I don’t want to brag, but any relationship can become abusive.
When that happens in neurodivergent households it’s kept hidden, maybe even from each other, maybe even from yourself. Interpersonal abuse is horrible but fixable. It’s the insidious secrecy guarding abusive patterns that spring up in NT/ASD pairings — that’s the real oppression. Secrecy creates a climate for abuse to flourish in the first place.
We know our tumultuous unions are absent from the talk shows because of political correctness. No one wants to be called ableist. Think of me any way you want if it makes you feel better. I’m un-woke going way back.
I’m learning why relationships go wrong and how to set them to rights. I didn’t come up with any answers, I just want to bring the news, which goes against everything we’re told is proper, tasteful, respectable and nice. How is that working for us?
This is what it looks like to air your dirty laundry in a public forum. Marinate in a slave mentality, a totaled, peaceful woman. That’s not how people work. Her unspoken anger is a breeding ground for resentment.
The only cure is to refuse to collaborate. Chuck your upbringing, your culture, western civilization, the inner victim, and the inner snob that says: This can’t be happening. Abusive relationships don’t happen to people like me, I’m too hip, too educated, too spiritual, I’m the one people call for help, I’m too mentally healthy for this.
When this can’t be happening to me slow boils into this is all that ever happens you might remember the day your life stood up and walked out on you. Time to move back in. Ah, there’s my body. I’ve missed you.
I believe ASD/NT relationships are based on experiential avoidance for both partners. Once people stop lying about who they are genuine friendship can begin. Getting there is lifetime work.
It starts with the masking. Our partners misrepresenting themselves during courtship as attentive and plugged into us. They engaged us in all the important relational domains. They were polite, appreciative, interesting, enthralled (neurotypical) gentlemen who held up their end of a conversation.
The day after the wedding they turned on us. A high-conflict personality who just wants to be left alone. This includes matters of basic hygiene, table manners, household labor, and sexy times. As David Finch put it
We got engaged, and still I did everything I could to impress her, because, as I understood it, that’s what a person did when they landed themselves a fiancée. I showered Kristen with affection and praise, went out of my way to act supportive, and never once voiced a negative thought or feeling. What was not to love about that guy?
After we were married, and we were living together around the clock, Kristen began to understand exactly what was hard to love about that guy: he wasn’t entirely real. By our third anniversary, the illusion I’d created had been shattered, and Kristen found herself married not to the husband she’d always wanted, but to a husband who had no idea how to go with the flow; a husband who lost his temper whenever his concentration was disrupted-even when it was disrupted by an act of affection, such as a kiss or a simple hello. A husband who couldn’t show her the kind of support she needed.
The NT spouse tries to “make sense of things” by introjecting the body of
scholarship elephant shit, reading the books, learning “everything you can about Asperger’s!” and colluding with her sex role socialization. It’s the sine qua non of fucked up shit, expecting housewives to become mini-ASD scholars to soothe neurologically impaired husbands who think alexithymia is the Greek name for their virtual assistant.
Restructure one personality for the sake of the other. What could go wrong? Codependency just makes sense when you’re with a special-needs tyrant, says the writer who recommends women get down on the floor during an argument to make herself smaller. Aspies are visual and this will reduce their defensiveness!
Worth a try! On my knees, mid-squabble, blood pressure rising and chemicals cascading, I’ll just sift through my database of abstruse psych conditions to explain why I’m not getting what I need. Why not add monotropism (an autistic-led theory not yet recognized by the scientific community) to delayed processing, constricted interests, fixed routines, context-blindness, perseveration, inflexibility, literal vs figurative language comprehension, theory of mind (ToM), executive dysfunction, pathological demand avoidance (PDA), deficits of empathy & reciprocity, poor predictive ability, the extreme male brain, poverty of speech and the four horsemen of the apocalypse.
This is not my job, I am not his coach, caretaker, or the nice mommy he gets to fuck. I come to relationships from inside my own skin, through my own eyes, my own needs.
When nothing gets resolved, I eventually shut down. Only to explode banshee-style a week later out of all proportion to the triggering stimuli. Then total withdrawal. If you’re afraid of your anger, you avoid your significant bother. That comes from giving anger too much weight. Giving discord too much significance, as if trying to resolve a disagreement is pointless. It’s only pointless if you’re trying to make a point.
