• Tag Archives happiness neurotypical and aspergers
  • ASPIE HUSBAND: WHY IS MY WIFE LEAVING ME?

    WHEN YOUR NEUROTYPICAL WIFE SAYS SHE IS LEAVING YOU… FOR REAL THIS TIME.

     

    As I struggle to get my posts up over the next few months (wrapping up this time-consuming job and moving on to one that affords me time to write); I wanted to share a comment from a reader that is all-too familiar to me.  I receive a lot of personal emails from men (and women) with Asperger’s syndrome who are faced with the reality that they are going to lose the love of their life… their NT-e wife.  Each time I get emails, I read them and place them in a specific grouping so I can ensure my future posts are centered around the important questions we all want answers to. Although I do not currently have the time to write each person back, please know that you are being heard and I will not forget your important story or question as I move forward. 

    This man’s unfortunate (and heartbreaking) situation is one that I have heard often, and since he allowed for others to read his struggle when he commented under the post: ASPIE HUSBAND: WHY AM I SO ANGRY?   I have opted to share his message and address it today, in lieu of having to wait for me to get the time to address his pain down the road. While this is directed toward the man who posted his story, I am responding to all of the men currently standing in his shoes as well. I hope this helps a little…

    Aspie hubby wrote: 

    I read this link sent to me by my wife as she tells me our 27-year marriage is over because she can’t cope anymore and reading this I thought she wrote it, it’s pretty much spot on. But I didn’t realise what I have been doing to her over the years. We have 3 wonderful children had various business’s together and work well, all seems to have taken its toll on our relationship now tho. I feel really bad, I have never had my heart broken before and it’s changed me inside. When you were pre kids you could watch a film and not cry and post kids you can’t help yourself, well the same thing is now happening to me all over again. Starting to grieve the loss of my father who has been gone 16 years at the time. I was sad but never shed a proper tear, now my heart is broken, I can’t stop crying; not just about the relationship but kids cry and it starts me off. This never used to happen, I’d just say man up and get on with it. I still can’t believe this is happening to us after all these years. Financially we are nearly sorted, no mortgage or credit cards, just owe the family a few quid, but we should be enjoying ourselves not splitting up ……….. I think I can now see the error in my ways but I’m not sure it’s repairable anymore. –Sad and lonely aspie hubby.

    (I made a few punctuation changes to help the readers understand the gravity of your personal struggle, I know you were writing from the heart so I hope it is ok that I did this…)

     

    DEAR ASPIE HUBBY:

    Thank you for writing, it means a lot to me for many reasons, but most of all because I know you are not alone.  Your willingness to open-up about something so personal and painful (and with such honesty) is an often-overlooked example of how much those with Aspergers feel and experience the same level of emotional turmoil as those deemed neurotypical.  As you pointed out, you have possessed the ability to “man up” and suppress many of your emotions for much of your life. While you likely thought you were doing the best thing (perhaps for yourself and your family); those emotions always find their way out at some point.  While you (and so many other men in general, including my husband) think it is the proper thing to do (to not show great emotion), most NT-e spouses begin to think that their husband is devoid of the very thing they want to see him openly express. Neurotypicals, especially those with extreme amounts of empathy, communicate with emotions and learn that the absence of them is to be viewed as an absence of care and/or concern for others.

    I believe your comment is going to help many other men and women (Aspie & NT alike) who are struggling to make sense of the painful situation they currently find themselves in.

    When I decided to write this blog, I opted to post on anger before any other topic because my sole intention was to reach out to the women (like myself) who felt ready to pull the plug on their marriage and walk away permanently.  It seemed imperative that I be brutally honest about how hopeless I felt if I was going to get a single woman to believe that things could get better and that they have reason to hang on to that hope a little longer.  When it got closer to the inevitable end I saw on the horizon, I found myself searching things about Aspergers and anger more than any other topic. 

    Anger seems to be the emotion that ignites the drive to act, since sadness and confusion often leave us feeling depleted of energy altogether.  As many men with Asperger’s syndrome come to realize as adults… anger is just easier to use as a mask for all the other emotions that are just too damn painful to confront.  It does not surprise me that this specific post IS the one that receives the most views; what breaks my heart is that all the others fall short of this number by 25-50%.  This tells me that not enough people get to the posts that begin to help make sense of the overwhelming anger, sadness, grief, and hopelessness we are all experiencing.  For this reason, I have placed a link to the post I find most beneficial beneath the post on anger; I hope that helps more people continue reading the optimistic and positive side of the angry world they are currently finding themselves in.  Thank you for bringing this to my attention; I hope that you and your wife managed to find your way beyond this specific post.

     

    HOPE

    I truly believe in the depths of my soul that once anger has solidified itself into the mind of an NT-e spouse, the only thing keeping the door from coming unhinged is her incredibly profound sense of hope. It is this hope that keeps us clinging to a life that causes emotional agony when everything in our marriage (and that society tells us) suggests that our husband cannot possibly love us.

    Hope is always the very last thing to go for an NT-e spouse.  I think the simple fact that your wife sent you this link suggests that she still has hope in her heart. She may not consciously even realize this is the reason she sent it (and I could certainly be wrong), but to me, no woman who has lost all hope would ever waste the effort of sending this link to a husband they have lost hope for. 

    For so many years I tried to get my husband John to read things, to listen to me, or to just acknowledge anything I was saying about the emotional state of mind I was in.  He had an automatic shield up toward the information I tried to force on him; information that I believed could benefit our relationship.  John never once appeased me in my efforts.  He did not read anything I wrote him, or open a single email with links to webpages or articles I thought were beneficial.  He did not ever appear to consider the things I suggested worthy of his time, nor did he ever listen long enough to hear the message I was attempting to convey.  A message I now realize I was articulating in the wrong manner (but that is another post).

    Had I been 100% resolved to walk away from him forever; the last thing I would have done is set myself up for a final blow of disappointment by sending him another email, letter, or text he could ignore. I would not waste another shred of my own dignity to allow for hope that he would suddenly take interest in something he had proven unimportant throughout our relationship… not if my mind was cemented in leaving the marriage. Doing so would only cause me further agony when I had to accept (once again) that he was disinterested in my feelings and our future. It seems to me there must exist a small bit of hope in your wife’s heart if she sent you this link; it suggests that she had some hope remaining that she could still “reach you” one last time… to have you finally acknowledge how she feels. 

    I could be wrong… but I don’t think I am.

     

    When hope exists… so too does the opportunity to turn things around.

     

     

     HOW DO YOU TURN THINGS AROUND?

    This is an incredibly complex task that begins with two people emotionally separating from one another so they can begin to work on personal changes and their own inner-feelings and desires first. Since no one wants to hear something like that (it’s too fucking scary to even think of and many professional therapists would recommend the opposite), I will tell you what I believe will keep hope alive primarily, so that the other changes have the potential of being realized in time. 

    To me (and I welcome others to chime in), the #1 thing I wanted from my husband (first) was for him to begin reflecting on the ways I had been hurt and acknowledge them after so many years of feeling disregarded. I didn’t want him to just say he “was sorry” or that he “acknowledges things now.” In fact, every time he told me he was sorry, or that he “got it,” it never held much weight because he would not point out a single example of what it was that he “finally got.”  So, I wanted him to point out examples of things he said or did (even if completely unintentional), tell me he could now see my perspective, share that he could now understand how those actions or words could cause me to feel sad, or angry, or alone, or disrespected, etc. Then I wanted him to tell me he was sorry and that he was hell-bent on learning how to prevent me from ever feeling that way in the future.  I didn’t need him to list everything he could think of from previous fights, I simply wanted him to give me a few real examples he recalled.  To me, this was the only way I could know for certain he was not just saying words to appease me; that he truly could consider another perspective (mine), and that he was finally open to working together to make things better in our future.

     

    EVEN THOUGH IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT… IT IS 

    You must understand that even though you NEVER intended to cause your wife hurt and never maliciously did anything to make her feel the way she does today… your actions DID cause her incredible pain… and that pain was as real as the pain you are in today.  When all her feelings went unacknowledged, the aching she experienced was as though the one person she should trust above all others, the only person she wanted to be that connected to… that person betrayed her.  When someone feels that level of abandonment from the person they love the most, there is a cataclysmic storm of emotions that linger and shift back and forth from that moment on… day after day. Even if you could not always see that tornado of emotion in her day to day interactions with you, they were always present just beneath the surface of every smile, happy moment, or close periods of intimacy or shared activity you had together.  While you may have thought that she had moved past whatever fight or discussion that had her distressed the previous day, she had not; what she did was bury that tornado beneath a layer of hope that things would be better tomorrow. When tomorrow brought forth the same feelings of betrayal, all her emotions got compounded as though that tornado picked up more debris along it’s destructive path.  The only way to stop it from wreaking havoc on the future would have been to acknowledge, discuss, and resolve each event as it occurred.   

    In a way, you are already giving examples of what your wife has been toiling with for so long.  You mentioned how you are beginning to feel the grief you had repressed regarding your own father’s death (I am so sorry for your pain).  That overwhelming feeling you are experiencing in acknowledging both the loss of your father and the impending loss of your wife… that is eerily similar to the type of overwhelming grief your wife was experiencing every day.

    How is it the same if she was not experiencing a loss at those times? 

    She was.

    For all those years…

    your wife was grieving the loss OF YOU.

     

    She was grieving the loss of the man she fell so deeply in love with, grieving the loss of the life she had envisioned, and grieving the loss of herself, as she had unintentionally abandoned the woman she once was amid her desperate attempts to reach you and salvage your family. 

    How is it different from what you are currently experiencing?

    The difference is, she did not have the chance to heal from or even compartmentalize the pain she felt (like you learned to from a young age), because you were always right there beside her to remind her of all that was lost… day after day.  Every day that she was grieving, you stood beside her and failed to rescue her from her own fear and pain; you unintentionally kept it all fresh and current by ignoring that any of her pain was even real.

     

    TILL DEATH DO US PART 

    If you were to compare your wife’s turmoil to that of losing a loved one to death, it is incredibly similar. Your wife felt like the man she fell in love with was no longer alive, that he had died and she could not make sense of his death. When it first happened (when you first began to emotionally put up barriers) that loss was profound and it devastated her down to the core in a way she did not ever recover from. Every time she felt a bit of love from you by way of words, actions, or emotional intimacy, it was as though you had risen from the dead and she had what everyone wishes for… another day with the person they loved who had died.

    The enormity of that feeling.. that you had returned from a place she thought was permanent, to remind her of everything she thought she had lost; was more intense than she could have put into words. With that complete elation in having the love of her life reappear before her, came the unnerving sense of fear that he would leave and she would have to be alone in her grief once again.

    Can you imagine how euphoric a person would feel if they thought their loved one was dead, began to endure the process of grieving their loss, only to have that person reappear out of nowhere? It would alter the person’s perception of reality on a grand scale, wouldn’t it?

    When you returned to the same emotionally unavailable man the following day, after reminding her of why she had fallen in love with you initially, it was as though you had disappeared again. She had to suffer the same impact of traumatic loss and sadness again from square one. The problem for your wife was that you continued to abandon her emotionally and then pop in for random emotional visits intermittently throughout your marriage. It truly felt as though you kept repetitiously dying on your wife; only to reappear suddenly for a brief visit, long enough to ensure her pain could never subside.

     

    No human is equipped to withstand the constant shift from grief to hope for a long duration without compromising their own state of mental and physical health. 

     

    Your wife was never able to identify what made you shift between showing her the love she desired and abandoning her moments later, so she kept begging you to help her understand what was happening. Since you never identified that your unwillingness to openly communicate about feelings or emotions (at all) was causing your wife to grieve your loss all those years, you failed to see what you were actually putting her through. 

    The more your wife begged of you to listen to her, talk to her, identify why you were so guarded, or just show her the side of yourself that she had fallen in love with… the more you closed the door in her face. It was like you rose from the dead but the moment she tried to tell you she was afraid you would die again, you did.

    I understand that the analogy of your willingness to communicate and show affection toward your wife and the death of a loved one (who suddenly returned for short visits) may seem dramatic and a little ridiculous to you. When emotions are involved (particularly those that come from losing a loved one), the grief process is the same even if the person has not died. Your wife loved you so deeply when she committed to you and you allowed her to see who you were on the inside. That was the man she intended to spend the rest of her life with. When you put up defensive barriers that effectively withheld your emotional self, she was left feeling like you disappeared and she grieved like hell over you. Every time she thought she was ready to accept her loss and move beyond her grief, she would get glimpses of that man she first met and she would have hope in her heart. This cycle viciously repeated itself throughout the duration of your relationship and that emotional exhaustion is the reason your wife is now telling you that she has had enough. 

    She tried to explain this to you for many years (no doubt), but her words never articulated what she was experiencing because they seemed as dramatic as the analogy I have given (because they were to her). When she reached out to you and you dismissed her pain, you inadvertently caused it to continue and manifest into more discomfort as each day passed.  

     

    THIS IS HER REALITY

    Because your wife identified with my post enough to send it to you, I have little doubt that she felt entirely abandoned in the way I am describing.  Over time, that sadness and confusion transforms into resentment and anger and the tornado of despair grows stronger and more destructive to her sense of security and self.  Mixed into all the negative emotions she was dealing with (and trying to repress), there existed those good days, positive memories, and a continued feeling of love for you… which gave her hope.  Hope you would suddenly wake up and see what she was going through; she had hope that if she just weathered the storm a might bit longer, your family and marriage would awaken to a rainbow and blue skies one day.

    That is a very toxic mix of rapidly shifting emotions to endure day after day, year after year.  It is particularly hard to handle them when the only thing she had to cling to was that there existed one person who could not only shield her and the family from the storm, but lead them all into a place with calm clear skies.  But you never did.  Eventually she began to resent you for not saving her, and eventually she decided she had to get herself out of the storm’s path if she wanted to come out alive.

     

    I DON’T BLAME YOU

    My husband always told me that he would be more than happy to comfort me when I was upset, but if I was blaming HIM for causing my distress (when he knew he did nothing intentional to cause it), he refused to pretend he cared about my feelings.  He said that while he loved me, he found it very easy to detach from me emotionally the moment I chose to blame my negative feelings directly on him.  All the years I was begging for him to save me, to save us, he believed I was creating my own misery and he felt zero accountability for it.  While neither John nor myself were ever really to blame for my misery (a diagnosis that was poorly understood was), he put up walls between my expressions of frustration, sadness, and anger.  If he got the slightest hint I was going to direct any of my tears toward him, those walls went up immediately and he left me to suffer alone. He left me to suffer alone, never realizing he was the only one who could rescue me from it.    

    There was no way around the inevitable demise of our marriage without the willingness on both of our behalves to acknowledge that, sometimes we hurt one another unintentionally because we are not perceiving the same reality as it is unfolding.  So long as both parties blamed the other for the disconnect, there could be no bridging the communication gaps and misunderstandings that caused our mutual misery.

    I understand that the incredible pain your wife has endured may still seem unwarranted or unfair for you to have to go back and take any responsibility for. I understand that you love her and that you never set out to cause her even a small amount of discomfort and that it might even seem like your absence of intention should be enough for her to move forward without residual resentment.  I understand that you never even knew she was suffering so profoundly each day and that it hardly even seems real to you.  Believe me, every bit of her anguish was real to her… and that is truly all that should matter to you now. 

    I don’t blame you if you tuned out or erected walls to keep her emotions distant from you the same way my husband did. I can appreciate that when we (NT-e wives) claim that our Aspie husbands are hurting us, or that they do not love us, when they KNOW THEY DO… it is easy to dismiss such “nonsense” and not give any attention to a claim that you know is not true.  When your wife goes from telling you she is unhappy or miserable while crying or yelling out, and then awakens the following day with a smile and acts as though the pain of yesterday is forgotten… it is completely rationale that you began to consider most of her internal discomfort to be imagined or self-induced. Despite the times you thought she appeared perfectly content and perhaps even happy, she was not either of those things beyond the surface of what you saw.  She was balancing a million emotions that were breaking her heart and trying to cling to anything positive that could keep her hope alive.

     

    UNFORTUNATE WAY TO EXPERIENCE EMOTIONAL EMPATHY  

    Think about how much you are hurting today or how sad and deflated you felt inside when you posted your comment above.  Now, try for a moment to imagine what it would be like if you experienced THAT level of emotional discomfort coming at you in waves every single day (for decades). What do you think that would do to you as a person?  How long do you think YOU could withstand that degree of pain?

    Now, imagine all the moments you felt such incredible emotional discomfort… your wife held the power to not only take that pain away from you, but she had the power to also prevent any more of it from piling on top of you. Imagine knowing that despite having the absolute power to heal you and make your hurting stop… she chose to ignore that you were even in pain. What if she told you that you were creating all of it in your own broken mind, or that you were so annoying with your expressions of discomfort and pleas for help that she put a wall up and walked away from you the moment she thought you might start complaining about it again? Imagine what it would feel like to be crying in emotional agony and know that your wife was in the next room resting comfortably without any regard for the suffering you were enduring. What if instead of ignoring your pain, she chose to become angry and defensive with you the very instant you tried to tell her how you felt? 

    It might be very difficult for you to have imagined that scenario in the past… but I am willing to bet it probably DOES feel that way to you right now, doesn’t it? You are in pain, you are overwhelmed with emotions that you do not enjoy, and your wife has the power to take them all away and make you feel safe, loved, and like you are not alone.  But she isn’t giving you that level of acknowledgement and she won’t even accept that your feelings matter to her now… because she has detached from YOU in an attempt to protect herself from further discomfort. 

     

    IT ISN’T FAIR

    I hope you have read the other posts I have up about why men with Aspergers put up walls and detach from uncomfortable emotions the way they do.  I hope some of them have assisted in identifying how your childhood and young adult years enabled your ability to repress strong emotions (like the loss of your father).  When men (and women) with un-diagnosed Aspergers grow up in a world that is socially unjust and they are made to feel as though their thoughts, actions, and words are always going to be perceived as negative by those around them… they put up walls.  Some men become very defensive the moment they feel like someone is going to criticize them, some choose to avoid the potential for that attack by avoiding communication that could potentiate emotions altogether… some men (most), do both. 

    You got a raw deal growing up in a world that did not comprehend that your brain processed nonverbal communication in a remarkably different way than the majority.  You are not at fault for the coping mechanisms you created because of this, not even a little.  You had no other option than to adopt methods of emotionally protecting yourself from social isolation or pain; it was truly a survival instinct. Your past reluctance to emotionally connect and/or communicate with your wife is not something you knew how to identify or prevent. You did what you instinctively learned was safe and that is not something that warrants self-blame.

     

    The thing is…

    Now you know.

     

    Now you know that you built defensive/protective coping mechanisms that kept your wife at a distance from you emotionally, and now you know that it was that emotional distance that caused her such profound internal suffering all of these years.  

    Now you have the opportunity to change those things.  Now you can go back to the memories from your youth and identify why you had to build that wall between yourself and the emotions of those close to you.  It takes time to do this, it is NOT going to be easy, and you are going to have to be ready to grieve a hell of a lot more pain in this process (likely buried very deep for you). 

    You have already begun changing. Your eyes have already begun to open to a new perspective. You can change the confusion you had growing up and all of the self-preserving behaviors that sprung from it the moment you choose to.

    If you choose to continue on the same path you were on that led your wife to suffer and your marriage to be in jeopardy; that is up to you as well. In the past, the blame directed at you was without merit. If you choose to continue without making personal changes to better your future, it will be entirely your own fault.

     

    You don’t have to be afraid of taking a new path because you have proof that you weren’t alone on the last one.

     

     

    It isn’t going to be easy to step forward into the unknown, and for a while, you may have to walk this path alone. You can do this. You can do this because you have proof that you did not actually need those defensive walls for the last 27 years. In fact, those walls were actually preventing you from having the life you so desperately wanted and worked hard to create. You have 27 years of proof that despite all of your fears, you had a woman who loved you so selflessly, she remained by your side in lieu of the pain it caused her. For 27 years you were so valued, wanted, and important to your wife that she sacrificed everything she could, including her own emotional well-being, in a determined attempt to break all of those unnecessary walls down. You were THAT LOVED.

    I am sure if you could get a “do-over” you would begin your relationship without the walls you thought you needed to keep her all those years. Hopefully you can (or will soon) realize that not a single one of the coping mechanisms you adopted in your youth contributed to the love and hope your wife had with you. In fact, it was almost certainly the brief moment that you abandoned your fears and took a risk of rejection, opening yourself up to being vulnerable, that your wife fell in love with you. If only you had kept yourself open when fear began to creep into your relationship; you would likely have left those defenses behind long ago and you would be in a marriage full of happiness, emotional reciprocity, and the intimacy you both deserve today. You never needed to bury your feelings with your wife because obviously… she would have just loved you more if you hadn’t. That was all she wanted from you all these years… to be open with her and to allow her to be open with you. But you didn’t know all of this before.  

    Now you do.

     

    SHE KNOWS YOUR PAIN   

    I never want to discount the pain that a single Aspie husband has endured.  The gravity of what you have been through is beyond words; it was horrific and it was unfair.  In a completely unintentional (and sadly ironic) way, your wife has now felt first-hand, everything you endured growing up. Without malice or intent, you accidentally put her through a very similar experience and felt caught off-guard when she wanted to put a wall up to protect herself from you.

    How?

    You inadvertently taught your wife that her feelings and thoughts were invalid. You inadvertently taught your wife that she would be blamed for any misunderstanding or negative outcome felt with communication. You inadvertently taught your wife that she did not matter, she was wrong, she was crazy, she was seeing reality in a distorted way, and that she could not even trust those she loved the most to understand her. You inadvertently made your wife feel broken and like she was an alien in your world. You inadvertently caused your wife to withdraw from socializing for fear of being judged and you inadvertently made your wife feel like no matter what she did, it would be perceived as wrong. You inadvertently caused your wife to endure the same feelings of alienation, isolation, and rejection that you experienced throughout your life.

     

    You were watching a replay of your own childhood…

    Only this time…

    Your wife got play you.

     

    God knows you would have never knowingly put your wife through the same horrific experience and feelings you had to fight your way through… right? 

    If you can truly begin to make sense of what I am saying and you want more than anything to have another chance with the woman you love… it begins with your own willingness to dig deep and begin uncovering the misunderstandings and pain that made you hide behind the walls that kept your wife at a distance all these years. It’s about acknowledgement and the honest desire to change behaviors that are no longer needed.

     

    FEAR OF LOSS IS THE CATALYST FOR CHANGE  

    Every day it is becoming more evident to me that changing a dynamic like ours, the Aspie-NT-e union, often comes on the heels of near ruin. It sucks that it takes the threat of such collapse to open our eyes to the alternate reality that has been running parallel to our own throughout the marriage, but it usually does.

     

    “YOUR THOUGHTS ARE NOT REALITY; WHAT IS HAPPENING AROUND YOU IS REALITY.”

     

    There is a simple reason that both sides fail to make the necessary changes it takes to prevent this common situation from occurring and it hinges on how we perceive reality.

    My husband John said the above quote to me one night when I was in tears trying to explain to him how much emotional pain I was in. I was begging for him to understand how miserable I felt inside and he was determined for me to see that I was creating my own misery (in my mind) and that none of it was actually “real.” John was not miserable, so my reality did not make sense to him. In response to John that night I cried, “This is REAL to me and therefore, should become real to you real fast! If you wait until this becomes the reality happening around you, it will be too late to stop it for both of us!”

    What I was trying to tell John is that it doesn’t matter if he can understand why I am experiencing pain that he cannot see, or how he could have caused emotional distress when he did not intend for it to occur… it didn’t matter if he was experiencing no pain himself personally… the only thing that mattered was that I WAS experiencing it, and his willingness to acknowledge it as valid was the only way he could help pull me out of it. Regardless of the reality John could tangibly identify, his reality was going to be transformed into the reality I was experiencing eventually if he kept ignoring it.

    Because of the mentality that my husband had (where reality was only what he could see and experience himself), he declined to consider an alternate one that could have prevented many years of unnecessary pain for his wife.

    It is that same thought process that leaves many Asperger husbands in shock and confused when their wife leaves them “suddenly.” Despite all of the NT-e wife’s desperate attempts to prevent the end of her marriage, until she makes it a tangible reality for her husband, he is not likely to care about feelings he is not experiencing. Unfortunately, by the time this tangible reality is happening around him, it might be too late to begin caring about his wife’s perception of reality enough to get the love of his life back.

    Very few NT-e/Aspie couples are living in the same reality; they are more likely to exist in two alternate realities that run parallel to one another. This is not an existence that a highly empathetic neurotypical can withstand without incredible sadness (even if she doesn’t understand why, she knows this is happening), and this is not an existence the Aspie husband even recognizes is present.

     

    Ok, so why IS IT HAPPENING then?

     

    These alternate realities occur because the NT-e spouse fails to understand that her husband cannot, and will not ever hear her words if they come by way of nonverbal messages. In his reality, this form of communication does not readily exist. The Aspie spouse fails to consider that there even is an alternate reality his wife is fully engulfed in.

    The big difference is that the NT-e wife is trying desperately to comprehend her husband’s world, while the Aspie husband doesn’t even see that such a concept could exist. For example, most NT-e women are highly in-tune with the emotions of those around them. She may be completely out of sync with her spouse’s specific emotions, but she is still fully aware they exist and that he is withholding feelings from her (provided they are not just fleeting thoughts). If her husband is angry over something and it lingers with him for a while, say a day or two, she is going to (without question) readily identify that her husband is “upset” and not sharing his thoughts with her. She may not have a single clue as to “why” her husband is upset, but she knows he is. If he denies it or remains reluctant to share with her, she feels unimportant, confused, and completely detached from the man she loves.

     

    She wants in on his reality!

     

    She wants in, because she loves him. He thwarts her attempts to open the very dialog that would help create emotional trust and intimacy between the two. There are few words to explain the level of hurt this causes the NT-e wife; it makes her acutely aware that her husband is living in a parallel reality to her own.

    This same NT-e wife will walk around sending nonverbal messages that she is upset for weeks and make some of them so obvious, it seems impossible that her husband could be missing ALL them. The Aspie husband may pick up on some pronounced behaviors or actions she makes, like throwing her clothing around in her closet, or scoffing under her breath so loud he cannot help but hear it… but he is still incredibly unlikely to pick up on the fact that this same underlying emotion has been ongoing for his wife for a long time. He is even less likely to confront his wife on the reason for her odd behaviors because he is fearful of her reason. He has become programmed to believe that any odd behavior means he is about to be blamed or criticized for something… and that is NOT a conversation he will willingly send an invite to.

    To the NT-e wife… her husband doesn’t give a damn about her feelings, nor does he give a damn about letting her into his personal bubble so she can understand him better. She has no idea that 98% of the communication she is reading and sending (day in and day out) is not visible to him in the slightest bit. The NT-e wife spends days, weeks, or even months feeling emotionally abandoned, while her husband continues on with his day oblivious to the fact that there’s another reality running parallel to his own.

    It is not until the NT-e wife is ready to walk out the door for good, that most husband’s with Asperger’s syndrome are willing to consider their wife’s perception of reality. If and when the Aspie spouse does open his eyes to his wife’s perspective on their interpersonal dynamic; you can bet he will be caught off guard at how dramatically it differs from his.

    We spend our whole lives convinced that our take on reality is the right one and we utilize every coping mechanism learned along the way to solidify that reality into cement. It takes a hell of a lot to get anyone (Aspie or NT) to look in the mirror and reflect on their words, behaviors, and/or actions long enough to consider that what they intended to communicate… may have been delivered so poorly on their behalf, that they unintentionally sent out some horrifically contradicting messages to the receiver on the other end. 

     

    Your inability to see your wife’s reality does not mean that is doesn’t exist.

     

    WHAT NEXT? A THING CALLED TIME AND SPACE

    You are in a place where you can begin to identify and accept the reality that your wife has been living in and allow it to manifest emotional empathy for her… that is what she needs. Your wife may not be ready or even willing to identify how to communicate without using nonverbal means so that you can hear her in the future.

    I can only suggest to you that you give your wife time; give her space. If her mind is made up, you are not going to change it by trying to force your way back into her life. Until you really work on your own past and uncover the reasons you put up walls, any attempt at reaching out to her will likely cause those walls to get thrown right back up the moment your internal warning bell sounds that you are under attack. Because your wife has reached the end of her emotional rope, it is likely every word she says to you in the immediately future will initially come across as exactly that… an attack.  

    When you are facing a potentially intense dialog like this in the aftermath of her decision to reclaim her emotional and physical health; it would be near-impossible for you to show her you can change… not when the odds you will default to your instinctive defenses are so incredibly high. If your wife does not yet understand why you behave the way you do, or realize there is zero ill-intention behind any of your words and actions… she is not going to be able to communicate with you in a way that enables your guard to drop enough to show her you have and will continue to change for her sake and the sake of your marriage.

    I understand that this is not the immediate fix a desperate Aspie husband will want when he is terrified of losing his wife, but that’s just the reality of our difficult dynamic.

     

    DON’T BE AFRAID

    You don’t need to live in fear, your wife still loves you. It is not for a lack of love that any woman would willingly suffer in a marriage that made them feel alone for so long. It is definitely not a lack of love that causes the majority of neurotypical wives to leave their Aspie husbands either… it is a loss of hope.

    As I said before, the fact that your wife sent you a link to my blog is an indication that she still has hope. If she still has hope, you have nothing at all to lose by allowing her to have the space and time she needs to remember why she fell in love with you, why she put herself through so much pain trying to remain by your side, and why you are worth the effort it will take to create a happy marriage in the future (together). Try to trust in the love she has clearly evidenced over the years and give her space while you work on yourself. 

    I would be remiss if I did not point out that while you have a whole lot of work to do on your end, it is your wife that holds the burden of learning a new language that is entirely foreign to her. Without cognitive empathy, you are not going to be able to do much to change the way you receive information from her, so that means she has to learn to deliver it in a completely new way that opposes everything she learned in life… it will not come natural to her and it will be incredibly challenging if she chooses to go down this road. Of course, this road is the only one that can bridge the communication gap you have had throughout your marriage.

    If you trust in what I am telling you, then trust that the most important thing you can do is change the way you respond to her when she is learning to speak in a foreign dialect. In other words, she is going to struggle to say things in plain English without the use of nonverbal communication and she will get frustrated and she will get angry that you cannot just understand her natural means of communicating. You will need to be patient, kind, open, and present through all of her attempts to learn this new method or she will abandon her efforts faster than you can imagine. In order to be all of those things for her, you have to go back to the drawing board and figure out how and why you meet interpersonal dialog with feelings of defensiveness. You cannot be defensive, argumentative, or dismissive of your wife’s attempts to communicate openly with you or you will lose her again. Having promised her to work on change and swearing that you empathize with what she has gone through… if you fuck it up and give her reason to think she was betrayed by you again… you won’t get her back the next time.

    Since we are all human and prone to error, you are going to fuck up and so is she, many times in your future. I am not suggesting you become some perfect husband who never allows for negative emotions or feelings to be expressed, not at all. What I am saying is that you can almost guarantee failure if you come at this marriage without taking a significant amount of time for yourself first; so you can work on identifying what it is you need to change. You can also almost guarantee failure if your wife opts to return to you and she has not accepted that you cannot utilize cognitive empathy. She does not have to be perfect in her attempts at removing nonverbal dialog to get messages across to you, but she does need to acknowledge that without including the verbal side appropriately, you are paralyzed to respond to her needs effectively and cannot be faulted for failing to meet her expectations.

    It is a lot to take in and I cannot cover it all in this post. What I want to leave you with is that it would actually be in your best interest to find a way to enable your wife the space she deserves. It is imperative she reclaim her sense of self to decide out of love (not guilt obligation, or fear) that she wants to spend the rest of her life with you. Allow for time apart so you can find your way back to the life you want together.

     

    NO REGRETS

    It doesn’t matter how long you have been married or how old you are, you still have the potential for many years of happiness together. Just as you shared, these years should be the best years of your life together, not the end of them.

    I do not believe that the length of our marriages depicts our chances at success, nor do I believe that our physical age determines our capacity for emotional growth. I have worked with the eldest of our society and can promise you… many have tales of finally “getting it” in their last years of life. These same (men) often report these years to be the happiest, even in their late 70’s. The only regret I consistently heard from such men was that they wish they had abandoned their stubborn defiance to change decades earlier… when they could have enjoyed many more years of happiness with the woman they loved (some of whom died too soon after they opened their eyes).   

     

    None of this is going to be easy.

    Life isn’t easy and you know this.  

     

    Your wife gave you 27 years of effort and willingness to change herself in any way she could think of to benefit your future together. Neither of you may have understood what was preventing those efforts from being effective during those years and that is understandable (unfair that it is that way for most Aspie-NT-e marriages… but understandable).

    There is zero reason to ever look for blame and every reason to abandon the idea that it is either of your fault things have gotten to the place they are today. It is your turn to give back the effort and willingness to change that your wife gave you for so long. It is time to begin changing the way you allow for open communication to occur with all of the people you value most. It is your turn to place the same level of faith in yourself that your wife had in you for nearly three decades. It is time to begin removing the ineffective and/or damaging coping mechanisms you learned when you had no other options.  

    You are not your past and you have options now. You have the absolute capacity to transform your future into one of happiness if you are willing to do some serious reflection on the past. The best way to do this is to educate yourself on cognitive and emotional (affective) empathy so that you can go back and begin making sense of everything that was misunderstood or went wrong before today.

    Don’t do this just do get your wife back, do it for yourself and for your children. There is a very good chance the woman you love will be waiting on the other side of your personal journey. She has already evidenced how long she was hanging on to the hope that you would do exactly that.

    Perhaps your wife will not ever understand on her own what caused the pain she experienced and you will be able to help her make sense of it in the future, so she can feel safe and at peace with the past enough to let the pain go. I would never recommend you try to strong-arm your way back into your wife’s life, but I will say that there is not an NT-e alive who would ignore a heartfelt letter from the man she loves, regardless of her intention to return to the marriage. With that being said, as you find yourself becoming more aware and growing both emotionally and in a way that enables you to break down some of the walls you built to keep other’s emotions at bay in your life… it wouldn’t hurt to take the time to write an email to your wife and share these things with her. It may not bring about the responses you want right away, but sharing this part of yourself can only help her begin trusting that you are empathizing with her and that you are not going to return to the same distant man who unintentionally caused her so much hurt. 

    Even if your story does not end with the two of you being together as husband and wife until death, you still hold the power to help your wife heal from the pain she has endured; you hold the power to give her a chance at happiness.

    Look around the internet for a while. It won’t take long for you to realize that there are countless neurotypical women who divorced their Aspie spouse and are still living in the same state of misery they felt the day they walked out the door. Divorce doesn’t answer the lingering confusion over how a love so good, turned so bad. Divorce doesn’t erase the love that was present and still exists long after the person is gone. Divorce doesn’t heal the residual pain that still chips away at the core of these women every day, and it definitely doesn’t make them feel stronger or more emotionally stable then they were when they left.

    It was love that brought most Aspie/NT-e couples together and it was a whole lot of miscommunication and misunderstandings coupled with fear that drove them apart. The only way to recover from the grief and guilt is to make sense of what occurred and to forgive each other and yourselves for something that was out of your control at the time.

    Asperger’s syndrome is nothing more than a cognitive difference in the way two people process nonverbal information… something that should be so simple to overcome if it is known early on… it becomes a hellish existence when no one understands what it means.

    It is not anyone’s fault. Nothing that happened yesterday is going to define your potential for happiness tomorrow. Give yourself a chance at change so you and your wife can be happy… even if you do not end up together. 

    I know from experience how terrifying it is to welcome change when we are already well-into our adult life, but I urge you to consider it. You don’t have to tell the same story of how you had an epiphany in your later years that you wish you were open to discovering when you still had so many years of potential happiness ahead of you.

     

    What do you have to lose when you already feel like you have lost the most important thing in your life?

     

     

     

    If you haven’t already done so, please read THIS POST on Asperger’s syndrome vs. Antisocial Personality Disorder. It is the first and most important one I have to begin explaining the difference between cognitive and emotional (affective) empathy. 


  • ASPERGER HUSBAND: WHY IS HE SO ANGRY?

    BECAUSE ANGER WORKS!

    OK, yeah… LET’S DO THIS!

     

    FIRST AND FOREMOST

    Is your Aspie husband angry?  My common sense dictates that if you clicked on this post, the answer is yes.  My common sense also tells me that this would be a “Yes!” answer for the majority of neurotypical women married to a man with Asperger’s syndrome (diagnosed or not).  While not every husband with Aspergers is angry to the point that it dominates every other emotion, there are many who are.  For these men, anger was a learned response toward those around them as a means to protect themselves against emotions they were unable to express or unable to comprehend (due to their cognitive empathy deficit).  Angry husbands are angry because somewhere along the lines (as children) they decided it was the one emotion that managed to effectively get them relief from frustration.  Their frustration stemmed from misunderstood emotions of their own and those they were close to, and these misunderstandings caused them internal pain.  When anger was identified as a potential relief from their pain, it solidified itself as the dominant “go-to” response to any emotion-evoking communication in their adult years.

    How this looks for an Aspie child:  A child is feeling hurt that their friend is not playing with them.  The friend keeps giving nonverbal reasons why they won’t play that the Aspie is not understanding. The Aspie child is unable to effectively express their hurt feelings and is growing frustrated with the friend, who continues to give ambiguous reasons (not clear direct ones).  When this Aspie child begins to feel overwhelmed with their frustration, they want their friend to go away from them for a little bit or at least stop talking.  They try to say this out loud and get a response filled with more ambiguous rationales from their friend that do not make sense to them.  Finally, the Aspie child becomes angry and says, “Get away from me!” with a loud and hostile voice and… the friend goes away from them.  The use of anger just became an effective way to manage emotions that feel overwhelming.

    Another example:  An Aspie child is feeling unloved because their sister is constantly getting praise about her good grades and talent playing the guitar.  The Aspie is feeling rejected that his parents don’t seem to notice the good things he is doing, or talents he has (like building a near-replica of a car he loves out of clay).  Despite his hard work, talent, and accomplishments, he hears his parents scold him for his poor grades and tell him to “Stop playing with his model clay and focus on school more.”  After a while, the inability to express why he is upset to his parents turns to resentment toward his sister and sadness that his parents aren’t giving him as much attention (as it would for any child).  The Aspie child then gets into an argument with his sister (as siblings do) and breaks one of the strings on his sister’s guitar while yelling that her “Guitar is stupid!”  The parents become aware of this hostile argument on behalf of the Aspie child and begin to shift attention and focus on him instead.  The Aspie child may not like being the focus of negative attention, but as children go, he is still finally getting what he wanted in the first place; his parent’s attention.  The parents begin to focus on their son and why he behaved in such an inappropriate way and (after scolding and punishing him) begin to pay more attention to him in an attempt to promote positive behaviors.  This Aspie child just learned that Anger can yield effective results… even if they initially bring about negative ones.

