If there was proof that relationships like this can and do exist (there are), then wouldn’t the many examples of failed relationships of this nature seem like less of a threat?

    This analogy is very appropriate for an Aspie-NT marriage… the problem is, no one ever identified what the language barrier WAS and therefore, no one can provide examples of proven success for an NT reluctant to take on such a profound effort.  

    I understand that you all want “proof” before you will buy into such a daunting task, but this is something you have to learn to apply on an individual level because not everyone has the capacity to invest the type of commitment it would require (particularly after years of failure that make any further efforts on your behalf seem unworthy). All I ask is that you pick #1 or #3 on that list… you’ve been stuck in #2 for so damn long that you have to realize THAT option is never going to yield success.

    My husband and I are far from perfect and this is not smooth sailing by any means… but we are both genuinely happy, both trying, and both beginning to finally understand one another and fall in love again.  When we have misunderstandings now… they STILL turn into silly fights that are ridiculous and unnecessary (again, I am not claiming this is easy).  The difference is, my husband John and I are learning to put ourselves in check (on our own) and come back to the other person with a calm and effective use of words to clear up our communication breakdowns now, instead of letting them spiral out of control.  What would have been a stupid fight that led to a week of hostility, tears, and ignoring one another is now a stupid fight that leads to a few hours apart and one of us initiating the peace treaty.  In all honesty, my husband is the one reaching out to resolve conflict first these days, and I am beginning to realize what a stubborn jerk I can be and finally learning how to correct some of my own negative behavior patterns. 

                    No one made this light-bulb go on for me.  After years of searching for help in person, online, by reading and communicating with others in my shoes… there was never any magic moment that helped me finally discover what was broken in our marriage, and why.  What it took was years of reading everything I could find about Asperger’s syndrome, emotional abuse, toxic relationships, couples therapy, mental health diseases and disorders, personality disorders, brain development, successful couples and overall family dynamics.  I wrote down everything that seemed useful.  I read advice from religious counselors, psychologists, sociologists, psychiatrists, spiritual gurus, other neurotypicals, and those with Aspergers.  I wrote down anything that seemed beneficial.  I searched for people in terrible relationships and how and why they got out, and I wrote it down.  I looked up everything I could about people in happy marriages from those that were young to those that had been married for sixty years, and I wrote it down.  In the end I was left with endless notes, highlighted articles and books, and a ton of bookmarked web pages that got me no closer to saving my marriage than when I began. 

                    Useless on their own, these compilations of information served to isolate what was really going on in my marriage when I went back to them as a whole.  

                    The hardest thing for me to ever accept was that my husband did not have empathy… toward me or anyone else.  Equally hard was that he did have empathy, just not for me.  This concept caused me more agony than anything else along my journey for answers.  No one could ever really pinpoint what empathy meant to them though.  I decided that if John could not have emotional empathy… if he had no capacity for it… than I would not stay with him because that would mean he was akin to a psychopath. I saw no world in which a human was completely devoid of emotional empathy and could be considered a good person, so there was no way I could stay with someone that was inherently evil.  When I tried to apply this concept, I knew it did not fit.  Outside of not being calculating or smooth enough to manipulate anyone (like psychopaths can) he did not appear to derive any pleasure at all from my negative emotions, quite the opposite of the only other identified humans without emotional empathy.  When this rationale for ending my marriage failed, I tried to apply the opposite to it.  If John did have emotional empathy, that meant he was just an asshole who didn’t love me or care how I was feeling.  This didn’t fit either since I knew that I was the only person (besides his parents) that ever meant anything to him or that he ever really invested any interest or attention in.  I wasn’t entirely smart enough to go full steam into the field of neuroscience, but I put enough effort into trying to decipher what was going on biologically with my husband to realize that avenue was just as hopeless as the rest (at this time). 

                    I wanted to leave my failing marriage because I had no understanding of why we were so miserable and no direction to turn to for a brighter future.  I just didn’t want to leave until I had some tangible answers in my hand to tell me there stood no potential for happiness.  As much as the statistics on failed and/or miserable Aspie-NT marriages confirmed we were screwed, I still wanted something that would alleviate my future feelings of guilt for “giving up” on us.  Call me selfish, but that was one of the major things that kept me in a miserable marriage for so long; I did not want to walk until I knew for certain it wasn’t my fault and I tried everything I could.

