Few people walk us through these love affairs as they are going horribly wrong. Therein lies the reason. They go wrong. Horribly. This is an evaluation. To assess your life then compare it to an ideal you fall short of is a good way to shame yourself into silence. We almost broke up this week. I have five posts in cue, but can’t publish that shit when none bear the ring of truth. We’re a high-conflict couple, must be something wrong with us, better keep it to ourselves. Shame immobilizes, robs a person of her self-confidence and keeps her from attempting bold interventions. Stuck.
I’m not some sob sister with a diary for woebegone wives to wallow in, that’s what Facebook’s for. I’m your messianic blog mother with a misguided sense of purpose.
I couldn’t reconcile our rough patch with what I think I’m supposed to be doing here, so I began writing the way Kamala Harris laughs. What do I think I’m on about here? Pretense. It’s all good, let me show you the way. I swore when I began I would not do that. If I can lead you out of the wilderness, some other dumbass can lead you right back in. There’s no room for unqualified prescriptivists. It’s all I can do to keep up with the qualified ones at the top of my shitlist.
It was sally-go-round-the-roses-women who gag-inspired me to start this blog because they were glossing over the troubles in their Aspie/NT relationship till I didn’t know if I was reading personal narrative or endless YELP reviews about a beloved handyman that failed to mention his fees.
There’s no need to lie to you, I’m not selling anything.
But I won’t do fake modesty or hang my head down low, even when I’m the one lost in the wilderness. I paid a hundred bucks for this blog, self-doubt will not sit well. Not with Marc Bolan on the cover.
Because sociology, psych theories and treatment protocols have always been my baseball cards you can’t toss one at me I’m not conversant with. I don’t just study the theorists; I memorize their childhoods. I read their critics because you know nothing about a subject until you understand why other scholars reject it. I studied Freud and Jung and analyzed their dreams. The neo-Freudians who rebelled and went their own way. Karen Horney, the first feminist psychoanalyst and borderline personality before the disorder existed. Reading the four RD Laing biographies on my sagging bookshelf was more healing than being misdiagnosed by a psychiatrist who’s never heard of him. I’m about to blow the dust off Erving Goffman, Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity, to see what the master has to offer when we get to Autistic Unmasking.
I can claim academic conceit and the vision thing. I’ve just never had an ASPIE around to ease the pain of my useless and pointless knowledge.
You’re here because it made sense once I had more answers than questions to make use of lessons learned, extract the meaning and share with others before I forget. The desire to forget is strong. We’re taught not to examine old wounds, better to perpetuate a lie that there’s anything that needs forgetting. It veers into moralism, this promise to forge ahead and put the past behind us. What a waste of psychic wounding. All those psychic scars for nothing! I find it unspeakably selfish. Not to share my life with you. Who gave me permission?
Aspies are traditionalists, they love to remind us. Traditionally, romance is my territory, intimacy is coded culturally as feminine. I am, god help us, the emotional coach. We pay lip service to how sacred relationship work is while giving women zero direct influence to create meaningful change within them. Let the whole thing go balls up. This is her territory; all pain, no power. That’s tradition.
This system endures as it was designed to. So long as we’re over in the Billie Holiday corner, picking scabs in sullen self-loathing, nothing new is required of men. No single man is to blame and no single man benefits. And no alt-lifestyle couples follow this oldtime sex-role burlesque as mixed neurologicals do. Why not go all LGBTQ and live our relationships out loud? Because we lament them, and that’s wrong. Circular reasoning, much?
For better or worse, ASDs and NTs want to be together. Honest people acknowledge when the Autistic mistreats her, no matter how delicately they put it. But does she get a pass for lashing out at him for triggering her? This is how we get tangled up in blame and finger-pointing.
I’m no apologist for abuse but I don’t know what his capacities are or how the challenges I read about could apply to my partner, who is “so intelligent, why can’t you get this?!” That’s my learning curve.
I often think he’s being mean spirited and spiteful when he isn’t because his mannerisms and body language are blunt whether all is well or heading toward catastrophe. We are prompt-dependent, meaning I have to take an inventory to find out where I stand with him.