    Care for one more?

    An Aspie child is trying to repair his broken RC car and is frustrated because everything he has tried will not get it to start up again.  His mother comes out to help him (she knows nothing about RC cars) and keeps kindly asking what is wrong, how it broke, or what he needs to do to fix it.  His mom is attempting to deescalate his growing frustration and “help” him, but the Aspie child is not reading her vocal tones and facial expressions that say, “I’m sorry you are frustrated honey, I would like to help you if I can.”  All he is hearing is his mother asking him questions (that he obviously doesn’t know the answer to or the car would be fixed) and distracting him further from the task at hand.  The more his mom tries to offer her assistance, the more frustrated he becomes.  Unable to see her actions as thoughtful and kind ones, he gets so mad he throws the car at the wall and stomps off.  His mom yells at him for his behavior and takes his car away altogether as punishment.  After a few days, the mom feels a little bad her son’s favorite hobby has been taken away and brings him to the store to buy a new RC car to replace his broken one (or finds someone with the ability to fix his old one).  This Aspie child just learned that even if he acts out in anger, sometimes he gets positive results to the original source of emotional frustration.  The Aspie child just learned that his anger was effective in making his mom go away, as well as yielding something he wanted in the end, even if he had to endure a week-long punishment first.

    I could go on and on with examples of how these behaviors occur in a child’s social and emotional development, but you get the point.  If anger is not handled appropriately and better communication skills taught, some children grow into adults who use anger as a predominant means to resolve their emotional frustration before they consider any other option.  This happens for both NT and Aspie men alike, and these men grow into very angry and difficult adults that become very angry and difficult husbands.

    This post is meant to offer the cause, thought-process, and challenges associated with this level of dominant anger in a relationship.  The next post to follow will address how to manage an angry husband, how to begin teaching him to stop using anger as a means to get results, and how to begin building communication to prevent it from reoccurring in the future and damaging a marriage.

    If you are unsure if you live with an ANGRY ASPIE HUSBAND, put a mental checkmark beside the statements you have personally thought or said aloud:

    1. I am tired of walking on eggshells to avoid his hostile behavior
    2. He is so selfish about… (insert your own response): money, sex, time, housework, childcare, etc.
    3. He’s so negative, there is no way to get through to him that will make him change.
    4. I have been nothing but patient and he hasn’t gotten any better… in fact, he has gotten worse.
    5. I am so sick of being treated with disrespect.
    6. Every time I attempt to talk to him about a subject that has emotional content (of any kind) we get into a fight or he ignores me for days.
    7. Everything pisses him off, I can’t even exist in our own home without feeling uptight.
    8. He treats me bad and when I try to tell him it hurts me, he gets angry and nasty until I stop talking about his actions and have to internalize my pain.
    9. I know he has to be as miserable as I am or he wouldn’t seem so angry all the time; so why doesn’t he want to work on fixing it like I do?
    10. I don’t even think he loves me or wants to spend time with me anymore.
    11. When I cry he calls me horrible names or completely ignores my tears.
    12. All he does is blame me for his negative moods, why can’t he see that he causes his own negativity (and everyone else’s)?
    13. Maybe he was born mean and I just didn’t see it in the beginning?
    14. I keep searching online for why Asperger’s syndrome causes anger and nothing accounts for my husband’s hostility.
    15. The more I try to prevent his anger and fail, the angrier I become. I wasn’t an angry person before I met my husband and I am so tired of being angry all the time.
    16. Every attempt at fixing our marriage leads to more hostility from him, maybe I should just stop trying.
    17. He doesn’t seem to have any emotions other than apathy or anger.
    18. I don’t know what else to do but leave/divorce him.

    Once again, I can keep going all day with a million other examples or quotes I have said both aloud and to myself in regard to my husband’s chronic and escalating anger… but you get the point.  My husband is mad; he is mad at the interruptions in his routine, mad at the dog, mad at the way people attack him, mad at the poor internet connection in the house, mad at the person who drank the last bit of coffee creamer, mad at the things that prevent him from progressing as an adult, mad about his past, mad about his perception of the future, etc.  My husband is mad AT ME.  My husband is mad AT THE WORLD.  My husband doesn’t have a clue what he is even mad at… he just knows he is mad and he wants to make damn sure I know it too!

     

    BUT WHY IS HE SO MAD?

    My husband grew up thinking the world was out to prove he was a bad person.  Despite growing up with an amazingly loving and supportive family, the absence of cognitive empathy made it impossible for him to see all of the nonverbal messages of love that he was given day after day.  My husband only heard the literal words that were spoken to him and they never felt like love in his mind, they felt like chronic criticism.  Without cognitive empathy, my husband was unaware of the nonverbal messages he was personally sending to those he interacted with.  He could never see that he came across as angry or dismissive and therefore, was responded to with equal anger and dismissiveness.

    All of this confusion that gets generated into feelings of internal pain, created by the perception that those around him had unfairly labeled him a bad person.  All of this injustice made him respond outwardly with anger… and that anger protected him or yielded desired results.  Even if it was only effective 1 out of 10 times, it was more effective than any other emotion he learned to utilize in response to his social interactions, so it became the one that ruled.

    ANGER BECAME MY HUSBAND’S DEFAULT EMOTION

    Does my husband have the self-awareness to identify and openly admit to how mad he always seems to feel?  Nope.  Does my husband know he is taking his anger out on the women who are trying desperately to love him and prevent him from feeling so mad?  Nope.  Does my husband think he is behaving in a way that even indicates he is feeling angry?  Nope.  Does my husband realize that he has caused his wife and stepdaughter to feel angry in response to him? Nope.

    Does my husband’s anger serve as an outlet for ALL of the other emotions he experiences as an adult (sadness, guilt, fear, anxiety, jealousy, rejection, blame, etc.); the emotions he does not know how to identify or even begin to deal with?

    YES!

     

    HE’S BEGINNING TO OPEN HIS EYES

     

    My husband said something very powerful to me a few weeks ago that really got me thinking about how to tackle the topic of anger and how it is ruining marriages that could otherwise be successful.  It is difficult to express to an outsider what it is like to live with a constant threat of hostility from your husband, or to try to explain how his use of anger trumps every other human emotion neurotypicals experience in a given year, month, week, or even day.  Since I haven’t any doubt that “Asperger’s syndrome and Anger” is a subject matter that begs of answers from those in marriages like mine, I am going to take a crack at explaining what is happening beneath the surface for you.

    Less than a month ago, I was attempting to clean my messy closet for the hundredth time in weeks and despite struggling to have enough energy to tackle this cluttered disaster, I managed to find the drive to attempt it.  I had been throwing loads of clean clothes onto the floor for days, where a blanket served as the buffer to keep them “clean” enough to put them away when I finally got around to it.  I had been working long consecutive shifts at the hospital and daunting as it seemed, organizing my closet felt like an accomplishment that might make my mind feel less disordered, so I knew it was important for me to do this.

    Midway through the job (surrounded by clothes and stacks of random documents and books) I was caught off guard by my husband John (who sat on the bed near my closet) vocalizing a muddled remark about our daughter (his stepdaughter) before he abruptly walked out of the room.  I felt a twinge of angry poison spilling into my bloodstream and followed my husband out to the back porch to challenge the snarky comment he had just made.

    My husband had been impenetrably antagonistic with me for days over a topic that I wanted to resolve… so that our family could move forward as a functioning unit.  Every attempt I had made at bringing this topic up with John (in the previous week) had failed miserably and led to a backlash of venting rage (directed at me).  The topic was about positive parenting and how he and his stepdaughter had lost the ability to enjoy one another’s company.  I desperately wanted to see that change for the better, so I kept working at it.

    Despite John making a snide remark while I was attempting to clean, I opted to approach his clear desire to engage me on the issue once more, in the hopes I could spin it into a calm and meaningful chat.  I even had a split second thought that a solution or plan could come out of this new attempt.  As I sat down on the porch to engage my husband, I intended to share positive suggestions I had to help rebuild the damage that was inadvertently done (by him mostly), that severed the relationship they once had.  I did not assign blame to him alone (for obvious reasons) but that did not stop John’s knee-jerk response of bitter anger.  John perceived my thoughtful advice as an attack on his character and a list of reasons he was to blame for everything my daughter had ever done to misbehave or dodge accountability and household responsibility.  I do not believe my daughter is anything but a loving and kind soul who has gone out of her way (and beyond her expected level of maturity) to be patient and understanding with her stepfather, so despite agreeing that she has been complacent with personal responsibility lately (she is only 16-years old), I found his synopsis of her general behavior to be unwarranted and unnecessarily cold.

    I am not bullshitting when I say that I have an extraordinarily mature and compassionate daughter (“B”) whose empathy and grace astounds me daily.  The more aggressively John came at me, suggesting his stepdaughter was an irresponsible spoiled brat, the more aggressively I defended her.  Since John fails to see the phenomenal woman she is becoming, I feel resentful toward him each and every time he criticizes her without ever acknowledging her remarkable character and strength.  All of my efforts to help them rebuild a positive relationship have always focused around convincing John to give her acknowledgement first, so that she will feel motivated to respond to him with love when he points out a flaw or poor behavior she has.  John staunchly refuses to do this, so each time he responds to me with such a defiant stance of refusal to show B love, I lose the ability to entertain anything else he has to say about her.  Actually, the more he does this, the more I want to jump across the room and jab my fingers into his eyeballs… but that is just an internal thought I do not openly share.

     Moms can be psychotically protective of their children, and I am no exception.

    I could sense my own “mom-rage” escalating, so I quietly returned to my messy closet to distract myself from the failed communication attempt we just had.  I was unable to disengage from the resentment I felt toward my husband for his words and I was heartbroken that my efforts, meant to bring closeness and love between my daughter and husband, were dissected and deemed irrelevant by him instead.  I sat in the middle of my closet and felt the tears welling up in my eyes and a knot in my throat.  I could literally feel the acid in my stomach climbing its way upward toward my esophagus to remind me how physically impaired I am becoming these days in addition to my diminished mental capacity (from being overworked and sleep deprived mostly).  It is hard to describe the feeling of energy draining from your body, but I felt mine was literally leaking out of me.  It felt like my core was hollowed out rather quickly and my entire body felt useless.  My butt was planted on the cold tile of my closet floor as I attempted to continue weeding through months of documents (bills, work stuff, personal writings, etc.) hoping to bring a small bit of tangible order to the chaos of my life.  With my chest burning (from a likely ulcer I have yet to do anything about) and an overwhelming sense of impending doom, I fell to my knees and clutched my head in my hands as I dug my elbows into the cold, hard surface beneath them.

    I was tired, my body was tired, my brain was tired, and all I could think about was how much John breaks my heart when he comes at me (or my daughter) with an anger that only he seems to possess.  I began to quietly sob (I did not want John to hear me).

    To my surprise, John appeared behind me and hovered behind my body for some time… silent.  He stood there for several minutes and finally asked me what “was wrong?”  He asked me to get off the floor, and eventually… he asked me to stop “being ridiculous.”  I did not have the desire or energy to even respond to him, so I remained lost in my own sadness and did not move.  I did not move for well-over ten minutes, but John remained upright behind me in the closet doorway.  He continued to ask me to get up every minute or so with no response from me.  He continued to ask me what was wrong, with no reply on my part.  In a soft and gentle tone of voice, my husband began to speak with words that mattered.  He said, “Kara, I don’t know what to say.  I don’t know what you want me to say.  I know that you know what I should say… but I don’t. I’m afraid of saying the wrong thing and making it worse.”

    I remained in the same position (not purposely, I just truly felt too weak to get up) and did not respond.  My husband then stepped into the closet and closed the door behind him, shutting out the light from the bedroom so we were enclosed in a tiny space together, in total darkness.  He remained silent for a few minutes, as did I.  Then John did something I would have never imagined him to do; he sat down on the cold floor behind me and scooped up my fragile statue-like self and pulled me in close to him.  He held me tight in his arms and put his head on my back.  He told me that he didn’t want to see me hurting and that he just didn’t know what to say.

    For what felt like an eternity, John held me close and tried (with all his ability) to communicate with me.  I remained silent with only pathetic sniffles to offer in response to his effort.  A year ago, my audible sound of crying (meek as it was), would have sent John into a terribly cruel flurry of words suggesting I was a “dramatic mess” who needed mental health counseling.  John did not do this.  He just sat on the floor of my closet with his arms wrapped snuggly around me.

     

    BUT WE HAVE COME SO FAR… 

    John and I have come a million miles from where we stood less than a year ago, but we still have a ton of “unresolved” issues that continue to rear their ugly faces; they come without any warning of their impending visit and always ruin a day that could have been wonderful.  Actually, the only residual glitches that still threaten to destroy our otherwise happy marriage belong to John’s surface personalities, Mr. Mean, Mr. Rage, Mr. Defiance, Mr. Antagonistic, and Mr. ANGER.  No matter what I try to do to protect my husband’s wonderful personality from being temporarily morphed into one of these bastards, they always manage to arrive with more power and attitude than the time before.  Despite John holding me close and behaving in a way I was NOT used to, (it stunned me into silence… I am not even kidding), I still found myself bracing for the arrival of one of those body-snatching jackasses to begin talking on my husband’s behalf.

    John’s evil exterior personalities never showed up that night.  Instead, John began to talk about what was wrong, without me requesting anything from him.  He told me he knows “exactly what is wrong with our relationship.”  Despite his next words being an understatement of the obvious and something I had easily identified around the six-month mark of our union, John spoke with an odd sense of pride that he had stumbled on something valuable.  He said, “We don’t know how to communicate with one another” and “I am the one who fails at this the most.”

    It never occurred to me that John had never shared his thoughts on why we struggled for so long until that night.  Maybe he did not grasp what I meant when I kept throwing similar statements out there for half a decade… maybe it finally made sense to him?

    John continued to talk openly (often with excessively long pauses in between words or thoughts).  He reflected on how hard he had been trying lately by saying, “I know I do not have a job right now, but I have been trying SO hard to make our home “my job” and to work really hard at making it nice, the way you always asked me to, so that I can show you that I care.”  I let him talk.  He continued on to say, “I know it is not the same as the responsibilities you have to make money for our family, but it is all I can do right now on this island.  I have been trying to show you that I can put my effort into compensating for what I cannot do… until I can begin working when we get back to the states.”

    Where John’s words would have felt like an excuse in the past, they were not this time around because he truly had been working his ass off to change the previous lazy behavior he displayed when it came to basic adult responsibilities.  John had been in Michigan doggedly working all summer (from refinishing a basement to working in heating and cooling with his father) and he brought home more money from those three months of true effort than he had contributed in our 5.5-year long relationship.  When he returned to the island we live on, he continued his efforts and began to finally do all that I had asked of him for so many years.  I used to beg him to just try to match some of his efforts working in the home to the effort I put forth working outside the home, but he never would.  John has really made me feel both acknowledged and valued with his physical labors lately (and when he was working this summer).  Because I did not want him to ever think his efforts went without notice, I broke my frozen silence and said, “I know you have and I am so appreciative of everything you have been doing lately.”

    To this, John seemed to soften a bit more and push the conversation a little further than he had ever before.  He began talking about our daughter again; I felt like the party-crashers were on the way in, so I quickly asked him if he could stop talking about that subject right now because it would only fuel anger that I find too difficult to dial back.  I told him that discussing B got us “nowhere fast” in the end anyway.  He replied by telling me that he was not “angry” he was “hurt.”  Without intending to sound like a bitch, I softly (but firmly) fired back, “Maybe it is hurt you feel inside, but all I see is anger.  You are always SO ANGRY about everything John.  You are so angry I feel like I cannot get past that emotion enough to ever address the real ones you are feeling.”

    My husband then validated something I had long-believed to be the real reason behind his constant state of hostility.  He said, “I don’t know what to say, ever, so I say nothing.  I feel so many things inside, but I don’t know how to explain them to you, so I get angry.  It is so much easier for me to be angry all the time than try to explain the other things I am feeling.  I don’t know how to talk about those things Kara.”

    What an INCREDIBLE thing to hear my husband finally articulate to me in words, as he held me in his arms on the floor of my dark closet.  I paused for a few minutes to make sure John was finished talking and then gently asked him, “Why?”  John continued to try to explain his anger by telling me that when he was young, he didn’t understand why people were always accusing him of things or telling him he was wrong (mind you, John has NEVER read any of the posts in this blog that talk about my thoughts on his childhood).  He said that because of his inability to understand the emotions other people directed at him, he became angry in response because it was just, “So much easier.”

    I found myself crying again (quietly) as he spoke these words to me and mumbled, “You can’t like feeling angry all the time John, it has to hurt.”  John replied, “Yeah, I guess it does.”  I figured this was my best shot at getting “buy-in” from him to begin changing his anger, so I asked, “Don’t you want to stop feeling angry all of the time?”  John told me that he did desire the ability to replace his anger with appropriate emotions, but due to his difficulties sharing them, or even making sense of them in his own mind, he often preferred to take the “easy road” and default to anger because it was an instant defense to shut people out and ignore the real emotions he had.

    Getting angry gave my husband the smoke and mirrors he needed to get the hell outta dodge…

    before anyone noticed how “screwed up” his mind was.

    John held me in his arms for over 30-minutes that night as we spoke in a near-whisper, with his face pressed up against the back of my head; on a closet floor; in pitch blackness.  Weird but… maybe this is just the kind of thing Aspie-NT couples have to do to engage one another in a conversation that does not involve anger?  Maybe they need to be boxed into a confined space in the darkness where yelling or running seem like less viable options?

    Eventually, I was able to peel myself off the floor and take medicine (that John brought me) to soothe my burning gut.  By the time we stood up to attempt normal human functioning, we both felt calm and closer to one another.  We both felt heard, we both felt loved, and we both agreed to work harder at communicating better.

    Our daughter B had been watching movies with her boyfriend “A” during the entire exchange John and I were having outside of their awareness.  It was getting late and A had to be driven home (school night) so I began to tell them it was getting close to “go” time.

     

                    B’s boyfriend lives across the island and because of the limited availability of reliable used vehicles here, and the challenge in getting a teenager a driver’s license for the first time (if their parents do not hold a license for the island), neither he nor B have the potential of driving themselves to and from social engagements with one another.  Unfortunately, a simple trip to one another’s home takes a solid 90-minutes out of the parents day/evening to accomplish.  John bitches about this often, but it is usually something I feel worthy of committing my time to because A is just as freakishly kind and compassionate as B is; as teenagers, the typical fear a parent would have of allowing them social engagements (outside of school) does not apply to these two.  John often starts arguments with me about our daughter’s “teenage crush” and attempts to squash her “fantasy” of marrying A someday.  While I would have agreed with this fantasy-future under most circumstances of teenage love, I have surprisingly viewed my daughter’s first boyfriend as an actual possibility for her future. 

                    I truly appreciate the relationship B has found at such an early age and often pray that she and A will defy the odds of building their high school love into a life together.  They are both more comparable to old souls who would rather concoct a plan to save the planet then engage in a make-out session.  They just seem to be meant for one another in a way few mothers would be willing to consider and A’s mom has shared the same sentiments with me.  In fact, just the other night she and I were messaging one another and she commented that she used to wish B was a “little asshole” so she could find fault in her that deemed her unworthy of her son’s love.  Ultimately, she said she just couldn’t find a single reason to feel anything but love for the incredible child I have been blessed with and that she too, embarrassingly hopes they end up together because she cannot fathom her son would ever again find a girl so perfectly matched to his empathetic and delicate heart.  Our children both had father’s with suspected bipolar disorder and while B’s dad killed himself, A’s dad theoretically did the same with substance abuse; they were both abandoned by their biological fathers for life.  Despite raising two emotionally fragile and deeply caring children, the path of sadness and loneliness we thought they were destined to travel, seemed to veer off into happiness and passion for life when they met one another.  It helps that they are both unapologetically honest with their mother’s (almost to a fault); there are some things a kid just doesn’t tell their parent and these two don’t seem to grasp that concept. 

                     John gets angry when I talk about how much I like A or how much I think they are different from typical teenagers.  He seems to want to prove this theory wrong or convince me that B is not the honest and responsible teenager I know she is (I tried to consider myself naïve and doubt her maturity… but she has proven me wrong to date and now warrants my continued faith in her).  John and I have had many arguments over my willingness to support our daughter’s ability to see her boyfriend outside of school and calls me “stupid” a lot for trusting her to make good decisions in regard to sex and safety.  I have tried to tell John if he took the time to talk to A, he would realize what a phenomenal young man he is and that he may even enjoy being a mentor to him, since A has a passion for cars much the same way John does.  With cars being one of John’s special interests, I know that A would be delighted to learn from him and fascinated by the amount of knowledge he has to share.  I also know that it would bring my husband an incredible feeling of pride to be able to teach a young man like A everything he knows, both because he loves when he can share his interests with others, and because we will never have a son of our own that he can share the typical “father-son” activities with that I know A would be thrilled to have (A does have a wonderful stepfather who raised him and shares these things with him).  Whenever I bring up the suggestion that, “You should talk to A” with John, he immediately shoots it down and tells me he “doesn’t like him.”  I accept that John is applying logic to the whole teenage-relationship dynamic, so I usually stop the urging immediately after he dismisses it. 

                     It has long-since occurred to me that if John and A could spend a little time together working on cars, talking about them, or watching car-focused shows; it might enable a closer relationship with John and his own daughter.  Since B is smitten by A, if John would willingly accept his presence in our household (even if he believes he will be a distant memory after we move), the four of us might be able to go out together for a day of fun activities.  As it stands, the three of us cannot make it through a single outing without John saying something offensive to B that I end up admonishing him for (the very second I recognize her nonverbal expressions of sadness or anger).  I believe John instigates this common dynamic because he feels alienated by the bond B and I have with one another and the way we are constantly communicating with nonverbal messages he does not hear.  I haven’t any doubt that the words we DO end up saying out loud get lost in translation without the words we are not vocalizing, and this leads to chronic misinterpretations from where John stands, causing him to make snarky comments in our direction.  This happens without fail every single time we try to go out with one another as a family, so we rarely attempt it these days.  Because of my desperate desire to still be able to leave our damn house as a family, I believe that adding A to the mix could enable this to peacefully occur.  If there was one more person to offset John feeling like the third wheel in our outings, he would undoubtedly behave in a less threatened manner (experience has proven this to be true).  To be able to have fun outings together without the incessant intrusion of hostility, B would get more time to see the wonderful side of her stepfather that has been invisible to her in the last two years. 

    Of course, all of this was only wishful thinking for me…

    until the night I became a paralyzed disaster on my closet floor….

    As I was getting dressed to take A home, John volunteered to do it himself, something I found very thoughtful since I did have to wake up at 4 a.m. and it was already almost 9 p.m.  I graciously accepted his offer and spent the remaining two hours alone in my house with a sense of peaceful calm.  My husband had openly communicated with me and physically showed me he was willing to drop himself onto the cold ground in darkness, if that was what he needed to do to show me I was not alone anymore.  There were few words that could express how much this meant to me.

    B would later reflect on this car ride and tell me that John had engaged her boyfriend A for the first time that night and the two of them spent the entire drive across island talking about their love of cars.  She shared how John even expressed to her that he liked A very much and was “impressed” with his knowledge.  I could tell by the light in my daughter’s eyes that John’s willingness to connect with someone she found important, made her feel equally valued by her stepfather for the first time in a long time.  B also said that the remainder of the car ride back to our house was filled with John being silly, kind, and compassionate toward her and she felt like he “actually liked” being around her.  I did not know this experience ever transpired after the “closet-incident” until last week, when B was crying about John’s insensitivities once again (how she felt deflated by his anger) after he had just given her so much hope things were improving between them.

    UH OH…. Our daughter is beginning to respond to John’s anger with the same level of personal devastation that her mother has felt….

     SHIT… SOMETHING’S GOTTA CHANGE, AND IT’S GOTTA CHANGE FAST!

     

    WHAT HAPPENED?

    Despite John stepping outside his comfort zone that night, enough to perfectly respond to my pain, and despite John abandoning his opinions on B and her boyfriend long enough to give my suggestion a chance (making B feel loved) …. John’s anger still proved to be insurmountable within a few days of that amazing night.  It was only two days later that he and I were right back at square one, as he aggressively vented about B’s behavior to me and then viciously yelled at me when I attempted to offer suggestions to bridge their communication gap once more.  It was within a week that John’s anger boiled over to the point of verbally screaming at B and calling her “AN ASSHOLE” while I was at work (something that took all of my willpower to not physically attack him for).  It was inconceivable that despite all of the incredibly difficult effort he put into finding the words to express his feelings and love that night on the closet floor… he had once again been absorbed by his incessant need to act out in anger.

    WHY??????

    While there are “specific” causes that my husband would point out for what fueled his “justified” anger once again, I realized that I was doing something terribly wrong this entire time in the way I responded to it.  My husband disclosed to me that he used his anger to gain control over his confusing emotions and to take control back from me when I expressed emotions he had difficulty processing.  Why didn’t I break down the simplicity of this a long time ago?

    IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN ABOUT CONTROL!

     

    CONTROL

    Most NT-e women are bright enough to realize that inappropriate expressions of emotions have an underlying purpose… to gain control over one’s own feelings.  We know this.  This makes perfect sense.  Despite being cognitively aware of the root cause, we continue to allow our Aspie husband’s to control our emotions and feelings.  We give our husband’s the very thing they are seeking to obtain when they aggressively come at us with anger.

    We give them power and we give them control.

    We continuously validate their actions as being effective ones and we enhance their use of them to acquire greater power over us in the future.

     

    IN THE BEGINNING

    When we first met and subsequently fell in love with our Aspie husbands, they treated us well.  They may not have had the skills of a neurotypical man to identify our nonverbal messages and desires (and be able to appropriately respond to them), but they were generally loving and kind men who made us feel valued.  Even if there always lacked the intense emotional connection and deep understanding of one another’s feelings that NT-NT relationships experience, there was an emotional connection in our Aspie-NT union, and it was just as real and warm as we thought it was at the time.

    So what happened then, if our husbands were once able to show us attention, respect, interest, attraction, love, and kindness?  What happened to that gentle, intelligent man we fell in love with?  What happened to the man we were utterly convinced lacked the capacity to ever cause us emotional pain or inflict malicious displays of anger toward us?

    SERIOUSLY… WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO THOSE MEN?!?!?

    They got us; that’s what happened. They secured our love and commitment, and they no longer felt the threat of losing us.  This absent “fear of loss” enabled a complacency in the effort it took for them to gain our affection in the first place.

    Is it that simple?

    If it is… then doesn’t that make them assholes?

    No… not at all.

    This same change in behavior occurs with many NT husbands who go from seemingly perfect to shockingly selfish, withdrawn, and angry men… somewhere in the midst of the relationship arriving at a monotonous daily existence.  This happens for the same reasons with both NT and Aspie husbands.  The difference is, Aspie men are far more internally focused and oblivious to the wants and needs of their partner than the NT men are.  Aspie men did not begin with exceptional communication skills, nor did they ever have the cognitive empathy to identify the nonverbal messages they were receiving or putting out to the women they loved.  Aspie men were always missing the majority of information that NT men were capable of receiving, so this caused their dramatic shift to appear a billion times more severe and intolerably cruel than that of the equally angry NT man.

     

    IT ALL STEMMED FROM SECURING OUR LOVE?

    Most men are inherently similar in the sense that the majority of them have fragile egos (call it nature or nurture, this is an unarguable fact that no amount of research will ever disprove).  Men hate the concept of being rejected by someone they desire; they hate this thought far more than they hate the concept of living in an unhappy relationship.  Of the men who possess this instinctive drive to protect their ego, there are men who are exceptional communicators.  These men tend to form healthy and happy relationships and their ego is suppressed in favor of mutual respect and appreciation.  Then there are the men who are so incredibly inept when it comes to social skills (think of the “nerd” stereotype given when someone first hears the term Asperger’s syndrome), that they rarely make it past the second date with a woman to form a long-term relationship (although sometimes they are lucky and find a woman equally challenged in social function to co-exist with).

    Finally, there are the Aspie husbands like my husband John, and all of your husbands.

    These men fall somewhere in between the other two, but almost in a parallel universe despite having the common bond of a fragile male ego.  Men like our husbands have learned enough social etiquette (be it from family, friends, casual observations, failed attempts at forming relationships, watching movies, reading books, etc.); they have learned enough to effectively start relationships that appear emotionally healthy and positive in the beginning.  These men put all of their efforts and energy into the early days of “securing” the woman they want to be with, and it is just enough for the women to miss the cues that something will be terribly lacking a few short steps down the road.

    For men like this (most of our Aspie husbands) … the duration of their relationship will be entirely dependent on the tolerance and endurance the NT woman is able to manifest along the way.  By the time the relationship evolves to legally joining as husband and wife, the NT spouse knows damned-well her husband once had the capacity to communicate in a non-hostile way, and she knows he is more than capable of interacting with her without utilizing anger in response to every communication attempt she makes… she knows this because she has seen him do it!!

    What she does not realize, is that her husband (and those like him) are thoroughly exhausted from their previous efforts to secure the relationship; it was the greatest social challenge they ever took on in their entire life.  Once these men no longer feel threatened that they will lose their wife, they succumb to the level of effort they really “want” to put forth in their social exchanges.  They might still respond to the fear of losing their wife intermittently, when they feel threatened by another man for instance (that ego is still there).  In rare instances like this, their efforts may be combated the way they initially tried to secure their wife.  Considering these men miss most nonverbal messages that even indicate a potential threat on the horizon, and they certainly do not have a clue they are in danger of losing their wife by their own poor behaviors, they do not respond to them with any degree of urgency to step up and protect their prize.  Aspie men are a million times less likely to ever identify that their negative behavior is a looming threat to the relationship because they lack the cognitive empathy to identify the nonverbal messages their wife is sending them to sound the alarm bells of potential calamity.

    The entire time the Aspie husband begins to slowly withdraw his exhaustive effort to “secure” his wife, the NT wife is enacting the worst possible means of responding to his withdrawal.  The NT wife will try to push more love, more effort in communicating, more verbalized feelings of disconnect, more displays of patience and understanding, and way more submissive behaviors… all in an attempt to nonverbally scream to her husband that their relationship is in danger.  All the NT wife wants is to have her husband GO BACK to the man she fell in love with.

     

    CHANGE BACK TO THE WAY YOU WERE… PLEASE CHANGE BACK!

    NT wives want their husband to return to the gentle, calm, kind man he once was; the man who put effort into treating her like a valued and cherished prize he was lucky enough to win.

    Aspie husbands are not going to do this on their own!

    Once they feel they have secured the relationship, they will exert only the bare minimum amount of effort needed (in their mind) to maintain it.  This is not because they do not love you, it is because the sheer magnitude of debilitating energy it took to obtain your commitment (in the first place) surpassed all of the combined energy they ever exerted in their lifetime toward any interpersonal relationship (about 100X more).

    Ultimately, the real reason Aspie husbands show lessening efforts as the years dredge on is because…

    YOU LET THEM GET AWAY WITH IT!!!

    Your Aspie husband’s declination in expending emotional and physical energy to show his love for you is inadvertently your fault because you allowed him to do this.  As he began withdrawing effort (because the threat of losing you was gone), he was NOT met by a wife who refused to tolerate his unwanted behavior.  Instead, he was met with a bewildered woman who did not understand what the hell happened and went out of her way to stick it out as she tried to uncover the reason.  As the NT wife searched for answers for her husband’s changing behavior, the husband realized (consciously or not) that he could sustain the marriage without having to exert any more effort than he was currently offering.

    Why would he exhaust himself proving a love that he no longer had to prove (in his mind)?

     

    WHY MESS WITH A SYSTEM THAT WORKS?

    How many times have you watched men fix up a broken piece of machinery, from an old car to a junkie lawnmower, and insist that they will not purchase a new one because the old one “STILL WORKS”?

    When bad behavior or minimal effort is “working” to keep their wife in the marriage…

    there is no reason for an Aspie husband to mess with their “functioning” system by adopting new behaviors.

    Eventually, I am going to take the lawnmower example to the extreme to show you how Angry-Aspie husbands will continue using something that works (anger) at the risk of time, energy, frustration, money, or quality… if they believe it still works for them.  I am going to show you how it does not matter if their lawnmower (anger) only yields results 10% of the time they use it… they will continue to use it and ignore any other lawnmower (positive emotion) that could replace the broken one based on their 10% success rate.

     

    THE ASPIE LAW OF CHANGE

    Let’s say an Aspie husband has an old junkie lawnmower that he has had (and fixed up) for many years which drives his wife insane.  Even if this man knew he could easily purchase a brand new, state of the art lawnmower that took fractions of the energy to mow the lawn that his old one did… he is not going to abandon it until it is completely broken and unquestionably useless.  Even if this lawnmower loudly screams down the yard while emitting noxious fumes to the entire neighborhood, the Aspie husband is going to keep on using this beast until it catastrophically fails for the last time and he has absolutely NO OTHER CHOICE but to find a new one.

     Remember, like this lawnmower, your Aspie husband’s anger has nothing to do with the overall functionality of success it yields (and this is the most bizarre part), he will willingly accept the ONE time that his angry behavior accomplishes its intended purpose over the THIRTY times it does not.

     To your Aspie husband, that ONE time his anger yields the desired result he was seeking,

    is enough validation that his behavior WORKS;

    and when something works, it is worth repeating.

     

          TRACKING?

     

     

    If not, let me try to clarify:  If your husband has to deal with 49 intense, aggressive, and emotionally debilitating arguments with you before you willingly concede to his side being the RIGHT ONE… he will do it.  If your husband tries to use anger as a means to thwart or stop an emotionally-charged conversation with you, and 1 time out of 50 times you break down and cry or run away instead of fighting back or pushing the subject matter… he will continue to do it.  He will always willingly endure the 49-shit storms that do not end with him being proven right or you abandoning a topic he does not want to discuss, for that ONE TIME he gets you to back down and allow his angry behavior to dominate your better judgement.  Even if it is wreaking physical and emotional damage on him personally to go through those 49 other fights, it will not matter.  The effort and collateral damage is worth it to him because the idea of changing his behavior is FAR MORE daunting than going with the one he is acclimated to using as a default to get his way, avoid confrontation, or prove a point.

    You can spin yourself in circles and try every single possible means of altering your husband’s angry behavior, but you will fail overall if you allow him to get away with it…

    even if it is only 1 out of every 50 times.

    Maybe you disagree with this concept.  Perhaps you have been imploring the new knowledge you have about cognitive empathy and you are finding your marriage slowly (but steadily) improving.  Maybe you once had a 95% failure rate in meaningful communication and now you only have a 15% failure rate.  While that would be amazing (and I am super stoked for you) … if that 15% failure rate is because of your husband’s anger… you are nowhere closer to success than you were when communication failed 95% of the time!

    I am not talking about abolishing angry feelings in general, you are both human and you are both going to get angry from time to time.  Being angry on occasion is perfectly acceptable.  Vocalizing anger can also be accepted and/or forgiven by both parties in the future (and should be), because anger is a natural human emotion.  What I am talking about is your husband’s use of anger to achieve, avoid, or justify something in the marriage.  I am talking about a husband who responds with anger over any other emotion, even if he can later identify the true feelings he had and apologize for his initial response of hostility.

    I am talking about a husband who uses anger as a means of obtaining power and control.

     

    If you allow your husband to do this… ever…

     from this day forward…

    you will not make a single step of progress in your marriage.

     

    Sorry to burst the bubble of happiness you had going for you after years of sadness, but this is important.  I know it feels like progress now that you have a better understanding of “why” he acts the way he does, and it is a step in the right direction, but it is not actual “progress” until he changes the behavior that is the most toxic to your marriage.  If your husband has learned to use anger as a dominant means to respond to conflict, your husband is always going to default to this instinctive behavior, even if he has grown enough to begin reflecting on a fight and apologizing after the fact.

    You may be thrilled he can now acknowledge and apologize after he has handled a situation poorly with his anger, but again, this is not “progress” toward a happy marriage.  It is not progress because each time he defaults to hostility, you will feel the same level of disrespect, devastation, and pain that you felt when he never returned later to apologize.  If you continue to feel that your husband does not value, love, or respect you… even if it is once in a blue moon… it is still ONE TOO MANY TIMES and has no place in a marriage.

    Think about it like this…   If an abusive husband beats his wife daily and then attends counseling (which motivates the wife to give the marriage a second chance), would it be acceptable if he only beat her once a year, perhaps on New Year’s Eve?

     

    FUCK NO IT WOULDN’T BE!!!!

     

     

    Why wouldn’t it be?  Because that behavior is destructive to ever having a mutually beneficial marriage based off of love and respect.  It is not acceptable, in any regard, even “once in a blue moon.”  The wife who convinces herself that it is alright to take an “annual beating” because she is so thankful she no longer has to endure them daily… she needs to wake up.  The wife that convinces herself he will get better because he has come “so far” in his efforts… she is going to be sorry.  If a physically abusive man claims he has changed his ways and defaults to physical violence ever again, the woman in his life can count on the fact that at some point… the stress in his life will bring the daily beatings back.  They will return, and they may return at a more lethal level, because he has not learned that this violent response is NEVER acceptable and never going to yield him the result he was seeking when he unleashed its fury. Accepting a return to violence even once is equivalent to accepting it 100% of the time because it reinforces the knowledge that when all else fails… THAT WILL WORK.

     

    If your Aspie husband believes that anger can effectively get the results he wants: to prove he is right, his opinion is correct, his actions, or method of doing something is just…  he will continue to default to it every time…

     UNTIL IT NO LONGER PRODUCES ONE SINGLE DESIRED RESULT!

    HOW COULD THEY NOT GRASP THIS?

    Aspie men have endured a lifetime of being told they are wrong, their thoughts are incorrect, and their behaviors or emotional responses are abnormal or inappropriate.  They grow up in a world that does not know they lack cognitive empathy and therefore, they grow up in a world that treats them like an alien from another planet when they openly express their perception of reality (which may vary greatly from the majority).  Aspie men have been groomed by a society of “naysayers” and social injustices that had them fighting “their” take on reality every step of the way.

    Some boys and men with Asperger’s syndrome submit to the masses and isolate themselves from social interactions altogether….