                    It was only going back through personal accounts from those with an Asperger diagnosis that I began to really focus on their childhood and recognize a pattern in all of my years of searching.  I really honed in on this pattern and turned back to the writings of parents who have Aspie children and realized they were confirming what I thought, day after day, writing after writing.  I opened up all of the books I had read (with NT and Aspie authors) and saw the same thing within the subtext.  I went back to the “beginning” accounts of NT-Aspie marriages and how they came to be… same thing.  I looked at the psychological profiles and diagnostic criteria… check.  Neurological imaging that had been done and compared it to what is known about empathy to date… yup.  Then I began to apply this to my husband, and to all of the Aspies I interact with professionally and it all seemed to finally make sense. 

                    Despite all of the behaviors, deficits, comorbidities, and other “connections” made about those with Aspergers, the only constant that accounts for all of it is that there is no cognitive empathy.  They all had affective empathy in their youth, every single one (but seemed absent of it in adult relationships).  The only common link in every example I have ever seen regarding Asperger’s syndrome that can be applied across the board is this lack of cognitive empathy.  When you really start picking apart an Aspie’s social experiences from the beginning, the lack of cognitive empathy can be attributed to damn-near every manifestation of negative adult behavior.  Obviously we are all unique individuals and everyone’s life experience shapes who they are.  I’m sure that some adult Aspies really are just assholes, as are their neurotypical counterparts.  In giving the benefit of the doubt to those out there with enough heart to be searching for answers, I would have to say most of the people I have gleamed this insight from really are good people at their core.  Honestly, I am a little inclined to say that the adult Aspies I have met and learned from tend to be a little more decent than your average NT.   

                    With all of the things I had tried in my marriage to “get through” to my husband, nothing worked until I applied the knowledge that he did not have cognitive empathy.  When I told him this, he got defensive as though I was telling him once again why everything was his fault and why he was broken and I was not.  Having never heard this very simple explanation about his processing abilities, it was completely understandable that he denied it.  I didn’t have a shred of evidence to back what I was saying to him and there was no way he would entertain my stack of literature and highlighted connections.  After so many years of being told different things by “professionals” who had it all figured out (including the pills he could swallow to be normal) he just didn’t have the openness left to humor one more theory about his life of social injustices.  I don’t blame him.  By that point I had tried to apply a million other theories and methods to improve him and our life (never realizing the change was predominantly mine to make). 

                    I spent a few weeks trying to get John to listen to what I was saying to him about cognitive empathy and getting angry and frustrated that he would not.  I still had not fully realized the personal changes I had to make in order to alter the path we were on so I was doggedly focused instead on making him understand what cognitive empathy was (not sure how I expected HIM to fix anything if he had listened to me).  The more I tried to strike up conversation about this, the harder the door slammed in my face (because I was trying to explain it all to him in a foreign language, rather than one he could comprehend!).  John was hell-bent on avoiding any communication that might evoke emotion from me so despite this enlightened epiphany I had, it held zero practical value in salvaging our dying marriage.  

    Going back to that foreign language analogy: despite grasping the difference between cognitive and emotional empathy, I had very little skill in applying it to my marriage.  The problem was… I couldn’t see that.  Each and every time I attempted to speak to John about “what was wrong” in our relationship, I began speaking to him in French and he was willing to listen for a moment.  Without ever realizing I was doing it, I rapidly defaulted to English (my natural language of communication) within minutes of his initial willingness to hear me out. The INSTANT John heard a single English word come out of my mouth, he was DONE TALKING! Since I had no idea I was still failing to accomplish something I thought I had a firm grasp on, I continued to think it was John who was failing me.  

    We had gotten to a point where he was fearful in discussing anything with me other than trivial small talk.

                    After some time, I resolved to give up.  I really believed I understood what went wrong in John’s life and in our marriage.  I tried very hard to disprove my new theory, but the more I tried (by way of continued reading) the more I solidified my belief that it was at the heart of everything.  Of course, none of it mattered because John wasn’t open to the idea that there was anything wrong or different between he and I and laughed off the suggestion that he was missing “nonverbal” messages everyone else could readily see, as though he was not aware of “another language” even existing (he wasn’t). If we could not move forward with this new understanding, then we could no longer stay in the same place, we had to move apart.  I got John a flight back to his home state and prepped for the end.  At least I finally had the answer I was looking for, and I would know that it wasn’t my fault our marriage ultimately failed because I could blame John for refusing to communicate with me.

                    One evening, with bags packed and a flight the following morning, John broke down.  This time it was for real.  He sat on the floor between our bed and his closet and just sobbed.  He cried in a way I needed to see… the way I had sat on the floor and cried so many times before.  I wasn’t kind or empathetic toward him at all.  Instead, I spoke firmly without any degree of emotion and I gave him one alternative to staying, one option that would make me believe we had a shot at fixing our marriage.  To my surprise, he agreed to do anything I asked.

