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.
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 – 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.
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 –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?”
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…