    These are NOT the Aspie husbands we are married to!

    We are married to the special group of Aspie men who have such an internal belief in who they are as a person (that they are a good man without mal-intent or insane perspectives), so instead of withdrawing from life, these men became FIGHTERS!  These men are amazing.  They are strong-willed and they can move mountains with their innate resilience and brilliance, especially if they join forces with an equally strong-willed NT-e.

    These men are fighters unlike most men in society, and they do so with pure and selfless intentions… they do so because they strongly believe in the knowledge they have and the inner battle to triumph over injustice and/or ignorance.  These men have a fighting spirit that comes from deep within their soul… and they will stop AT NOTHING and on NO ONE’S ACCOUNT to prove their worth in a world that has devalued them their entire lives.

    THAT IS THE ASPIE MAN YOU ARE MARRIED TO!

    Your husband’s strength of character is a gift and something to be marveled at.  It takes an unbelievably magnificent human to defy all the world’s hurtful and negative energy and absorb it enough to transform it into an energy that gives them the will to keep fighting.

    Think about that (from outside the box) for a moment.

    Your husband is a fighter (as are you) and for that… you should be in awe.  Unfortunately, these are the men that will fight 9,999 battles to win 1.  These are the men that possess the stamina to argue their point to the death and beat their opponent into submission if they believe in their core, that their truth is the only one that is correct.

    These are not men who ever set out to inflict harm, pain, sadness, injury, or misery to anyone else.  They are not even aware that their unwavering believes cause those resulting feelings for anyone else (particularly their NT wife).  They don’t have the cognitive empathy to recognize that their own actions are causing their wife to suffer, unless she manages to tell him this with direct, logical words.  Even then… if the logic for hurt feelings she expresses is being pinned on something they did not intend to do (and fail to believe they are responsible for), they will dismiss it with the same passion they do everything else.  They will fight you.

     With the same breath I took to tell you that your husband’s strength of character is a gift,

    a real marvel…

    it is also his Achilles Heel.

    Your husband is willing to suffer unimaginable amounts of misery and withstand countless negative consequences to stand his ground and get his one belief across to you until you accept it as correct.  Your husband will unknowingly ignore all of the unnecessary risks and negative outcomes possible in order to prove the validity of that one thing he stands behind.

     

    HOW THIS LOOKED IN MY MARRIAGE

    In my marriage, the internet search for “Relationship Advice” is a perfect example of my husband’s unrelenting fight to the death.  My husband independently went online to learn about Asperger’s syndrome after receiving his diagnosis and came across articles that suggested he was an “inherently evil man from birth” and “could never be a good husband or love me”.  He read a few (too many) hate-filled blogs filled with rhetoric that begged and pleaded with NT women to get the hell away from the toxic sociopaths that ARE Aspies.  My husband read these things and he was DONE.

    He made up his mind that there would NEVER come a day he would EVER AGAIN CONSIDER READING A SINGLE THING ONLINE ABOUT ASPERGER’S SYNDROME!

    I spent years begging him to read articles I found beneficial.  I emailed them to him, printed them out for him, attempted to read them to him… he refused.  I could have listed 100,000 happily married Aspie-NT couples who read just ONE short article with the secret to changing their marriage into a successful one; that promised to do this overnight without effort, and my husband would have STILL REFUSED TO READ IT.  When I brought up the subject, I was met with nasty aggressiveness to make me stop trying to force something on him he had zero intention of doing.  When I came at him with gentle, soft, kind words about it, he responded with anger.  When I demanded he do it to prove he loved me, his anger boiled over to the point of verbal abuse.

    The only time my husband ever responded the way I wanted was when I threatened to leave him if he did not “educate” himself (by way of the internet).  Despite pacifying me with promises that he would read (when he thought his resistance might actually threaten our relationship), he still never did.

    His actions were out of the inner belief that he was a good man, I was a good woman, and no one else on the planet had the potential to define our relationship other than the two of us.  That was the reason John refused to ever listen to my pleas for him to read a single thing on the computer over the 4+ years I begged him to.  My husband did not intend to hurt me with his refusal (quite the opposite, he thought it was going to protect our relationship).  John did not believe this was a good idea and he held strong to it… against any possible consequence his refusal to do so might bring upon him.

    That’s the thing about our Aspie husbands. 

    They have a damned-good reason behind the majority of their hostile and defiant behaviors.

    When they use anger to get their point across,

    they render us incapable of ever comprehending their reason.

    Our husbands are good men and our husbands do not secretly conspire to bring emotional suffering unto us.  Every seemingly cruel behavior that comes at us as angry words or actions… they are based off of an internal belief that they are going to be beneficial to us.  Our husbands do not have malicious or entirely self-serving purpose behind the mass majority of the arguments they engage us in.

     

    STOP THREATENING, START DOING

    I literally threatened our entire marriage if my husband did not take the time to research online information about his diagnosis and the impact it had on our relationship.  I spent countless hours looking for ways around his refusal and ridiculous amounts of time searching for an opportunity to sway his defiance into one of open consideration.  My husband held strong to his belief and there was nothing that could convince him otherwise… unless… I actually did end our relationship because he would not consider my wishes.

    Every time I threatened my husband or promised a negative consequence for his anger and/or refusal to change negative behaviors… I remained by his side.  By not following through with my words or actions, my husband lost respect for me.  The more I swore I would respond to his anger (and failed to do so), the worse his anger grew and the more he treated my words as the empty threats of a weak woman.  By warning my husband that his behavior was not going to be tolerated “one more time,” I gave him permission to do it one more time. The only way I ever would have maintained the respect my husband initially had for me, would have been if I walked out on him or kicked him out the very first time he came at me with hostile anger.  Could I have given him a second chance at that point?  Sure.  This may have prevented him for doing it again and solved the problem right away; I will never know.

    I like to tell myself that this would not have worked (because it makes me feel better).  I tell myself that I was not dealing with a man who knew how to handle confrontation of any kind without aggressive anger, so I had to get to this place in order to understand how to prevent it from occurring again.  Regardless of what I tell myself now, I should have followed through on my words the first time if I wanted to be respected by him and feel respect for myself.

    I have no doubt that you have also gone against your word and remained by your husband’s side despite swearing his most recent angry outburst would be the last.  I have good news… you can still regain respect for yourself and have your husband respect you by choosing to be a consistent woman today and to never again make a threat or promise you do not intend to keep.  How do you do this?  You learn how to stop your husband in his tracks so that anger is no longer accepted by you… not even one more time.

    Does that mean you have to leave him the next time he defies you?  No.

    In retrospect, I know that if I had actually divorced John because of his defiance to stop using anger as a means to communicate, I would have given him NO CHOICE but to submit to my demand.  If his defiance NO LONGER WORKED and threatened the very thing he wanted to avoid, he would have had to either chose a future without me, or change his behavior.  My husband has always loved me.  My husband has always wanted to make our relationship work.  Because I know this, I believe that if I had left him and told him the only way I would take him back, would be if he read 100 articles and then talked to me about them, in depth (so I knew for certain he read them), he would have done it.  I believe he still would have pushed my threats as far as he could go, and he would have required my follow-through to “end everything” before he did it… but in my heart I think he would have ultimately done it.

    It would have required my husband having ZERO alternative to changing his behavior for him to finally relinquish it in favor of saving the relationship he really wanted.

    It would have had to come to that.

    I know now that reading 100,000 articles wouldn’t have made my husband change his use of anger in our relationship, but I didn’t back then.  I rolled the dice on not following through on any threats I made and our relationship suffered as a result.  I always believed there was another way to reach him and being as defiant as my Aspie husband is… I wanted to prove myself right.  As it turns out (thankfully), there is a far better way to stop your husband’s anger (that does not involve threats), but this doesn’t mean it is an “easier” way.

     

    I KNOW YOU ARE NOW FEELING READY TO BEGIN MAKING PERSONAL CHANGES TO PREVENT HIS ANGER IN THE FUTURE…

    NOT SO FAST…

    I AM NOT CERTAIN YOU FULLY GRASP HOW DIFFICULT CHANGE IS QUITE YET

    Before I share the simple method you can use to begin teaching your husband to change his anger… I need to really drive home the point (as I enjoy doing) that this is NOT going to go smoothly.  As it stands, you have taught your Angry-Aspie husband that he does not need to change.  You have taught him that if he fights long enough… that if he is willing to go the distance to be proven right… that if there stands a remote chance that he could avoid a confrontation, get attention, gain satisfaction, make you go away, or ultimately… obtain CONTROL

    then it is worth the battle each and every time.

    You have taught your husband that his defiance WORKS… even if it is only effective 1 out of 10 times. You have taught your husband that he stands the chance to win, even if the odds are stacked heavily against him.  For a strong-willed and hardened fighter like your Aspie husband… those odds are going to continue to be worth his efforts and any negative consequence his efforts yield in your relationship.

     

    BACK TO THE PIECE OF SHIT LAWNMOWER

    Go ahead and try to tell your mechanically-gifted Aspie husband that his old lawnmower that only works 1 out of every 10 times he tries to cut the grass is “no good and he should consider buying a newer, more effective one.”  Go ahead and tell him that the poorly-cut lawn his machine manages to leave in its wake, the potential for eviction you both face if you are cited for an unacceptable home-appearance in your neighborhood one more time, or all the lost time between you both (that he spends trying to make it work) … go ahead and tell him why these reasons justify dumping that old piece of shit grass-chewer.

    And then go ahead and watch him throw his middle finger up at you in return.

    Watch him as he spends hours using an old mower to cut the lawn when a new one could get the job done in a fraction of the time, with a fraction of the energy, and with far more effective results.  Watch him as he defies your suggestion with unreasonably hostile anger.  Watch him as he loses weight in the blistering sun trying to prove the effectiveness and worthiness of his equipment.  Watch him as he wastes an entire day fixing it when he could have spent it enjoying the afternoon with his wife instead.  Watch him as he endures any negative consequence and sucks up countless hours of frustrated energy, to power through with his terribly defective machine.  Stand back in astonishment as he spends five times more money to fix his hunk of junk than it would have cost to purchase the best lawnmower on the market.

    WHAT AN IDIOT!

    Your Aspie husband believes his lawnmower is fully functional and has purpose. So long as his it serves its purpose every once in a while, it will be kept.  It has worked for him in the past and he believes with all of his stubborn might… that it will continue working in the future.  He will stop at nothing to prove himself right (not you wrong… but himself right).

    You may initially wonder why you are fighting with him over a lawnmower in the first place and willingly allow him to waste his day and energy on it if that’s what he chooses.  That is how you will respond until his “lawnmower efforts” begin to ruin your plans, mood, sense of security, and overall happiness because you never spend quality time together.  When your husband begins to ignore everything else in your marriage to “use his lawnmower” instead… it is going to really frickin matter to you at that point.

    You are going to try to buy a new “better” mower and put it in his direct line of sight so he opts to use that one the next time he cuts the grass.  When he ignores you, you are going to demand he use the new one.  When he ignores you, you are going to demand he stop using the old one.  When he ignores you, you are going to threaten to destroy or throw out the old one.  When he threatens you back and becomes more hostile, you are going to find yourself becoming angry, resentful, and hostile in return.

    You might even begin to beg him to stop using the old mower, plead with him to consider your feelings, or try to rationalize how a new mower could improve your time together.  When he ignores you, you are going to break down in tears and feel like he doesn’t even love you enough to change out an old stupid lawnmower that is causing completely unnecessary misery… even though there is a perfectly beneficial one right in front of his selfish eyes!  When you cry over it, he is going to tell you that you are being ridiculous.

    You may find yourself bouncing between a million different ways to get through to him, day after day, only to find that your husband has not ever stopped to even consider dumping his old mower or bothered to look at the new one… not even once.

    He hasn’t considered it because as far as he is concerned…

    the old one works, case closed.

    You can go toe to toe with this kind of Aspie defiance all day long but in the end, you will be left with exhaustion and a desire to just submit to his will and hope for a better tomorrow.  When you finally submit and he manages to get the lawn cut with his defective yard tool, he will consider his fight a victory.  That is how the Aspie husband solidifies the idea that his battle was a worthy one.  He will go on using his busted up shit-mower again next week, regardless of the negative impact it has on you.

    This is what you have been doing, and you can keep doing this… if you want the same outcome. Or… you can walk into the garage, gut the entire engine of the lawnmower and throw it away where he can never again find the parts (because guess what? The parts needed to build that machine long ago… they are no longer in existence to rebuild it again in the future!) and place a sign on the shell that remains that reads: BROKEN!

    Your husband is going to be really pissed off at you and he is going to rage on you.  Is that really going to matter when the end result is that he has to come to terms with the fact that his lawnmower is NEVER AGAIN GOING TO WORK and it can never again cut a single blade of grass for the remainder of eternity?

    Provided you make sure he can never figure out a way to make that stupid machine fire up again, EVEN ONE MORE TIME, he is going to have to let it go.  Once he accepts that his beloved lawnmower stands ZERO CHANCE of ever again working for him…

    HE IS GOING TO HAVE TO CHANGE IS METHOD OF CUTTING THE LAWN.

    He isn’t going to want to use that brand new super-mower that you purchased him because he is going to be angry at you.  Eventually though… when he comes to terms with the fact that he has to cut the lawn if he wants to remain in his home and have any quality time with his wife, he is going to give that new mower a second glance and consider using it.  He is going to rationalize why it is worth it to “give it a try” and he’s GOING TO USE IT.

     AFTER SEEING THE AMAZING RESULTS AND MINIMAL EFFORT IT TAKES TO ACHIEVE THEM,

     HE IS GOING TO CONTINUE TO USE IT…

     BECAUSE IT WORKS!

    You are not the lawnmower.  Your husband’s angry behavior is.  His anger has worked for him, albeit only a percent of the times he has used it, but it has still worked enough times to consider it functional.  Until you make it unarguably clear that his anger will NEVER AGAIN WORK FOR HIM to achieve a single positive or desired result…

    He will always default to it.

    It’s time for you to replace his old mower with a brand new (effective) one.

    I promise you, there is ZERO chance your husband will EVER change his current behaviors and learn to use more effective and positive ones until you make it clear to him that he has NO OTHER OPTION. It does not matter how angry, hostile, defensive, pathetic, dismissive, defiant, argumentative, lazy, or indifferent his behavior may be; he will not change it if it CONTINUES TO YIELD DESIRED RESULTS.  He has to comprehend that his anger is no longer working and will never again work as a means of control in your marriage.  Once he has expended every amount of defiant energy imaginable to deny that he is losing this battle, that his fight is a futile one because he cannot win and faces ultimate demise if he continues trying, that his method of obtaining control is a BROKEN METHOD…

    At that time your husband will be ready to make the changes necessary to replace his angry responses and approaches with more effective and positive ones. 

     MY HUSBAND TOLD ME WHAT TO DO, I JUST WASN’T LISTENING

    John told me what was happening this month as we sat on the floor of my closet in the dark.  He told me that we were failing, and we were failing because of his ignorance about how to respond appropriately to me (without anger).  He told me that we were failing because he was defaulting to anger as a method of control because he deemed it the easiest path to take… because it was familiar to him.

    It isn’t easier to get angry in response to feelings and emotions he does not comprehend, but he could not see that at the time.  It isn’t easier because in the long run, his anger puts up a wall to communicating with his wife.  In the long run, his anger leads to a wife who is angry, sad, hurt, afraid, exhausted, defeated, and ready to give up on the marriage.  In the long run, his anger has led to all of these feelings for himself as well.  In the long run, his anger has prevented the happiness both he and his wife could have been sharing for years… had he learned to change his use of it.

    When push came to shove, what John had convinced himself to be the easier path to trudge…

    had made his life (and his wife’s) pure hell.

    My husband was not alone.

     

    WHY PEOPLE DON’T CHANGE FOR THE BETTER

    People choose to take the road they think is easier (because it is what they are acclimated to) all the time.  If our society did not do this, everyone would be wealthy, highly educated, and the advancements made in our communities each day would be mind-blowing.

     People get by with “just enough” to keep telling themselves it is easier than trying to accomplish what they are actually capable of in their lives.

    Consider a woman who graduates high school with grand intentions of going to college and obtaining her degree and license as a physical therapist.  While she is in between high school and her wishful future, she stumbles on a fantastic opportunity to work as a clerk in one of the city’s top Sports Medicine Clinics, and the pay is impressive for a high school graduate to come upon.

    You might think this young lady is on the path to success and has the capacity to accomplish the goal of becoming a physical therapist in no time… if she just keeps pushing herself forward.

    Now consider this young lady meets a strikingly handsome and magnetic man who is interning at the clinic and “falls in love.”  Within a year, when she is just about ready to begin the college program she worked hard to get accepted into… she discovers she is pregnant and going to have a child at a young age with her new love.  Suddenly plans shift.  This motivated and determined girl is feeling fearful of the future.  Fear comes from wondering if she is ready to meet the demands of motherhood and the awesome responsibility it will bring.  Fear comes from wondering if she will be able to financially support her child’s needs, pay for college, and afford the larger living space the baby will require.  Suddenly, all of her thoughts will be filled with fear; fear that there will never be a feasible way to manage the time needed to attend college and study, work full time to cover costs, and have enough time with her new infant.  She begins to fear the stability of her new relationship as she and her new love begin arguing about the responsibilities their new discovery will entail of them both.  Fear is overriding every other emotion this young woman had a month ago… when she did not know she was pregnant.

    This woman is very religious and her religion does not allow for abortion to be considered.  This woman comes from a family that values children and is culturally against adoption.  This woman is firm in her childhood upbringing and the values it has instilled in her and she will not waver from them, not even long enough to consider an alternate option to having and raising her child.  This woman begins to break down and her stress ultimately becomes an intolerable and undesired weight on her new love.  Since he can “make a clean break” and not look back; the relationship was pretty new anyway and he has BIG PLANS that cannot be sidelined for a woman he wasn’t even certain he wanted to commit to…. he makes the choice to run… and he runs fast.

    Now this young lady is faced with emotions so intense she has a hard time making sense of them.  She decides to sideline her aspirations of attending college with the plan to return to it once she is “more stable.”

    Fast forward a decade and this woman, still a single parent, still working at the same clinic, considers a return to her initial dream of becoming a physical therapist; which has remained in the back of her mind all those years.  She feels like a failure and she feels like life is passing her by, so she wants to make a move before it is too late.  She can do it.  She can feel the fear and step through it and accomplish the life she knows is possible.

    She doesn’t.

    She doesn’t do it because the same fear that caused her to submit to taking the “easier road” a decade earlier still becomes the identified easier path this time around; the others lead to an unknown journey that carries unknown results.  The sad thing is, the easier path she is choosing is one that will definitely cause her to feel resentful or like a personal failure.  The easier path could never be the path that will always end with negative emotions that cause her harm, but she is blinded by fear.  Even though the decision to pursue school might be a challenge to undertake initially (as all major changes are), in the end it would likely bring less financial worry, less concern about her future stability and that of her young child, more possibility of finding a desirability relationship, less self-criticism, more pride in her accomplishments, and far more opportunities to uncover that may open new doors and paths she never thought possible.

    All she had to do was desire a change, abandon the old belief systems that paralyzed her life, and take a deep breath as she stepped forward into the unknown with an optimistic drive to succeed against all odds placed before her.  All she had to do was believe that a better life could be realized if she took the steps toward it.

    Do you think most people leap at the opportunity to change their lives for the better?

    No, of course they don’t or we would be living on a much happier planet.  People stay in the same spot even when it is making them miserable or it makes their life more challenging than it needs to be.  People thwart change and remain in unwanted relationships, careers, families, social circles, and environments, and they do it only because they are “used to it” and it has “gotten them by” until that time.

    For most people, that’s enough to not risk changing their life.

     DO YOU REALLY THINK HE WAS THE ONLY ONE THAT CHANGED?

    So where do you and your Aspie husband fit into this theory of change?  Well, for one thing you have likely read to this point with a feeling of motivation to tell your husband that his angry behavior is no longer going to be accepted as a behavior that “works” in your marriage, right?  You believe that if he were to change this one chronic emotion, your lives could change for the better.  You are probably even struggling to comprehend how he cannot see that he is enduring so much pain and negativity and there is a simple solution to changing it all.  It is probably very difficult to understand why he would be willing to risk losing 9 out of 10 times (by utilizing anger) when he could turn that into a 90-100% success rate instead.  This doesn’t seem so hard to grasp, right?  So why can’t he see this?

    I DON’T KNOW…

    MAYBE FOR THE SAME REASON YOU CANNOT SEE YOU ARE DOING THE SAME THING AND PLAYING THE SAME TERRIBLE ODDS?!?!?

    You and your husband were happy together once.  You were happy or you never would have opted to move forward in the relationship.  The time for him to develop a sense of security in his “bare minimum” efforts would never have been afforded to him.  You identified early on that you did not like being treated like a doormat, right?  You knew pretty quick your husband was treating you with disrespect and you did not like the way it felt.  You told yourself that “Something has GOT TO CHANGE” or your life was going to remain miserable… or get worse.

     But nothing changed because you weren’t willing to make the same change you have been expecting your husband to make…

    to abandon an old behavior that DOES NOT WORK!

    You have 90-100% odds of improving your relationship, or at least your own feelings of self-worth if you immediately choose to STOP your husband’s ability to treat you like a doormat ever again.  You have a 0-10% chance at finding happiness if you DO NOT CHANGE your own behavior.

    Why are you still trying to rationalize odds so stacked against you?

    Is it because you have become equally complacent in your effort?  Are you afraid of the changes that are absolutely going to occur (one way or another) when you finally do draw an unsurpassable line in the sand?  Are you afraid of the immediate changes you will be forced to make the moment you make it clear to your husband that his anger will NEVER AGAIN be accepted as a means of control in your marriage?

    You are getting 0-10% of the love you deserve and only 0-10% of the love your husband has to offer. Why are you still asking yourself if that 0-10% is a high enough return on your investment to stick around when you could be getting 90-100% instead?

    It’s what you are used to… isn’t it?

    You have “gotten by” with less than 10% all this time, haven’t you?

    It’s ok, you can admit it. 

    When the final ruling of “who needs to change in your marriage” is handed down,

    you are going to get a unanimous verdict.

    YOU BOTH DO!

     

    Suck it up buttercup.  You are no different from your Aspie husband.  Your behaviors may be different, and your comprehension of “what” needs to change may be more readily identifiable to you than it is to him; but long ago the two of you equally chose to cement your feet into a foundation of disappointment and resentment all because you were both afraid of change.  That fear of change has sent both of you into a desperate fight for power and control that neither of you could ever win.

     

    STOP BEING SUCH A CHICKENSHIT

    You do not need to be afraid of change.  You do not need to fear this, because you already know your husband CAN CHANGE his behavior.  You know this because HE HAS CHANGED ALREADY (and so have you).  He wasn’t the man that stands before today you when you first fell in love.  He was a better version of himself, a complete image of what he is capable of being AGAIN in the future (if not way more).

    If he changed once to become the angry man you currently share a bed with…

    he can change back to the man you couldn’t wait to share a bed with!

    Your Aspie husband is not mentally ill.  Your Aspie husband does not have a brain injury.  Your Aspie husband does not have a personality disorder.  Your Aspie husband does not have a physical ailment preventing him from changing back to the man you fell in love with.

    Yeah, you finally comprehend something you didn’t know back when all those awful changes were beginning to occur… you know a little something about cognitive empathy.  You know that your Aspie husband cannot read nonverbal messages.  Do you understand fully that that is the ONLY thing he cannot do?

    Guess what?  You don’t need your husband to comprehend nonverbal messages to be happy together because YOU are more than capable of using verbal words to clearly express what you are thinking, feeling, and desiring from him; you are equally competent enough to make sense of the verbal words he is saying to you.  Guess what else?  Your Aspie husband did not have cognitive empathy when you met him either.  Your Aspie husband couldn’t read your nonverbal messages back then any more than he can today, but that did not prevent you from falling deeply in love with him enough to become his wife, did it?  You fell in love with that man so much that THAT MAN is who you want him to transform back into.

    Asperger’s syndrome did not cause your marital difficulties,

    defaulting back to his previously learned behaviors and resistance to change did. 

    Your husband was the same Aspie the day you fell in love with him that he is today,

    he just needs your help to let those broken defenses go.

    GOT IT… SO NOW WHAT?

    So what are you going to do?  Are you going to put your damn foot down and tell your husband that the angry behaviors he used in the past that “worked for him” are no longer an option?  Are you going to tell him his old method is BROKEN and will never again function to control you in any regard?  Are you going to tell your husband that it is time for CHANGE or he is no longer going to have a wife to change for?  Are you going to admit that it is time for you to begin changing what you will and will not allow to occur in your marriage from this day forward?  Are you going to stop blaming Asperger’s syndrome for his anger and stop allowing his anger to define your daily existence?  Are you going to stop letting him control your emotions and start regaining the power you both should have to live fulfilling and happy lives?  Are you going to stop considering that you are in ANY WAY responsible for causing your husband’s anger, you are only responsible for allowing it to continue?

    You didn’t cause your husband’s anger any more than he caused your response to it.  Your husband’s anger-response was learned many years before he ever met you.  His anger is a default reaction to fear of pain; it is a default attempt to gain control in situations where he feels powerless. It worked for him in his youth, it worked for him as an adult, and it works for him with you in your marriage. You must completely comprehend why he has anger, why he uses anger, and that his anger is a modifiable behavior before you will be ready to do anything about his anger.  You must be ready and willing to never again allow it to work for him to gain control and truly understand that if you allow it to work, even 1% of the time, you are allowing him to continue using it 100% of the time.

     

    IT’S ON YOU NOW.

     WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?

     

     

     

    Look for the pending post: WHAT CAN I DO TO STOP THE ANGER?


  • HOW TO HANDLE AN ASPIE HUSBAND’S UNWANTED BEHAVIOR LIKE A BOSS

    Literally… like a boss… or a parent… or just a positive human being who interacts with other human beings 

     

    This is intended for challenging and difficult behaviors you encounter with your Aspie husband.  This post does not specifically address a husband who utilizes hostile anger as a predominate means to communicate in your marriage. Before you can effectively use PP to guide loving communication in your relationship, you will need to tackle the serious roadblock of anger first.  Guidance on that can be found in the following posts:  WHY IS HE SO ANGRY? & WHAT CAN I DO TO STOP THE ANGER?

     

     

    Positive Parenting goes hand in hand with being a positive leader.  Human beings are inherently good by nature (with some exceptions). People want to be good, they want to have their good acknowledged, and they want to strive to be better.  That is the instinctive part of who we are.  This goes wrong when that middle part is absent in an interpersonal relationship.  If a child, spouse, employee, family member, or friend wants to be good and attempts to be good… but no one acknowledges this good… or worse, they discount it and request “more” or “better” effort at being good… that person will no longer strive to be better.  Often, they will stop wanting to be good at all.

    IF YOU WISH YOUR MERIT TO BE KNOWN, ACKNOWLEDGE THAT OF OTHER PEOPLE. 

    -Unknown

    This is common sense that unfortunately… is not common.  Countless people get this all fudged up and think that being an effective parent or leader requires stern direction, rigid authority, micromanagement, and the implementation of harsh consequences. Countless parents and leaders find the “bad” in a scenario and focus in on that at the exclusion of what was going “good” before the unwanted behavior was identified.  They use examples of their identified “bad or wrong” behavior to request further efforts for improvement without ever stopping to acknowledge the current efforts, previous successes, or existing improvements a child or employee has made in the first place.

    The very goal set forth, to encourage a child or employee to be the “best they can be” ends up being sabotaged by the misguided efforts the parent or boss is applying to “make” it to happen.

    I read a book when I was first becoming a mother about being a “Positive Parent” (PP).  I opted to use this technique throughout my daughter’s formative years (from age 0-10) and I found nothing but success from the PP method.  Around the time my daughter was 6-years old, I went to a sales school for the military (the same one top companies send their salespersons through) that taught me about the basic skills of being a successful salesperson.  This method was very similar to the positive parenting skills I had been utilizing, so it was easy for me to implement it into how I communicated with potential military applicants.  I became a very successful saleswoman, selling lives to people each day (I recruited for prior-service adults to return to military service, not high school or individuals with no previous military service).

    When my daughter was 8-years old, I went for further training on “coaching” employees to help enable me to become a better leader.  This was the same training Fortune 500 Companies send their managers through to learn how to become effective leaders in upper management.  The skills taught there mirrored those of being a positive parent as well, so this was also easy for me to implement into my career.  I became an incredibly effective and positive leader and mentor.  I actually do not like the term “boss” (despite the title of this post) because I think it is is indicative of being a dictator, which thankfully, I learned to never become.

    While I have yet to fully consider the implementation of these lessons a “success” in my marriage, they have helped in moving toward more open dialog between us and improved behavior overall.  They continue to work with 100% effectiveness in all other aspects of my personal and professional life, provided I always stick to the basics.

    After my daughter turned 10, I became overwhelmed with the demands of my own personal life from grief, stress in my new relationship, finances, balancing work and education, and fear of the future in general.  Without purposeful intention, I stopped utilizing the basics of PP on a daily basis.  I effectively became a “lazy parent” and dismissed the basic PP tools in favor of just existing from day to day without any additional thought given to the most important job, role, or gift I have ever had.  By not having to put forth the effort in overseeing my role as a good mother, role model, and teacher for my daughter, I was unintentionally rolling the dice with her future.  Fortunate for me, my daughter had already learned to strive to be “good” from my previous efforts of PP and was a compassionate and well-behaved child in general.  While I lost a ton of valuable time helping her become “the best she could be” and teaching her how to behave with more responsibility and increasing efforts at home and in school, I did (almost ironically) continue to use the basics of PP in my professional life; whereby I was always met with 100% effectiveness with those who served under my leadership.

    I am sharing this with all of you because this “positive parenting” method is exactly what NT wives need to utilize with their spouses to create a mutually beneficial relationship.  This will work for NT parents to help enable their Aspie children to become “the best they can be” as well.  These PP methods are exactly what our Aspie husbands need to learn to do with us, and as fathers, to become effective spouses and parents so that they too, can be graced with the peace found in the resulting mutually beneficial relationships these basic principles have to offer.

    I do not think that the original book I purchased and utilized on being a positive parent (through my daughter’s formative years) broke down the basics the same way I recently uncovered in a quick internet search on the topic.  I really appreciate the further simplicity of how this PP method has been laid out (here), so I am going to use the LOVE/CARE acronym from this website to bring the information to all of you:

     

    L-O-V-E

     

    L – Look for the reason behind the behavior. Stop and consider what is “behind” the child/employee/spouse’s actions.  This is the most crucial step in identifying an effective method to moving forward.  In sales, we call this identifying the “need behind the need.”  Is the person tired, jealous, needing instruction or direction, afraid, or has a misunderstanding occurred?

     

    O – Open your heart.  After identifying the underlying reason behind a behavior, remember that if you do not like a person’s actions, you still like the person.  Rather than reacting to a behavior, make a conscious choice to step back, reflect, and just breathe for a moment!  Open your heart, allow compassion to override your instinctive desire to respond with emotion, and choose to approach the behavior with love first (and always).

     

    V – Validate feelings.  Regardless of why a person (child, husband, etc.) is expressing feelings that you may deem inappropriate or wrong, their feeling (in and of itself) is not ever “wrong.”  Let the person know that you are understanding how they are feeling… use your God-given gift at being an exceptionally empathetic neurotypical to give them empathy first for their feelings.

    Here is an example of how the L-O-V could play out in a family dynamic:

    Let’s say you are having a family dinner and your husband (or child) abruptly bangs their drinking glass on the table and stomps off into their bedroom and slams the door shut.  Your instinct is to yell at them to stop behaving that way and feel frustrated or angry that they just ruined the family meal and caused an inappropriate scene. This is where you enact the L.  Look at why this just occurred. What happened leading up to that moment?  What was said that may have been misinterpreted, what happened that may have caused distress in the person leading up to their action? Open your heart up and take pause before reacting.  Consider what transpired to cause their feelings and subsequent “unwanted” behavior, and then put yourself in their shoes without the perception you personally have about the circumstances surrounding it.  After finding the calm to do this, give your husband or child validation for their feelings (not their behavior) and say, “I can understand how that would make you feel (insert emotion).”  Let the person know that you are not against their feeling.  Once this happens, you are ready to move on to the final letter in utilizing LOVE to correct unwanted behaviors in the future.

     

    E –Explore solutions. After you have approached the unwanted behavior with a calm and accepting level of attention and then validated the person’s feelings; it is time to focus on a solution.  Ultimately, it is about teaching the person “appropriate” ways of behaving that have an effective and positive outcome instead of punishing a behavior and increasing the likelihood it will reoccur!  Get the person (child, spouse, employee, etc.) involved in the process of making it right.

    This method of identifying a mutually beneficial solution engages feelings of being validated, respected, and valued; more times than not… this will lead to an immediate union of effort between the two parties to reach a common goal.  This is about problem-solving TOGETHER.  Mutual problem resolution teaches responsibility for personal actions and gives the person an incredibly invaluable tool to utilize throughout their life.

    The first three letters, L-O-V, are often easy to implement with an Aspie husband, and regardless of his ability to tell you he appreciates you doing this, he will.  The last letter… that stinkin’ E… well this one takes a lot of time and a great deal of patience from the NT to get to.

    The majority of Aspie husbands (certainly any Aspie husband who has a spouse reading this website) lacks the ability to respond to the “E” part of the acronym appropriately.  These men were never taught to problem solve after having their feelings acknowledged and validated by their loved one’s, authority figures, or peers throughout their life. They were not taught this because they rarely ever had their feelings acknowledged at all.  Because of this, they haven’t a clue what the exploration of solutions with another person even entails.  They are acclimated to having another person “tell them” what they are doing or have done wrong, and then “tell them” how they need to alter their behavior in the future.

    It would be an incredible fluke to find an Aspie husband who was ever afforded the opportunity to problem solve with someone else in order to reach a positive outcome. This missing (and important) experience in an Aspie’s life is what sets the stage for trying to control an outcome with demands or personal opinions of what the solution should be. This absent experience also sets the stage for Aspie husbands to have an instinctual desire to dismiss anyone else’s personal input or perceive their thoughts to be “unfair demands” meant to gain control over them (enter hostile defiance).

    NT wives need to keep requesting their husband’s personal thoughts on an event that led to unwanted behavior.  They need to continue offering their thoughts on potential solutions to prevent this behavior from reoccurring.  They need to do this calmly and repetitively, until they can break down the barriers that currently exist.

    Sometimes it will take listening to your Aspie husband without offering a return response; listen as they loudly and/or aggressively proclaim their opinion on the necessary resolutions (while ignoring yours).  Write them down. Walk away from the discussion (that was likely one-sided) when you first start implementing the LOVE method into your life.  After writing down your husband’s thoughts on the situation, write down your own and include a few optional solutions that may benefit the whole. Once you have this on paper, share it with your Aspie husband (and walk away from him as he reads it).  This is likely to be a resolution attempt that can span several days before your husband even reads what you wrote, or becomes aware that his feelings and desires have been heard, validated, and taken into consideration.

    When this knowledge finally breaches the defiant walls that have been built as a defense-mechanism throughout your husband’s life, the stage will be set for positive behavior modification.  It may take a long time to get to this place of breaching his defenses and you may believe he is disinterested in even reading what you wrote or ever considering a mutual discussion of it… but I assure you… the time will come if you continue to approach him with the LOVE methodology.  Eventually, you may move closer to a time when you can begin exploring some of mutually beneficial solutions together without having to wait days or weeks in between the L-O-V, and the E.

    This is not easy, but this absolutely WORKS if an NT wife is committed to seeing it through!  If there is any doubt it works, use it with NT children, friends, family, and business relationships in the future and the success rate will (without any doubt) prove how effective it is to building positive relationships and effective conflict-resolution.

    My husband will not appreciate what I am about to say, but… this LOVE technique works 99.9% of the time with young children and your husband because… well, he has an equivalent comprehension of conflict resolution (despite his age) as a child would.  He never learned to do this as a child.  If you can accept this as true, you can trust in attempting it in your marriage.

     

    WHAT’S NEXT?   

    The next acronym to be used in being a positive parent, spouse, friend, or leader is CARE.  In most situations, CARE can be implemented immediately after LOVE, if the “exploration of solutions” does not bring about the desired behavior changes. This is a tried and true means of behavior modification for the betterment of all involved parties.  Again, when dealing with an Aspie husband, this next step will take a significantly longer duration of time to implement before you will deem it “effective” in managing behavior-related conflict in your Aspie-NT marriage.

     

    C-A-R-E

    C –Consequences.  When problem-solving is not enough, it is appropriate to begin considering logical consequences.  Consequences should only be used with the intention of being a positive teacher for the other person.  Consequences should never (NEVER) be used with the intention of getting even, or hurting another person.

    Consequences should be directly related to the behavior… always.  For example, if a child throws their toy at another child, it is logical to take that toy away for a period of time (the example used on the website).  It is not logical (or appropriate) to throw that toy at your child (so they know what it feels like), or to destroy that toy in front of them as a consequence for their behavior.  Responding to behavior like that teaches them that “getting even” or hurting someone (as a response to an unwanted action) is justified.  No consequence like that will ever appropriately address the behavior that you seek to modify.

    If your employee is chronically socializing with other employees in lieu of getting their job done, it is logical to dock their pay for the time they are essentially “on break” or require them to stay beyond their working hours (for the time they allotted for socializing) without additional pay.  It is punitive to extend their working hours in excess, or change their environment to a location with which they haven’t anyone to socialize.  It is punitive to threaten their employment or increase their workload beyond the original scope of their job.  It is punitive to embarrass them in front of others by calling out their unwanted behavior, or criticize the work they are doing, or micromanage them.  (Yes, as an employer sometimes punitive action like terminating a person’s employment is indeed, necessary!)

    If your teenager is constantly leaving dirty dishes in the sink, it is appropriate to have them do the dishes before they can have their electronic devices for the day, this is a logical consequence.  It would be hurtful to leave those dirty dishes in their bed and it would be hurtful to demand they wash everyone’s dishes from then on out as a punishment.

    If your husband habitually fails to acknowledge your birthday, it would be logical (after implementing the LOVE acronym) to arrange a birthday celebration on your own or request that your special day be celebrated on another day.  It would be hurtful to purposely disregard your husband’s birthday that year to “get even” and it would be punishment to spend the day sulking or telling him how awful he was to forget or disregard your birthday.

    Consequences for unwanted behavior have to appropriately address the behavior itself and be utilized with the intention of teaching in a positive way so that the behavior does not continue.