                    The next morning, we went to the store and purchased a GoPro HERO Session(which was the smallest camera I could find) to begin my plan of attack.  24 hours a day, 7 days a week I would wear a camera on my head and document our life as I saw it.  John agreed to willingly allow this to happen.

                    If I could get my husband to literally walk in my shoes by seeing life through my eyes (or through the lens of a camera) I could get him to finally understand where I was coming from.  I thought I had discovered a way to teach empathy to my husband.  I ended up teaching myself a whole lot more…

     


  • HOW MUSIC MADE ME STRONG

    WHY DID I STOP LISTENING TO MUSIC?

    I stopped listening to music when I met my husband… strange because music is a way for us to “feel” what we cannot articulate into words, right?  Lord knows I could not articulate into words ANYTHING about my marriage for far too long.

    I used to listen to music a lot before I met John and for some reason… it faded after our union.  Perhaps tossed to the side in favor of endless internet searches on Asperger’s syndrome?

    Last year I stumbled on a book I purchased for my 12-year old daughter (now almost 16) called The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People. In an ironic twist (as the unhappiest of all people was holding it in her hand) I realized that I used to live by almost every “secret” within the book.  I also realized that in the five years since I last had it out on a shelf, I had somehow abandoned even the simplest and most common-sense-tools suggested within it.  Those secrets used to just be a part of who I was without any effort and I had somehow stopped living that way.  The most profound “secret” in the book (by the way, nothing in there is genius) was, “Listen to more music.”

    I had gotten an Amazon Echo (awesome toy) for my daughter that was not being utilized much and decided that day, right then and there, that I was going to begin listening to music again!

    This whole music discovery triggered something dormant inside of me.  It all happened to come on the heels of another ugly verbal exchange with John and subsequent week of cold and bitter silence in our home (perhaps only I perceived it that way though, and John saw it as a respite).

    I listened to music, and I read the “100-secrets” over and over.  One evening I decided to write them down in a little notebook I could carry with me as a daily-insight reminder to help keep my brain from going to depressing thoughts of self-loathing.  As I was writing, I was listening to my “empowerment” playlist and had a little spark of crazy (the song Funhouse by Pink actually set this off for some reason).  I grabbed up some colored sharpie markers and I began writing the 100-secrets ALL OVER my bedroom walls!  It was not so much a moment of insanity, but inspiration that led me to do this nutty thing.

    Naturally, John thought I had truly lost my cookies after hearing music (which I had strangely avoided until then) blaring from the bedroom and walking into what MUST have looked like the actions of a mentally-unstable woman. He did not say much to me other than “Sharpie marker is incredibly difficult to cover with paint.”

    As the days went on I kept listening to music and adding to my playlists and trying to figure out how to be happy again.  Change was in the air… neither John nor I had a clue how this was going to play out, but I think we both sensed something was brewing.

     

    Smiles and Fresh Paint

    I am doing a whole lot better these days and making playlists that sound a tad more optimistic… I also covered the writings on my bedroom walls with fresh paint (and John was correct… this was NO easy task).  I don’t need a reminder in my face any longer about how to be happy in life, as I have rediscovered the woman I was before I met my Aspie husband, and the woman I am now because of my Aspie husband… and myself.  I would not go back and change anything if it took all of those dark nights and tears to get to this place.  I will say that the night I turned the music on… the motivation to begin making changes came with it.

    So, in an off chance that others will respond the same as me… I am sharing my playlists with you (enjoy).

     

    PLAYLIST #1:  MENTAL MIDGET

    My mindset in creating this one:  Here’s to the mental-midget whose “Mind is her own worst enemy!” F#*k this relationship, I’m out!

