Error-correcting: To reflexively derail a conversational partner’s train of thought to point out minor glitches of grammatical structure as if it were a virtue and not sheer, unchecked ill manners. A most unacceptable trait of ASD sure to engender tension in the home, which the generator is oblivious to causing. Look no further when seeking to explain how they earned the moniker asphole. Such is the ongoing state of affairs in our Bleak House of Corrections.
When my partner started bettering me, a couple years into our relationship, I had no frame of reference for it in my adult dating life. I tried to make the behavior work by putting it into the context of sexologist Terry Hatkoff’s Love Scale under “Playful Lover,” meaning he is jazzed by flirting and feeling challenged. Weird, I thought, I’d have pegged him for “Logical Style”, but he wants to have a bantering, flippant, linguistically ambidextrous Nick and Nora go with me, filled with naughty double entendres, silly laughter, and all those kicks? Badass.
Yeah, no, turns out, Aspies don’t banter playfully in their error-correcting. It’s not a conversation, you’re not playing ping-pong, there’s no back and forth. It’s more like barking. A cluck or a clack. A jaw-dropping mid-sentence mutter to muddle your thinking, a peever’s verb-noun nitpick with no connection, just an implied acquiescence.
He insults my intelligence when what he offers adds nothing of value to the conversation. No insight, no illumination, no assertion beyond blurting out what I meant to say, and it’s always the conventional form. Do I fucking look like the conventional form? He wants me to adhere to syntactic structuralisms. He’s trying to improve me (!) while failing to recognize his trite corrections encumber a keen and agile mind; the mark of which is to slipshod the syntax because substance takes primacy over form. Devaluation, boy-o!
Do Aspies never ask themselves who made these rules? And why new rules aren’t just as valid? The recipient will take error-correcting as a bargain-basement putdown since no meaning is lost by letting the unconventional word choice stand. He appears to be playing Gotcha, full stop. An exercise in vanity — competitive, arrogant, distance-maneuvering. How relaxing, to count the ways he takes it upon himself to chime in to make me wrong. Chipping away at trust of him till I don’t ask for input when I truly am in doubt about proper form, which happens if you give me a chance, light of my life, fire of my lions.
You know where this is going, reader. The hulking, formidable, neurological disability replaces common courtesy in what, taken at face value, are simply his stylistic proclivities. He means no harm. There is no distance-maneuvering afoot. His brain is wired for logic, granular pattern-recognition. He is adrift, shut down in messy relational discourse which excludes logic, until he hears his partner make a technical discrepancy that violates the established grammatical pattern. Then he comes alive. It’s a superpower in building rockets, fighting words over the kitchen table. Goddess help her if she has no DSM diagnosis that enables her to carry on with the highfalutin language arts. NT bitch acting like she has a formidable sense of self or something.
Our counselor, whose style is generally non directive, found it necessary to tell him point-blank that she can’t imagine any woman putting up with the indignity of constant criticism. It has to stop.
This is when all the cooperative head-nods and going-along-with-whatever-y’all-sayings stills the air and the men going their own way evil twin makes an entrance.
Mixed messages! Aspies do anything to avoid conflict, which tells them they’re agreeable people, while forgetting they’re also pathologically rigid, which makes them antagonists. Impasse. That means there’s nowhere to go from here. Welcome to
We’re taught to see the routines as a nonproductive plodding ritual with strict, invariant steps to completion. We expect a blah blah routine to be observable and ambulatory, but I look at this symbol and see the same procedure taking place above the neck.
Why would routines be only physical and not psychological manifestations? FFS, they’re ALL psychological, designed to ward off anxiety. Embroiled in the same fundamental disagreements for years that keep reappearing with no resolution? That’s repetition. Is there some reason we’re not accepting persistent interpersonal inconsistency for what it is — another, unshakeable, comforting Aspie routine? Because it raises the awful possibility that the infinite loop exists for the sake of itself and any effort, any mental energy I put into healing our relationship is only its fodder.
Mark Hutten, an interpreter, says the ASD partner is impervious to kindness, threats, or reason because he’s unable to imagine any other outcome to a situation than the one he perceives and dreads. Girlfriend can’t influence him because he can’t hold to any point of view but his own for any length of time. So we’d have better luck, accordingly, banging our heads against a brick wall, than we would trying to get through to our men on an emotional level. What they need are simple, clear directives.
There has to be a better way. I say I don’t believe in directives, sacrifice, or trading oppression — why get him off my back just so I end up riding his? If error-correcting is a vital part of who you are, rather than crush it out of existence, why not transform it, and when you go for the correction, make it a conversation!
“Let’s talk about usage” starts a conversation. Or — “I would have chosen doesn’t there, what made you say don’t?” Though my answer might well be “simple witlessness“, that’s no reason to barge in and set me to rights from now on. You never know, I might like the way I’m talking. People have their reasons. Ask. Is this doable?
“I can try.”
This means no.
Alrighty, it would be perfectly fine with me if instead of hijacking my thoughts, you state that you are tempted to error-correct. Tell me when you have the urge to interrupt, and we can take it from there. Who knows, maybe just saying it will be enough to leave my rhetoric unmolested. Then you won’t be acting on me, by acknowledging that you’re thirsty, but signaling that you’re self-aware that you want to do something that bugs me, and taking responsibility for it, which is a kindness. That kindness will make me empathize with you since it will remind me I have all kinds of wordy quirks too.
And because you’ll have piqued my curiosity, I’ll ask you to elaborate, and you’ll get the chance to satisfy your penchant for accuracy politely, rather than leave me with the impression you’re scanning my protocol for mistakes so you can assert dominance, pounce on an extemporaneous word just to piss me off so you can permit yourself to devalue this furious old woman who gives you a hard time when you’re only trying to Aspie help her. Make sense?
Of course it makes no sense. They would not be wedded to rules if the above paragraph was digestible in the moment. It’s Joni Mitchell word vomit. And that’s cool. Imposing their rules on others, not so cool.
To plain-speak: You get what you fucking give. Boundaries. I will not tolerate random bursts of staccato error corrections without pushing back. Keep it up, and you can expect an ever increasing vituperative reaction followed by a deluge of errors it will break your mind to keep track of them all. This is my resolve, as of tonight’s frosty July morning in Cincinnati, Tejas. Where it’s raining cats and dogs under a majestic seascape of blurple effervescence. Shall we begin.