    A – Act with fairness.  The goal is to teach the person how to do better next time!  You cannot create a consequence by imposing unrelated or unequal “punishments” for the behavior.  When a person responds to an unwanted behavior with an unfair consequence, they only set the stage for building resentment and diminish the chance of ever improving that specific behavior.

    If your teenage daughter is always forgetting to take their dog outside, it is illogical to take away their iPad for a week as a punishment.  It is cruel to stop taking the dog out yourself (to the animal) and then demand the teenager not only clean the excrement itself, but the entire floors of the house once the dog has relieved themselves indoors.  It would be hurtful to get rid of the dog.

    In the examples I gave under Consequences, you can hopefully identify what would be deemed fair, vice those responses that are meant to cause hurt and will ultimately create resentment.

    It is very difficult to respond to unwanted behaviors with a calm and fair consequence, so it is essential that you remove yourself from the situation for a period of time to ensure this occurs.  It helps to step outside the box and return to the LOVE acronym in your mind before settling on an appropriate consequence, as this will enable you to identify one that is based off of being fair and addresses the actual behavior.

    Once again, the entire point of consequences is to teach with a positive outcome, not to punish or create a worsening repetition of the behavior.

     

    R –Reconnect. This is so important.  This is absolutely one of the most important steps in the LOVE/CARE process that solidifies it as a positive one.  For a child, this includes lots of hugs and kisses to let the child know that their unwanted behavior has not caused the parent to lessen the amount of love they have for them.  For a teenager, this may include a hug, or sentiments of appreciation for their maturity in discussing their behavior and working toward a mutually beneficial solution, or it may be a hug or sentiment of appreciation for their acceptance of the consequence for their actions.  For an employee, this may come from the same sentiments of appreciation (hugs are usually not appropriate in the workplace, so don’t do this!), or it could come in the form of acknowledging their efforts to correct a behavior or your appreciation for their professionalism in taking accountability for their actions.

    For an Aspie husband, this comes in the form of giving all of the above (as appropriate for your husband).  This may be saying “thank you” the next time they consciously stop an unwanted behavior from occurring, it may come from telling them how much you appreciate their act of consideration for your feelings and how it makes you “feel” very happy inside.

    You cannot use a nonverbal method of expressing your pleasure in their intentional act to correct an unwanted behavior, because they will not see it.  For instance, if your husband begins to throw the old coffee grounds in the garbage instead of the sink (lol, my example) you cannot just smile the next time you see him do this and assume he is aware of your happiness toward his actions.  You cannot say something like, “It’s so cool that the walls aren’t covered in coffee grounds anymore” either!  Even though that may appear to sound like a comment showing appreciation for efforts, suggestive statements like that often get misinterpreted as insults or purposely re-hashing his historical screw ups along the way.  You have to be direct, you have to be clear, and you have to openly verbalize that you are happy with his actions by using words like, “Thank you so much for putting the coffee grounds in the garbage can, that makes me feel happy inside and I appreciate it very much.”  Can you see the difference?

    Ultimately, if you choose to reconnect with your husband after he has faced the consequences for his behavior like a mature partner, it is important that you verbalize your appreciation of it.

    A PERSON WHO FEELS APPRECIATED WILL ALWAYS DO MORE THAN EXPECTED

     

    When my husband responds to something I requested, or changes a habit or action that once upset me, I like to add in an unwanted hug (by force because I am an asshole) while directly stating how much his efforts have made me feel happy inside.  My husband usually tells me I am “being obnoxious” and to not “state the obvious” or even bring it up again (because then he “won’t want to do it to avoid my mushy and annoying responses”) but I know he needs and enjoys having his actions acknowledged by me.  If I do not acknowledge an attempt he has made at correcting something he was once “bitched at” for, he will always end up telling me that I “never see or acknowledge anything he ever does” the next time we get into an argument over something.

    Never allow a fair and appropriate consequence to linger until it is accomplished. 

    Do not withhold your affection or normal positive behavior “until” the person proves they have taken action to correct something they previously responded to poorly.

    This is an awful mistake we make as parents, “bosses”, friends, family members, and especially… as NT wives.  Once the consequence has been stated or delivered, carry on as you would have prior to the event or behavior.  You HAVE TO DO THIS!  If you do not, there is a high likelihood the behavior will be repeated and they will have a lingering thought that, “This person is already pissed at me and not going to like me, so what’s the point?”

     

    TRACKING?

     

    E – Enjoy. After the LOVE acronym has been mutually accomplished… MOVE ON!

    If you had to impose a fair consequence for a behavior, it is time to move past it and forget it ever happened.  Reconnect with the person and then enjoy the relationship (working or personal) from then on out.  Do not EVER bring the incident back up again, do not EVER nag or bitch about it, do not EVER suggest that the person will knowingly display future unwanted behaviors based off of that particular one.

    Unwanted behavior patterns only happen because we choose to consider them patterns.  If every incident is identified and addressed as a separate and isolated occurrence, the opportunity to dwell on it as a “pattern” ceases to exist.  Telling someone (child, employee, or spouse) they have a “pattern” of negative behavior sends the message that you are defining their entire character as negative and discounting all that is good about them.

    Yes, there are “patterns” and yes, they should be mentally noted in your brain so that you can address their existence appropriately, but they should not be verbalized to the person… ever!  It is important to recognize a child’s pattern of unwanted or negative behavior because it will help to identify potential causes for it that may be missed if observed as a single incident.  Looking from outside the box can help you see positive ways to resolve these things in the future.  For instance, if your child is always throwing toys when you go to a friend’s house, it may not be a specific interaction that caused them to do this, it may be that the other child they encounter always initiates play by limiting access to the toys and refusing to share.  You would still handle each event with the same positive response, but you would not ask your child, “Why are you always bad at XYZ’s house?” and identify a pattern out loud.  You would consider returning to the L in the LOVE acronym and begin looking for what is really going on behind the behavior.

    If your employee is chronically missing deadlines because they are known to be “too social” and spend more time chatting with coworkers than working, you would not say, “You are failing to do your job because socializing has always been more important to you!”   You do not identify a historical pattern because this person will automatically assume their “boss” has always found them to be a failure and assume their “boss” has never acknowledged all of the hard work they have done in their job.  Make sense?  You would identify the isolated incident you intend to correct, and you would move forward.  In your mind, you can acknowledge the pattern and step outside the box to identify what is “really going on” behind the scenes.  Perhaps it is one particular coworker that instigates the problem by telling this employee that “no one in the office likes them and thinks they are weird” and the employee is overcompensating by socializing frequently to gain acceptance from their peers.

    THERE IS ALWAYS A REASON BEHIND A NEGATIVE BEHAVIOR; A NEED BEHIND THE NEED. RECOGNIZING PATTERNS IS IMPORTANT IN UNCOVERING THIS, BUT THERE IS NO REASON TO EVER VERBALIZE THIS TO THE PERSON AND MAKE THEM FEEL “LABELED” BY YOU!

    If your husband is always “forgetting” your birthday, you would not identify the pattern to him and say, “You never remember my birthday, for ten years you have conveniently forgotten something so important to me!”  You would be telling him he is purposely being a jerk and “always” doing something and his will to acknowledge it, identify the cause, or work on a mutually beneficial solution will be effectively destroyed.  If you treat the incident as an isolated one, you give the opportunity to not define his actions as a whole and work on addressing that particular occurrence.  In your mind, it is perfectly fine to recognize the pattern (that’s what we do), and you may begin to uncover reasons that even your husband was unaware of.  Perhaps your birthday falls near a holiday and finances are tight and he unknowingly blocks this additional source of financial stress out to handle the overwhelming stress he already feels.  Perhaps your husband got you a gift you did not like the first year he tried, and he is so fearful of disappointing you again, he has not put himself out there in the last decade to avoid this personal feeling of failure.  If you do not look back on all of the “patterned” behaviors, you may miss the actual cause for his current ones.

    You have to consider patterns of behavior and the root cause, but you should not vocalize this to the person.  The idea is to utilize positive teaching to correct unwanted behaviors, so you cannot ever allow the person (husband, child, employee) to consider that you view their isolated incident as a reflection of them in whole.

    Once an incident is addressed, reconnect and move on.  This helps a child and Aspie husband learn to make amends (something the child will need in their life and something the Aspie husband never learned how to do in their childhood).  Dwelling on the past is not needed and is counterproductive to creating mutually beneficial relationships and positive behavior.  Dwelling on the past diminishes the opportunity for positive behaviors to develop in the future.  Go through the L-O-V-E C-A-R… and then make sure you Enjoy!

    This is a tried and true method of conflict resolution and positive leadership and teaching for any interpersonal dynamic.  It is going to take a lot of repetition and hard work to get it to smoothly solve all of your Aspie-NT marriage challenges, but I promise…

    IT WORKS!


  • ABUSIVE ASPERGER HUSBAND: WHY SHOULD I KEEP TRYING?

    YOU SHOULDN’T

    (For real… consider this)

     

    I want to give a fair disclosure to every neurotypical wife reading this bog and everything I write in support of an Aspie-NT marriage:

     

    YOU DO NOT DESERVE TO BE VERBALLY OR EMOTIONALLY ABUSED AND IT IS PERFECTLY OK AND HIGHLY, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED YOU LEAVE IF HE DOES NOT ACCEPT THIS!

     

    It should not come as a surprise that I want to address the topic of abuse in an Aspie-NT marriage if you have read any of my initial posts.  There are many married men with Asperger’s syndrome who are predominantly soft spoken, gentle, and more submissive than the “common” depiction of an Aspie husband found online. These men tend to be less apt to marry and/or end up in a high-conflict marriage to an NT-e so they rarely get acknowledged.  The majority of Aspie husbands out there have difficulty regulating their emotions and a large percentage of them utilize anger predominantly as a means to cope with interpersonal communication they find challenging (See: WHY IS HE SO ANGRY?). Of these “angry” men, many of them cross the line from inappropriate anger to verbal and/or emotional abuse.  

    This post is not about the common defensive mechanism of anger, it is about the cross-over into truly inexcusable and intolerable words and actions that need to be immediately addressed before an NT wife can even broach the topic of anger in general. It is necessary to cover this horrible and all-too-common step into damning behavior because we are not dealing with one fight in our marriage that spiraled out of control and got ugly, we are dealing with chronic misunderstandings that can make fighting and destructive behaviors the norm which becomes an incredibly dangerous place for both the Aspie and NT to exist in. 

    Some behaviors that I consider worthy of tolerating while you work on a new level of understanding one another, and a new method of communicating are listed under “emotionally abusive” behaviors.  These include things like, withholding, gaslighting, and stonewalling/ignoring.  While these actions hurt both parties (on an emotional level) they are actually necessary as your Aspie husband works through his defensive coping mechanisms and are going to have to be understood and patiently worked “tolerated” for a little while.  You cannot change all poor-coping behaviors before a person comprehends why they developed them.  You may need to let down your feelings of personal attack as you work on changing and fixing communication between you both.  With that being said… there are others… that are simply unacceptable for ANY REASON.

    No doubt there has been a torrential flood of cruelty hurled at you for a very long time.  No doubt there has been incredibly unfair roles in the marriage whereby you felt like a mother to a defiant and nasty teenager who did not appreciate you.  No doubt you have tried damn-near everything in your human capacity to be good to your husband, kind to your husband, understanding, empathetic, loving, selfless, supportive, and incredibly patient.  No doubt all of your effort fell on deaf ears and what you received in return was painful, indifferent apathy.  No doubt you have had things thrown at you, disgusting and unforgivable words screamed at you, gone days or weeks without being acknowledged, or maybe even spit on (as I have been), or physically assaulted.

    There are a million and one reasons to leave this man who has treated you in a way that no one deserves to be treated, especially by their husband.

    There is only ONE reason to stay (and sorry, love is not enough).  That is if he is willing to agree to NEVER again do the inexcusable and disgusting abusive behaviors I will outline below.

    It is NOT ONLY “ok” to say you have had enough and want to leave…

    It’s perfectly understandable and you do not deserve to feel guilty for choosing that option.

    While I am an advocate for changing this awful NT-Aspie dynamic, I will NEVER suggest you stay with a man who is not interested in learning about himself, how to treat you the way you deserve, or who thwarts all of your efforts and justifies his unacceptable behavior.

    Just because a man has Asperger’s syndrome and has suffered a tremendous amount of painful injustice throughout his life that caused him to become a defensive and hostile-appearing person…

    Does NOT, I repeat, DOES NOT justify him calling you disgusting names, being physically aggressive, or treating you like a doormat.

     

    His Asperger’s syndrome does not preclude him from knowing WHAT IS RIGHT AND WHAT IS WRONG when it comes to behaving in a humane and decent way toward his spouse and no one should ever make excuses for him when he does that.

     

    ASPERGER’S SYNDROME DOES NOT EXCUSE ABUSE AND ASPERGER’S SYNDROME DOES NOT CAUSE A MAN TO BE ABUSIVE!

     

     

    So PLEASE… while you read my posts and may come to an understanding about how and why he behaves the way he does… please keep in the back of your mind that it DOES NOT EXCUSE ABUSE IN ANY WAY.

    I NEED YOU TO PLEASE GET THIS THROUGH YOUR HEAD AND ACCEPT IT IN YOUR MIND, HEART AND SOUL….

     

    THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR BEING ABUSIVE

     

    If your husband chooses to respond to you by saying you are the one being abusive and he is simply “reacting” to you… then you need to make it clear to him that this justification will no longer be accepted by you.

    While you are searching for help to better your marriage and hold out hope that things can get better… and they can… (and I commend you for having the strength and love to still be searching for this outcome) …  I HIGHLY suggest you create a back-up plan to begin a life without your husband if he refuses to stop name calling and/or throwing violent or aggressive temper tantrums.

    I HIGHLY suggest you WALK OUT THE DOOR and leave him to fend for himself if he cannot accept that his behavior WILL NO LONGER BE TOLERATED.

    Staying with a man who continues to treat you in an abusive manner IS telling him that his behavior is acceptable.  Hard pill to swallow, but it is high-time you choke it down.

    You have already proven (beyond a shadow of any doubt) that you are an incredibly strong and resilient woman who is capable of withstanding more challenge and emotional pain then most people could wrap their head around.  If you do not believe this, if you have convinced yourself you are weak (and that is why you have remained in an unhappy and abusive relationship) I am going to tell you to get a grip on reality (sorry… I know that sounds like something he might say to you!).  I am going to tell you the same thing military leaders repeat to their sailors and soldiers when they are claiming to be incapable of finding the inner strength to continue on in a terrifying direction…

    SUCK IT UP BUTTERCUP!

     

    You are strong… you are stronger than most could ever fathom.  You are a good person; you are a selfless person who has sacrificed your own mental health to love someone that you knew in your heart was worthy of a love no one else understood.  You are amazing and you need to stop making excuses for why you just “might deserve” the abusive ways your husband has treated you.  While I can easily explain all of the misunderstandings and unconscious and unintentional underlying reasons for your husband’s behaviors over the years… I CAN NOT and I WILL NOT attempt to give an excuse for the unquestionably abusive words and actions he has directed at you.

    Perhaps he is not entirely aware of what constitutes as abuse… perhaps he never had malicious intent… perhaps he has the emotional maturity of a child and is greatly challenged at controlling his outbursts…. perhaps he has felt attacked by you and believed his nastiness was an equal and warranted response to the ways he felt he was being “abused” by you… perhaps there are a million reasons to explain why he came to a place that he felt his behavior was acceptable and excusable…  but I assure you…. the #1 reason he has come to THAT place is because you have remained with him despite him treating you in a horrifically unacceptable way!  

    Many of our Aspie husbands were verbally abusive toward their mothers (or sisters) growing up… and these women still loved them and did not abandon them.  This has created a false sense of security that you are the only other woman (outside of their Mother) who will continue loving him and not abandon him regardless of how far he pushes his outbursts.  

    It is time he learns otherwise and you… yes, you buttercup… need to be the one to tell him that it STOPS TODAY or he is going to learn the hard way that not every woman who has dedicated their love to him is going to do so unconditionally.

    Unconditional love in a marriage is just a stupid, stupid word.  Unconditional love should be reserved only for the love a parent has for their child…. It should not ever be used in a marriage.  It sets a terrible stage for women (especially NT-e women) to believe they should remain married despite all else.  NT-e women often love their Aspie husband with the same love they have for their children… unconditional.  This needs to stop.  You are tired of feeling like his mother, SO STOP ACTING LIKE YOU ARE!  Start putting CONDITIONS on how far your love is willing to go.  Let him know that: 

    IT STOPS AT ABUSE!

     

    Your Aspie husband IS NOT STUPID.  Your Aspie husband KNOWS when he has said or done something that would be inexcusable in any relationship or marriage.  I encourage you… I beg of you to start accepting who you are, start putting conditions on the love you are willing to give, and start discovering the strength you already have proven time and time again that you possess… and be willing to leave him if he does not stop abusing you.

    Obviously if you call your husband abusive… you can anticipate an incredible amount of verbal abuse directed at you in response.  Fine.  Don’t use that word.  Call it “INTOLERABLE BEHAVIOR”.

    Let him know you are learning about why he behaves the way he does, and why you behave the way you do. Let him know you are willing and wanting to make your marriage work and do whatever it takes to create a happy and healthy marriage. Tell him you are committed to changing the ways you have behaved as well that have caused difficulties and you expect him to be willing to do the same for you.  Tell him you love him…

    And then make it CLEAR…. MAKE IT PERFECTLY CLEAR…

    THAT THE INTOLERABLE BEHAVIOR STOPS IMMEDIATELY…

    TO-DAY…

    OR YOUR MARRIAGE IS OVER AND YOU ARE LEAVING HIM.

     

    Give him a chance to absorb what you have said to him.  Tell him you absolutely REQUIRE him to acknowledge your words and the behaviors you deem unacceptable or you will have to assume he is not agreeable to them and you will then follow through with your promise to walk away.

     

    HOW DO YOU DO THIS?

    First, take time to read about what I am saying in this post and the others. Take time for yourself to identify what is intolerable, what is a part of his Asperger’s syndrome defenses (that can be corrected), and then take time to firmly establish an alternative to remaining in your marriage.  Outline a plan to leave, even if that plan involves the same steps a “battered wife” needs to take to leave her husband.  Accept that if he is not willing to stop these intolerable behaviors… that you ARE a battered wife. 

    You do not have to have bruises on your face or broken bones to be battered and any search of emotional/verbal abuse will 100% agree that the injuries you cannot see… the ones that are violently destroying you from the inside out… they are far more damaging than the ones you can see.  So realize, if your husband refuses to stop acting that way… it is time to call a spade a spade (I use this term without the racist connotation it originally carried).  It truly took my husband’s sister to finally convince me that there is NO excuse ever rational enough to justify a man verbally or physically abusing a woman… please don’t wait for someone else to convince you of this.  

    If your husband consciously and knowingly opts to disregard what you define as abuse (see below), then he is consciously and knowingly choosing to abuse you.  So if you haven’t the financial means to begin again… start researching what “battered women” have as options and be willing to implement those options to get the fuck out of your marriage.

    Once you have solidified enough information about why your husband “is” the way he is… the things both of you have done to create a terribly awful dynamic (even if completely unintentional); decide if you want to keep working through it.  Decide if you want to try one more time to make your marriage happy based off of the insight I have given in this blog.  Decide that you are ready and willing to put forth this effort, and decide that you will ONLY do so if your husband is agreeable to stop his abusive behavior (by way of calling it “intolerable behavior”).  Decide that if he is not, you will leave.

    And then I urge you… I beg of you…

    Tell him directly and clearly (in a letter, email, text, or face to face) that the intolerable behavior (abuse) stops today.  Make sure you have clearly identified everything that falls under the category of intolerable behavior and make sure it is written down in a place he can reflect on (if willing to) so there are no “grey areas” and there are no excuses to say “Oh, well I didn’t know you considered that intolerable behavior, so it doesn’t count.”  Identify exactly what you will NO LONGER accept and make sure you have been clear and direct enough that he cannot sway you into “exceptions” because he did not realize that his words or actions were “on the list.”

     

    Side note:  Give him the option to create his own list of behaviors he finds intolerable on your behalf and be willing to consider and agree to those equally.

     

     

    Whether he acknowledges what you have said to him or not… tell him that those behaviors stop TODAY and make it clear to him that if they continue… even once… YOU WILL leave your marriage… and there will be no discussing it at that point.

    I mean it when I say, if he does it again… EVEN ONCE…. LEAVE HIS ASS!  Walk out that door with your head held high.  You have every right to hold your head up high if the man you love and have sacrificed your physical and mental health for REFUSES to treat you with the BARE MINIMUM AMOUNT OF RESPECT EVERY HUMAN DESERVES.

     

    Asperger’s syndrome is NOT an excuse for cruelty.

    Asperger’s syndrome does not make a man blind or incapable of comprehending what behaviors are abusive.

    Asperger’s syndrome does not create a man too blind to comprehend right from wrong.

    Do not allow Asperger’s syndrome to excuse THOSE behaviors ever again… it gives the Aspies who are not abusive a very unfair image they do not deserve.

     

     

    Here are my suggestions for “intolerable behavior” to be clearly listed (but I suggest you tailor them to your husband’s repetitive actions so there is nothing left unsaid).  Do not put emotions in your list.  Make the list direct and clear without any “side information, explanation, or specific examples of this behavior in the past.”

    1. NAME CALLING (Bitch, CU*T, stupid, insane, useless, dumb, piece of shit, etc.)
    2. THROWING THINGS (Breaking dishes, throwing items, dumping drinks or anything else on you, etc.)
    3. PHYSICAL AGGRESSIVENESS (Pushing, grabbing, hitting, kicking, spitting, shoving, cornering you, getting in your face or raising a hand or fist at you, etc.)
    4. THREATENING YOU (I will sabotage your life, career, family, etc. I will take the children, the car, the home, the money, etc. I will make you pay. I will hurt, kill, destroy you, etc.)
    5. INDIRECT ABUSIVE BEHAVIOR (slamming things around, hiding or breaking things that belong to you, stealing, lying, sabotaging shared or personal items – Like breaking the car so you cannot drive, your computer or electronic devices, etc.)

     

    It is not now (nor was it ever) alright to behave that way. It is not alright for you to do it in response to him, and it is not alright for him to do it (in response to you). If you do not firmly establish this boundary and do it fast… no amount of effort you EVER put into saving your marriage will matter because the moment one of these abusive behaviors is repeated, it will undo every bit of progress you made and send you right back to the misery and broken soul you felt throughout your marriage.  Removing these behaviors is a NON-NEGOTIABLE requirement and you need to stand behind your words after you have made them undeniably clear to him.

     

    YOU ARE A REMARKABLE WOMAN & HE IS NOT A BAD MAN

    I commend you for everything you have done to get to the point that you are still motivated and wanting to save your marriage… I know it has been hellish in many ways (for both of you).

    I do not think your Aspie husband is evil for the things he has said any more than I think you are for the things you have said.  There is always a chance for hope (regardless of what you read) because your husband is not a psychopath.  Your husband does not do these things with the intention of manipulating you or tearing apart your psyche.  Your husband does these things because he has incredibly poor coping skills (that can be corrected) and he has learned that the more aggressive he is, the more likely he is to make a confusing and emotionally intolerable situation immediately stop.  I will give the benefit of doubt to your husband that he is naive to some of the specific things you find abusive, but I will assure you, he still knows every time he has gone “too far” or said something damaging and cruel.  You can forgive all of those things and move forward because they were never directed at you for the same reasons a psychopath would do them to you… but once you clearly outline that you are never again going to tolerate them… you can no longer forgive him or excuse them as an “isolated incident.”

     

    BUT… IT’S NOT THAT EASY TO LEAVE

    Yeah, I know.  I have heard this a million times.  I hate to tell you this, but it is an excuse.  I am not suggesting it will be easy, I am not suggesting you are going to walk away without regret or reconsider your choice.  I am not suggesting you are going to leave him and not walk into an entirely different world of struggle.  I am suggesting it is an excuse still.  Fear of the unknown is terrifying.  But any time you find a “reason” to stay with a man who knowingly and purposely abuses you (and he will be doing it purposely after you lay it out for him); it is still an excuse.  Regardless of the excuse you make to stay and tolerate abusive behavior; he’s the father of your children, he is the financial provider, he will fall apart without you…

    There is NEVER an excuse good enough to accept being abused. NEVER. You existed before him, and you are clearly a very strong woman and will make it without him.  He existed before you, and he will make it without you. Your children do not deserve to live with a mother who is broken and miserable and they certainly will not benefit from watching their mother willingly accept being abused.

     

     

    LEAVING DOES NOT ALWAYS EQUAL THE END

    This may sound weird, but just because you leave him… does not mean the end of your marriage.  Your husband’s behaviors have been created over many years.  You have put up with them and remained with him throughout it all.  There is a very good chance defining the “intolerable” behaviors will fall on deaf ears and he will knowingly test you or do it again.  This is an immature response, perhaps an act of defiance, perhaps a test to see if you will really do it.

     

    DO IT!

     

    It may take you finally standing behind your words to get him to wake up and realize he needs to take accountability for himself and be the man you deserve (that I believe most Aspie husbands WANT to be).  Perhaps it will take leaving him for him to get it through his mind that he can no longer treat you that way.  Perhaps you will have to leave him to have a chance at EVER making it better.

    The thing is… if you outline the abusive behavior you will no longer tolerate… and you remain with him after he violates this… you can count on him never changing and you better believe he will have zero respect for you.  If you make it clear that he cannot ever abuse you again after you define what you consider abuse, you will never feel good about yourself if you willingly allow it to continue.

     

    YOU HAVE TO BE STRONG ENOUGH TO WALK OUT THE DOOR OR KICK HIM OUT OF THE HOUSE AND STAND BY YOUR ACTIONS.

     

    If you believe he warrants another chance (and I am not against this) make damn sure there is a significant enough amount of time in between you allowing him back into your life before you do.  Make sure you have given YOURSELF enough time to learn who you are, what you want, and whether or not you actually want to live a life with or without him in the future (this process could take months for you to reach a rational choice).  Make sure you are hearing from a man who TRULY gets it.  Make sure you are hearing from a man who is taking personal accountability for his actions and who is truly understanding of the gravity of his behavior (words and actions) before you EVER consider letting him back into your life.  Make sure you give time to be with one another (without living together) again before you allow him back in that door, or you return.

    If a separation is not enough for him to willingly and wantonly abolish those cruel behaviors, you need to permanently walk out on your marriage.

    You are not stupid.  You wouldn’t be on this website if you believe you deserve to be treated without respect or if you believe you deserve to have your sense of self violated. You know you are something, so stop accepting someone who treats you like nothing.  You are here because you know you do not deserve this. If you have tried everything… even a separation… and he continues to abuse you… I PROMISE YOU… that abuse is going to escalate.  I promise you that someday, that abuse is going to kill you.  Your death may be a slow and torturous one by way of your immune system shutting down, your heart developing dysfunction, or your mental health breaking you down to a non-functioning woman, but one way or another, it absolutely will… without question… equate to a premature and agonizing death.  This is coming from a healthcare professional who absolutely comprehends how powerful our brains are.  This is coming from someone who knows that if you do not protect your emotional sense of self, your body will begin to manifest diseases and disorders in a desperate attempt to get you to wake the fuck up and start paying attention to your emotional well-being! 

    THIS IS NOT ABOUT SACRIFICING YOUR FEELINGS OF HAPPINESS FOR YOUR HUSBAND…. THIS IS ABOUT WHETHER OR NOT YOU ARE WILLING TO SACRIFICE YOUR LIFE FOR HIM! 

    If you stay with your Aspie husband despite his refusal to stop abusing you, you are agreeing to lay down your own life to appease his inflexible and intolerable cruelty. If you think for one second that staying with a man who refuses to stop abusing you is best for your children… if you think leaving him would be selfish and cause great harm to your children… if you have convinced yourself that you are sacrificing yourself, not for him, but for the sake of your children… I implore you to wake up fast… KILLING YOURSELF IS CRUEL TO YOUR CHILDREN! 

    Not all Aspie husbands display defensive anger on a recurrent basis and of the ones who do, not all of them rise to the level of verbal and/or emotional abuse.  Anger (in and of itself) is not necessarily abusive (challenging to deal with, but not abusive).  Most of the time, a very angry, defensive, or hostile Aspie husband will cross over into the grey area of verbal and emotional abuse.  

    As you read my website, you will find that I am very defensive of Aspie husbands and I am incredibly defensive of the fact that your marriage can get better and that an Aspie-NT marriage CAN be happy and successful.  I do not “excuse” any of the poor behaviors your husband has any more than I excuse the poor behaviors you have had.  I have found explanations, and I have found causes for them.  I have found hope, I have seen success, and I have found a reason to fight for our marriages.  I do not believe your husband is a bad man, I believe he is a good man.  I believe you are a good woman. 

    I believe your life can get better. In order to begin implementing the advice I have to give, in order to begin understanding how you came to both be so miserable in your marriage, and in order for you to begin truly working hard on change… you must first establish the behaviors that will prevent ANY of that from ever being realized. You have to take time for yourself and reflect on the words and behaviors that are abusive to your emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being.  You have to write them down.  You have to truly believe that you no longer deserve to be treated that way.  You have to stop making excuses, for him and yourself.  You have to establish and be willing to follow through on a new life that does not include your husband.  You have to share your clear and direct “intolerable and unacceptable” list with your husband, and then you have to be willing to stand by your word and follow through.

    Take the time to establish what you deserve.  Take the time to read what I have written.  Take the time to identify the non-negotiable things that are killing your spirit and the magnificent woman you are… and write them down. Share them with your husband when you are ready.  Give him time to process your words, and then make a firm and final choice to do the MOST IMPORTANT THING you can do to save your marriage if he continues to be abusive…

    BE WILLING TO WALK AWAY FROM IT.

     

     

     

    IT IS NOT ALRIGHT TO BE ABUSED BY THE PERSON YOU LOVE… FOR ANY REASON… EVER.

    *****If you are being physically abused, I don’t even recommend giving him a second chance.  If you are being physically abused and you fear for your personal safety, I also DO NOT recommend you challenge him or waste your energy with a list.  If you are being physically abused, I recommend you seek immediate help and you plan a permanent escape that is safe.  I also recommend you take a second glance at his Asperger-diagnosis.  It is not impossible for an Aspie to also become violent but in cases like this… you are dealing with a comorbid mental health diagnosis and his AS is not responsible for the disturbing personality disorder that affords him the delusional belief he can physically assault another human being.  Get away from a man like this and get away from them in a way that provides you with a safe escape.

     

     

     


  • ASPERGER’S SYNDROME & SEX

     

    WHAT IS WRONG WITH HIM SEXUALLY?

    Let me know if the word “wrong” seems terribly “wrong” after you read this explanation of your Aspie husband in the bedroom 

     

    I get a ton of personal emails asking me questions about sex in an Aspie-NT marriage, from both Aspies and Neurotypicals alike. Few people are brave enough to ask the question or share personal stories about this part of their relationship on the blog itself, but I commend those who have. This subject is so important to talk about, but also rarely explored in Aspie-NT articles and blogs.  Discussing the deeply private and personal happenings of a couple in the bedroom is sometimes considered “off-limits” for public view. Sometimes this is because of religious beliefs, cultural expectations, or because of the insecurity, embarrassment, and utter humiliation people feel when they expose this part of their inner world to others.

    While I have promised to give full disclosure about my marriage and thoughts through my writing, I have to mention that I cannot share personal stories about my own sex life. As much as I haven’t any reservation openly talking about the good, the bad, or any changes we have made along the way to ensure this part of our life was kept intact, I have made a promise I intend to keep out of respect for my husband.  

    When I began this blog, I asked John if he had specific things he did not want me to disclose to the world about himself or our life. While he is pretty apathetic in general to this blog and said “whatever you want” (I don’t think he actually realizes people READ IT, lol), he did say he did not want me to talk about our sex life in detail.  There was also one silly behavior he has (unrelated to sex) that boggles my mind (to this day) that he is embarrassed about and asked me not to share.  I’m not going to lie, I’d rather share the peculiar behavior he has than our sex life, but I have already pissed him off about this one too many times, so I have to honor his request.  Unfortunately, in the search for “why does he do that?!?” and not getting a rational explanation from him, I began asking one-too-many people what their thoughts were on his behavior (which I told him) and subsequently learned he did NOT appreciate. It isn’t anything perverse or cruel… think OCD-ish.

    Since I am beyond thankful that John has given me his blessing (or utter indifference) to me openly sharing our private life with the world, I would be a real asshole to not respect the only things he requested I not publicly talk about. Luckily, there are enough commonalities to the Aspie-NT sexual concerns out there that I can keep this post pretty generic and you can draw your own conclusions about whether or not any of these “issues” have occurred in my marriage.  

     

     

    SO WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?

    All of the times NT women say that their sex life is poor or non-existent, or that their husband isn’t interested in sex, that he makes them feel undesired, that he is routine and robotic in his actions in bed, that he is only interested in getting his own needs met, that he is too sensitive to touch, etc… I hear you.  

    I hear you, but I need you to consider this:  there is a 90% chance (*Kara-Stats*) that your husband still desires you, wants to please you, would be willing and wanting to follow your lead, and wishes to God he knew exactly what you expected and wanted in bed… because if he did, he would try to make it happen.

    I know you don’t believe me yet, but that’s because you don’t understand what is happening “behind the scenes” and cannot see something so obvious it is probably going to make you feel pretty bad when you realize it.  Don’t feel bad… I didn’t comprehend anything until I began to fully comprehend cognitive empathy.

    Your husband is not sexually disabled or dysfunctional, he is severely impaired by his own insecurities, fear, and anxiety.  

    It is NOT you, it is NOT because he does not like or need sex, it is NOT because he is weird or selfish or uncaring.  My *Kara-Stats* has a 90% assurance that your husband loves you and wants to have sex with you.  I leave 5% open for the men who really could not care less about sex (at all); although some of the Antidepressants our Aspie husbands get prescribed in their youth (when the diagnosis was missed) can cause a loss of sex drive.  I leave the other 5% open to men who should be diagnosed with High Functioning Autism (not Asperger’s syndrome), because HFA would present with someone disinterested in interpersonal engagement (to include sex). 

    If you are thinking that your husband doesn’t care or want sex at all, but does not fit into my non-scientific 10%… you are not alone.  I am betting a developed aversion to sex is to blame for why he appears to not desire this in his life. What do I mean by a “developed aversion” to sex?  Here I go with a random analogy:

    Let’s say someone is allergic to strawberries.  When this person eats strawberries, (even a tiny nibble of one) they break out in embarrassing hives all over their face and neck.  Now pretend this person REALLY loved strawberries as a child (and had no reaction to them) and would have prefered them to ANY other food if given the option. Since this person did not know they were going to develop an allergic response later in life, the first time this happened to them (when they were in the presence of a person they really liked), they were incredibly embarrassed to see their reflection in the mirror.  

    While this person did not suddenly develop an aversion to the taste of strawberries (Hell No! They loved the way they tasted still) they knew they could no longer partake in eating them without suffering an unflattering facial rash.  If that person is in a social setting and offered to taste a delightful strawberry treat, their response will quickly become, “Oh, no! I don’t like strawberries!” 

    THEY DO LIKE STRAWBERRIES!

    In fact, this person likes strawberries so much they still crave them and dream about indulging in everything-strawberry while they sleep at night.  When placed in an environment where they know their love of strawberries is going to have people making fun of them or questioning what is “wrong” with them (because their hive-infested face cannot be ignored), they would rather starve then consider putting a beloved strawberry in their mouth. 

    Tracking? 

    If not… I am trying to tell you that instead of thinking your husband has an aversion to sex, pretend it is an allergy to strawberries!  He wants them, he craves them, he thinks they are delicious… but he experiences unwanted attention and anxiety about the potential (uncontrollable) physical response his body will have if he eats one.  Since his ability to eat a strawberry like a “normal” person without suffering a physiologic response that makes him look “weird” is impaired… he would rather pretend he hates them then expose how silly they make him look. 

     

    SEX IS NONVERBAL

    Being in-tune with a person sexually is LITERALLY the act of using intuitive non-verbal language with one another to the point of physical gratification.

    Think about this for a minute…. sex is almost entirely nonverbal! 

    Your husband is cognitively incapable of processing nonverbal communication unless it is incredibly obvious and/or something he has learned to associate with a need over time and repetition.  Huh?  If you tell your husband that slamming your bag on the dining room table means you are in a bad mood… eventually he is going to know what that nonverbal message means in the future.  He isn’t going to connect the dots that throwing your arms up in the air or saying, “I need to get out of here” means the same thing (I am in a bad mood) as the bag-slamming unless you tell him that as well.  

    Sex is no different and this connection to the nonverbal messages he “thinks” he has deciphered from you (in regard to sex) are often not complete or correct. 

    Guess what?  You inadvertently caused the very things you are unhappy about in your sex life… but it’s ok, it is not your fault any more than it is his so don’t beat yourself up.  

    It would be exceptionally rare for an NT-e to directly state what they want sexually with clear, unambiguous, simple language before or during the act itself (especially in the beginning of the relationship).  There are exceptions to this, as some NT-e women are more mature and open about their sexual needs in general and tell their partner exactly what they like from the start… but I bet you these women aren’t the ones complaining their Aspie husband doesn’t like or need sex!  For all the other NT-e women, they are going to (by nature) let the man take the lead in the bedroom when the relationship first begins to develop.  

    Aspies aren’t so good at taking the lead in a situation like this!

    Considering sex is almost entirely suggestive, indirect, and filled with facial expressions and body language that tells a person they are doing something right, or they are doing something wrong… Aspie husbands are inherently screwed (I’m funny) from the very start.  Honestly, how could your poor Aspie husband ever figure out what he needs to do in bed to make you happy if he can’t even figure out how to have an emotionally-charged conversation with you (whereby you utilize 90% non-verbal language)?  If you are struggling to communicate effectively, it should go without say that your sex life is going to be the epitome of miscommunication; this is why the majority of NT-Aspie marriages include incredibly frustrating feelings toward their private life in the bedroom. 

    Ironic that no one talks about this openly thought, isn’t it?  Something as important as sexual chemistry and satisfaction gets pushed to the backburner; it is still a taboo subject and NT wives feel embarrassed themselves to expose how miserable they are.

    Let me see if I can help clarify this for everyone out there…. I need you to remember when you had your first sexual encounter with someone you REALLY liked…  

    I’m serious… stop reading this for a few minutes and really try to remember how you behaved before, during, and after you had sex with the person?