    1. Break Me Open – Anna Nalick (This is my “Theme Song” I could only find it on YouTube though)
    2. Never Getting Back Together – Taylor Swift
    3. Funhouse – Pink (The instigator of my Mr. Potato Head “Crazy Eyes” and wall art)
    4. The Joke – Lifehouse
    5. Face Down – The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus
    6. You’re Not Sorry – Taylor Swift
    7. Gone Forever – Three Days Grace
    8. These Boots Were Made for Walking – Nancy Sinatra
    9. The Taste of Ink – The Used
    10. Outta Me, Onto You – Ani Difranco
    11. I Never Loved You Anyway – The Corrs
    12. You Suck – The Murmurs
    13. I Hate Everything About You – Three Days Grace
    14. Blow Me (One Last Kiss) – Pink
    15. Had Enough – Lifehouse
    16. Apologize (Acoustic Cover) – Kasey Musgraves
    17. It Ends Tonight – All American Rejects
    18. Never Again – Kelly Clarkson
    19. I Can Do Better Than You – Avril Lavigne
    20. The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows – Brand New
    21. I Knew You Were Trouble from the Start – Taylor Swift
    22. Fighter – Christina Aguilera
    23. Seventy Times 7 – Brand New
    24. It’s Too Late – Carol King
    25. Since You’ve Been Gone – Kelly Clarkson
    26. You’re Not Sorry – Taylor Swift
    27. Time to Say Goodbye – Simple Plan
    28. One for the Pain – Lifehouse
    29. In the End – Linkin Park
    30. I will Survive – Cake (cover song)
    31. Blood on the Ground – Incubus
    32. Bleed – Anna Nalick
    33. Puke – Eminem
    34. Hate (I Really Don’t Like You) – Plain White T’s
    35. Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You) – Kelly Clarkson
    36. So What – Pink
    37. Mean – Taylor Swift

    (Did I mention some of these are completely raunchy and/or hostile? Sometimes you have to imagine letting the anger play out in order to decide if it is a viable option… right?)

    Playlist #2:  PURE DYSFUNCTION

    Mindset: “I’m angry, sad, bitter, afraid, hostile, hurt, hesitant, resentful, heart-broken, exhausted, nostalgic, confused, speechless, devastated, still in love, hopeful, self-conscious, empowered, emotional, numb, and a real fucking mess in a very unhealthy relationship.”

    1. Wreck of the Day – Anna Nalick
    2. Say Something – A Great Big World & Christina Aguilera
    3. Breath – Breaking Benjamin
    4. Mean – Pink
    5. How’s it Going to be – Third Eye Blind
    6. Just Like a Pill – Pink
    7. Crazy -Patsy Cline
    8. I’m Not Okay – My Chemical Romance
    9. My Happy Ending – Avril Lavigne
    10. Shame – Stabbing Westward
    11. I Won’t Give Up – Jason Mraz
    12. Untouchable Face – Ani Difranco
    13. Okay, I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don’t – Brand New
    14. The Kill – 30 Seconds to Mars
    15. I Can’t Make You Love Me – Bonnie Raite
    16. Massachusetts (acoustic) – Silverstein
    17. All On My Own – Anna Nalick
    18. How to Save a Life – The Fray (Sounds like a suicide / death song, right? When I hear this I think about trying to get through to my husband so our marriage doesn’t end… which would end the life I know he wants)  
    19. Hold On – Sarah Mclachlan
    20. I Don’t Love You – My Chemical Romance
    21. Run for Your Life – The Fray
    22. A Case of You – Joni Mitchell
    23. When We Two Parted – The New Amsterdams
    24. When the World Stops Turning – Matt Pryor
    25. Love is a Battlefield – Pat Benatar
    26. Torn – Natalie Imbruglia
    27. Landlocked Blues – Bright Eyes
    28. Let Me Go – Avril Lavigne
    29. Love the Way You Lie – Eminem (Disturbingly appropriate song for too many)
    30. It Matters to Me – Faith Hill
    31. Cath… – Deathcab for Cutie
    32. Cold as You – Taylor Swift
    33. Lies Greed Misery – Linkin Park
    34. Missing – Evanescence
    35. My Immortal – Evanescence
    36. Better Man – Pearl Jam
    37. You’ll Think of Me – Keith Urban
    38. Tell Me Why – Taylor Swift
    39. Already Gone – Kelly Clarkson
    40. Discovering the Waterfront – Silverstein

    Ahhh… some so depressing… some so sweet and nostalgic… all of them lending to a very confused and hurting individual…  

    Playlist #3: ULTIMATE JUSTICE

    Mindset: “God I wish John would listen to these songs and have a life-altering epiphany! Maybe I will just make a compilation he can at least listen to once I am finally gone…” 