Neurotypical women resist assimilation, resist becoming aspergated in a variety of ways. “Detaching” from your partner is the big one. “Reclaiming” another, all ways, (always) “figuring out” “how to make it work”, whatever that means. What they all have in common is the Aspie has no idea she’s doing all this emotional labor, he’s focused on his special interest, because that’s what keeps the peace.
Meanwhile, she’s still cooking his meals, exchanging “pleasantries” and sleeping in the same bed. Forget mixed messages to your partner, that’s a mixed message to yourself. But she gets her revenge, sneaking off in the middle of the night to eat the entire neighborhood’s feelings while making hateful Aspie memes to share in secret Facebook groups. There’s no shame in it. At least you haven’t beat the shit out of him, right?
Now that I’ve given a few things that could cause friction in these relationships, we have to deal with the absurd cliche that Aspies are incapable of resolving a fight. They toddle off to bed in the middle of a word and the next day greet you as if nothing happened. Oh my stars and garters! Unacceptable, hang ’em! It’s alcoholic dad shit. The least they could do is buy you a fur!
Who knows how to resolve a fight? You want a man with an autism spectrum disorder to guide us through this higher-order skill? Let’s see what you got.
Friday night we vowed to stop subjecting one another to the invalidating environments we both grew up in. I know, I need to stop talking like this. I studied social work in college and the jargon took hold, but moving on.
Saturday morning he barged into the kitchen, throwing his self-important weight around like an airline pilot late for a flight. He then asked me how I was doing this morning. This question was perfunctory, but hell if I knew, so down the road we go into Dante’s Inferno.
I told him I felt disconnected and uncomfortable. This is the precise direction we want to go in. Use of words. Name it to tame it. But my partner turned around without a peep, walked away and left me hanging. “Why is she telling me this?” he wondered, working out a conversation with me inside his own head to figure out what to do when I was right in front of him. He shunned me after I shared a vulnerability that he elicited, to save time in case a real-life discussion resulted in making him late for his appointment. He had an appointment! Out of town! Overnight! These are worries that can be aired. Because I have no clue why he looks for all the world to be carrying water for Donald Trump. The patriarchy wants us to be seen, not heard.
He said he did not know how to react to my words. This is more nonsense, talking himself out of his experience. Reactions are automatic. “Not knowing how to react” means “I can’t direct what’s going on here so I’ll ignore it.” It meaning me, a human being. People don’t disappear when you ignore them, and neither does outrage at being ignored.
His work is calling him out of town for the weekend. A break in the routine, uncertainty, strange everything, unknown driver, what if something happens, what if something doesn’t? Imagine all the things that could go wrong! But toxic masculinity dictates that men are not allowed to show vulnerability. Men don’t get to be openly anxious, they’re supposed to feign control and offload their tension on whoever of lower social status is unlucky enough to be in their vicinity.
Baseless anxiety is inconsistent with the titanic logic of the Aspie persona, so let’s pretend anxiety isn’t here. What you resist, persists. Then, when the pressure builds and the covert fear leads to a five-alarm meltdown? That’s my fault for giving a straight answer when it was only a perfunctory question. Are you fucking kidding me?
“I can’t get into this right now.”
Buddy, you are into this right now.
His whole deal when hearing “I feel disconnected and uncomfortable” was OMFG how do I fix this when my time is so limited? It’s okay to say that. Speaking your mind is the only way to limit our stay in the rabbit holes.
I appreciate him wanting to fix my distress, but the way to do that is by allowing it to exist. Emotions are energy that move through us, they’re not meant to fester within. Think about popping a zit. The medical term for that is “expression.” Self-expression is kind of like that too.
I tell him next time, try walking into the kitchen, and instead of asking me how I’m doing when you don’t want to know, say hey I’m in mission mind and need some support. It’s allowed. Five years together and he’s never asked for that.
Trust and safety issues, we have them.
He ain’t no angel and neither am I. We’re prone to abuse and with a lot of help are learning how to confront it head on. But, a little “marital hatred”? I don’t need the preeminent couple’s therapist Terry Real to convince me that’s ok! What he can do is show us how to take our partners on to get closer to them.
Spectrum men are uncommon in that their attention will probably be redistributed throughout an encounter. His mind might wander. He can think the discussion is over and start to totter off during a lull which will compound your confusion and anger. That doesn’t mean he is against conflict resolution. Call him back. Resume. In the end everything will be okay. If it’s not okay, it isn’t the end.