     Weren’t you nervous? Giggling perhaps? Sensitive to every touch? Unsure if a noise you made or a facial expression would make you sound or look ridiculous?  Weren’t you going through a playbook in your mind of “how to do it right” after reading, hearing about, or watching the way two people “are supposed” to act when they are being intimate? Didn’t that playbook in your mind distract a little from your ability to enjoy the moment because you were so preoccupied with not doing something wrong (or the opposite)? Weren’t you a little afraid after the whole thing was done that the person would not view you the same anymore?

    Now think about most young men and their first sexual encounter at all.  Isn’t there a running joke in society about how their first encounter “only lasted a second?”  Most NT men will willingly laugh about their early days of sex and how they were a “two pump chump” or a complete mess overall and not think much of the humiliation they actually felt during that time in their life. 

    But, imagine if the mortification a young man has in his first sexual encounter never went away and he was always afraid he would experience premature ejaculation or do something wrong and be a disappointment to women for the rest of his life?  

    Welcome to the life of a man with Asperger’s syndrome! 

    Now combine that fear of personal embarrassment to an Aspie who is already riddled with social anxiety and confusion over the messages he is “missing” throughout his life. Think of the countless failures he endured in his attempts to form a close relationship with his peers, let alone a woman he really likes.  How long do you think it will take for that Aspie to develop an aversion or fear of sex in general if he is repeatedly told he is doing something wrong, selfish, or abnormal in bed?  Imagine how it feels to have it pointed out that he is finishing too soon, or asked if there is “something wrong?” with him after sex? 

    An NT male usually (not always) learns to read nonverbal language in bed and eventually (through exposure therapy) learns ways to prolong sex or adapt to their partner’s unique desires.  An anxiety-ridden Aspie, terrified of screwing up or being labeled weird or abnormal (ESPECIALLY from the woman they have fallen for) only has compounding anxieties the longer they are exposed to sex.

     

    Here is what this adverse reaction looks like:

     

    NO INTEREST IN SEX

    Some Aspie men (after hearing they are not pleasing in bed) forgo sex altogether because the humiliation and worry associated with it are too great to emotionally withstand.  They sacrifice something they really want to avoid the unpleasant emotions and thoughts that sex evokes. 

    Regardless of how you spin it, your husband is still a man, and by nature, he has a fragile ego when it comes to society’s expectations in typical-male abilities.  Some Aspie men are so afraid of ever being called out on their inadequacies ever again in the bedroom they will purposely forgo sex altogether in their marriage (even though they still desire it) and develop an unnatural stoicism about the topic as though they are so “manly” they don’t require that kind of mushy-nonsense in their world to be happy. These men seem to be so indifferent to sex that they unknowingly project their assumed inadequacies on their wives and make them feel inadequate or undesirable themselves. 

    In reality… these Aspie men would rather suffer the loss of something they truly crave and want for themselves instead of risking the loss of their spouse to their “incompetent skills.”

    Well now…

    that’s sad. 

    ROBOTIC OR ROUTINE SEX

    Think about how honest you were with your Aspie husband when you initially began having sex?  Did you openly complain about the way he moved a certain way, or something awkward he did during sex?

    OF COURSE NOT, YOU’RE AN NT-e!

    YOU WOULD NEVER HURT SOMEONE’S FEELINGS LIKE THAT!

    How the heck could he know he was doing something wrong or displeasing if you never told him? I’ll bet by the time you did finally try to tell him to change something, you didn’t tell him directly, did you?  Nope.  You used gentle ambiguous words, you used suggestions, you tried to tell him with nonverbal facial expressions or body language, or you may have even disengaged him in sex for a while when he appeared to be ignoring your indirect requests.   

    Guess what?  All of those efforts were completely pointless because he didn’t pick up on any of your messages at all!  What he did pick up on was that you were “being weird” and he wasn’t sure why.

    Eventually you became irritated or frustrated with your husband “not taking the hint” about what you wanted (or didn’t want) in regard to sex.  I bet you even called him on some of the things you didn’t appreciate about your sex life in the heat of an argument didn’t you?  Unfortunately, if you are like most NT women, you probably clearly articulated angry words of disappointment or rejection toward your Aspie husband’s sexual abilities out of anger, didn’t you?  Your bluntness most definitely got through to him at that point. 

    Ugh… this is such an unfortunate and common scenario!

    So in all of the times you thought you were telling your husband (in nice ways) that you wanted more sex, wanted him to try new things, wanted him to pay attention to your needs more, wanted him to work on delaying his orgasm, etc. he wasn’t hearing you.  The first time he did hear you, it was in the form of utterly cruel rejection that he felt completely blindsided by. 

    He couldn’t have known you had building frustration about your sex life (you never explicitly told him).  When you finally unleashed your frustration with unflattering and accusatory words, like, “You’re like a robot in bed!” or something equally hurtful… the only way he should have been expected to respond was with hostility and anger.  Why wouldn’t he?  To him, out of the clear blue sky, you insulted his manhood and attacked his fragile ego.  As an Aspie man, already incredibly insecure about his sexual performance, you just went for the jugular (to him) and maliciously informed him that everything he feared you would think about him… you did. 

    Ouch… that must have hurt him. 

    Of course, being an NT-e, you felt guilty for what you said to him and have acutely keen cognitive empathy so you had little problem identifying that your words hit him hard and they cut deep.  So what did you do in response?  You compound the routine and robotic sex by doing something so damn typical (and ironic) that it is almost comical when you look at it in retrospect. 

    While your “outburst” of insulting your husband’s manhood may have been very well-deserved from your perspective, it was nothing more than a malicious act to humiliate him from where he stood.  In an attempt to mitigate the situation, you may have apologized or tried to explain yourself (this fell on deaf ears).  You may have a husband who withdrew from you sexually as a result of your words.  If he did this for a significant amount of time, it would have compounded your frustration and hurt feelings. 

    But you were still a silly NT-e and you blamed yourself for “going too far” and you couldn’t wait for a chance to make amends for your hurtful actions. 

    The next time you finally had sex again, I bet you were overly appreciative, complimenting, or even fake claiming it was “incredibly amazing” sex.  You may have done this in an attempt to erase the damage you had done.  You may have just been so thrilled he wanted to be intimate with you again (your self-confidence was also on shaky ground) that you were overly verbal about how much you enjoyed the sex because you were praying he didn’t stonewall intimacy in the future.  You knew what positive reinforcement was, so you were hoping if you praised his abilities the next time you had sex, that it would motivate him to want to continue having sex with you because, NT-e women crave physical intimacy… even if it doesn’t lead to intercourse.  

    Oh man… now you’ve done it!

    By providing your husband with that positive reinforcement after feeling so humiliated and insecure, he is going to make a mental note of whatever it is he did “that time” in bed that left you so pleased by him.  It was at your overly reassuring critique of sex that you unknowingly set the stage for him to repeat that intimate encounter (step by step) in every single sexual encounter to come in the future!  He has to repeat it exactly the same way because he doesn’t want to screw it up again.  You gave him confirmation that he did it right that time, so he is not going to want to mess with that recipe of success by changing it up in the future. 

    Let’s say you never verbally unleashed your disappointment in him out loud. Perhaps you both existed in a relationship where you backed off from sex because you were not having your needs met but were “too kind” to openly tell him this. Eventually, you will feel rejected by your husband even if you were the one who stopped allowing it to happen in the first place.  Tired of waiting for him to initiate an intimate encounter, you may engage him yourself one night while in bed.  Your husband, no doubt, would also be feeling rejected from your withdrawal from sex, so he’d be absolutely ecstatic when you showed signs you wanted to be physical with him again.

    Historically speaking, your Aspie partner really has no idea when you want sex if you do not tell him (he can’t pick up on your hints and body language).  On the night you suddenly act as the initiator, his mind will instantly try to nail down the action “he” made to get this wanted response from you.  He will quickly think, “Ok, what the hell did I just do to make her want sex?”  If he decides it was the way he brushed his face across your neck, or stroked your arm… there is a damn good chance he is going to try THAT MOVE again every single time he desires sex (thinking it is your trigger to respond to his wants).  Since most couples are timid sexually when they are newly together, your Aspie husband (clueless about what actions indicate it is “go time”) will automatically default to whatever he thought worked in the past.  He will also automatically default to doing whatever he thinks pleases you, and do it repetitively unless told otherwise.  

    This is why Aspie husbands are constantly accused of being “robotic” in bed.

    Often, we are so sensitive and attracted to our mate in the early days of courtship that even the most basic sexual acts or touches turn us on.  It is just the act of touch alone from the man we desire that sends us into a heightened state of arousal.   If you had this experience in the beginning, you will eventually realize that what once pleased you, is no longer enough after you settle into a long term relationship.  You’re Aspie husband will not have this same epiphany.  

    Even if you never felt incredibly turned on by your husband in the early days of the relationship, you likely still pretended the sex was sufficient if you were hoping it would improve, or just wanting to remain with him into the future. This unspoken dissatisfaction will eventually cause you to feel frustrated that your needs are not being met.  

    This happens in NT-NT marriages as well for similar reasons.  The major difference is that an NT partner will pick up on the nonverbal messages that something is amiss and has the ability to try to change things for the better… or at least address them openly.  The Aspie husband is not going to ever know things aren’t up to par (in your mind) and will continue assuming you are content in your sex life unless you directly say something.

    Regardless of how you initially behaved toward your husband regarding sexual intimacy, if you do not vocalize that your needs have changed, or become comfortable enough to tell him what you really want… he is never going to figure it out on his own!  If he thinks you are happy or satisfied from the beginning… he is not going to change his behavior because… HE IS TERRIFIED OF LOSING YOU and doesn’t want you do discover that he is not a “sexual genius” in the bedroom. 

    You see… it was never about him NOT wanting to please you… 

    it was about him NOT WANTING TO DISAPPOINT YOU. 

    Your Aspie husband never knew, does not know, and will never know what you want UNLESS YOU TELL HIM.

    He is NOT a robot so STOP enabling him to act like one.

    PREMATURE EJACULATION (PE)

    Let’s tackle this taboo subject once and for all. 

    Premature ejaculation is the uncontrolled ejaculation that occurs either before or shortly after penetration.  PE happens with minimal sexual stimulation and before the person (or their partner) wants it to.  PE causes unsatisfied feelings for the NT wife and embarrassment for the Aspie husband. 

    Going back to the “teenage or young adult” man in his early days of being sexually active, PE is an incredibly common experience and it can create anxiety for any young man… it can create debilitating anxiety for an Aspie who is already riddled with self-criticism and insecurity where interpersonal relationships are concerned. 

    Despite PE being the most common form of sexual dysfunction for all men (NT or Aspie), it will happen to almost every one of them at least once in their lifetime… but it is rarely discussed.  The cause of PE is not clear, but it is associated with inexperience, new partners, or long spans of time between ejaculations.  The general opinion of medical professionals is that anxiety is the underlying psychological cause for the majority of men who suffer from PE.   

    Since it goes without say (I hope) that men with Asperger’s syndrome are plagued with chronic anxiety in social environments, it would make sense that men with Aspergers are at an incredibly heightened risk of experiencing PE over the average man. 

    But let’s talk about other reasons this is so common amongst Aspies.

    Tourette’s syndrome is the involuntary movement or vocalization of sounds made by a person intermittently and seemingly without cause.  These movements or sounds are called motor or vocal “tics” and become more severe when a person is stressed or placed in an anxiety-provoking environment. 

    Premature ejaculation is just like Tourette’s syndrome (ok, it isn’t… but try to play along with my analogy).  Let’s say a person has Tourette’s syndrome and their particular tic is a noticeable shrugging of their shoulders that can often seem dramatic and distracting to those around them.  This person has a unique “tic” that once you become aware of it… you can disregard it as anything “bizarre or worrisome” and may even look past its existence after a while.  When you are in public with this person and realize they are feeling anxious, you may notice they are shrugging their shoulders in an increasing and more dramatic way.  If you are close to this person, you may think, “Ok, that’s their motor tic, they are stressed, no biggie.”  It will be easily accepted by you that increased stress means an increased display of the severity of this person’s motor tic.

    Now think about PE.

    If a young Aspie has the same experience as a young NT in their first sexual encounter, whereby they reach orgasm long before they intended to, they will feel anxiety about the reoccurrence of it in a similar way. 

    While both men are equally embarrassed and afraid they will continue to experience PE in the future, the NT male may read about ways to offset this or delay orgasm and put them into practice the next time.  Relaxation and focusing on other things is one of the most recommended tactics to utilize as a first line of action toward preventing PE. 

    The Aspie may read the same stuff, but they are at a severe disadvantage to the NT the next time they are placed in an intimate encounter.  The Aspie has a profound amount of anxiety JUST BEING in a “one on one” situation with a person they wish to be close to.  They have lived a life of rejection (for reasons unknown to them) and they are going to walk into each “date” or social event terrified they will screw it up or make the woman want to run from them. 

    This fear does not get better after a grace period (as it might for an NT man) because the Aspie is truly not certain what he has ever done (or not done) to cause social rejection throughout his entire life.

    You can’t change something you can’t understand.

    Since PE is predominantly a result of anxiety, the Aspie man is effectively screwed when compared to the NT because he is unable to exist in a non-anxious state long enough to even attempt the suggestions that might help him delay orgasm in the future. 

    If the Aspie man is afraid this will happen to him during sex, he is going to be LESS likely to ever prevent it.  Just like Tourette’s syndrome, the tic is an “uncontrolled and involuntary” action that becomes more severe as stress increases.  PE is an uncontrolled and involuntary action that becomes more likely as anxiety increases.

    That seems pretty simple…

    It sucks…

    But it definitely makes rational sense, right?

    I know there are tons of people who want to claim that the PE experienced by Aspies is a direct result of their Asperger-induced sensitivities.  I have a lot to say on the subject of tactile, audible, visual, etc. “sensitivities” that those with Asperger’s syndrome continuously sight as the “reason” for their behavior (from avoidance to full-on temper tantrums).  Since I have another long post dedicated to this subject, I will only say that while I do not discount the fact that Aspies have an increased likelihood of such sensitivities, I do think they need to stop hiding behind them as an excuse.  I believe strongly that all of these “sensitivities” are modifiable and preventable if the “cause” is looked at closely.  I do not endorse the use of them as an excuse to disengage or inappropriately respond to people or environments.

     

    Dammit…

    Now I have opened that can of worms and I haven’t put up that post yet to back my “inconsiderate” opinion.  

    Ok, I feel compelled to offer a few examples to offset the anticipated onslaught of defensively angry Aspies who will chastise my words…

    I am a nurse and I have seen countless examples of how the human brain causes automatic physical responses to protect itself from a perceived threat.  For example, if a person has had their leg broken, they may have excruciating pain when someone touches that extremity.  They may have damaged nerves that compound the sensitivity and a seemingly gentle touch may feel as though a person is squeezing, stabbing, or crushing their poor broken limb. 

    While this person’s sensitivity is the direct result of a traumatic injury, their brain will begin to create an automatic response to any degree of physical contact with that leg to tell them they are in danger… to the point that if a person even comes close to it, or they “think” the nurse is “going” to touch their leg… they will shriek out in pain as though they have been severely hurt. I do not doubt they are actually feeling the very pain causing them to cry out, even though the nurse hasn’t even touched them!  Why?  Because the brain is telling them they are going to be harmed and it is causing the physical manifestation of discomfort to thwart further injury to their already compromised leg. 

    The brain is incredibly defensive of the physical self. 

    Here’s the thing… this same patient won’t even flinch when the nurse is actually touching (and sometimes with pain causing actions) their broken leg if they are in a deep sleep and have no knowledge an “attack” is approaching.

    Fear of pain causes actual pain.

    Want another example?  Ok, let’s say there is a woman who was physically abused by her uncle at a young age.  Every time this abuse took place, it was in the uncle’s kitchen, where fluorescent lights were overhead.  Without realizing it, this child may have had neurological synapses connect themselves to the parts of the brain that process both light and fear. In an attempt to protect the physical self from further assault, the brain has now made a connection that the young girl is completely unaware of. 

    As an adult, this woman may find herself stricken with paralyzing anxiety and fear the moment she is placed in an environment with fluorescent lighting.  She may have no idea why this occurs, since she did not consciously connect fluorescent lighting with physical abuse as a child… but it doesn’t make the trauma she experiences when placed in such lighting any less profound.

    Fear causes actual physical responses to a threat.

    Tracking?

    Going back to the idea that PE occurs at a higher rate for Aspie men because they have all of these debilitating sensitivities… “caused” by Asperger’s syndrome itself, is not really true.  The sensitivity to touch that causes PE is because of ANXIETY, therefore, the brain connects the sexual act of touch as a perceived threat to their physical self and how their body suffers when it is in an anxious state.  This connection between touch and anxiety can cause an unconscious aversion (sensitivity) to it. 

    Aspie men are fearful they will experience PE and their body may become hypersensitive to touch in general… this can turn into a husband who tells their wife they don’t want to be “touched” at all.  Naturally, the reason for his words are not understood and make the wife feel unwanted and rejected.  He is not going to be able to articulate why he has this sensitivity and he is most definitely not going to realize that thwarting physical contact makes his wife feel unloved. He can’t make this connection unless she directly tells him how it makes her feel.  

    Once again, if a man is afraid of reaching orgasm too soon and disappointing his wife or being viewed as inferior or abnormal, he is going to become anxious about it.  If he is anxious, the likelihood of ever preventing it from happening becomes an impossibility.

    It all comes down to using direct language to express what you are thinking and feeling to the person you are married to. 

    If the Aspie husband knew that his wife understood WHY he had this problem and that she did not think less of him for it… she might help ease his anxiety (which could slowly begin to fix the problem).  If the wife were able to verbalize to him that there are other things he can do to “compensate” for it that will make both partners feel loved and sexually prioritized, the feelings of anxiety and self-criticism can begin to wean as well (over time). There are ways to improve and work on these issues but they require direct communication and willingness to listen.  

    Don’t expect your husband to joyously engage in this discussion with you.  Actually, you should anticipate an impressing show of hostility at first.

    Remember that anger masks all of his other emotions.  If you remain calm and allow him to speak (and do not overwhelm his mind with flurries of words he has to decipher) you will see other emotions lurking behind his seemingly “hostile” behavior. 

    While your husband may continue to speak with a loud, nasty, or angry tone; listen to his actual words… you will usually find a wide range of other emotions and feelings being expressed like fear, embarrassment, anxiety, stress, rejection, etc.

    It is absolutely imperative that an NT spouse understands that her husband cannot receive her nonverbal messages because he does not have cognitive empathy.  It is even more important to realize that lacking cognitive empathy means her husband has NO CLUE how his own nonverbal messages are being presented to the outside world. 

    Your husband does not know he sounds angry, he does not know he appears irate, he does not know his tone and pitch sound accusatory or cruel.  He is not intending to do this (sometimes he is) but more often than not, he has as much awareness about how his words and behaviors appear to you… as he does about what your words and behaviors should mean to him.

     

    YOU HAVE TO START LISTENING TO WHAT HE IS ACTUALLY SAYING, NOT THE WAY HE IS SAYING IT!!!

    Oh, by the way…

    Your husband suffers from Premature Ejaculation because,

    HE IS AFRAID HE WILL SUFFER FROM PREMATURE EJACULATION

    (Enjoy that irony!)

    IN CONCLUSION

    Stop assuming your husband is not interested in sex. 

    Stop assuming your husband doesn’t find you attractive. 

    Stop assuming your husband is selfish in bed. 

    Stop assuming your husband is an asshole in general. 

    Start taking a step back and looking at this entire dynamic from outside the box.

    The answers you seek are just lurking behind your ability to communicate with direct language.

     

    Still think your husband has something “wrong” with him sexually?

    Think maybe there is just something “wrong” with the way you communicate instead?


  • WHO ARE WE? part 2-2

    HOW WE CAME TO BE… A DISASTER

    WARNING! WARNING! WARNING!

    THIS IS LONG.  I don’t mean the sort of long that I have apologized for in the past either, this one is going to take a couple cups of coffee to get through!  Unless you are seriously intrigued by the post WHO ARE WE (Part 1) and want to know how we came to the place of an unhappily married Aspie/NT couple (inspiring the change that turned it around) you should avoid this post.  

    I think it is important to share this glimpse into our lives to be able to fill the gaps of how we first became infatuated and then fell in love with one another; only to find ourselves equally paralyzed in the middle of a shit-storm we could NOT find our way out of.  

    While this is about our personal journey, you may find yourself reflecting on your own relationship and identifying similar behaviors, thoughts, and actions from your own past.  You already know how the shit-storm ended for us (or if not, please keep reading my posts), so if you are not that into reading about another person’s story… you definitely want to click out of this immediately.  

    If you have found the end of the internet and got nothing left to read: give it a whirl.  

    You probably have to begin with part 1 to make sense of where I pick up in this story…  

    JUST LIKE MAGNETS

                    When John and I first came together we had a magnetic force that sucked us right into one another the moment we got close.  Within six months of him moving down to Florida, it felt like the magnetic force that once drew us together was propelling us further apart.  The harder I tried to close the gap, the stronger I felt resistance.  It became clear to me that one of those magnets would need to turn over if we were going to ever become close again. 

                    I assumed he was the one who needed to do the flipping.  At the time, I had every reason to believe this.

    SOMETHING IS VERY WRONG

                    I knew pretty early on that there was something inherently different about John, but I could never quite place it.  Honestly, I never wanted to in those early days.  John kept me sane and alleviated the grief I was going through (or helped me avoid it) and I did not want that to end.  I was too afraid to risk losing the man I needed that I knowingly refused to dig any deeper than the surface of why he appeared to be hiding a whole lot about himself. 

                    I knew that his explanations of his “work” in Michigan (prior to moving in with me in Florida) did not add up, I knew that his dismissive responses to questions about previous relationships were suspicious, and I also knew that a ton of other things he had given me short or contradicting responses to about his past did not make sense.   The problem was, I needed John so much (or I would surely be swallowed by suppressed grief) that I was too fearful I would uncover something that would make me want to leave him.  That fear caused me to never grill him when he gave me short answers or attempt to point out inconsistencies in things he said. 

    THE “HOLY SHIT” MOMENT

                    I still believe the moment I finally began to pull the wool back from my eyes came in the form of an acute bout of gastrointestinal distress.  John and I had only been living together for a few months when one morning, out of nowhere (while sitting in a class for nursing school), I began to feel queasy.  I excused myself to the bathroom and began to vomit like a scene from The Exorcist.  It felt like the plague had just hit me.  I sent John text messages telling him I was sick and wanted to come home.  He suggested I stick it out because I had an important test I needed to take notes for (I thought this was insensitive).  After telling him I thought I was dying, I reluctantly drove myself all the way across town (stopping to vomit on the side of the road) in a distressed scurry to my condo.  I recall wanting to ask John to come and get me, but never spoke those words aloud… despite not telling him what I wanted, I still found myself angry and hurt he did not respond, “You are in no condition to drive baby, I will come get you.”  When I finally made it home, John was lying in bed watching television.  I plopped down beside him (after vomiting again) and began to whine like a pathetically ill puppy. 

                    When it comes to being in pain, I am the toughest of the tough.  I even walked on an injured ankle for 10 months through my first nursing program to later discover over half of my talus bone (weight-bearing bone in your ankle) was literally rotten (necrotic) and the decaying tissue had to be surgically removed. When it comes to being nauseated however, I am the biggest baby who ever existed.  I want to be coddled and I want someone by my side to rub my head and tell me I am not going to die until I fall asleep.

                    When I fell into bed that afternoon, John immediately jumped up with his hands in the air as though he were telling someone to stop before they drove off a cliff… and said, “You’re sick, don’t touch me!”  I begged him to lay down beside me repeating, “I’m so sick, please stay with me, I need you or I am going to die.”  John replied, “You’re not gonna die” and then got dressed and walked directly out of the bedroom.  I heard the front door shut and after wondering where he had gone (maybe out to smoke?) I realized his cell phone was still on the nightstand.  I was too sick to chase after him and had no idea why he just abandoned me when I needed him so desperately.  I was feeling pretty unloved on top of the sickness, but eventually fell asleep.

                    About an hour after he left I was awakened by the front door.  John walked into the doorway of our bedroom, threw a few bottles of Gatorade at me, reached in the room (without moving his legs), turned the television on and said, “Drink that, you need to hydrate, watch some tv and you’ll feel better.”  With that, he closed the bedroom door and I did not see him again until the evening.  The minute he closed my bedroom door that afternoon, after begging him to stay by my side, I thought to myself, “Who does that?!?!?”

    My next thought was: “HOLY SHIT, I think I am living with a psychopath!”

                    It was in that moment that I first considered my boyfriend was a sociopath.  Every single action that seemed “off” to me in the months we had been living together began to replay in my mind.  All of the things that caused me to have an odd feeling that something was different about him began to set off alarm bells that I could no longer ignore.  This moment began a horrific downward spiral of fear and a constant questioning of his actions, words, motives, and intentions in every day that followed (for years).

                    Later that night when I finally stopped vomiting and was beginning to feel better, I asked John why he left me after I had pleaded with him to stay.  I was prepared to analyze his response and catch his sociopathic-self in action.  John responded, “You were sick.  Staying with you wouldn’t make you better, it would only get me sick.  There is no point in both of us being sick.  I got you stuff to get better.” 

                    I rolled over (angry) and went to sleep for the night. 

                    I never spoke of that again until right now.

                    As I write this, John’s response to me (now) makes perfect sense.  I did not describe to him why I wanted him to stay by my side that afternoon.  I didn’t tell him that when I was a little girl and got sick like that, I would lay on my father’s stomach and he would rub my head until I fell asleep.  I didn’t tell him that my father always made me feel safe when I was afraid and that when I get nauseous, I feel afraid.  I did not vocalize that even as an adult, I want the man in my life to respond the way my father did when I was little.  I didn’t tell him that if he had done that, I would have felt safe and loved or that I would have preferred that action to his chosen treatment option (which actually did make me better).  I didn’t give him the chance to tell me that when he is sick like I was, he doesn’t want anyone to touch him; that all he wants to do is drink fluids and distract himself with television.  I did not realize at the time that John responded to my illness the way he would have wanted to be treated

    TREAT PEOPLE THE WAY YOU WANT TO BE TREATED!

                    Isn’t that what we repeat over and over again to our children when we are trying to teach them to act compassionately?  I could not see back then that my boyfriend behaved in the most compassionate way he could for his sick girlfriend and he did exactly what he was told to do when you want to show someone you love them.  I had no clue what Asperger’s syndrome was and zero knowledge on how John’s perceptions altered from my own. 

    How could I have known that he would never pick up on my inner thoughts and feelings unless I explicitly stated them? 

                    Despite John treating me in the most compassionate way he knew how to during my acute illness, I perceived the polar opposite.  On my bed that evening, I did not have the wherewithal to realize my boyfriend was trying to treat me in a loving way and take care of me. I thought John’s response was cold, selfish, and completely indifferent to my feelings.  In my mind, his rationale for leaving my side when I needed him was the reply of a man who had no empathy.  The only humans I knew of that lacked empathy WERE PSYCHOPATHS.

    LET THE WALL CONSTRUCTION COMMENCE

                    Around the six-month mark of our life as a couple in Florida, the fun times that brought us together stopped being so fun.  I was beginning to think I made a terrible mistake with John and I was over-analyzing ALL of his behaviors as that of a potential sociopath (I had him under a very unfair microscope looking back).  I was going to nursing school full time and was inadvertently forced to take a part time nursing job (I was already a licensed nurse going to school for an advanced degree) because we had moved into a condo we could not afford (on his urging) on my pay alone and John did not appear motivated to look for work.  He always had an excuse for why he couldn’t get a job, like pointing out that we would never see one another if he worked full time during the day (I took evening classes) and I would make three times as much as him working part time than he could ever make (in Florida) working full time.  He also pointed out that my evening school hours would prevent him from transporting my daughter to/from school and her after-school martial arts program.  The condo we moved to was across town from the school she was zoned for previously, so he seemed to have a logical argument with that one… but I still resented him for not working every time I had to awaken for school, tired from working the previous night. 

                    My parents (and older sister) had been exceptionally amazing with my daughter “B” before John moved in. They went out of their way to work around my schedule and pick her up from school and after-school programs. They would keep her with them for long hours when I worked and were always graciously there to assist me in navigating the challenges of being a single parent.  Now that there was a perfectly functioning adult living with us who could share the adult responsibilities I had, they were not as inclined to offer their assistance.  This was predominantly because they resented the additional stress John seemed to place on my already-chaotic life.

                   My family had been incredibly apprehensive of John shortly after we deemed ourselves a couple. They were understandably concerned about our fast decision to live together as well.  In an attempt to not upset their already emotionally fragile daughter (in the wake of her grief for having the “love of her life” commit suicide), while also treading lightly to not compromise their ability to see their granddaughter/niece as often as they wanted… they tried their best to limit their full opinion about John and us (out loud anyway). With exceptionally keen cognitive empathy, I had little difficulty seeing through their hidden comments, questions, and nonverbal communication and I knew exactly how they felt about him.  With this air of displeasure in my choices lingering, I began to alienate myself from the family I had desperately clung to for support only months earlier. 

                   Soon, every aspect of my life began to feel like a heavy brick to carry.  Being financially maxed out and having to get a job: brick. Being a full time nursing student with weekly exams and taxing clinical rotations: brick.  Being far away from my daughter’s school and 30 minutes from everything that was once nearby: brick.  My boyfriend being emotionally cold and closed off: brick.  My boyfriend not working: brick.  My boyfriend not helping out around the house very often: brick.  My constant worry about my daughter’s emotional well-being: brick.  The unspoken tension with my family: brick. My unresolved guilt, anger, and paralyzing grief over Jeff’s death: abnormally heavy pile of bricks.    

                    Not wanting to carry the weight of all these bricks around daily, I began placing them at my feet.  I had begun building an imaginary wall around myself that would prove problematic in removing over the years that followed. 

    ISOLATION FROM FAMILY AND FRIENDS… CHECK

                    Everyone is quick to point out that their Asperger husband caused them to alienate themselves from the family and friends they had previously been close to.  They talk about this so often that it is one of the reasons neurotypical wives blame their Aspie spouse for destroying the life they used to have.  I resented John for the same thing within a year of living together and it has only become obvious (in the last nine months) that I needed to begin placing the blame where it rightfully belonged; on myself.

                    It was never John’s fault I withdrew from my previous life.

                    I knew I had ignored warning signs about John when our love was first developing, but I began to blame him for my choice to do so.  I knew I had consciously avoided learning who he “really was” before allowing him to move in with myself and child, but I began to identify this as John’s fault as well.  I felt guilty that I had not been more cautious before proceeding in our cohabitation (as a mother) and I did not want my family to know I felt this way or had my own concerns about the man living with me.  The last thing I wanted was to be told I was a bad mother or was not putting my daughter’s best interest above my own (but damn if I wasn’t starting to consider that myself).  In the early days of our courtship, I had rapidly admonished anyone who began to vocalize concerns about John to make them stop talking about something I did not want to acknowledge myself.  I shut them up so many times when I was in my state of ignorant bliss that my pride would not allow me to admit to my family that I was becoming equally nervous I may have made a huge mistake.

                    I did not realize it at the time, but I still had so much underlying bitterness tucked inside of me toward my family for the times I tried to scream out that my first husband (Jeff) wasn’t “well” but my fears fell on deaf ears.  I tried for so long to tell people (Jeff’s parents and my family) that I was afraid he would hurt himself, or that he needed help… but felt entirely ignored by everyone around me.  Jeff always appeared to be so happy (manic) and made everyone laugh; he was such a smiling goofball that the private life I experienced, whereby he was depressed and locking himself in the bedroom with a gun in his hand… no one else could believe.  No one else could see that this man was suicidal 3 months out of the year (or I suffered an incredible amount of anxiety and fear trying to keep him alive during those months) so they found it hard to believe the happy-clown they all knew could possibly fall into such periods of darkness.  Looking back, I can empathize with why they didn’t buy into my fears… all they saw was an anxious/panic-attack-stricken woman who was separating from her husband one day (for reasons they did not understand) and falling into his arms the next.  I never really shared the “details” about why I was so afraid because I didn’t want them to hate Jeff either.  All anyone could see in the two of us was a highly emotional and dramatically in-love couple that just needed to “grow up a little,” and everyone thought we would.

                      By the time John and I came together, I found myself frequently reflecting on all of the times I had vocalized a strong opinion about the man I loved back then, but was told there was nothing wrong with him and I was being “dramatic.”  My family (and Jeff’s mother) had also suggested on too many occasions that perhaps I was just imagining things out of paranoia.  I kept thinking about how I used to toil with the reality I had in my head about my husband versus the family’s perception of our reality; how that caused me to doubt (and ignore) my own gut feelings about the man I loved for many years. Ultimately, I had to submit that my gut instinct was always right about Jeff when he put a gun in his mouth and removed all doubt (for everyone).    

                   This reflection and subconscious animosity toward those who I felt “failed” me in the past with their incorrect opinions, enabled a breeding ground of stoic defiance when it came to my relationship with John. Every time my family hinted at anything negative or suspicious about John, I solidified my gut instinct that he was an incredible man that I was destined to be with.  I refused to consider anyone else’s thoughts about this man that I had fallen in love with, who I believed deep in my core was uniquely perfect for me.  The moment someone suggested otherwise, I came at them with some pretty unfair reminders about how they were “wrong once before” and maybe they should stop trying to manipulate me into believing their inaccurate judgements this time around.  

                    Ouch… that guilt-trip had to have hurt them a lot and cause them to not openly disclose how worried they were for my mental health.

                    I passionately and aggressively defended my relationship with John to everyone around me during the early stages of our union. By the time my own fears about John began to present themselves, I was not willing to concede to the fact that maybe it actually was ME who was wrong this time.  The more my family attempted to get their messages across to me, the more I purposely fought to prove John was far more amazing than the man they were seeing on the surface. I became so preemptively defensive about John that my family became even more concerned about my emotional stability and who John actually was.  

    None of us openly discussed this though… it just lingered in uncomfortable nonverbal messages as each day passed.

                    All of these unspoken things between my family and I (that we all could see in one another) became this gigantic elephant in the living room each time John and I were with them.  Mind you, John had absolutely NO IDEA any of this was going on beneath the surface.  The moment we were in one another’s vicinity, I would feel uneasy and anxious.  I would be on guard at all times that John might say something inappropriate (as he sometimes did) or something that sounded rude (as he often did).  I would panic when he would bury his face in his cell phone through an entire family dinner; looking into his lap in lieu of joining our “playful” dinner conversations.  My family (particularly my father) thought this was highly disrespectful and he was not interested in any excuse I made for why John did this (I wasn’t even sure at the time why he did this, or why he continued to do it despite asking him to stop multiple times). 

    NOW I “GET IT”

                    My family speaks in tongue.  We are the most animated and loud group you could put in a room together.  We have our own twisted means of amusing one another that often includes pointing out other people’s flaws to make light of our own (which we are fully aware of).  We say mean things to one another in jest, and while we perceive our social gatherings as a time for lighthearted banter, I imagine we create a pretty intimidating environment for outsiders who are unfamiliar with our sarcastic and peculiar humor.  My first husband used to say that my father made him feel like he was Ben Stiller in the movie Meet the Fockers (if that gives you an idea of how a neurotypical man perceived his place in my family).  Looking back on it now, I can’t believe John ever agreed to return to my family’s home after his first few encounters there.  It is astounding he agreed to go back for more even after I told him all of the unspoken things my family were really thinking about him and us.  Add to it my constant nagging for him to stop acting “so rude” when he was there and I imagine I must have compounded his social anxieties with my family in a debilitating way. 

                    John must have truly loved me to continue accompanying me to my family’s home back then.  Unfortunately… it would take a long time for me to comprehend the strength of character and commitment toward the woman he loved in all of the encounters I found so damning at the time.      

                    NOW, I know that I unintentionally took John into the lion’s den repeatedly and instead of being there to protect him, I made it even more frightening.  I kept bringing him into the “Ultimate Aspie Nightmare” each time I took him to one of my family gatherings when we lived in Florida.  I forced him into an unfamiliar environment where the social communication was beyond confusing; we spoke loud, rapid, and with hidden meaning in our words.  We jumped from subject to subject, appearing angry one moment and laughing the next.  We made mean comments about people that only our group could understand (via our nonverbal language with one another) were not mean at all.  John could not have known we were being sarcastic or self-deprecating and often meant the opposite of what we were verbally articulating.

                    For instance, I might say, “Did you see Amanda and her how fat and ugly she got?” My sister might respond, “Oh yeah, what a hideous heifer, she should try to eat healthy like I do!”  Only, my sister may have been smiling as she stuffed a piece of cake in her face and the whole family might have known that Amanda just lost fifty pounds and looked amazing. Since John could not neurologically make sense of the nonverbal language we were using and didn’t know my family well, he could not realize we were being ironic in our speech.  In a situation similar to that, John might later comment to me that we were really cruel and abnormally judgemental about other people when we got together.  I would not be able to make sense of why he did not realize we were actually joking.  I never considered that he didn’t understand we were laughing about how our own diet and absent self-control was preventing us from emulating the incredible willpower and dedication to change that Amanda displayed.  It never occurred to me that John didn’t realize we weren’t insulting her, we were highlighting how impressed we were with her self-determination.  So when John randomly commented that my family was mean, judgemental, or gossipy; I would find myself angry at him for insulting my family.  I might even accuse him of being a hypocrite and try to point out what an asshole he could be toward other people.  (FYI: Amanda is a made-up person)  

                    Every question John was asked by my family in those early days came at him in an obscure way and he could not keep up with what anyone was saying because he had not learned the underlying way we were using our words. John was able to often identify when his own family said something that sounded judgmental, but knew they were good people and was able to look beyond the choice of words they used in conversation (even if they still baffled him). This bizarre way neurotypicals use sarcasm often causes an Aspie to think that saying “mean” things about people is a way to get others to laugh.  Since John never learned the context of “how” we poked fun at others (and that we did not do it in a hateful way), he often tried to do this himself… he just came across like a jerk when he tried it though.

                   John could not decipher that type of humor, and he certainly could not do it with my family.  He did not know who my family members were in the past, so he did not know if they were good people, or kind people, or people he could trust.  When my family asked John a question, he answered their question directly.  Not knowing they were often asking something different with the words they chose, he would frequently come across as being sarcastic or rude himself (that’s irony right there).  Looking back, I cannot imagine how torturous it must have felt to remain in a social gathering with my family.  It is no wonder he buried his face in his phone each and every time he sat down for a meal with us. 