    1. Stupid Boy – Keith Urban
    2. I Don’t Believe You – Pink
    3. Snuff – Slipknot
    4. Whatever it Takes – Lifehouse
    5. Hurt – Nine Inch Nails
    6. Erase Me – Ben Folds Five
    7. Losing You – Dead by April
    8. Forgive Me – Evanescence
    9. Yesterday – The Beatles 
    10. She Wouldn’t Be Gone – Blake Shelton
    11. The Idles of March – Silverstein
    12. Into the Ocean – Blue October
    13. Brightside – The Killers
    14. 50 Ways to Say Goodbye – Train
    15. Savior – Rise Against
    16. Please Remember Me – Tim McGraw
    17. The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot – Brand New- Sadly, this is my life. My first husband played this for me many times over the years; said it was his “theme song.”  He had “You Are the Smell Before Rain – You Are the Blood in My Veins” tattooed across his back and I used to tell him I was going to get the other lyrics on mine (joking).  After he killed himself, I did… but it was more of a way to tattoocarry my guilt on my back instead of acknowledging it daily.  John HATES this song, but it definitely fits for him as well somedays.  IRONIC.
    18. Whiskey and You – Chris Stapleton
    19. Untouchable Face – Ani Difranco
    20. Green Eyes – Coldplay (This may only have an ironically depressing meaning to my husband)
    21. Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It – Darius Rucker
    22. Never Say Never – The Fray
    23. Watching Airplanes – Garry Allen
    24. Somebody that I Used to Know – Gotye
    25. The End – Pearl Jam
    26. When You’re Gone – Avril Lavigne
    27. Here Without You – Three Doors Down
    28. Forgive Me – Evanescence
    29. What Hurts the Most – Rascal Flatts
    30. Vermillion Pt. 2 – Slipknot
    31. Counting the Days – Goldfinger
    32. Best I Ever Had – Vertical Horizon
    33. Fall Away – The Fray
    34. Goodbye My Lover – James Blunt
    35. Come Back – Pearl Jam

    Before you get any great ideas and think you should find a way to plug these songs somewhere for your husband to listen to “randomly” like when you are riding in the car together… DO NOT WASTE YOUR TIME Seriously.  As the song plays you will search his eyes for some sign he is processing them in relation to himself, you, or your life together… but you are going to come up empty and be bummed.  Just listen to them yourself and imagine that he WOULD feel most of these things if you were to leave and realize you have that option.  

     Playlist #4 THE CALM

    Mindset: “The storm has passed, I should just stay calm and reflect a little” 

    1. This Isn’t Everything You Are – Snow Patrol
    2. Breathe (2 am) – Anna Nalick
    3. Twenty Years and Two Husbands Ago – Lee Ann Womack
    4. Stronger than I was – Eminem
    5. These Old Wings – Anna Nalick
    6. Shake Me Down – Cage the Elephant
    7. Ladder Song – Bright Eyes
    8. Stop Crying Your Heart Out – Oasis
    9. White Horse – Taylor Swift
    10. Landslide – Fleetwood Mac
    11. Vienna – The Fray
    12. Good Riddance – Green Day
    13. Fade into You – Mazzy Star
    14. The Middle – Jimmy Eat World

     

    Having a teenage daughter has made some songs strike a particularly uncomfortable and/or emotional chord with me.  For whatever reason, these ones did so I thought I would add them.

    1. Not a Pretty Girl – Ani Difranco
    2. Because of You – Kelly Clarkson (My biggest fear is that this song will resonate with my daughter)
    3. I Hope You Dance – Lee Ann Womack (Remember when you were so full of life?)
    4. Follow Your Arrow – Kasey Musgraves (My daughter played this cute little ball of energy song for me and it turned a really negative mood positive pretty quick.  This is more reflective of my current playlists)

     

    In all of my attempts to get my husband to share songs that had meaning for him, these are what I have been given:

    (If you are like me… these will sting a little and pull at your heartstrings)

    1. Save Me – Unwritten Law (I wish he told me this was his “theme song” when we met! If you only listen to one song on these lists… MAKE IT THIS ONE!)
    2. Stubborn Love – The Lumineers
    3. All Ears – The New Amsterdams
    4. Little Lion Man – Mumford & Sons
    5. Over My Head – The Fray
    6. Hate Me – Blue October
    7. I Walk the Line – Johnny Cash
    8. Alien – Lifehouse (ouch)
    9. In my Life – Beatles

     

         There you go.  There has to be at least a few songs in here that will resonate with an NT wife in the midst of utter confusion.  While the majority of these songs are pretty negative I should say again, that they don’t get listened to very often these days, in fact, sometimes when I listen to them now I can’t even “feel” the way I did when I needed them so much.  That is an AWESOME feeling!  I will post my happier playlists in the future.  I hope music can serve as an outlet for what is inside of you like it did for me.  I mean, “Listen to more music” IS a secret of happy people!  Time to begin making changes.  Please comment and share some of your own playlists!

    *************************************************************************************************************

    Side note:  I really do recommend the Amazon Echo to those who are elderly like myself who aren’t sure what music-listening device to use.  If someone told me to “start listening to music” a year ago, I may have blown it off because I stopped moving forward with technology a while back. My daughter will attest to the fact that I am pathetically behind the curve in this arena.  So in the case that any of you are right there beside me, here is my full-on product review:

    This thing really is awesome with wicked impressive acoustics for such a small hunk of metal and I get to just talk at it: “Alexa, play my playlist Mental Midget” and it does what I tell it to.  It isn’t cheap at $179 but it is definitely worth the cost.  I got it for my daughter originally (as I mentioned) because my father (a tech-junkie) was playing with it when I was home last year visiting and I found it amusing and thought she could use it for homework and to listen to her own music.

    I had purchased an Amazon Prime membership long ago because living abroad, we are constantly shipping gifts (via online shopping) to our family in the states and the shipping costs were getting out of hand (free with Amazon Prime).  We use the Prime membership for other things that have given some benefit to our marriage (audiobooks/movies) but I discovered it is amazing if you have an Echo because all the songs I want to listen to are essentially free (less the $99 annual membership I was already paying for).  Now I can make new playlists every day with no additional costs and very little effort to appease my ever-changing mood and new-found love of using music for my mental health.

    Another reason I am recommending it to you guys on this blog is for instant dispute resolution.  My husband and I are CONSTANTLY going back and forth about facts and knowledge and claiming we are right about some random topic and the other is “so wrong!”  Before we got the Amazon Echo we would bust out our phones or jump on the computer/iPad to settle our disputes to prove who the brilliant one was…

    The problem with this is that John gears every internet search to benefit his own opinion.  Instead of writing, “corn casserole ingredients” he would type, “corn casserole with two sticks of butter” or find a way to prove any point he was trying to make with his own sneaky research tactics and then put it in my face and say, “I told you.”  With the Echo chillin on the countertop, we use it as the medium to prove who is correct (it searches google databases for the best/correct answers without bias).  For instance, the other night in a typical heated trivia debate, the question of bugs and cannibalism arose (yep… we have random arguments over things THIS unimportant to our daily existence)… I just called out, “Alexa, are butterflies cannibals?”  (I read somewhere that they are, John swore they weren’t) Alexa (the Amazon Echo tube) announced, “No, butterflies are not cannibals.”  In this instant the know-it-all Aspie was right, but the know-it-all NT is gaining leverage in the house thanks to this device!

    Seriously, is this whole fact-check/trivia argument thing just a John and Kara constant or is this an Aspie/NT marriage thing?  Anyway, I love the Echo so check it out if you want.



  • ASPERGER/NT MARRIAGE HELP: WHERE CAN I FIND A GOOD SUPPORT GROUP?

    The question every Neurotypical spouse asks at some point

    download
    I am a super big fan of these guys

    Update:  

    I took this post offline for a while for three reasons:  1. I was pissed off.  2.  I questioned if it could truly benefit an NT wife living with an adult Aspie. 3. I did want to endorse spending money on anything about Asperger’s syndrome (in general) unless I could personally attest to the value of it.  So let me explain:

    I went to this forum religiously (for reasons explained below in the original post). I always knew when I posted a question to the members that I would receive some flak and responses filled with sheer ignorance about Asperger’s syndrome.  I always used those responses to inspire why I needed to begin sharing what “I” knew to be true. One day I opted to link my blog post: WHAT ABOUT ASPERGER’S SYNDROME AND EMPATHY? to see how the members would receive my opinions.  I fell asleep after posting it and awakened to a few personal emails that indicated my post had stirred up some hate-filled and bitter responses with ensuing arguments that got nasty (either toward me, or between forum members).  While the emails I received were ones telling me they enjoyed the post, or found it insightful, they also told me they thought it royally “sucked” the entire post had been removed by the forum administrators.  I had no idea that it had sparked all of this emotion, nor did I know it had been removed from the website at the time I read those emails.  I wish I could have stayed awake long enough to know exactly what the context was of all the negativity I had inadvertently instigated, but I never had the opportunity to read any of it because the forum administrators took that away from me.  

    On this particular website, we all write controversial things (as ASD, Autism, Asperger’s syndrome and talking about something as important and emotional as our children does frequently trigger intense feelings).  It is not abnormal for many posts to lead to snarky comments and utter rudeness toward members with opposing viewpoints.  If someone gets particularly nasty, the forum administrators will delete their comment, but not the whole post that fueled the emotion.  