                    Oh, how that man must have adored me to continue subjecting himself to that misery over, and over, and over again!

    WE WERE SO IGNORANT

                    During those early days (of course) none of us knew a damn thing about John having Asperger’s syndrome.  My oldest sister was the most challenging for John to be around (and vice versa).  She was still in a lot of pain over the loss of Jeff (her “brother”) and she did not care for the insertion of John in our lives… at all.  My older sister and I had a rocky relationship with one another in the previous two years that was absolved when Jeff died and became strained again when John moved in.  She seemed to feel like everyone was betraying Jeff by allowing John to “fill his void” so rapidly, so she egged on a lot of the family’s concerns about John in those early days (even if unintentional and I do not fault her for this).

                    Around this same time frame my younger sister was dating an incredible man named Michael (now my brother in law) that she had been friends with since they were teenagers.  Everyone always loved Michael (who adored my little sister) and we would try to force her to risk their friendship to try dating him.  My father was ecstatic when they finally began a relationship, and since it was around the time John and I also got together, there became an unfair comparison of the two men when we were all in a group together (with me doing it the worst).  Michael was sweet and gentle; he treated my sister like a queen and went out of his way to earn my parents respect and faith in him.  John rarely spoke and never showed those nonverbal acts of regard toward me that suggested he loved or respected me when he was with all of us. 

                    John and Michael got along wonderfully from day #1 and while John felt at ease when Michael was present, I rapidly began to feel the opposite.  Michael was someone John could talk to that seemed to like him in the group.  He was another outsider to John, who did not realize Michael had been coming around for years before he and my sister became an item.  John indicated to me several times that he didn’t feel like such an alien when Michael was there and would often point out that Michael was the only other “normal” one in my family. 

                    I felt exceedingly uncomfortable whenever Michael and John were both around with the rest of the family because I became hypersensitive to everything Michael did to display affection for my sister that John was not doing.  I began to develop my own unintentional comparison of the two since my sister and Michael were also two of the only people John and I ever went out with socially.  The more Michael treated my sister like the most beautiful gift he had ever been given, the more I became acutely aware and resentful that John did not treat me the same. 

                    As time progressed, I continued to drive a wedge between myself and my family because I didn’t like the way I felt when John and I were with them.  I blamed my own choice to alienate myself from them directly on John, who was actually putting himself through hell to be supportive of the relationship we had. The more I pulled away, the more I began to perceive John in an unfairly negative light.  It did not take long for me to begin placing expectations on how John should be behaving as my boyfriend and then resenting him when he could not meet them.  

                   John never knew all of these things were going on inside my mind, and while I thought he picked up on my hints, suggestions, and comments about those around us or things I wanted… he missed everything I was trying to tell him.  Sometimes I would snap at him and say something mean about how he was a dick and I wish I had someone like my sister did.  Since he had no idea what I was emotionally toiling with, or what he was doing “wrong,” a comment like that was unnecessarily cruel and hurtful.  Despite my only communication with John about how increasingly resentful I was becoming being expressed by every nonverbal method possible… he never heard a word of it (because I never actually said a word about it!).

                 As this resentment grew, so too did this nagging thought that he had “tricked” me into this unequal relationship devoid of emotional reciprocity.  Despite my brewing anger, I dug my heels in.  I was determined to hide the fact that I was a fool who had been duped by this man I thought I loved; I would not allow myself to admit defeat to my family or self.  

                    Deep inside I knew that my ego was causing me to remain in an unhappy relationship that I did not understand, but I had too much stress in my daily life to dive into my own faults and risk a personal collapse. I chose to focus on the tangible flaws John had and things I felt he was doing “wrong” instead.  I managed to convince myself that if I could just get him to do A or B, then things would get better.  I became preoccupied with the alphabet of failures on John’s behalf that were “fixable” and put forth great effort in making him see them. 

    THIS DOESN’T FEEL LIKE A PARTNERSHIP!

                    I had always been a very clean person and kept an impressible tidy home (military habits) so I was put off by how dirty John could be.  He was strange in his idea of clean, as our floors (all tile) were always meticulously kept up by him, but our bedroom looked like a bomb exploded day after day.  To me, John was sitting at home all day living the good life, not lifting a finger, while I was at work or school.  For those of you who do not know, nursing school is work because these students are literally going to hospitals working as a nurse for their clinical rotations while also trying to absorb mass-amounts of information enough to pass weekly exams.  I would fight with John over the housework day after day from getting him to fix things, do laundry, or just cleaning up after himself. 

                    What I did not realize at the time, was that I never discussed with John why I wanted things clean and organized (how they reduced my feelings of stress) and I never actually told John directly what I expected him to be doing when I was at work or school.  I would just come home and make sarcastic comments like, “I see you were working hard today” while looking directly at a pile of clothes on the floor with a facial expression that indicated I was angry and wanted him to get off his butt and clean immediately.  

                    John did not see my facial expression (he couldn’t) and he did not pick up in the sarcasm of my comment or the tone and pitch by which I said it.  A comment like that would just seem like a weird statement that made little sense to him, so instead of bringing up the fact that he did not have a job, he would not investigate what the hell I meant any further.  I would assume John knew exactly what I meant by my comment and perceive his lack of action as a purposefully defiant behavior to let me know he was absolutely indifferent to how I felt.  

                   The longer these “missed” messages went on (but I thought that John was getting them) the more hostile I would become until I eventually snapped at him with something nasty.  I might tell him he was a selfish, lazy asshole, or suggest that he was using me and obviously didn’t care how I felt about anything.  Uncertain where my comments were even originating from, John would respond with such defensiveness and hostility that we could not even discuss a minor issue without a major argument ensuing.  No mutual agreements were ever reached between the two of us so they compounded onto one another day after day, month after month.  

                    Sometimes, after a particularly hostile argument, I would come home to one part of the housework I complained about being done while the rest had gone untouched.  I could not grasp why he would only do one of the five things that I had been bitching about, so I felt irritated even when he did show some initiative. 

    John received zero positive reinforcement from me for anything he tried to do to make me happy and therefore… stopped doing anything positive.  

                      Of course, NOW, I realize that whenever John attempted to do something nice for me or our home, I still found a reason to fight with him and tell him he did something else wrong, or it wasn’t “good enough.” Rather than invite another unpredictable fight for unintentionally screwing something else up, John chose to take his chances that I would come home and not be unusually angry with the messy house I walked into. Since the house was dirty when I left (and I didn’t seem mad when I left), it made sense in his mind to not risk a fight by doing “the wrong thing” while I was gone. His bizarre behavior makes sense if one considers that he had no flipping clue what was going to trigger my next breakdown.  

                     Do you think I was able to comprehend this rationalization for his actions back then when I had zero knowledge of Aspergers or cognitive empathy?  Not a chance in hell. Even when I did learn about Asperger’s syndrome, it would take many years before the cognitive empathy deficit John had made those actions seem appropriate at the time.

    BUT, JOHN WASN’T ALWAYS LAZY… RIGHT? 

                    John drove B to school and picked her up as much as I did, but outside of that, he had no responsibilities at all in his new life.  From what I understood about his life before moving to Florida, John had worked in heating and cooling as a day job and had a ton of side jobs he did through word of mouth (refinishing basements, building decks, etc.) whereby he was always busy, and always working hard each day.  John was (is) an incredibly talented man and I had seen the things he had built and entire houses he had gutted and transformed into meticulous beauties… yet I could not get him to even hang a curtain in our new home (despite asking repeatedly).  I knew he had not lied about his skills and previous accomplishments since his parents and family were quick to point out many things John designed and built independently when we were visiting Michigan with him.  I believed he had to have had a job when my first husband lived with him the years prior to our relationship because Jeff used to tell me all about how he wanted to do what John did for work or how he had spent the day at John’s job-site helping him.  Jeff used to go on and on about the money John made and even credited John with sending money to me when he couldn’t afford to (to help pay for B’s activities or buy us groceries).  Jeff was exceptionally fond of John and envious of his talents and “career” and made no bones about how much he wanted to emulate his best friend.

                    I could not make sense of how John was this hardworking and talented man before he met me, yet ceased all of these efforts after moving to Florida to be with me. None of his behaviors were adding up; how could this man willingly opt to appear lazy and unmotivated when we had only been together for a little over a year and he had only lived with me for six months?  

                    My common sense told me that any narcissistic or sociopathic man that was trying to manipulate and use a woman, would start out trying to impress her and utilize slow tactics to take advantage of her over time.  John appeared to feel no obligation to impress me and even less obligation to address the fact that he wasn’t putting in any effort to do so.  His behavior did not fit the characteristics of a manipulative person, nor did it fit into the knowledge I had about his work-history before he moved down.  The harder I tried to explain his actions, the more confused I became.  I knew something was missing from the real reason he wasn’t working and trying to “man up” the way I had always seen from men in the past and had come to expect in our gender-stereotyped society.  

                    It did not help that my family was constantly picking at me with questions about John’s employment, asking when he was going to get a job, whether or not he was contributing to our life, why he was being lazy, etc. Between my own bewilderment about John’s absent motivation to step up and begin contributing to our life and future financially (and in the home) and my embarrassment every time my family questioned me on this… I found myself angry and frustrated on most days.  Since I had no reasonable explanation for how John was behaving, I felt I had no choice but to believe he was purposely trying to take advantage of me, and therefore, must not respect or appreciate me at all. 

    This ignited a hostile and bitter anger inside of me. 

                     Sadly, I can go back to those days now and feel regretfully sympathetic to what John must have toiled with at the time.  He was paralyzed in the ability to initiate the employment process and despite feeling pretty shitty about himself and the role he knew he was supposed to fill… he was far too anxious and insecure to take action and initiate change or progress in his professional life.  John had to sit there day after day and pray I would not discover his truths; that I would not realize he was incapable of navigating the social skills required to interview for a job, or establish a working relationship with people he did not know. He had to sit there and pray he would make it through another day without me bashing him for being a “lazy mooch” when he knew that was not what he wanted to be. Unfortunately, he rather I think that about him then tell me the truth about his limitations or discover he wasn’t “normal” and leave him.  It is not lost on me (now) that John didn’t know “what was wrong with him” at the time either; he had failed to find an explanation for the social difficulties he had throughout his entire life… so how could he begin to explain them to me in a way that would not make me want to haul ass?

                    John wasn’t lazy or incompetent, he was afraid.  John must have lived with so much fear back then because he didn’t want to lose me, but he was caught between a rock and a hard place.  If he told me he had never had a real job in the traditional sense (despite working hard any chance he got) I might think he was a loser and leave.  If he kept sitting around doing nothing every day, I might also think he was a loser and leave him.  John was desperate to not lose me, but he had no clue how to get around the position he found himself in.  He tried his best to make excuses I would buy into, or deflect the topic of him working in the hopes it might buy him another day or week to “pull himself together” and overcome a social anxiety and self-critical paralysis that had existed since he was a child. He opted to just take it day by day, hoping another option would magically present itself and he would be able to show me he wanted desperately to work hard for our family and how much he valued us.  He sat back and prayed something would just fall into his lap that would serve to mask the truth about himself and not jeopardize my love for him.

                   Unfortunately, those he knew and trusted that had historically helped him overcome the social deficits he had, those who helped coordinate work for him over the years so he could utilize his talents and earn good money… now resided across the country in another state.  He existed with the debilitating stress every day of knowing he may have no choice but to go out into the socially cruel and unforgiving world that made him feel like a failure all his life. The last thing he wanted was for me to see what a “failure” he was, so he just waited.  He waited and prayed something would come along to mitigate the two shitty options that stood before him.  

                    I didn’t know any of this though.  I didn’t know how frightened he was of losing me.  I didn’t know how humiliated he was at the thought of failing.  I didn’t know how exhausted he felt every single day as he mentally tried to work out a way around it all.  

    I just felt used, resentful, and stupid.

    BUT I SET THE STAGE FOR STAGNATION & RESENTMENT 

                   When John and I originally talked about him moving to Florida, I was the one who told him, “I am going to be getting paid my full salary while I only have to go to school full time and finish my nursing degree. If you moved down, you wouldn’t have to work for a while, you could help me with school and we could spend a lot of time together.  It’s the perfect opportunity for us both to enjoy our life and I want you to know I don’t expect you to jump into working right away.  I know you would need time to settle into this huge change you are making to leave everything you know behind.”  

                  I realize now it was my explanation of what I would expect of John when he first moved down that eased his anxiety enough to choose to forgo his previous life of predictable routines and security for the life he wanted with the woman he loved.  John was presented with a perfect opportunity whereby, he would have a significant period of time to secure my love… without any pressure being placed on him to figure out how to “be independent and take care of a family” the way he wanted to.  Whether or not John truly believed he would magically conquer his social anxieties and begin progressing as an adult with regard to financial stability and a career… or whether he thought I would just be happy he was there and never push him toward such a thing… he was given the promise of time before he had to worry about any of that.  He knew he didn’t want to lose me and ultimately, I do not think he looked beyond the initial time I was promising him because he really hoped it would just work itself out.  The response I received from John when I presented him with my initial plan and expectations if he moved down was: “Come on Kara, do you really think I am going to be a bum and not work when I move down and just let you pay for everything? Of course I will get a job, it just might take a while for me to find one in a new state.”  

                 I would maliciously use his words against him more times than I care to admit in the years to come as I reminded him that he “promised he would be my partner and wasn’t contributing to any of the adult responsibilities we had” and that he “lied to me!”

                 In the beginning, I was perfectly content with the plan we agreed upon and expectations I had laid out before him.  When we moved into the old condo in a wealthy neighborhood so we could come home to a “vacation-feel” every day, and I could lay in his lap on the docks listening to the water (like we imagined that night in the hotel where we had our first kiss)… I was happy with our choice to move into a new home we could share in our new life together. Everything seemed like a mature decision at the time because I believed that Johnwould be getting a job soon to offset the cost of living in a location that exceeded my sole financial means. When that prospect appeared to be slipping further and further away, and I was the one picking up the slack for his failure to live up to his promises, I felt incredibly betrayed.  

                 I truly believe in my heart that John began our life together with the most optimistic and pure intentions.  I believe he honestly thought he would be able to live up to his words at the time he said them because he was high on life and finally making adult decisions that he never imagined he would before meeting me, like committing to a long-term relationship, moving across the country, and taking on the role of a stepparent to my (then) 11-year old daughter.  I do not doubt that he imagined he would also be able to brave the task of finally tackling the career-aspect of his adult life as well.  He assumed he would be able to accomplish this with the same passion he had to make all of those other difficult choices, and it is perfectly understandable why he would have believed this.  

    Unfortunately, when John finally realized he was not ready to step into the social world that he was certain he would fail at; he froze.  

     

    BUT, I DON’T CARE ABOUT MONEY….             

                    It was never the fact that John was not working outside the home to make money that bothered me most, it was the fact that he did not appear to offset his unemployment by picking up the slack in our home so I did not have to.  It was also the fact that he never verbalized any intention or appeared to be working toward changing any of it and I did not understand why.  If I asked him about work or his future plans, he would answer simply and then avoid me if I tried to probe further; “I’ll go look tomorrow” or “I’ve got some jobs lined up in Michigan next month so I can’t look for a job here and then leave it, I will get a job when I come back.”  These were some of the more common responses I would get from him to avoid stepping out into the unknown.  If I questioned his previous working experience (which I had begun to by that point), John would find a way to pick a fight with me so the subject got buried beneath another topic entirely. 

                    After every stupid fight, there was no resolution.  John did not return later to calmly sit down and talk like adults, which he would promise to do if I would agree to sideline a discussion at that moment. John’s behaviors left me dumbfounded and frustrated.  

    As time wore on, I became worn down. 

    SO, WHY DIDN’T I JUST END IT?

                    What really stopped me from kicking John out that first year after he moved in with me was that we would still have those Wednesday nights where my parents took B for the night and John and I would go out on “dates” together.  On those nights, John and I would drink alcohol and act silly like we had the first year we began our long distance romance, and I would feel happy again.  We would laugh so hard our stomachs hurt and we would smile from the start of the night until we fell asleep.  Sometimes we would go out to a bar down the street (we lived next to the tourist area of Clearwater Beach) or we would go fishing until the early morning hours.  John would tell me he loved me and he would say things that I had been wanting to hear the entire week leading up to that night.  Things like, “I was never happy until I met you” or “I’m sorry I don’t have a job, I will do XYZ because I really want to take care of you.”  He would tell me I was beautiful, he would seem jealous if another man tried to talk to me, he would hold my hand and hug me without being asked, and he never took his eyes off of me… even if a gorgeous woman walked by or tried to talk to him. When we went out together on our date nights, John always had 100% of his focus on me and made me feel beautiful and cherished in a sea of strangers our age. 

                    John would get hit on by women all the time; I mean… ALL THE TIME. When we went out to a bar, John caught the eye of a dozen women each time and my cognitive empathy skills had zero difficulty deciphering exactly what those women were thinking!  I began to relish in the times I could just stand back (having left his side to get a drink or use the bathroom) and watch as he (sometimes rudely) blew these women off (some of them abnormally gorgeous) or announced he had a girlfriend with a look of pride.  In feeding my insecure ego, particular the severity of insecurity I felt in the week leading up to our nights out whereby he showed little regard for me; those actions always made me feel desired and loved on a grand scale.  Every once in awhile on our Wednesday nights out, he would even answer questions about his childhood or a past girlfriend, or even talk to me about the emotions surrounding Jeff’s death, something we had curiously stopped talking about altogether (which likely complicated my grief process and underlying emotional liability).

                    I did not know at the time that when John was not put at ease with alcohol, he was in a constant state of hyper-aroused fear.  John was devastatingly paralyzed by his social fear almost every day that we spent together.  He was always afraid of disclosing too much about himself that could cause me to run from him and he was continually scared he would do or say the wrong thing and push me away.  This fear made him choose silence when he did not understand my words, thoughts, emotions, questions, reactions, expressions, or behaviors. He opted to say nothing in lieu of saying something that might make me stop loving him.  All week long John’s behavior, from appearing lazy with housework (afraid to set me off and do something wrong, or having no idea I even wanted him to do something), to not looking for work (social phobia and lack of self confidence), and minimal communication (difficulty navigating my thoughts and intentions and the fear he might say the wrong thing) ALL made him seem like a bizarre and unflattering character throughout the week.  

                   On Wednesday night though… John had alcohol in his system.  Sometimes we had only a few drinks and other times we behaved like youngsters on our 21st birthday, staying awake all night drinking and being silly. He never acted drunk or got belligerent or mean; he never started telling wild stories and lies like a lot of the drunken fools I’ve shared drinks with over the years did.  John acted like John, but he had this quality that I never got to see during the week.  

    I could not connect the dots back then as to why alcohol seemed to make John act more… human… I just knew it did.

                    John had empathy when he was drinking, and it was real.  This caused a lot of confusion for me during the times I tried to convince myself that he had ZERO empathy and was near-robotic in his emotions. Over the years I would feel so angry at him and his apparent indifference to my tears that I honestly thought he was incapable of processing empathy at all.  When I would settle into this belief for long enough to begin prepping myself to leave our relationship, I would always go back to those Wednesday nights in my mind.  I would try to figure out how he could lack empathy altogether, but suddenly acquire it once he had a few drinks.  It did not make any sense to me because if someone does not have the capacity to process empathy or behave in an empathetic way, no amount of alcohol is going to magically create that, and I knew this.  

                    It was because of those Wednesday nights and the times I was able to see John for who he really was inside, that I inevitably came to the place I am today and decision to keep trying.  I could never bring myself to give up on a man that I knew in my core, had emotional empathy. This deep-rooted knowledge did not bring me closer to understanding what was happening back then, but it did motivate me to keep my heels dug in while I continued to search for answers.  

    Those Wednesday nights kept me believing that someday, he and I would have so much more.  

    BUT, HOW COULD ALCOHOL CREATE EMPATHY?

                            With alcohol comes a loss of inhibition and fear.  Giving John beer made him feel relaxed enough to let go of his constant fear of losing me. Giving John alcohol made him feel safe enough to speak. Knowing that I was also drinking (and had a terrible memory the next day to specifics even if I only had two glasses of wine), John felt comfortable that even if he screwed up his words or said something stupid or too honest; there was a good chance I would not readily recall it the next day.  He also knew he could deny it and say I was too drunk to accurately remember what he said, or that he was so drunk he was talking nonsense. Either way, John’s guard was dropped low enough to chance honest communication when he drank and he had a default to excuse himself if that honesty ever made me think less of him.  

                    Every Wednesday night I would become acutely aware that I was missing only a few pieces to solve the puzzle that was my peculiar boyfriend. Every Wednesday night reignited my desperation to locate those pieces and uncover the complete puzzle image. Once a week, John and I had an entire evening of being in love.  Once a week, I saw the side of him that had me smitten from the first day I met him.  Once a week, John would behave compassionately toward me; he would talk to me, and he would remind me that he was not a robot incapable of empathy.  Once a week, I would choose to forgive and forget all of the crushing missteps we took in the six days that came before.  Once a week, I would fall in love with John all over again and pray that when I awakened the following day, that man would still be lying beside me. Once a week, the voice inside my head became demonstratively loud as it screamed out, “Do not give up on him, he is amazing and exactly what you need in your future, listen to your gut Kara!”  Once a week, I believed we were fated to one another and our lives were meant to be happy.  

                    Of course… everything would just go right back to the same old thing the next day and I would hop right back on the roller-coaster ride of insanity.

    BUT, THEN IT CLICKED…

                    One night while at work, a coworker and I went outside to get some fresh air and take a break from the patients we had been caring for all evening. This coworker was having a particularly rough week related to her 9-year old son and his behavior problems at home and in school.  While I welcomed her to vent (and intended to return the favor by venting about John), she began to describe her specific hardships. She spoke in great length for some time about her efforts to get her son’s school to understand his “disability” and of the emotionally exhausted mental state she found herself in trying to help him without any support or beneficial tools to make sense of his bizarre behaviors. I listened to her for a while without much empathetic connection, as my daughter never presented a parenting challenge for me and was actually (I felt) an abnormally gentle, helpful, compassionate, and intelligent child (she was only a few years older than my coworkers son).  

                   With my best effort to be attentive to her words, I found my mind wandering while she spoke.  I thought about John at home watching movies without me, playing video games, or making the house I worked hard to clean that afternoon a disaster and wondered what I was going to walk into when I got home in the morning.  I was thoroughly engrossed in my own emotional exhaustion the whole time my coworker was spilling her guts to me.  Just like in a movie where a person gets tunnel vision and is able to hone in on a conversation in the distance and hear words being spoken aloud like they were slowed down and abnormally clear… my focus began to suddenly close in on what my coworker was saying.  I instantly found myself fully engaged in everything coming out of her mouth as she spoke of her son’s rigid morning routine with breakfast, his avoidance of emotionally-charged communication, his disregard for her requests to clean up his toys only to turn around and vacuum the house without being asked once she had yelled at him and cried that he was stressing her out.  I heard every word she said about her son and found myself near tears when she said she questioned whether or not he had the capacity to love her. She talked about how he thwarted any physical contact like hugging and did not seem to care when other children and adults were hurting… that he just walked off and played with his cars in the corner, seemingly oblivious to the suffering of his own siblings or family.  The moment she told me he seemed “indifferent” to human emotion in general and she was worried he was going to grow up to be a sociopath, I found myself blurting out:  

    “Wait, what did you say he was diagnosed with again?”

    “ASPERGER’S SYNDROME”

                    All of the behaviors she was describing sounded unnervingly similar to my adult boyfriend.  In that moment, John’s behavior seemed to finally have a name!  That was the longest night shift I ever worked as the clock slowly moved forward enough for me to run home to Google-search the words: Asperger’s syndrome. 

     

    THE OBSESSION BEGINS (For me and me alone)

                    I left work that morning and began researching everything I could find on the topic of Asperger’s syndrome.  I purchased every recommended book with the “bible” of them being, The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. I spent the next few weeks researching, reading, and highlighting every single similarity to John that I could identify with. Within the first hour of reading about AS, I was convinced beyond any doubt that John had this Asperger-thing. Within a few weeks, I thought I was a subject-matter expert about how Aspergers must have presented itself in his childhood.  I began to write down one “characteristic” after another and then follow them up with pages upon pages of how John had displayed similarities.  

                    The only glitch in my new discovery (which felt like vindication and relief all at once) was that I could only find vague information to explain how these characteristics and behaviors develop in the first place for Aspie children. I found tons of examples of how they presented themselves, yet very little information on why. Although this was before AS was lumped into Autism Spectrum Disorder, it was still discouraging that while I thought I had initially stumbled upon the Holy Grail; the search of adults with Asperger’s syndrome came up with even more confusing or vague information, none of which seemed to present an immediate fix to my relationship struggles. By the time I got around to searching about Aspies and their “Neurotypical” spouses (which I realized I now had a label myself), I was left with a rather grim outlook on what this diagnosis would mean for John and my future.  

    Overall, my search of adult men with Asperger’s syndrome only managed to produce a flurry of some seriously jaded and pissed of spouses married to one of them.     

                    But still… I had finally found a name for what was “wrong” with my boyfriend.  I was convinced if I could get John on board with reading about it, he would (somehow) magically undo all of the negative behaviors he developed because of it.  That was my identified solution to saving our relationship and for a hell of a long time, that became my sole mission in life.

    OK, TIME TO GET JOHN ON BOARD…

                   One night I asked John if he would be willing to listen to me for a moment.  He reluctantly agreed and I read to him a little about Asperger’s syndrome and then waited for his response.  I had been information-gathering for over a month, prepared to engage in mind-blowing discussions with him when I finally found the right moment to bring it up.  I honestly thought I had just given my boyfriend a radical epiphany-worthy piece of information and I was as excited as a child on Christmas morning to receive the gift of his response. John replied, “Yeah, I guess that sounds a lot like me.” He showed absolutely no interest beyond that half-assed confirmation in my diligent research.

                    Never had I felt so deflated in a response from someone as I did that night. I comforted myself with the thought: “At least he did not argue my discovery, that’s a start.”

                    I really assumed that John just wasn’t ready to “take it all in” at the time.  I sat back with as much patience as I could muster and anxiously waited for him to seek me out to have a heartfelt discussion about Aspergers.  I waited for the day he would thank me for uncovering something no one else could tell him all of his life.  As narcissistic as that may sound, I was really proud of myself for connecting the dots when my coworker spoke of her child.  My reading indicated that the majority of women did not realize their husband’s diagnosis until their adolescent child received one; at which time they subsequently became aware their husband was the same way. 

                    I patiently waited for John to come to me and talk about what I uncovered.  I waited… and I waited some more.  After about a month, nothing ever came of it.  During the month of waiting, I found myself more understanding and less argumentative with John.  I tried to become the girlfriend he needed (who understood him) and hoped he would become motivated to do the same.  We got along wonderfully and John seemed happier than he had been in a long time.  It did not occur to me at the time that John was far happier in our daily existence because I finally appeared to be happier.  It was my cessation of complaining about him, pointing out his wrong-doings, and positive attitude in general (indicating I enjoyed his company again) that made him feel less anxious around me and more communicative.  I (on the other hand), thought that John was spending his days researching Asperger’s syndrome and that he appeared happier because he was beginning to uncover why his life had been so difficult and was working harder to communicate effectively with me.  

                What an idiot I was to assume he was interested at all in this diagnosis I wanted to affix to him.  How terribly I set myself up for disappointment when I eventually realized he had not cared one bit about Aspergers, he was behaving different only because I WAS BEHAVING DIFFERENT!  Of course, I didn’t know this and kept imagining some fantasy world where my boyfriend was using his spare time to investigate AS and I eagerly waited (with a daily smile to indicate I was on the ready) for him to approach me with everything he had learned.

                Eventually, I accepted that John was not going to do this independently.  I thought his reluctance was directly related to his Asperger’s syndrome and difficulty initiating a conversation… so I decided I would have to go to him. 

    BUT, WHAT APPROACH WILL WORK BEST?

                    I became obsessive over the Asperger diagnosis.  Like so many other people, I felt like I finally had answers that made sense.  I was relieved to know my boyfriend wasn’t an asshole; he just did not realize he was being mean or insensitive towards me.  I was so excited to remove the notion that John might be a sociopath from my mind.  I also truly believed this discovery would result directly in John’s motivation to enact change in our relationship.  I had so much relief and empathy for John the more I read and I began to transform all of the anger and resentment I had into sympathy, guilt, and sadness for the life John had lived before me.  I wanted to ask his family if they had ever heard of Asperger’s syndrome so they could confirm what I already knew to be true in my heart (but we were not close like that, so I did not reach out to them).

                    I spent weeks attempting to directly engage John on the (not yet official) diagnosis, but he had no interest in these attempts and dismissed them as quickly as I brought them up.  The more he dismissed me, and the only thing I was interested in talking about, the more we began to argue again.  We continued to fight, but it was a little less painful and personal to me since I now had more patience and tried to look for hidden reasons behind his words and actions that I could attribute to his AS in lieu of him purposely being a jerk. 

    John became increasingly irritated with my obsession to talk about Asperger’s syndrome and before I knew it, our once-happy Wednesday nights together turned to the day of the week John dreaded most.

    WITHOUT WEDNESDAY NIGHT… WE WERE IN BIG TROUBLE

                    Our Wednesday nights were our time to reconnect (via alcohol making John more verbal).  Once I became focused on Asperger’s syndrome and convinced myself that his acceptance of it yielded the answers to our disconnect, as well as the only possible solution to remedy it; I tried to initiate clever ways to get John on board with my obsession.  I would start off our Wednesday date nights as we always had; laughing over light topics and sharing a few drinks. Once I thought John had enough alcohol in his system to let his guard down, I would nose dive right into the topic of Aspergers.  The more he tried to evade the topic, the more I began to press him to discuss it. 

                   Since John had historically been more responsive to me when he drank alcohol, I saw Wednesday night as my only chance to get him to communicate about this life-changing information that could save our relationship. John did not appreciate my unwavering efforts in this.  The more he declined discussing it, the more anger I began to feel toward him. 

                    How could we get better if John was not going to acknowledge what was wrong? 

                    To me, John being on the same page as me was the only way we were going to begin to move forward.  I believed he had to read at the same pace I was if he was going to start changing his ways (what a silly fool I was).  I became so dedicated in convincing John to educate himself about AS that I pushed him further and further away from engaging in any conversations with me.  The moment any hint of a topic about emotions or human behavior came up, I would use it as a means to inject how having Asperger’s syndrome might cause misunderstandings and then associate it directly with his previously negative behavior. 

                   Before I knew it, I was attributing every single step John took and every single word he uttered to his Aspergers.  Before John knew it, he had begun to associate my ingestion of alcohol with me trying to force this Aspie-thing on him and our subsequent fighting.  When we drank, I incorrectly assumed I would find a way to get through to him while his guard was down.  When he held strong in refusing to engage in this topic regardless of how much alcohol he swallowed, I became vocally aggressive toward him and began unleashing all of the things he had done over the past year to violate my sense of security, trust, and stability.  I became hostile that he would not validate my previous hurt by educating himself and I made every effort to ensure he knew that refusing to discuss the matter indicated to me that he did not love me

    With my antagonistic accusations came John’s surmounting defensiveness.  In no time we were going tit for tat in a display of whose anger could trump the other.  We created a dynamic so hostile that the tension in our home began to build at an alarming rate that neither of us seemed motivated or willing to disarm.  

                    At no time did I ever comprehend that I was talking to John in an abstract and confusing way when I did attempt to touch on the subject of AS.  At no time did it occur to me that I was trying to force so much information down his throat at once that he was still choking on my first sentence and what it meant before I began vehemently cramming more in his face to swallow.  At no time did it sink in that I was going about it all wrong, or that I actually had no idea myself what John’s Aspergers actually meant for our relationship.  At no time were either of us willing to back down on accusing the other of being a bully or proving that we were the one deserving of an apology.

    Uncovering Asperger’s syndrome initially became the catalyst for further decline in our relationship because neither of us had a clue what to do with the discovery.

                    John would later share with me (in the last year) that he DID look into Asperger’s syndrome in those early days but what he uncovered compounded his feelings of inadequacy and fear in a tragic way.  John found the same things I did… a ton of people who were angry and bitter about Aspie men who effectively labeled them wrong, cruel, and incapable of loving or being empathetic.  John read article after article that dehumanized who he was and in no time, he chose to shut the door on it altogether. 

    How could I fault him for making a firm decision to permanently ignore a mass of men and women telling him he was incapable of loving me?

                    John read rants from bitter Aspies out there who defined neurotypicals as entitled, arrogant, insane assholes as well.  Unlike me, John did not stop and consider what anyone suggested about the woman he fell in love with to be true. He read their words and rapidly discounted anything else those “Morons” had to say since they clearly, “Did not know his girlfriend.”  He did not disagree that he likely did warrant an Asperger diagnosis, he just did not want to hear what a shit-bag it made him appear to the world. 

    As I was pushing for him to get on the same page as me, he was trying to burn the entire book before I got to the conclusion that advised me to “get the hell away from him as fast as possible and never look back.”

                    Thinking about that time in our life and my behavior, I am ashamed to know I bought into the rhetoric about my amazing boyfriend/husband all those years.  I am also profoundly humiliated by the fact that he was always so in love with me he could not be swayed by anyone else’s opinion about those “like me.”  I was everything to John back then, but I couldn’t see it.  I had no idea how much he loved me then, and I am only beginning to really comprehend it now.

                    Eventually, with all of the research I had done, I submitted to the fact that the information wasn’t really helping me either.  All the books and articles ever did was provide me with a checklist of common behaviors and similar experiences from others in my shoes.  It initially enabled me to remove any doubt that John was an Aspie (without question) which helped to restore my sanity a little.  It was cathartic to find that I was not insane in how I felt or imagining things and that there were many other women out there who shared in my experience and frustration… but none of it was helping me identify how to make our lives better. 

                    After a while… it just became exhausting to read the same old story over and over again, retold by a new individual.  I still felt saddened and sympathetic to each person’s pain, but it was all the same story and none of it ever produced a happy ending.  All I could think was, “OK! I got it. There are thousands of other women standing in my shoes, but they are equally clueless on how to make their relationship better, so what the hell am I supposed to do now?”  I could not find a single beneficial success story from the other side either. Not once did I come upon an Asperger man who shared enough insight and positive results in his life to motivate John into action.  None of them had the power to convince my boyfriend that educating himself about AS would be worth the effort, and nothing I found helped me convince John to get on board with me to begin initiating a change. 

                    Asperger’s syndrome is one of the few diagnoses in the history of modern medicine to offer such pathetic and useless amounts of information about it, despite over seventy years since it’s initial discovery.  It continues to boggle my mind that outside of being unable to definitively identify a cause, there exist no proven-effective therapeutic treatments either.  There is not one single identified “intervention” to manage the associated impact it has on an individual’s interpersonal relationships that is supported by anything more than “limited data.”  This diagnosis is prevalent (as I came to discover through my own research) and impacts the lives of far more than the “guesstimated” 68+ million people worldwide thought to have it.  In all of this time, professionals have become impressively worse in comprehending, identifying, diagnosing, and treating AS!  They got so terrible at this task that they have taken the diagnosis back two decades to where it stands today.  

                    Despite slowly realizing that seeking any degree of professional assistance or guidance (from those who had written on the subject of Asperger’s syndrome in the past) was utterly useless; I still believed the answers were out there (at the time) and I doggedly tried to convince John to join me in finding them. I continued to place the future of our relationship on his willingness to read a bunch of useless garbage from false-experts who offered only vague and generic advice.  I demanded he read about couples like us despite ultimately realizing they WERE JUST LIKE US… they were failing couples who were no closer to salvaging their marriages then they were to running away from them (so this would have benefited John in no way if he had ever humored me and read about them).  I even pushed him to read blogs and articles that really just amounted to a society who was incredibly nasty and judgmental about a term they failed to even describe appropriately; all they really ever did was tear those with the label to shreds and deemed them akin to the Ted Bundy’s of the world.  

                       For a long time I kept throwing the book The Journal of Best Practices (etc.) by David Finch in John’s face and insisting he read it.  While this is a great book and one of the few ways to offer a newly diagnosed husband an empathetic view of someone they can identify with… this book had nothing to offer in explaining Asperger’s syndrome any more than the other decent ones out there.  It took years of buying and then throwing away, or deleting (in anger) copies of this book in print, audio, and as an e-book before I ever managed to get John interested enough (by threatening him) to finish a few chapters of it.  I believed back in the early days that if I could find one single man my boyfriend could identify with… that this would inspire him to educate himself.  

                       The truth of the matter was that no amount of reading, researching, writing, or talking to others with AS would have ever gotten John any closer to identifying what was going wrong in “our” relationship. None of it ever could have helped him any more than it helped me because at the end of the day… no one ever broke down what was different about an Aspie and NT brain function that led to everything else falling to shit.  Not one single person ever narrowed anything down in a meaningful enough way to extract practical solutions to begin repairing the communication breakdown.  

                   All the professionals I was demanding John agree to listen to back then had less of a grasp who he was then he had himself. Without a grasp on what was going wrong (specifically), there existed only a gaggle of licensed professionals charging money to deliver useless, impractical, and/or vague advice with absolutely no ability to prove a single relationship they “treated” ever went on to “thrive” in their marriage.  

                   If a single licensed professional in existence ever identified any truly valuable information to offer, they would be diligently writing about it and forcing it out into the world in a profound way.  If they had any “secrets to success” they would have tried with all of their might to corner the market on this because they had uncovered THE ONE AND ONLY PROVEN THERAPEUTIC INTERVENTION TO HELP AN ASPIE-NT RELATIONSHIP!   All those jackballs ever had was the same regurgitated ambiguous babble that can be found in every single common “relationship” advice, or “communication building” tips out there.  They had the same basic “secrets” found about any other diagnosis or relational hardship in the world.  None of them ever had a damn thing to delineate the challenges an Aspie endures, which are actually far more specific and cataclysmic than anything a neurotypical could fathom.  

                    Telling people to pay attention to one another and communicate more effectively is like telling a dehydrated person to drink when they have no idea where to acquire a source of fluid or what is causing their recurrent dehydration in the first place.  Maybe that analogy is stupid, but so is the advice for Aspie-NT couples who are asking for help and receiving useless information (and it didn’t take long for me to realize that sad truth).