    One of the reasons I kept going back was because the platform was so open, as I believed it was promoting honest discussions that need to occur about a topic so taboo and unknown in society.  This initial reason for being willing to pay to be a member of the group got me thinking.. there I was, advocating to my blog readers to consider this unexpected group (Aspie parents) to help them learn valuable lessons, perhaps they weren’t as “open” as I originally perceived? Despite not agreeing with the majority of information put out on it by the members themselves (not the authors), I was mature enough to look past that and find something beneficial from my membership.

    When I learned my entire post was removed, I felt rather betrayed by the very creators.  I felt that they had cherry-picked my insight and opinion as being “too controversial” to leave up, while having no urge to remove the countless morons out there blaming vaccines and other unproven or ridiculous media-hyped links to Autism Spectrum Disorders.  It was because of this selective censorship that I became angry and took down this blog post for almost four months.

    This pissed off feeling made me question whether or not the recommendation of other NT wives reading what these parents had to say would benefit them or cause them to feel more alienated and misunderstood.  It was because of this pissed off feeling that I decided I would not allow an endorsement that cost money to be made by me if there was any chance it could cause more harm than good.

    Ultimately… after much consideration (and re-reading the original post), I decided that I would open it back up for you to decide for yourselves if there is something to benefit from it. In the end, I still admit this is the only group membership that ever benefited me in any way (despite joining many others in the past).

    While I believe only one of the original founders of Asperger Experts is still involved in the website, I still have to say that it is worth checking out if you are interested in how current members of society who are actively raising Aspie sons (like your husband) are receiving, processing, and making sense of the information they have.  I think it will be beneficial to you to look inside the minds of these parents for many reasons but most of all, the creators do give an interesting glimpse into what it might have been like “in the mind” of your husband when he was younger.

     

    ORIGINAL POST:

    When a neurotypical wife begins their hunt for “like minds” to begin processing Asperger’s syndrome, they often consider joining forums to share their story and get advice.  More often then not, their search begins with reading tons of articles on the subject. When an NT spouse reads these articles, they may think, “Ok, this is good” but then when they look beneath it, realize that upwards of 90% of every response/comment is from an NT spouse who has (or is about to) give up on their marriage.

    What began as a hunt for help turns into a feeling of hopelessness as they come upon more stories of utter negativity and failure.

    I began looking into and following Asperger forums written by Aspies themselves (to avoid the hopeless NT pitfall). I had simply given up on the hostile and broken NT ones and had long-since abandoned the “professional insight” ones (since they never really gave me tangible advice I could utilize).  I thought perhaps going directly to the people who live in my husband’s fascinating world would yield better results.  I figured, if for nothing else, they could offer something the others could not.

    Unfortunately, despite still following many of these writers and loving what they have to say and how they express their difficulties, challenges, successes, and general perspectives… I still came up empty in finding practical means of helping my own marriage.  It was/is sometimes frustrating to read the words of Aspie’s and know that they do not understand what it is that they are doing “wrong” that causes so much angst from the NT community (so they ironically vent equally about NT’s and their cruel and un-empathetic behavior).  I think that it is important for an NT spouse to read what the Aspie bloggers have to write still, and I will link you to some of my favorite websites in future posts that you may also love.

    For purposes of something that might actually “help” you, this is what I opted to do at the end of my internet search for a good forum to join.  I wholeheartedly recommend to adult NT spouses married to a partner with Asperger’s Syndrome to do this:

    Consider finding a DIFFERENT group of people for advice

    I belong to a forum for parents of Asperger/Autism diagnosed children.  In all of my attempts to locate a group of positive people to provide support for my struggles, it was only this group that ever offered it.

    With this private group forum I go to (daily) being dedicated to parents who are desperate to provide a good life for their children (is there any motivation stronger than that?) I get to see people who will never offer advice to “leave” or abandon their children.  This provides me with a new perspective of what it is like to see people who are also met with failure and struggles every day, who continue to maintain an optimistic outlook and strive for “something else” each time one avenue proves unsuccessful.

    Since I hope I have sparked some interest in what group I am referring to exactly, I will let you in on my big secret. This group was founded by two young adult men, Danny and Hayden, who have Asperger’s Syndrome (they call themselves ASPERGER EXPERTS) and honestly… they are absolutely deserving of the title more than anyone else who uses their professional credentials to try to justify being deserving of such a term.