                    Of course… at the time I was demanding, begging and pleading with John to join me in researching, educating, and diligently seeking a thorough comprehension of Asperger’s syndrome; I had not lost faith in the mental health community.  I ABSOLUTELY believed there existed professionals out there who had the power to help us. I wholeheartedly trusted that the answers existed and that John and I just needed to work together in find them.  I even naively thought that the development of Autism Spectrum Disorder had inadvertently buried countless bits of data that could help us piece together the puzzle of AS.  I kept telling myself that if we only focused my emotional energy and his intellectual capacity toward our efforts to weed through the crap, we would find the help we needed.  

                    I would have bet my soul on the fact that there did exist happily married Aspie-NT couples who found the secret to success and that if we just looked long enough, we would find them.  I wanted to find them so we could confirm that they weren’t just co-existing and tolerating one another; that they were truly in love and had a profound empathy and regard for one another; a mutually beneficial relationship.  

    I gave every bit of my heart and soul into trying to convince John that the only way we were ever going to find happiness was if he also believed in the existence of all of these things and equally invested himself in uncovering them with me.

                   I could not get John motivated even a tiny bit to hear me out, let alone begin an exhaustive (useless) search for hidden answers.  I decided I would have to find a way to drag him to a professional who could convince him they existed.  Back then… I had so much faith in the mental health profession to HELP us.  I realized I was failing to reach John and I realized I could not make any of it better on my own.  I thought obtaining an official diagnosis would be the first hurdle to overcome in my efforts, so I opted to go in search of a licensed professional who could diagnose him in the hopes that a true diagnosis would be the spark he needed to move forward in MY desire for help.  I wanted John “to want” to educate himself, and I likely took years off of my life agonizing over the fact that he held no interest in doing this.   At that point in our relationship, I knew I needed outside assistance, so I turned to the mental health community to provide it.

    I believed these professionals would be our saving grace and I actually counted on them to make everything all better.

    My God I was stupid back then.

    I CAN’T FIX THIS MYSELF… I NEED HELP

                    Since all of the books and online information left me with no avenue to get John on board with me, I decided it was time to reach out to professionals for assistance.  I put all of my eggs into the basket called, “Official Diagnosis” thinking they would undoubtedly hatch once there.  In other words, I figured once John had a licensed professional officially diagnose him with Asperger’s syndrome, he would have no choice but to begin talking about it (once again, what a fool I was). 

                    I had an exceptionally difficult time trying to locate anyone that could provide such an assessment and diagnosis for an adult.  There seemed to be several therapists willing to entertain a childhood diagnosis, but when it came to adults it appeared they were of little interest to anyone.  The last thing I wanted to do was find an unskilled professional who might misdiagnose John since I soon learned he had been awarded several diagnoses as a child that were only manifestations of his AS. 

                    After reaching out via email to some of the select few therapists who advertised themselves as being “dedicated to working with Asperger adults” (but lived on the west coast of the U.S.), I received one name a couple times.  I had finally found the right person to diagnose John who only lived two hours south of us; the only problem was that medical insurance would not cover this service and it would run well-over $2500 in total… just for a diagnosis!

                    Strapped for cash, I began picking up extra work shifts to pay for John’s diagnosis.  The added work stress and my continued attempts to get John to talk to me about Asperger’s syndrome soon took a toll on our relationship that was so incapacitating it could no longer be ignored.  Our fights became constant and increasingly nasty.  One night while arguing I said something purposely vicious to John (insulting his manhood) and in turn, he spat in my face.  This was it for me… something was going to change immediately or I was ending our relationship permanently.  I decided to do something that was frightening to me because I KNEW it would infuriate John and considering I never thought he would degrade me in such a vile way (by spitting on me), there was a part of me that felt hesitant in pushing the anger he had inside of him.  At the end of the day, I was so disgusted in him for spitting on me that I was prepared for our demise and went out on a limb with a final “last ditch” effort to salvage what was left of my own ego. 

    I chose to finally reach out to John’s family and tell them the whole truth about what was really going on in our relationship.

    THE FAMILY IN THE SHADOWS

                    John had a sister one year older than myself who was a teacher.  I decided to reach out to her and constructed a very long email (I know, shocking I would write something in great length) and took a deep breath as I hit send.  I had met his family several times by then from both visiting Michigan (where they lived) and having them come stay with us in Florida… but I never spoke of the difficulties between John and I and he was on his best behavior in their presence.  I typically do not have difficulty getting close to people, and John’s family was amazing in every way (truly kind and loving people) but there was an awkward distance between us from the beginning that I hadn’t understood.  It was as though we all wanted to ask one another questions and share information about John but were afraid of rocking the boat and upsetting one another. 

                    Since the fighting was incessant during that time and we were on the verge of demise, I took a chance and spilled my guts to his sister telling her all about our challenges and my suspicion of Asperger’s syndrome and asked her to please give me her insight, opinion, and any other information that could help us get through our difficulties.  I was very fearful I was just going to anger her and she would reply to me with something along the lines of, “You are a bitch who clearly does not appreciate my brother, how dare you suggest there is anything wrong with him!” 

                    I was desperate though and more than anything… I just wanted answers and information that John was not sharing.  I also really wanted them to reassure me he was a wonderful guy deep down who was NEVER violent in any way.  The spitting incident had me rocked to the core that he would eventually escalate to physical aggression and I had zero intention of sticking around for that experience. 

                    To my relief, I received an outpouring of emotion, empathy, compassion, support, and information not only from his sister, but from his equally emotional mother.  I received phone calls filled with tears and gratitude from his family because they felt as though I had finally given them the answers they always longed for.  His sister reassured me that much of the fighting I described mirrored fighting she and John engaged in throughout their youth and that he was absolutely NEVER physically aggressive or violent, just quick to escalate verbal hostility in a way that never matched the reason behind it.  She validated that he always had issues with empathy and that despite seeing this, she also knew in her heart he was a compassionate person without malicious intentions.  She shared with me John’s challenges in executive function like initiating and maintaining employment and that he was an incredibly hard worker but his father had to coordinate almost every job he ever had.  This explained why John did not want to talk about his previous working experiences and also why he would not seek out employment in Florida.

                    I heard stories of a desperate mother who loved her son tremendously and tried to go to the ends of the earth in search of a proper diagnosis for him but was met with dismissive explanations for his behavior and prescriptions to “fix” him.   She was told he had ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), and other childhood diagnoses that go hand in hand with Asperger’s syndrome.  His mother cried as she recalled how she was always given different drugs to feed him and told that therapy was not recommended at that time and to “give the medications a chance to work.”  She had sought out special education classes for him because he had so much trouble with social interaction, but was told those classes were only for children with “real disabilities.”  She talked about how she had to set up playdates with her friend’s children and even then, John would usually isolate himself in a corner and play with his toy cars and stack them up or line them in order repetitively. 

                   It was so awful to hear her pain when she expressed all of the love and agony dedicated to identifying why her son struggled so much and how, despite waiting months to see top pediatric psychiatrists, she was always given an explanation that did not fit.  His mother sobbed as she shared the last time she begged for help and screamed out, “You’re wrong! Something else is wrong with my child, please… help him!” but got nothing in return that ever made his life better. 

                    Without any answers and without any practical tools to help their son live a happy life whereby he could successfully interact with his peers and adults, his parents did what they could for him.  They intermittently sought out professional help and kept up with medication therapies and school reports on his behavior, progress, and potential options for improved social functioning. They taught him discipline and tried to reinforce right and wrong.  They protected him when he was too terrified to function and tried to withdraw from life and provided enough security and support to encourage him to progress in maturity and responsibility within a context he could acclimate to.  They repeatedly failed at getting him to initiate work and independent achievements so they coordinated the opportunities for him and then ensured he followed through.  John learned to be a responsible and hard worker and made good on commitments, but only if he did not have to initiate them himself. 

                  Every seemingly normal and basic milestone a neurotypical teenager and young adult goes through were an intimidating challenge to a young man who only knew to anticipate criticism, blame, and character assassinations when he went at them unassisted.  John’s parents did their absolute best to teach their child and adult son how to behave as a responsible and kind man and hold strong values with good moral character.  They gave him a religious foundation and they served as examples of supportive and generous humanitarians.  They tried everything, thoroughly exhausted themselves, and became emotionally drained in the process.  John saw his mother cry a lot (according to her) but he still tells me he does not remember this.  

    How hard it must be for every Aspie parent who is in the dark and tries to do everything to raise their child well but cannot make sense of some of their behaviors and reactions to people and situations.  How do you protect a child when you do not understand what is terrifying them?

                   

                    While everything John’s mother told me about his life before meeting me was painful to hear, the most gut-wrenching of all was when she audibly sobbed as she choked this out:  

                    (I am quoting this based off memory, but this was so emotional to hear that I am fairly certain I am close to being accurate in what she said)

                   “I used to fall asleep every night praying John would someday find someone who would love him.  He is such a good man, he has such a kind heart. I prayed someday he might become a husband… or maybe even a father, but I cried myself to sleep every night thinking my son would never get this and it broke my heart, it just killed me.  I didn’t know what to do, we didn’t know how to help him. I just wanted him to have the same opportunity everyone else got. John deserved the chance to just feel “normal.”

    If that doesn’t break a fellow mother’s heart and stab the very center of what empathy entails… I don’t know what could.

                    Both John’s mother and older sister told me that they wanted so desperately to reach out to me in the past but were praying John did not have the same “issues” with me that he had with interpersonal relationships his whole life.  They had a battle within their minds about whether they should question how John was behaving toward us or just stay out of it.  On one hand, they were worried for B and my emotional stability living with John and felt guilty for not asking if we were doing ok; on the other hand they did not want to allude that something might be “wrong” with him… because what if, by some miracle, John finally “grew out” of his previously “different” behaviors. 

                   Ultimately, they opted to pray for John and our “family” and remain silent because the simple fact that John had willingly chosen to walk away from all that was familiar to him his entire life to live with a woman and her daughter… to leave his family’s side (the only security he ever had) to be with this woman… at 31 years old, something had obviously changed for him.

                    When I consider that statement now… I cannot believe my husband loved me so much back then he truly walked out on everything that made him feel safe and everything that held meaning to him… he moved far away from the only people who ever loved him and believed he was a good person… and he did it…

    FOR ME 

                    If I consider everything I know today and reflect back on our life together in Florida, I realize I missed how hard every day must have been for John.  I never acknowledged or appreciated how horrifically challenging it had to be to try to behave in a parental role, a partner role, and an independent adult role all at once for a man who never even had strong interpersonal peer relationships growing up outside of his family. 

                   How rough it had to be to love me so much that he lived in sheer panic I would discover he was “not normal” and did not have a stable career or healthy adult relationships (not that he did not have girlfriends, he did… but that’s another story).  John was likely so overwhelmed in that first year we lived together by this woman who moved a million miles an hour (and talked even faster) that he must have been exhausted mentally every time he went to sleep at night.

                  I just didn’t know these things back then.

    I couldn’t appreciate all of the ways my boyfriend had shown me how important I was to him.

    I saw the opposite of everything he was feeling inside because I was too blinded with my own narrow focus on how MY brain processed information, that I faulted John when I assumed his mind worked the same.  I never considered he had a completely different and unique processing ability.

                       I just didn’t know, and despite wishing I could have a “do-over” and know everything I know today… I cannot.  I realize I should not be faulting myself for this, as no one else was able to make sense of John either his whole life because he was such a contradiction to the stereotype of Aspies (that is unfair and often incorrect) that his social awkwardness was often mistakenly perceived as arrogance, indifference, or narcissism.  John did not have his nose in books or talk in exhaustive length about computers or sci-fi related subjects (just to hit up the typical stereotype).  No one who casually met John back then, or even today would believe me if I said he grew up feeling insecure and socially isolated by not only his peers, but society in general.  John is just over 6ft tall with strong features and a well-proportioned body.  He looks “strong” when you look at him and his general appearance is intimidating to men and women alike. Women tend to find him very attractive and his large crystal-blue eyes don’t hurt this (if you can get him to make eye contact long enough to see them).  

                      When I met John I was instantly taken aback by how good looking he was, as were my sisters, cousins, and every other female family member who met him at Jeff’s memorial service.  I watched many women develop nervous giggles when they tried to talk to him over the years and observed just as many men appear threatened in his presence. John has a deep and overpowering voice when he speaks and unlike those who speak of sci-fi and tech-related interests, John loves “traditionally male-endorsed” things like cars and the UFC (but God forbid you ask him how an engine works, or what a car noise is, because you are going to get an 18-hour long in-depth information session you will not be able to keep up with).  His information-sharing is less boring when you sit beside him to watch a UFC fight and he not only spits knowledge about every fighter’s strengths and weaknesses, he can call damn-near every fight right down to the round and way a fighter will win or lose (barring some fluke-occurrence).  For anyone who watches UFC, you may appreciate that for a very long time I really thought John was recording fights and then watching them with me (pretending they were “new”) to impress me.  He would say everything Joe Rogan (the actual UFC commentator) said about 30 seconds before Rogan could get the words out.  It is incredibly fascinating to watch a UFC fight with John and if he ever goes to a bar at night when a fight is on, you would never guess he had social inadequacies because he is “on fire” and everyone wants to sit by him.  John educates himself about politics, current events, random trivia, independent films, etc.  He knows “enough” about so many topics he can engage in short banter about damn-near anything you can think of and actually has facts and legit knowledge behind his words.  

                   That is the thing about John.  He truly comes across more like the “popular guy” that “got all the chicks” in high school than the stereotype he would have been thrown into if anyone could have known what was really going on in his mind.  He shines in a bar scene because the women all think they are going to get him to go home with them and the men enjoy talking to him for hours about typical “male” hobbies and interests.  He is mechanically-genius and can build a house from the ground up and do everything himself from pouring foundation to building the external structure, and he does it perfectly. He can do anything related to building from flooring to tiling, electrical wiring to plumbing.  He can work with heating and cooling systems, design and build custom kitchens, bars, incredible decks and intricate gazebos, etc., and he does everything with meticulous craftsmanship.  The list of John’s talents go on and on and none of the talents and interests John has deviate from enviable skills and hobbies that any “typical” man would appreciate. John has an uncanny ability to make people laugh, although often through sarcasm (all of these things about John were why Jeff was so enamored by him).  

                    No one could see that John never had a clue when women were flirting with him or that he was so nervous to be labeled “weird” or “abnormal” that he learned to prep himself for social interactions by studying enough topics of interest to get through small talk at parties or social gatherings by the time he was a young adult.  No one views John’s argumentative or sarcastic nature as protective mechanisms he built over many years to defend himself against chronic character assassinations, they just perceive them as the behaviors an overly-confident man (who rarely gets kicked off his pedestal) might display. John just does not give off the image of a frightened, anxious, or intimidated man and he certainly does not carry himself like a man who was fraught with insecurity, fear, anxiety, and loneliness his entire life.  

                   I don’t think John ever had a clue how he was perceived by others until I began telling him either.  At the time John and I had about two years or so under our belt as a couple, I simply could not connect all of the dots of his external appearance to who he really was inside.  Even when I stepped back and read about Asperger’s syndrome and thought I had nailed down the information, I often found it incredibly challenging to apply this knowledge to the man who stood before me.  More often than not, I had trouble seeing past the snarky, argumentative, and condescending jerk who was lying beside me; despite knowing with absolute certainty John had Asperger’s syndrome, his outward character always appeared such a staunch contradiction to the text that I subconsciously doubted it fit him for longer than I realized.    

    It was a remarkably difficult challenge to stop reading my initial perception of John (and what he must be thinking) to get through that he was actually suffering (inside) in a horrendous way… even if I couldn’t see it.  

                  Hearing John’s family openly talk about his past made me appreciate John from a new perspective.  All I wanted was to get him a diagnosis and have his family reassure me he was the great man I saw in the beginning; the man I always knew existed in my heart.  I just wanted answers.  

    Those answers were still three VERY LONG years away at the time I sent that email to his sister though.

    WE’RE IN THIS TOGETHER

                    At the end of the day, John’s family wanted their son/brother to be happy, but not at the cost of my or my child’s happiness.  They validated everything I had experienced and furthered to confirm that they believed Asperger’s syndrome accurately answered all the questions they had for so long.  Like me, they felt incredible relief at first… followed by an overwhelming degree of guilt for never knowing.  Then came the realization that poor John was never given the chance at the happy life he deserved and could have had if they had only known about AS.  No doubt it also opened a ton of old wounds from his sister(s), particularly his older sister who had suffered an incredible amount of verbal and emotional abuse by a brother who did not know what he had been putting her through throughout their childhood (I do not think he is willing to acknowledge that to this day).  

                   John’s family had several heart to heart discussions with him via telephone after my initial contact with them and since he was loyal, respectful, and incredibly adoring of his parents… John agreed to go in for a diagnostic assessment (something I could not even get him to entertain a discussion about).  His parents did not just offer to pay for John to get an official diagnosis… they insisted on paying for it.  They also participated in the diagnostic process via telephone and gave the therapist all the childhood and young adult information about John they could. After a very exhaustive day for John, he was given the official confirmation that, he did indeed, HAVE ASPERGER’S SYNDROME.

                    It seemed that things were on the mend with John and I after the diagnosis was made and it made me feel less alone once his family and I were closer to one another.  It seemed like things were getting better only because I was still imagining the “world to come” without realizing how far away it actually was.  John did not joyously begin researching what the diagnosis meant (as I had still hoped for) but he did allow me to talk about it a little… for a few months.

                    Wonderful as it was to have an official diagnosis, at the end of the day, it accomplished jack shit in mending our communication difficulties or easing the previous tension in our relationship (that would quickly become our constant).  The professional we found did diagnostic assessments, but she did not offer therapy for adults.  We could not find relationship counseling anywhere with a therapist who had ever worked with adults who had Asperger’s syndrome.  I had been to therapists for relationship help in my first marriage.  That marriage ended in divorce (despite still loving one another).  I watched my first husband go to a few different therapists independently (some of which I forced upon him) and that ended with him eating a bullet.  John had been dragged into therapy several times throughout his youth… he was awarded various (mis) diagnoses and a dependence on synthetic drugs (to this day) that never once correctly identified the true reason behind his lifelong struggles.

                    By that time in my life, I was not willing to trust my future with John to another ass-clown yielding a license that they basically “paid for” since I felt none of them earned or deserved it.  I felt this way because of how little any of them seemed to know about Asperger’s syndrome (something I knew was prevalent in society by that point).  I know that sounds harsh, but outside of the Suncoast Hospice counselor who was there for my daughter’s initial grief counseling… my experience with effective counselors had been unsuccessful (at best).  My research of an entire population of adults like my boyfriend who were quite effectively robbed out of the life they could have had (even when the diagnosis of Aspergers existed in his teenage years) made me develop a bitterness toward the very facet of healthcare I once wanted to become a part of.  

                       If the internet had nothing to offer me by way of cognitive behavioral strategies with proven success in a relationship like ours, and books came up equally short, I had found myself at an impasse I could not see beyond.  During this time, I continued to search for answers, recorded our life experiences in a crazed-scribble fashion, tried desperately to get John to read with me (fail), and prayed (a lot) for miracles. 

                    Nothing changed because…               Nothing had really changed.

    The only thing that changed after John’s diagnosis was that I now had the love, understanding, and support of John’s family to help ground me.

     

    SICK CYCLIC SADNESS

                    John and I became balance scales defined by one another.  The more stress one person had, the lower they dropped under the weight and pushed the other further away.  Every once in awhile we would find ourselves equally balanced and enjoy a brief moment where we met one another in the middle and enjoyed the day.  Usually, my end of the scale was on the bottom and I wasted my energy trying to offload some of my weight onto John’s side.   The weight was always too heavy for me to throw and he was always too far away to notice my exhaustive efforts anyway.

                    In a strange sort of way, we both gave up and allowed life to pick away at us.  I spent years searching for an epiphany and resenting John for not giving a damn about his own diagnosis and how it adversely affected my emotional well-being… John spent years defending himself and never really understanding what I wanted from him and why I was such a volatile person.  I had somehow numbed myself into thinking that our problems would resolve themselves, or that someday John would “wake up” and miraculously fix everything. 

                    Our fighting got more intense and hostile and would dissipate as quickly as it came on.  This happened because I would exhaust myself to tears and submit that I “could not get through to him regardless of how hard I tried” so in order to keep the peace, I would just pretend everything was “ok” again.  I would spend months prepping myself to leave John and writing down every reason he was failing me and not progressing as an adult or boyfriend, and then just stew in my anger.  I could not leave him despite seeing no progress in his efforts inside or outside of the home because every time I tried to, I would think of the big picture and why John behaved the way he did.  This also inspired me to try to come up with another method to bridge the gap between us.  

    Sometimes when I think about how miserable I was back then (and even a year ago), I cannot quite figure out why I chose to stay with John.  Our chronic fighting and general unhappiness was more than enough reason to justify ending our relationship, yet neither of us wanted to leave.  

    Sometimes love just defies logic.

                    I spent a very long time clinging to the hope that I would find the person who had answers for us, I searched every corner and turned over every rock in this attempt.  We found a good therapist once that helped John open up a bit (he was a great substitute for alcohol).  It had actually taken my threats to kick John out and having his family push it to even get him to agree to go willingly.  It also took the humility of accepting his parent’s money to pay for the sessions because we could not afford them; I know they felt like they needed to do this in order to make amends for not realizing his diagnosis a decade earlier… not something John or I ever blamed them for.

                    Despite that counselor being pretty amazing for someone who had not actually worked with a couple whereby one person had Asperger’s syndrome (that he knew of), I was able to glean a lot of information from John during those sessions. 

                    Therapy came to an abrupt end one night when John and I got in such a bad argument (over KEYS) that we both got physically aggressive with one another with some grabbing, pushing, and kicking.  It was not as horrendous as I believed it to be at the time (in retrospect) but to me… once things moved from yelling to physical contact of any kind, it was time to get out.  John had finally stepped over my “line in the sand” and I told him he had to leave, permanently.  

                     John packed up his belongings and moved home to Michigan and in with his parents in November 2013.  I spoke with his family often and everyone shared the same frustration I did.  They knew I loved John and they knew he loved me but they also believed it was John who was failing us, by not accepting his diagnosis and changing his own behaviors.  No one knew how to help make things better between two people who really loved one another but failed miserably at communicating.  

                     No one knew how to accomplish this because no one actually had a frickin clue what the communication breakdown even stemmed from.  Asperger’s syndrome and all of it’s many characteristics never accounted for the true reason John was not “getting” what I kept begging him to understand.  There was no amount of Aspie-Awareness that could have possibly proved beneficial at the time because there was not a single Aspie-expert out there who ever identified what I came to realize THREE YEARS LATER.

    (Not even the man I still value the most, Dr. Tony Attwood, had narrowed down the only issue that would eventually change everything)   

                     John openly admitted to being a “failure” in our relationship and “not the best man he could have been” toward me, but that wasn’t going to fix anything.  It wasn’t going to fix anything because the problem rested more on the neurotypicals in his life than on himself (but Hell if I knew that at the time). John was always willing to receive and consider the information and advice we had to offer (although it always seemed quite the opposite)… but we didn’t really have any.  I had no idea how to effectively communicate with him in a language he understood because I had no idea what language he couldn’t understand.  I thought I was verbalizing everything clearly but I was using a whole load of non-verbal and hidden/obtuse language to the extent that he rarely had a clue what I was ever really talking about.  

    I didn’t know.

    I honestly believed John was just being difficult, argumentative, defiant, selfish, indifferent, and simply refusing to listen to what I was saying.

                     My family remained non-supportive because they could not comprehend Asperger’s syndrome and certainly did not understand why I was so hell-bent on making this relationship work.  They did not dislike John by this time (sharing his diagnosis helped with that) but they wanted a better life of happiness for their daughter and granddaughter.  When John went to Michigan that November, I was left to do some pretty heavy soul searching… alone.

                    I was on the cusp of huge life changes; I would be graduating from my final nursing program, going to training for a few months out of state, and then picking my daughter and pets up and moving us overseas for my first job in a different field.  I had a million and one reasons to not consider John in those plans and only one solid one to sway me otherwise… I frickin loved the man.

                    After about six weeks of reading, researching, praying, and crying my eyes out… and John finally promising to educate himself about Asperger’s syndrome (my dumbass still thought this was part of the solution); I decided to take another chance on our insane NT-Aspie relationship (John never held up his end of that promise while I was away from him those six weeks either).  My daughter and I flew up to Michigan and spent the holidays with John and his wonderful family.  My poor family (who really are equally wonderful) were devastated that I would leave them for the holidays (taking their granddaughter/niece away from them) in order to spend them with a man I had just broken up with, that they believed treated me poorly.  This was a very tough decision since I was likely going to miss the next three holiday seasons with them having to move overseas.  

                    Just as John walked away from everything he knew to move to Florida and take a chance on me… I had an intense instinct to risk everything and take a real chance on him.  Leaving our family for another person had to be painful, but to my family that Christmas, my choice was akin to telling them they were not important to me at all (in their opinion of course… not mine).

                    The holidays were special that year in Michigan and John and I decided to keep trying and promised to treat one another better.  John planned to move overseas with us and returned to Florida to help us prepare for the transition.  We also attended my little sister’s wedding that January (to Michael) and they asked John to also play a role in the wedding (which was important to me).  It was very heartwarming to see him escort my grandmother down the aisle (with his nervous eyes blinking a mile a minute) because I felt like he was officially a “part of my family.”  

                    My sister and Michael’s wedding was still difficult for me emotionally because I always imagined John would propose to me (long before my sister got engaged) and really thought he would do it that Christmas… he was planning to move across the world with me but never thought about making that commitment?  I still watched my sister’s relationship with envy wishing John could love me as much as Michael loved her.  It totally did not help that they walked down the aisle to John and my “song” and got married in the hotel where John and I had our first kiss (and I first fell in love with him). As happy as I was for my sister (who had no idea she had randomly chosen a song or location so significant to my relationship), it was very emotional for me to consider that John would never look at me or treat me with that degree of compassion or love.

    OVERSEAS 

                    John had Asperger’s syndrome.

    I was a Neurotypical (and a ridiculously empathetic one at that).

    We both had a “label” yet not a single fucking person on the planet had a damn clue what that meant for our future, had a shred of useful advice to give us, or could prove that another Aspie-NT couple ever managed to find anything but misery in a relationship together.

                     John and I made a commitment to take on this “new” life together overseas and start over, but we were ill-prepared for the incredible stress our new world would throw at us.  We had never learned to communicate effectively and we mostly existed by sharing common ground in hobbies/interests and humor. Emotional intimacy as a couple was nothing but a pipe-dream to me.  I was sad and longing for something more and John could not see this in my eyes or hidden messages, and now we were living on an isolated tiny island in the middle of the damn Pacific with even less chance of finding help than we had in Florida.

                    John lived on edge and walked on eggshells with me because he never knew when I was going to jump down his throat about something or accuse him of being a jerk to me.  He never realized I had been communicating the buildup of every one of these events weeks before they happened because I never spoke them aloud (I figured he was fully aware of everything and seeing the same reality I did but choosing to blow my feelings off).  Despite educating myself about Aspergers I was never able to fully grasp how it truly impacted our relationship or what either of us were doing so wrong. 

                    Outside of his uneasy feeling I might randomly explode at any time, and his boredom on the isolated island we lived on… John was otherwise content.  John did not feel as uncertain and hopeless about our relationship as I did.  John did not have a clue he was ever causing me pain so he did not feel badly for the pain I was in… he truly never saw it anyway.  John was always looking at the positive and finding a way to be optimistic about our life together.  John did not compare us to other couples and long for the happiness and intimacy they had, he didn’t think we were lacking anything, he never knew any different, so he did not desire any more.  John did not know why I was always so unhappy, or what he could do to make it better, or understand any of the demands I placed on him to be a better partner… unless they were task oriented/tangible things he could physically accomplish, which he tried really hard to get better at.  John did not feel disappointed in who I was, John appreciated who I was (even though he thought I was mentally unstable).  John was just happy every day I chose to be with him.  John was happy he had a girlfriend and even happier when that girlfriend (apprehensively) became his wife, because John stopped being so afraid I was going to leave him for someone better.  John never wanted to change me, and John never wanted to hurt me.  John just wanted me to stop crying all the time and telling him he was purposely being mean to me.  John did not like the constant rollercoaster of emotion I had nor the times I screamed at him and “forced” him to defend himself and scream back at me.  John did not understand why his stepdaughter was also an emotional basket-case or why his wife and stepdaughter always seemed to exclude him from conversations or gang up on him.  John did not appreciate the days I was too angry and emotional to be around and he “had” to avoid me so he could avoid a fight.  John still thought the rollercoaster ride was worth it every single day he woke up next to me because, he loved me.  John always loved me.

                    Poor John.  

    I had no idea he viewed our relationship in such an innocent and optimistic way.

                    From outside of John’s view, John was a cold and cruel man who still refused to contribute financially to his family (he had perfect excuses now) and was a long-way-away from being a “decent” domestic partner.  John was not kind or compassionate and would sigh or ignore his wife when she spoke of her increasingly stressful and physically exhausting job.  John would share his irritation over his wife’s “laziness” on the few days off she had during the week and did not consider that she was being pushed to every limit she had and was equally isolated and alone on this tiny island.  John was living with a woman who felt incredibly unloved, unwanted, unappreciated, disrespected, used, ugly, stupid, and betrayed by the man who promised to provide her with the opposite.  

                    John married a woman who was at her wits end after her final attempt to get John to “want” to work on communication failed; he married a woman who believed her only remaining hope was that “marriage” would inspire him to love her enough to want to make positive changes for the future.    

                   It was a wicked dumb thought-process to believe becoming a “husband” would motivate John to educate himself about his diagnosis and miraculously fix everything that had gone wrong, but desperate people do desperate things, and I was desperate for him to change his behavior!  I loved John and it was so much easier for us to be married with our new living arrangements, so I did not think much about the added “title” in the same way John did. 

                  Before we got married (for a fleeting moment) John and I had a run of happy months together with very little arguing.  It seemed like he was really trying hard to communicate with me.  This was the only thing I begged for all those years, so once he showed that level of initiative, it seemed like a great idea to finally get married (there was no romantic proposal, John never asked me to marry him at all and we shopped online for rings).  After this decision was made, we continued to have an abnormally peaceful and happy run in the months leading up to the wedding.  I attributed it to John putting in more effort around the house and in “sharing” his feelings with me (which really did look like a painful effort in and of itself for him).  It never occurred to me (until recently) that the reason we were happy during the six months leading up to our wedding was that I made us happy.

                     I had been working so much and was so exhausted that John put in extra effort to not add more weight to my taxing life (and I finally verbalized what I wanted him to do when I was not home to help out). Once I set the ball in motion to get married and put down deposits on everything, I was so afraid of our good times imploding that I tried hard to leave any emotional or negative words out of my speech.  I was very aware of the words that came out of my mouth; careful to not set off an argument or fight that could drag into months of misery and an embarrassingly cancelled wedding.  I basically avoided any degree of emotional attempts at intimacy so I could avoid feeling angry when John shot them down (pretty pathetic, I know).

                 If only I realized then that changing MY method of communicating changed our happiness, I would have saved myself another six months of misery when we returned to our island home as husband and wife.  

    I will gleefully talk about our disastrously-appropriate wedding(s) in Florida and Michigan eventually… complete with emergency surgery, torrential down-pouring for our beach ceremony, and my epic breakdown at an airport in Tokyo while crying out, “I never should have married you!” in the security-screening line on our return… but that is another post.

                   What was important in the period leading up to that day, was that John and I remained peaceful and happy for a long enough span of time that we decided to get married and made it all the way to the exchanging of vows in front of our family (both in Florida and again in Michigan for a second reception).  

    AND THEN WE GOT HOME

                    Once we returned home, everything just fell to shit again. John wasn’t talking, I was angry, and we lived in a highly tense world.  I really thought things would magically improve.  At a minimum, I figured they would remain as good as they were months before the wedding (yes, even people in their late 30’s are that naive). Our days were anything but happy.  The fighting was bad… so bad that I had given up all hope John was ever going to treat me well and became withdrawn and nasty.  He was spending a lot of time with a new friend he made down the street and making some money off of building game boards he and the friend designed and painted.  I was resentful that his new friend motivated him to do more than his own wife could, and I was especially pissed off that John would only drink alcohol with his “new buddy” (and his buddies) but refused to with me.  

                    I loved drunk John and I missed him.  Drunk John loved me, and he told me so. Drunk John told me I was important and perfect and told me how appreciated I was.  I hadn’t really seen Drunk John since our amazing Wednesday Date Nights (before I became obsessed with Asperger’s syndrome), so I was beyond furious that these new stupid douchebag jock-type dipshits got to see the only side of my husband that ever made me feel truly loved.

                   I was working night shifts almost entirely when we returned from our wedding, and my job was incredibly high-stress.  I was gaining weight (because my sleep and metabolism were shot and I never ate) and feeling bad about myself in general.  I came home to a filthy house (John stopped trying since I was chronically pissed off and negative regardless of what he did) and he slept until after noon.  John wouldn’t stay up with me at night on my days off (he wanted me to shift my schedule to days on my days off and then bounce back to nights for work) and I was angry about that because I never got to see him.  I was enraged when he managed to hang out with his friends till the early morning hours (drinking) on the nights I was working but wouldn’t accommodate that same schedule when I was not.  

                 Everything was making me mad and I was so bitter, exhausted, deflated, and angry that I made every effort to deflect it onto John (who was still not looking for a job and making me resent the future of unbalanced misery I had in store).  I began demanding that John read about his disability or I was going to divorce him (yeah, I threatened the Big D… and I meant it too).  John would sometimes pretend he was reading when I was at work, but the book never seemed to have been opened, and his internet history (when he didn’t clear it out) never seemed to have a single search related to fixing our relationship or him finding a way to better his life or our family.  It made me hate him when I would look at his internet history and see countless hours of searching information about cars, the UFC, random news, fishing, and sports trivia used to engage conversation with his new friends… but never a single thing about being a husband, supportive parent, fixing his failing marriage, or… Asperger’s syndrome.

                 I was miserable in a way I had never been before.  I was six years older than when John and I began and I was still fighting for the same thing from him with no real progress so I felt like an incredible loser. I cried every day I did not work and when I cried… John would get angry and call me names or say, “Jesus Christ… here we go again” and then ignore me for the night… or days after.  My life was falling apart so quickly that I no longer felt like I had a grip on anything and I lost all of the personal motivation to even succeed in my own career.  I was physically unwell and having multiple health issues (and my insomnia mixed with excessive sleep/fatigue and poor nutrition were not making anything better).  There was nowhere I could even escape to because there was little to do on the tiny island we lived on.  I had little left of my old self to cling to and was convinced I would never feel happy ever again.  I felt like I had sacrificed myself to give John a chance to have a “normal” life and I truly hated him for it.  

             I wanted a fucking normal life…

    I thought had earned it.

     

                  I blamed John for everything and anything and we went weeks without saying a single nice thing to one another.  We stopped being intimate entirely and were both miserable.  I begged him to leave and he would scream that he was going to get on the next plane… I would book him a flight a week out and then cancel it in time to get our miles back a day later when I had a moment to think about how he would be miserable if he went back to Michigan and my guilt would override my unhappiness.  I would write… and write… and write. I stayed up all night on the back porch when I wasn’t working diligently researching Asperger’s syndrome and every scientific study I could uncover in the hopes of stumbling on forgotten research that had secrets to getting through to my husband.  

                  If I wasn’t sleeping all day, or working at night, I was sitting on my back porch glued to my computer.  I was hell-bent to turn over every leaf I could find and decided that when I truly had nothing left to type into a search engine…

    I was calling it quits  

                 I stopped calling my family and I stopped doing anything but researching, writing, crying, sleeping, and working.  I could not even see how depressed John was becoming in the midst of all of my own misery.  I was set to go to training in Texas for a month and a half and then go see my little sister and Michael’s new baby, my beautiful niece.  I was certain my marriage would be done by the time I returned.

    BUT SOMETHING HAPPENED

                 When I was in my training in Texas I found myself missing John terribly. I had no access to an internet connection and severe insomnia so I stayed awake all night in a small house that held four bunk-beds.  I began replaying my life with John and everything that went wrong between us.  I was beginning to put the puzzle pieces together, although it would take a few more months to make sense of it all.  

                I returned to the island with a refreshed mind and believed everything was about to get better.  In my head, things were starting to make sense.  By the time I located the light bulb in my brain that needed to be turned on, John was deep in his own depression. He was miserable, missed his family, felt alienated, unloved, and attacked at home. John was at a breaking point and was actually instigating fights.  He had me second guessing the puzzle I thought I had finally put together while I was in Texas.  I knew I was only missing one piece, but John’s depression eventually zapped the motivation right out of me to keep searching for it.  

    We fell back into the same sick cycle.  

    We did not like each other.  

    With no reason to keep going, John and I decided to call it quits.  

                    By some divine intervention, John broke down on the day he was supposed to fly away from our home and marriage and began to sob.  Then the light bulb turned on and I was able to suddenly see the missing piece I had been searching for all those years…

    We were going to be ok.  Not just ok.  We were going to be HAPPY! 

     

    The below post picks up where this story of “us” left off:

    HOW TO TEACH EMPATHY TO SOMEONE WITH ASPERGER’S SYNDROME PT 1

     

     

     


  • WHY IS IT UNFAIR TO SAY ASPIES HAVE ZERO EMPATHY?

    BECAUSE IT’S NOT TRUE

     

    I received a comment recently that I wanted to share as I think it will be a common source of confusion for others:  

    Please read my definition of cognitive and affective empathy HERE first (if you haven’t already)

     

    David wrote:  

    “I’m confused. You say aspies have zero empathy, but elsewhere you say they have affective empathy, just not cognitive empathy. From how you explain it, what you call “affective empathy” is what I have always thought was “empathy”. What you call “cognitive empathy” sounds like reading someone’s thoughts, which sounds impossible, but doesn’t sound like what I think of when I think of empathy. Isn’t it a little unfair to say someone has zero empathy when they do have affective empathy?”

     

    David,

    Awesome comment because you are absolutely correct! While my posts will center around all-things good and amazing about my Aspie husband in the future, I chose to begin this blog with a lot of the mis-information out there. If you read my WHY AM I SO ANGRY? post, you might think my husband was evil and I was a horrifically abused wife too dumb to leave him. That is how I felt for a long time, and how a lot of spouses (like myself) feel because they do not grasp the big picture yet. I wanted my posts to grab the current feelings of many of the wives out there… so they could first empathize with ME and realize I get what they are going through; hopefully lending some belief in my current thoughts and their desire to implement my suggestions in their own marriage.  My intention of striking a chord with the desperate NT wives out there is also why some of my post titles are seemingly negative and unfair to those with Asperger’s syndrome.  