    In ALL of the things I have read and searched for over the past five years, these guys (barely into adulthood themselves) have managed to make more sense of my husband than any adult or professional EVER COULD.  They are phenomenal men who are doing a wonderful service for parents of children diagnosed with Aspergers.  They refer to their forum as an “Asperger & Autism Parent Support Network” but I think by their self-proclaimed title you may see that they are what I consider “straight-up-Aspies” and likely as deserving of the Autism Spectrum Disorder label as my husband (sarcasm).  <—- If you have read my other posts, you are likely aware that I am NOT a huge supporter of the umbrella term ASD (to put it mildly).

    The most incredible thing about these two Asperger Experts?  They are being paid fractions of what the “professionals” are making to spout off all of their brilliance in one useless therapy session!  I pay $14.99 per month to have access to better information and tools than any book I have purchased ever yielded (and I paid far more than that amount per month on wasted literature), so I recommend them to anyone who would like to find a “different” perspective who are also willing to spare some extra cash.

    What do I mean by a new or different perspective?

    The support groups intended to be positive for women married to Aspie men always end up being fueled with advice to get out as soon as possible and limitless stories of their Aspie’s negative behaviors and attributes.  They seemed to want to help one another initially (if you go back to the origins of the forums), but since every effort on their behalf ultimately fails… the only help they can offer in the end is to advise other women to stop wasting their lives and get divorced.

    That is why the perspective of parents who would never allow the thought of leaving their own beloved child is so important to a Neurotypical wife who really just wants help, not tips on running away quickly.

    It was in large, because of these parents that I first began adapting my attitude about my husband John.  I began to consider that maybe I should try to regard him with the same dedication I would give my daughter B, instead of always having one foot out the door.  Since abandoning my child would NEVER be an option to consider; I wondered how my mindset could change if I chose to delete that option for my marriage as well.  

    The only problem with this forum (for an NT wife seeking help in her marriage) and the wonderful insight from these two guys is that they fall short of having a true grasp of what it is like to navigate through a marriage like mine or John’s.  They are the small statistic who has figured out enough to potentially avoid the very dynamic we (and so many others) exist in, and thankfully they are reaching thousands of parents with their insight to help those children grow into successful happy adults like they are.

    Obviously another problem is that, THEY HAVE ASPERGER’S SYNDROME!  They are not going to be able to decipher what that “means” for the neurotypicals in their life and they do not attempt to make sense of that very often.  

    Their focus is on enlightening NTs about how the young Aspie mind receives and responds to the world around them.  They haven’t the insight to enlighten an Aspie to the NT side (obviously not something to hold them accountable to).

    Because of their inability to speak on behalf of an adult NT/Aspie relationship, even with the new found enlightenment they have given me, the path still hits a dead end for my marriage in a lot of ways.  It is one thing to begin to identify and correct coping behaviors and misunderstandings in a person’s childhood and adolescence… it is an entirely different ballgame when we are talking about 30+ years of negative behaviors and belief-systems that are near-impossible to penetrate.

    It is far easier for a parent to influence the behavior of their child than a spouse for their husband.  As an NT spouse, we do not hold the awesome ability to utilize the same consequences for behavior and/or positive reinforcement and rewards that most parents have at their disposal.  In fact, if we offer ultimatums to our adult Aspie husband, we can typically expect a terribly hostile and defensive defiance… which creates the very parent/child dynamic we are so desperate to extinguish in our adult partnership.

     

    Regardless of the inability to speak directly on the topic of an Asperger Marriage, the tools Danny and Hayden give are a phenomenal foundation in any Aspie/NT dynamic and the support group members themselves… priceless!  

    Fair warning:  The parents (mostly moms) in this forum do not mince words and they are unapologetic in their critiques or opinions (I actually find this helpful once I let go of my instinctive feeling of rejection when they disagree with me).  If you are someone who does not handle rejection from outsiders well, tread lightly before you post a strong opinion on here.  If these parents think (for even a split second) that your words are incorrect, biased, or painting a bad light on the children they love… they are like mama-bears protecting their cubs and go for blood.  

    On the flip side, there are no bigger advocates then these parents when it comes to finding answers and help (as misguided and misinformed as they often are).  It is not lost on me that these mothers can become a driving force to altering the current crash-course Asperger/Autism education is on (if they ever get the right information in their hands).  

    Since you will never find a group of people that rally behind one another for a positive cause (to better their children’s future) like these parents, I would be remiss if I did not share with you that this website/forum has helped me.  It is worthy of consideration if you are tired of listening to people who think giving up is the only viable option.


  • ASPIE/NT MARRIAGE: WHAT DOES ALTRUISM HAVE TO DO WITH IT?

    IT PUT YOU THERE & IT KEEPS YOU THERE… How altruism plays a significant role in an Asperger/Neurotypical marriage


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