    I can appreciate how the post you commented on WHAT DOES ALTRUISM HAVE TO DO WITH IT? seems very biased toward praising neurotypicals while blaming Aspie husbands for lacking empathy and damaging our relationships.  It was important to me to first acknowledge the incredible strength and mentality of those who fall in love with Aspie men because… I am going to be flipping it around in most of my future posts, beginning with this one.  

    I intend on showing all of the reasons our Aspie husbands are of equal strength and good intention and these same NT women often unknowingly create much of the misery in their marriage.  Since I began this blog entirely for neurotypical women struggling in their marriage, posts like the one you commented on do give confusing messages. Understanding the difference in cognitive and affective empathy, and how the function of both processing mechanisms paralyze communication, is the first step to finding a happy NT-Aspie union.  

    I never expected so many adult men and women with Asperger’s syndrome to take the time to read what I wrote and post their responses to it.  I am both delighted and humbled by this.  

     

    Back to why my words are unfair:

    It is incredibly unfair and cruel to suggest someone with Asperger’s syndrome does not have empathy in general. This belief is what destroys countless lives every day. This statement is what I want to change when people hear the term Asperger’s syndrome.

    Just like you, affective empathy is what EVERYONE thinks of when they hear the word.  Affective empathy is the most important part of what it means to be a compassionately empathetic individual. Affective empathy is what humanizes us and the common bond we have for one another that creates all the best things in life.  Only sociopaths (aka, psychopaths) lack affective empathy.  

    Obviously there exist other neurological anomalies and injuries that can debilitate empathy, but they also impair so many other neurological abilities that they are incredibly apparent… unlike Aspies and sociopaths who are elusive and have only empathy deficits to account for their cognitive differences with neurotypicals.  Again, sociopaths lack affective empathy but have cognitive empathy, Aspies lack cognitive empathy but have affective empathy (polar opposites).

    There is confusion about this because no one realizes there is an entirely different version of empathy (the cognitive part) that symbiotically functions to enable and enhance the affective part for neurotypicals.

    When someone cannot utilize their cognitive empathy the way the majority does, it stunts the affective part. It does not eliminate the fact that affective empathy exists and is fully functional for those with Asperger’s syndrome.  The absence of cognitive empathy disables the ability to show affective empathy appropriately based on the expectations of an NT (not their fault, this is because social norms that deviate from what NT’s comprehend as normal are viewed as negative and wrong).

    I am going to assume you have Asperger’s syndrome? I may be wrong but I am making this assumption based off of your summation that cognitive empathy sounds like “reading someone’s thoughts” (which it kind of is), and that does not sound logical or possible to you. If I did not possess this ability (and understand that those deemed neurotypical also do) than I would agree that such a concept sounds ridiculous.

    Of note: Not every neurotypical is good at utilizing their cognitive empathy effectively.

     

    No, I do not think I am psychic

    I do not think I can accurately look at a stranger (or anyone) and factually read their mind.  That would be CRAZY. What I do have (NT’s) is the ability to information-gather based off of someone’s facial expressions, body language, tone/pitch of voice, timing in delivering their words, taking in the same nonverbal language from those around this person, and the “hidden” meaning behind what someone says vice what they actually mean.  All of these things combined enable a person to come pretty close to accurately guessing what someone is thinking or feeling.  We learn to do this before grade school and it comes SO NATURALLY and rapidly we don’t even realize we’re doing it.

    As I have said before… the closer we are to a person (knowing their past behaviors, feelings, desires, or how they responded emotionally to a similar situation) the more likely we will guess what they are thinking/feeling correctly.  If it helps to call it “guessing” in lieu of “mind reading” then that is totally understandable and more accurate.  We are only guessing and no one can read another person’s mind; it just so happens NT to NT guessing is often spot-on.

    Since Aspies very rarely have “hidden meanings” in their words, and they cannot information-gather the same way we NT’s do… we (NTs) keep fudging everything up. We keep thinking there is hidden meaning in words, over-analyzing behaviors, and seeing the delay (or incorrect) response to our feelings as inappropriate, rude, aloof, condescending, mean, uncaring, insensitive, or cold.

    Eventually I hope I will help other neurotypical women to STOP DOING THIS!  Maybe when the NT women finally make sense of their husband’s behavior they can help create an army of advocates who want the world to also understand their incredible husbands.  

    Wishful thinking perhaps, but I believe it can be done.

    Understanding cognitive vs. affective empathy and how they work to enhance one another has to be very confusing and suspicious to someone who does not utilize cognitive empathy. I also realize the suggestion that an Aspie has zero cognitive empathy makes people with Aspergers feel angry that they are being deemed defective or broken.

    I think those highly empathetic neurotypicals (the wives of Aspie men usually are) and those with Asperger’s syndrome are both defective (SEE: WHY AM I SO STUPID?). With that being said, I do not for one second think that either of them are “broken”; just different.

    color

    If you don’t see the green number, you must not love me!

    My good friend is color blind.  He does not see the same thing when he looks at colors that I do. He is not broken for this, he just sees the world different than many of those around him.  My friend cannot control this, nor can he ever see the colors others do… he just has to accept that they exist for others.  My friend has a genetic mutation (I hate that word because it sounds bad) that causes the wiring in his brain to process color different.

    Someone with Asperger’s syndrome who cannot process cognitive empathy is not broken, they process information differently. Because it is the minority who has to navigate without that processing ability, Aspies end up being shunned and made to feel broken.

    My friend got made fun of for a long time for screwing things up that required the color vision capabilities of those around him. It might have been something simple like picking up the wrong color legos or puzzle pieces as a child, to painting his home in unappealing colors as an adult.  Sometimes people made fun of him and he felt like he screwed things up (but he never knew why).  When my friend finally learned he was color blind to some of the shades others could see, he stopped thinking he was a screw-up. When he was able to articulate this to people, they stopped giving him a hard time when he showed up in a green shirt instead of a blue one (military) or other areas where color-selection comes into play.  The people who were close to him began to help him instead or teasing him, like his wife laying out the correct color undershirt for him to wear to work the night before, or helping him navigate through other color-conundrums. 

    Lucky for my friend, something like color-processing is not often associated with personal feelings so when he had messed up in the past, his character was not attacked for being “uncaring and cold.”

    Lacking cognitive empathy adversely effects how easily a person can show affective empathy and therefore… people take this difference in neurologically processing information as personal.  Aspies get screwed by a society who thinks they just lack empathy altogether.

    They do not lack it, they simply cannot show it the same way we neurotypicals anticipate unless we directly state what we are thinking or feeling.  But alas, we don’t accept this different perspective because we don’t understand it… neither Aspie nor NT does.

    If only I could think that way…

    The honesty and simplicity in how those with Asperger’s syndrome communicate is something to appreciate and emulate. It is what we NT’s should be striving for in many ways.

    It would be so much easier if we could stop basing our own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors off of our assumed reality.  How many problems would be solved if neurotypicals just stopped reacting to what someone was “thinking” and chose to directly ASK THEM instead (and also believe their response as the truth)?  NTs are NOT always correct in their guess-work (obviously) and they are awful at it when they are guessing about their Aspie husband.

    It can screw us NTs up from time to time and cause us to believe a reality that does not exist… like when we assume we read nonverbal messages correctly but are way off target and then react to those messages by being upset, angry, offended, etc.. Sometimes our cognitive empathy steers us in the wrong direction but if we utilized the direct language Aspies use, we could avoid the whole misunderstanding.  This is what occurs the majority of the time in Aspie-NT marriages because we cannot read a person with Aspergers the way we can read an NT.  The reason for this is that Aspies lack cognitive empathy and therefore they do not operate under its existence in their lives. They are equally unaware of how their nonverbal messages come across to the outside world as they are about the nonverbal messages coming from it.  Without the knowledge of how they send out nonverbal messages, they never learn (from social interaction in childhood development) how to regulate their facial expressions, body language, etc. This regulation begins to occur without thought for NT’s so 9/10 times, the nonverbal messages they are sending out directly match the inner thoughts and feelings they are having.  With an Aspie, there is a disconnect with that and the nonverbal messages they are sending out do not often accurately match the internal thoughts and feelings they are having.  Neurotypicals don’t know this though, so they are receiving incorrect messages frequently from the Aspie in their life and they are responding to them as truth.

    Let me try to clarify.  Let’s say there is a neurotypical 5 year old child grocery shopping with their mother and their mom accidentally pushes the cart into their little leg. The child may feel a slight pain and make an automatic facial expression that reflects this pain.  The mom apologizes profusely to the child, who is in no way upset with their mom for the accident, and continues to make the same facial expression of pain because now their leg is hurting a little when they walk.  About ten minutes later, the mom notices that the child still has this look on their face but since time has elapsed and mom thinks it could no longer be a look of pain, she begins to associate the look with being angry at the mom for hurting them.  Mom again begins to apologize profusely and the child says, “I know you didn’t mean it, it’s ok mom.”  

    If this look keeps up (because the leg is still sore) the mom may eventually say, “I said I was sorry, why are you so mad at me?”  The child, having never said they were mad (quite the opposite) will then become aware that they are giving a facial expression that makes mom think they are in fact, angry.  This triggers those synapses to connect the dots between the face they are making and it’s confusing message and they automatically adjust this facial expression in the future.  This happens without purposeful intention… it is just the way the brain naturally wires itself through experiences in childhood.  The next time someone does something by accident, this child will automatically avoid that facial expression of discomfort so they do not make the accidental offender feel guilty, unless of course… they want the person to feel bad, then the look will remain (something that also occurs without thought).

    Hard to believe this happens, but it does.  

    That is how a neurotypical brain adapts to its social environment… so that their nonverbal messages do not cause unwanted emotional responses in others.  This happens in thousands of situations growing up and become an unspoken language based off of sending/receiving messages nonverbally throughout their youth.  This is why a neurotypicals ability to identify someone’s feelings (another neurotypicals) without the use of direct language become fairly accurate the closer they are to them.

    This is not the case with a person who has Asperger’s syndrome.  The Aspie child in the same situation will NOT understand that their facial expression is making their mother think they are angry.  They will know that they are in pain and their nonverbal messages will send out whatever response it wants to at that moment and there will exist no connection between the mother’s emotional response of guilt and their uncontrollable outward manifestation of whatever made her think this.  They will not even identify that their mother is feeling guilty when she says, “I said I was sorry, why are you still mad at me?”  They will take her words at face value; they may repeat the same sentence or say, “I know you didn’t mean it, I already said it was ok mom.”  They will not be aware that mom is giving them nonverbal messages in her question that show a face of guilt, or that her tone of voice is apologetic and she is really saying, “I am really sorry, I would never want to purposely hurt you.  I am concerned you think I did it on purpose because your facial expression is telling me that and that makes me feel badly that you would think that about me.  Please tell me you are not angry, and then please stop making a face that makes me think you are so I don’t feel guilty anymore.”  

    Holy crap that is a LOT of information mom thinks she is sending out to her child.  She doesn’t know she is speaking to her child without the use of those words because she naturally sends out a long paragraph of thought while only using words that unclearly summarize all those feelings.  The child is only hearing what mom said and therefore they may mentally process that mom must really think they are mad, but maybe she just didn’t hear them when they said they knew it was an accident and it was ok.  So they repeat themselves and they unknowingly keep the same facial expression of discomfort when they begin walking again, causing mom to think the child is purposely trying to cause her to feel badly for what she did.  By the time they reach the check-out line, mom may scoff at the child and say, “It’s ridiculous you are so angry about this, it was just an accident and you have no reason to be angry, stop being a baby!”

    Well, damn… that poor Aspie kid didn’t do a anything wrong and never “caused” his mom’s inevitably hurtful accusation.  Now the Aspie child is feeling angry… and they are absolutely justified in this!  Now the Aspie child WILL display a facial expression of anger or try to defend themselves, or get frustrated, feel hurt, and ultimately think they were treated unfairly (which is true).  What happens to Aspie children like this?  That’s when you see the good ol term, “temper tantrum” in full effect.  What happens to an adult like this? Well, that’s when you see a defensive and hostile response that makes the other person think the Aspie is an asshole.  It all makes perfect sense when you look at the big picture, but since no one grasps the cognitive empathy deficit, no one ever finds resolution in what actually caused the situation to unravel.

    In a scenario that innocent, the Aspie ends up receiving a very confused message that their mom is accusing them of feeling something that they are not feeling and they do not have a clue why.  The mother is not conscious of her use of cognitive empathy and therefore… she has no clue what kind of message she is sending her child by using words that are not in synch with the information she intended to send. The mom feels guilty for accidentally hurting her child and then becomes frustrated the child is angry, she begins to assume the child thinks she pushed the cart into them on purpose and feels hurt and eventually, irritated that the child would think that.  

    That is the speed and degree of emotional shifting a neurotypical does unknowingly when they are deciphering the nonverbal messages they receive. There is no direct articulation of words to ask questions or seek clarification for how the mom is receiving her child’s nonverbal message, so there will be no understanding of one another’s seemingly baffling behavior.  When the “baffling behavior” begins to pile up over time, both parties become further separated in their perception of one another and ability to understand the way the other thinks.

    Make sense?  Explaining a concept as abstract as cognitive empathy is incredibly difficult because it is not something that can be taught and most people are completely unaware of its existence.  They either use it, or they don’t; few are aware of who is using it, and who is not.  Aspie’s assume no one has this ability to read nonverbal messages (because they don’t) and neurotypicals assume everyone does (because they do).

    In the innocent grocery store example, you may now see HOW MANY different “feelings” can be in play for the neurotypical; guilt, frustration, confusion, irritation, etc. while the Aspie doesn’t really have any “emotional feelings” going on, they are just experiencing physical discomfort.  The aspie will eventually begin to emotionally feel anger though because they are being accused of feeling something that they are not.  

    CAUSE AND EFFECT

    The inevitable feelings of anger that the Aspie has after constant and unrelenting accusations about their inner thoughts and feelings (throughout their lifetime) become the recipe for an argumentative, withdrawn, and/or defensive adult.  They learn to associate social interaction with being accused of untrue things and they respond to this the same way any human would… they begin to assign “trigger” words that can alert them to respond appropriately before they are attacked.  Cause and effect.  If they are used to being called uncaring, naive, gullible, insensitive, malicious, cold, robotic, inappropriate, angry, sad, rude, condescending, thoughtless, stupid, selfish, or any other hurtful term hurled at them by an NT who inaccurately deciphered their innocent nonverbal messages as such… they are going to defend their own character the moment they think one of those labels is about to be launched at them.  Some become hostile and demonstratively defensive adults who argue before the words can even be said, others become withdrawn entirely to protect themselves from ever allowing those words to manifest by another person. Most adult Aspies end up doing both. 

    This is what happens to a ridiculously heightened degree with interpersonal relationships between Aspies and NTs. They are both speaking two different languages and one way or another, the NTs rapid shifting and attempts to identify the Aspies thoughts and/or feelings will turn to some form of accusatory verbal language directed at the poor Aspie who “Didn’t even do or say anything!”  They do not see the world through the same eyes when it comes to social interaction and interpersonal communication.  

    The only way to bridge this gap is for the NT to become aware of their use of cognitive empathy when communicating with the Aspie and make damn sure they are using plain language to send information and gather information in the future.  They cannot base any information off of the nonverbal messages they “think” they are receiving from their Aspie mate.  Even if some of those messages do end up accurately identifying the Aspie’s thoughts or feelings, they have to pull the plug on thinking they will the next time.  The person with Asperger’s syndrome will never respond the same way every time to a similar emotion or feeling because they do not have the neurological connections in place to repeat these things or become aware of them.  

    The only way to prevent such disastrous misunderstandings from happening is if the NT learns to never associate their partner’s nonverbal messages with the words they are speaking out loud.  They absolutely have to stop trusting their history of being skilled in identifying what others think and feel based off of nonverbal language.  They have to disassociate the link between nonverbal and verbal information and BELIEVE their Aspie loved ones words over their often contradicting nonverbal behavior.

    Neurotypical wives who want to find effective communication within their marriage to a man with Asperger’s syndrome will literally have to learn a new method of communication.  The Aspie cannot, I repeat, they CANNOT adapt to the neurotypicals way of sending and receiving messages.  They do not have this ability and they should not be expected to develop it, nor should they be held accountable for not using it.  The change MUST come from the neurotypical if they really want to have the intimate connection they claim to desperately want from their Aspie partner.  

    This is the #1 most important thing that must be done to turn a failing Aspie-NT union into a successful and happy one.  It isn’t easy and it is going to take a lot of awareness on the neurotypicals behalf to do this… but it is worth every bit of effort.  

    JUST TO BEAT A DEAD HORSE

    The neurotypical will never be able to accurately understand how their Aspie partner really feels about something if they are creating the information based off inaccurate nonverbal messages.  The Aspie is never going to accurately understand how the NT partner thinks if the verbal messages they receive are only a tiny fraction of the whole, which was sent predominantly through nonverbal communication that they cannot receive.  

    The cognitive empathy deficit disables the Aspie from ever responding appropriately to their NT loved one; in essence… it paralyzes their ability to utilize and show affective (emotional) empathy.  They have it… they have emotional empathy just the same as the neurotypical… but how can they show it when they have zero understanding of when, why, or how to use it at the right time?  The neurotypical is never going to utilize their emotional empathy appropriately toward their mate if they are trying to respond to feelings and thoughts that aren’t real.

    Tell an Aspie you are sad and why… in plain language, and if they love you, you will see emotional empathy.  Assume they know you are sad and why, and you are going to get an inappropriate response.  

    Now tell me, who’s fault is that really?

    BUT… THERE IS A GOOD SIDE TOO

    Not all cognitive empathy abilities for an NT are troublesome.  While neurotypicals obviously screw things up a whole lot with their Aspie loved ones, it is that use of cognitive empathy that enables amazing relationships with NT-NT individuals.  Having the instinctive ability to identify the thoughts and feelings of others without spoken words helps us offer our support, emotional empathy, love, assistance, and general regard for people rapidly without them ever having to ask for it.  Often times, adults do not want to directly ask people to fill the void of emotional needs.  For instance, if someone has just gone through a divorce, but is trying to put on a positive and optimistic face… an NT will usually become acutely aware of the facade based off of the other (unintentional) nonverbal messages being sent out.  They can respond with the emotional support the heartbroken person would benefit from without them having to ask.  The divorced individual does not have to feel weak, codependent, burdensome, or needy (which may further assault their fragile ego) because they did not have to reach out for help… help just arrived.

    It is pretty amazing to be able to respond to people’s emotional needs without delay and with the appropriate response; this develops trust and feelings of love.  This develops intimacy in romantic relationships.  This is what the neurotypical is expecting from their Aspie partner, who honestly… wants to provide all of the same rapid support to the NT they love.  The sad truth is that they can’t.  They can’t until the NT learns to use direct, unambiguous verbalization of what they need out loud.  They cannot expect it the way they would in an NT-NT dynamic.  That is not fair and it is counterproductive to obtaining the emotional empathy they claim to be deprived of.  

    NT’s keep thinking that if their Aspie partner cannot “identify” what it is they need, then they must be devoid of understanding human emotion… they must not have it themselves.  This is untrue and this is a thought-process that you are creating based off incorrect assumptions.  My husband used to say, “Your mind is your own worst enemy!” I despised him when he said this to me, as though he was calling me crazy, or telling me I was imagining all of the hurt feelings I had for feeling unloved by him.  The truth is… my mind WAS my own worst enemy.  I imagined things that weren’t true based off of my own understanding of neurologically processing emotions and correct behavior.  I knew I loved, I knew I felt empathy, and I knew I gave all of my effort in trying to provide those feelings to my husband.  I assumed he could do the exact same and when he did not, my mind created the reason for it.  He can do the exact same… love, feel empathy, and provide both of those things to me.  He just needs to get the right information from me in order to show me those things.  I allowed my lack of awareness to turn my husband into someone he was not and blame him for causing me harm that honestly… my own mind unknowingly created. Hard pill to swallow, but the survival of our marriage was dependent on it.

    IT’S ALL ABOUT AWARENESS   

    Just as a neurotypical has no idea how their communication abilities cause harm to their Aspie partner, the Aspie partner is equally blind to the damage they cause.

    Trying to put myself in my husband’s shoes and imagine a world where cognitive empathy does not exist was damn-near impossible at first (why no one wants to listen to the simplicity and innocence of it all). It is just as hard for us to grasp a world without this ability as it must be for an Aspie to grasp a world with it.

    Example: If you were holding up a red coffee mug and tried to convince me it was green, there is no way I would buy into your words… nor would I believe you were really seeing green. I would wonder why you were being snarky or screwing with my head and then over-analyze why you would want to do this.  You would also find yourself completely dumbfounded as to why I kept calling the mug red when it was clearly green; you might even think I was crazy and doubt my opinions in the future.  Neither of us would be wrong; it would just take a giant leap of faith for one to believe the other is TRULY seeing that color and not just messing with them.

    To bridge the gap of the Aspie/NT processing of cognitive empathy, both people have to take a giant leap of faith and trust that they see the world different. It is only in that leap of faith and trust in the other person’s reality that they can both utilize their amazing affective empathy skills to make a relationship work. 

    Let me try it this way…

    150226_SLATEST_TheDress-proof590.jpg.CROP.cq5dam_web_1280_1280_jpeg

    This dress is a big topic of discussion on the internet that makes people stop and think about the way they perceive the world in contrast to others.  When I look at this dress, I see white and gold.  In NO way am I capable of seeing blue and black (believe me, I tried).  Some people will look at it and say it is blue and black (it actually IS) and wonder how in the hell I am seeing white and gold.  My daughter (who I like to think is a mini-me) only sees blue and black and thought I was nuts for seeing white and gold. Since I wanted to believe my daughter and I looked at the world through similar eyes, I felt incredibly sad when I realized (based off of this image) that even she and I see the world different; even more disturbing was the concept that my own mind can perceive something ENTIRELY incorrect based off of the way the synapses that control color-processing function within my own brain.  Neither of us are “wrong” for what we see, as the dress is still pretty and exists, we just don’t see the same thing.  Yes, technically I am “wrong” but my perception is neither harmful nor purposefully argumentative in calling the dress color as I see it.

    Considering the dress IS actually blue and black, it appears my brain is the one that deviates from the norm in color-processing under certain lighting.  This is what it is like for an Aspie vs. an NT.  The NT is processing the information for cognitive empathy like the majority that have that brain function while the Aspie (who lacks cognitive empathy) gets a different take on the same human behaviors.  

    Now that I KNOW my eyes deceive me with the image above, I would be more inclined to trust my daughter’s perception if we had a debate on what color something was in the future.  No matter how hard I try, I am NOT going to see this dress as blue and black.  It cannot be done.  My brain is not capable of doing it.  If I had not been proven wrong by seeing an image of the dress on a storefront rack and having the owner of it validate that it is blue and black… I would have gone to my grave telling my child it is white and gold and she is WRONG.  As humans we are flawed, we want to convince others of our reality in lieu of accepting and appreciating the opposing viewpoint they have… we don’t want to be wrong and we don’t want to take these giant leaps of faith in what reality actually means.  

    It is incredibly hard to trust someone else’s take on the world when you cannot see what they do.  It is incredibly difficult for an Aspie to trust in this ability we have: to rapidly put a myriad of nonverbal communication behaviors together to identify someone else’s thoughts and feelings (cognitive empathy).  It is incredibly challenging for an NT to believe their Aspie loved one is truly incapable of doing the same and realize that their inability to see the same thing is not bad or wrong.  Nothing changes the fact that both NTs and Aspies comprehend human emotion equally and want to compassionately respond to it with the same level of concern and attention.  We both want the same thing and understand the complexity of human emotion… we just identify it in a very different way.

    Neurotypicals reluctance to accept this, or their ignorance about the Aspie’s perception is causing them to place unfair and impossible expectations on their Aspie partner.  We expect them to identify our feelings when we are using nonverbal means to communicate them.  They cannot behave empathetically toward us (affective empathy) if they cannot identify what we are thinking or feeling by using cognitive empathy.  They have the same desire to be empathetic toward our feelings as we do theirs, we are on the same page with this… we just drop the line of communication when we believe our perception of reality is the only one that exists.  

    Both people have to stop and accept the other person’s capabilities and limitations so they can appreciate the contrasting world they frequently exist in.  Both parties have to begin trusting the other’s take on the world, even if they cannot see it themselves, just as I now have to trust my daughter may be right more times than not when we perceive colors differently.  I have no choice but to trust in her insight now that I finally understand my brain may not always perceive reality accurately.  It sucks to have to admit I am not always right in my processing of information, I am human and I have an ego.  

    If the Aspie husband was willing to trust his wife and what she can see, he could have an incredible teacher and advocate in navigating social norms for the remainder of his days.  If the Aspie husband was willing to accept that something exists by which he cannot process and trusted his wife’s view… there is a damn good chance she would begin comprehending his take on life with greater ease and learn to use verbal language to directly communicate what she is thinking or feeling.  There is a high likelihood she will finally stop using her information-gathering cognitive empathy to guess her husband’s thoughts and begin to just ASK HIM instead.  If the Aspie husband could accept that his wife has an equally challenging time learning to communicate without her instinctive use of reading and delivering nonverbal messages, he would be more patient with her frustration when she vocalizes anger or sadness that he did not recognize or respond appropriately to her emotions.  

    Both Aspie and NT have to stop their current defiance.  They need to openly admit to one another that the other person is NOT WRONG.  It is time to drop the damaging assumption that their version of reality is the correct one.  It is time to humbly admit defeat in the history of ego-driven and forceful attempts to make the other person exist in their version of reality.  There can be no “agreeing to disagree” there must be a mutual understanding that it is time to “”agree to agree” with one another’s truth.  There is a whole lot of fascinating experiences out there if an Aspie-NT can stop being so stubborn and appreciate one another’s differences and utilize them to benefit their own awareness in such a mind boggling world.  

    It all begins with truly comprehending and accepting the difference in cognitive vs. affective empathy.

     

    Oh no, what was I saying?

    I forgot I was writing a reply to David when I originally began this post.  

    My apologies.  I do that.

    Ok, so getting back to the point; yes, it is unfortunate and unfair to say that someone with Asperger’s syndrome has zero empathy.  Like you, most people only associate empathy with the affective side (something that is not defective in either party).  

    If people could comprehend early on that cognitive empathy does not exist for everyone (more people than anyone could fathom) then they would be able to change the way children are raised and how misunderstandings in social interactions occur early on (setting Aspies up for a life of being unfairly judged and labeled).

    Just because someone is deemed a neurotypical does not mean they always utilize their cognitive empathy effectively.  There are TONS of people out there who have the ability to process cognitive empathy but are limited in its use due to the way they were raised or experiences in their past. Understanding this difference in early childhood would benefit more people than anyone realizes and help to prevent much of the childhood alienation and bullying we have seen in the past.  The only difference between a neurotypical and a person with Asperger’s syndrome is that a neurotypical CAN develop and strengthen their use of cognitive empathy.  An Aspie does not have the neurological tools to ever develop theirs (they are never going to change the colors identified in that damn dress).  Aspies will always need the neurotypicals in their life to minimize their nonverbal communication or at least assign words with it.  

    I believe the married Aspies out there CAN begin to connect the dots of their spouses feelings and emotions (without the use of words) eventually, provided the NT wife continues to verbally articulate them while she is also using her nonverbal communication.  I do believe the repetition of words with facial expressions or actions, or explanations of thoughts that were initially expressed with indirect words, can be linked up after a while to help that couple meet closer to the middle as time progresses.  The jury is still out on this though as my marriage is not that old and it currently seems that repetition would need to occur for many years (using both verbal and nonverbal at the same time) before my nonverbal messages could become readily identified by my husband. 

    I hope I did not confuse you further. If you have not read my novel-sized post about empathy, please do (See: WHAT ABOUT ASPERGER’S SYNDROME AND EMPATHY).  I give a lot more examples of what the cognitive vs. affective behaviors look like in action to show how they feed off one another negatively in Aspie-NT interpersonal relationships. 

    Thank you for taking the time to read and consider my thoughts. I hope that others will express their confusion as you have and give us more insight or opportunities to clear up misunderstandings.  

     


  • 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…

     


  • ASPERGER/NT MARRIAGE ADVICE: WHERE DO I GO FOR HOPE?

    Step #1:  Begin with this…

    Let’s first identify the “help” you have already stumbled upon

    I have mentioned that I have “Found the end of the internet” in search of anything that could help my marriage. This is a very heavy claim to put out to the world, but it is exactly how I have felt after years of searching and coming up empty in regard to useful advice on how to better my relationship with my Aspie husband. There are plenty of places to go to when a person types in, “Asperger Marriage.” You will find tons of websites dedicated to one side or the other, and within those pages you will read hundreds of comments about a relationship in turmoil or someone from the opposite neuro-side vehemently combating the words the previous commenter had to say. There is a lot of resentment, frustration, and anger within the context of every blog or article post that leans heavily on one side or the other.

    Then there are the articles published by individuals who have a “title” behind their name lending assumed credibility to the advice they have to dole out. I have yet to discover one of those articles containing anything but vague oversimplifications in lieu of useful guidance on how to make an Aspie/NT marriage happy. The majority of the time they are giving a broad overview to entice the reader to purchase their book or subscribe to their page in order to generate a financial profit while giving nothing substantial in return. I have been a sucker for these self-proclaimed experts and I have put my credit card information in to more of these websites than I care to admit to. I don’t actually know if I am embarrassed to say that, or if there is a part of me that takes pride in knowing I have truly sought out every web-based offering I could uncover. Regardless of how I now feel about the wasted money I have pumped into the pockets of undeserving “professionals” out there, I feel as though it has afforded me the right to tell you not to waste your own money.  I can now tell you for certain that the claim that you will find answers after providing a small amount of currency, are groundless. On the other end of the payment screen, you will receive no more than you had before you hit submit and you will regretfully discover you wasted more money on answers that none of these people have.

    It is my personal belief that none of them have the answers because none of them actually know what it is like to exist in an NT/Aspie relationship and are therefore guessing and attempting to implement what their cherished professional literature has taught them. Remember that the professional literature in existence on Asperger’s Syndrome is scant, and there are no significant studies yielding successful/proven therapy for Asperger/NT relationships that anyone can passionately stand behind. You have the same access to the tools they utilize to dish out advice if you take the time to look for them, so it is with my strong urging that I implore you to cease your searches for specialized guidance within the context of online articles.

     

    The most important thing you can do for your relationship is problem-solve for yourself

     

    There will never exist a single person who can provide you with the right advice on how to remedy your own interpersonal difficulties within your marriage other than you and your spouse working together. So then the next question is, “How do I get us to work together when he is so disinterested in doing so?”

    The answer to this is to utilize a step-by-step process. You must first truly educate yourself on your husband and the way his mind works (yes, I agree with THAT “expert” advice). Your husband is not going to do this, and he is not going to suddenly stand up and proclaim that he is incredibly vested in learning all about you and the way your mind works. Keep wishing, it isn’t going to happen. If your husband does do this you are in a very, very rare minority and you are the envy of every other NT/Aspie couple out there.

    If you are in the majority and just starting out, I highly recommend beginning with the book The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome by Tony Attwood.

    This book is and always will be the launching point to understanding your husband and giving you the foundation you will need to begin learning how to problem solve for yourself. While I mentioned that you do not necessarily need to seek expert advice to help your marriage, I would be remiss if I did not tell you that there is zero chance you are going to figure it out on your own if you do not educate yourself first on what Asperger’s Syndrome actually means and how it affects your husband’s daily functioning. It is incredibly important to start at the beginning of his life and comprehend how a child with Aspergers comes to develop the negative behavior patterns that exist as an adult. In this book you will be taken back to the start, and you may even find yourself developing a sobering sense of sadness when you imagine what it must have been like to grow up the way he did, never knowing WHY he was so “different.” This level of empathy is going to help you on your journey to finding the answers you seek, I promise.

    Even if you have been married years and have read all about your Aspie husband, if you have not read THAT book… pick it up. You can go through this link (The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome), you can go to the bookstore, you can ask other NT’s to share it with you… however you get it in your hands, you really SHOULD read it. If your husband is not diagnosed, or if you suspect he has Aspergers but are not yet certain, this book will help you solidify and confirm your own suspicions. I recommend you also grab a highlighter if you have the paper version because this is fun (ok, not really fun, but definitely enlightening). As you read, highlight the things that sound familiar or resonate with you in regard to your husband, self, or relationship. I tell you to do this because there is an incredible likelihood that by the time you finish the last sentence, you will realize that you have highlighted far more words than not. You can look at that incredible amount of bold color and realize you have your confirmation and you no longer need to question what you already know in your heart to be true.

    Ok, so you have read the book and it is bright pink, or yellow, or whatever color you chose. Now what?

    The next thing I suggest is going to the RIGHT webpage for the hard cold blunt reality check you need to determine exactly what you are up against. The book will make you have a ton of emotions and the humanizing of your husband will serve as your base when you go on to the crude truth that frightens you and makes you cry yourself to sleep at night.

    Of the many options before you to go to, there is one website that I have always found my way back to because of its genuine accuracy called The Neurotypical Site. I have enjoyed this because there is no ambiguity about who this website was intended for, and there are no hateful words within it (outside of some comments by readers). It was created for an NT partner (predominantly female/wife) who is married to an Asperger partner (predominantly male/husband) and it is a good place to go to after developing a fact-based understanding of your Aspie husband.

    I cannot say that The Neurotypical Site is an overly positive or motivating website because it is not filled to the brim with happy stories and inspiring words to keep the NT in their relationship and fill them with hope. It is quite the opposite of a place to inspire hope in you, it is more of a place to find like-minded people who will offer the incredibly important sense that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. When you are married or in a long-term relationship with an Aspie, you are going to feel like you are alone A LOT, and this sense of isolation can and does create an NT who begins to aspergate themselves without realizing it (See: WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE ASPERGATED).  <—- this post is still pending (I am working on it diligently, I promise)

    No, this website will not make you feel happy, and it is not meant to. It is not meant to offer the same insensitive advice that professionals dish out telling the NT partner to adapt and adjust their thinking patterns and behaviors to their Aspie mate in order to create a harmonious home. That is the worst thing you can do if you want to make your marriage successful and mutually beneficial to both parties. The author/s of the website tell it like it is, straight up, without mincing words. They are not nasty or cruel in their depiction of what an Aspie/NT marriage or relationship is like, they are just honest and unapologetic and what they say is both accurate and comforting to the NT woman who stumbles upon their words.

    With all of that being said, I can appreciate how someone with Asperger’s Syndrome would read the pages within this website and think that it is both unfair and incorrect. I can certainly see why they would think it spreads hate-filled words to the world about their disorder. This other side, comprised of individuals with Aspergers are not wrong to perceive it this way. From their perspective, the things said within this website are inaccurate and bigoted because they are unable to see how their actions or words are received on your end. Without the natural use of Theory of Mind, their intentions are all they know to be real. If an Aspie had no intent to cause you harm in their words or actions, there is no chance they are going to believe you when you tell them they did.

    As you navigate through this website I would like to highlight two very important pages that I have copied and gone back to many times over the years. I would love to copy and paste these into my post but I will refrain from doing so without permission of the author/s. I will discuss the content to some degree because I think it is important for the NT spouse to go back to these often when you find yourself completely paralyzed by the compounding frustrations of your failed attempts at communicating.

    The first is The Bottom Line which lists the somber and upsetting truth of what you will or may already feel is your life and the role you currently play in your relationship. I completely agree with this list and I absolutely believe this WILL be your future if you are unable, unwilling, or unsure of how to alter this dynamic. It is important to read this because I want you to know you are not alone in how you feel, and while you may not want to readily admit that this is your current world, at some point you will come back to it and find yourself submitting and accepting it as reality. The only thing missing from the list is number 13, the author says that if there were a number 13 it would be to “Give it up before you get involved.” I disagree, I think it should say:

     

    This is going to be your Bottom Line unless you radically shift your perspective and think far outside the box that’s been set before you.

     

    The second page on The Neurotypical Site is a table called the Effects of Differing Neuro/Developmental Levels on Neurotypical/Autism Spectrum Adult Relationships. I cannot stress enough how imperative it will be for you to keep this table close by at all times if you want to REALLY begin to understand how your communication attempts go awry, you need to have this readily available to you. Each and every time you find yourself faltering in creating or maintaining a meaningful discussion with your husband, every time his words, actions, or lack thereof cause you grief… look at this table. Find yourself on the left and follow the row to the resulting feelings you are experiencing. This is going to give you a greater understanding of the cognitive processes at play on both ends directly AFTER a misunderstanding or negative reaction occurs. Having this tool is also going to be vital to you in immediately validating the resulting feelings you are experiencing.

    I will disclose that looking at this table and the The Bottom Line list at this point in my relationship with my husband, I no longer view those black and white words as concrete and unalterable.

    I have felt and agree with everything printed within these two pages, and I recommend them to you as your secondary launching point after reading Tony Attwood’s book. It was absolutely imperative for me to utilize both of these tools to get to the place I am at today. I cycled back and forth many times reading the book and that website and found myself falling down a rabbit hole of other damaging articles and blogs along the way (that served no purpose outside of created resentment and utter despair in my search for happiness). Eventually, I was able to re-ground myself. In the end, going back to the book, re-reading it in its entirety, and then keeping that list and table close by and continuously referencing it for nearly five months, I found the inspiration to begin shifting the dynamic that those two reference points suggested were my definitive future.

    I am not bullsh*ting you when I tell you that your life does NOT have to play out this way, it CAN be different. Your husband can learn to behave empathetically toward you, and although he will never see the world through the same eyes, you can help him see through yours and vice versa once all the defensive coping mechanisms that are keeping you separated get broken down.  This can happen.  There exists the potential for you to be more than a caretaker to your husband, and there exists the potential that your husband will begin to WANT to take care of you as well. I know, I am living it as I type these words.

    Start with those two recommendations and I will lead you on to Step #2

    If you really follow them, this is the very first and most important step you can take toward discovering and developing your own problem solving skills to better your marriage.

    I would not tell you this if I did not believe in my heart it was going to work.  I came back to Step #1 many times, and it was not until I actually did these two things and avoided all of the other options out there (to fix my relationship) that I began to see a pathway before me that had not previously existed.  

    If you have not already read this post, it is my STEP #2:

    See: WHAT ABOUT ASPERGER’S SYNDROME AND EMPATHY?

     

     

     


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