He spends a fair amount of time persuading me he’s not a sociopath. This is time well spent. Though we’ve yet to put them on YouTube, we’re not the only couple who’s had these cozy, risky chats in our little gated communities with the pool out back.
We’re just going to be ourselves, you know. Zealots who claim to lead the neurodiversity movement while forgetting that diversity includes neurotypicals will just have to get used to it.
The Ultimatum is Your Friend
Aspies are known to fall for women who are wordy, socially adroit, spontaneous, charismatic, go with the flow, and take on the world with breezy elf-confidence. We need to make more mistakes! I’d laugh after screwing something up and seeing what could come of it. Most people find this attitude reassuring. Oh look, the barn burned down. Now we can see the moon! So why do they typically lose all respect for these qualities and demand rigid behavioral adherence to their logical over-development and emotional under-development?
Did he look at me and see a caretaker? All these agreeable traits he’s now so keen to annihilate. Is it envy? No wonder Tony Attwood called them “domestic terrorists,” and he’s one of their advocates! Better spend 180 hours on the internet to find out what I’ve gotten myself into here.
It takes skill to monitor our self-talk to know when we’re having ruminations. Our partners need to know about the misgivings we harbor or you might find yourself in a Farcebook grope, screeching stupidly at your sisters. (Run!) Brilliant therapists help Aspies move through the defenses and make way for unique points of view. And they give lots of help translating emotional language into a logical brain.
“You’re cramping my style.“
“I won’t have you mutilating my personality to make me into an acceptable version of a male-identified woman.”
“I want to be with you but these unmerited corrections are chipping away at my self-esteem and I can’t accommodate the insult”.
Such words might not connect. An autistic man might be too inhibited to tell you he doesn’t take the meaning. Impasse.
If he is not used to being on the psychological terrain, he won’t see the devaluation. Hard to get your head around, given how obvious the damage done. Instead, he’ll wonder why you are undercutting him when he came in to show you, in that stiff, formal manner, the better way to clean a litter box. The very litter box I cleaned out for him because he was slacking, and no, he did not thank me for that. He then interrupted me mid-sentence to stop me from putting pans in the oven wrong. For fucks sake!
These humiliations can destroy an unbounded person’s psyche. I have okay boundaries and ready anger, but I don’t want to hide my love behind a fortress. I’ve been told the solution is to stop speaking about problems in such abstract language and talk about concrete behaviors I can literally point to or take a picture of. Describe what I see him doing, own my interpretations and the impact the behavior has on me.
Fine. I have a judgment concerning the arbiter of truth. His self-righteous sense of superiority liberates all social restraint, allowing him to interfere with my autonomy, in a transactional encounter more suited to douchebag employer and anxious employee. This is very difficult to capture on film.
But he has, in fact, re-loaded the dishwasher to accept more items and it will, by golly, cut down on natural resources. This is where you land in arguing with arbiters of the correct use of soap. And that would settle the matter, if we were robots with heartbeats. But sometimes one has to put her big foot down.
I believe in ultimatums, if you don’t issue them lightly. Our counselor does too and explained that people demur on giving them from fear their partner won’t follow through on their end. So the giver knows they must follow through on the ultimatum and break up, and people don’t want to face it, that they’re really not meant to be together.
He needs to balance the books. We turned to Gottman’s emotional bank account. It refers to the ratio of positive to negative interactions that couples have. A positive balance sees them secure, accepting and at ease, giving each other the benefit of the doubt. A zero or negative balance is to be avoided, for that sees couples going separate ways. Positive interactions are value-added. Every single mention of a minor shortcoming is a value deficit.
“Couples who are happy in their relationship have a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative during conflict conversations and a 20:1 positive to negative ratio when just hanging out. Relationships have to be a very rich climate of positivity to feel good: lots of kindness, attention, interest in one another, affection, humor, good sex and so on.”Drs. John & Julie Gottman
The wide disparity has to do with the unexpectedness of the negativity when going about your day-to-day. You expect to be dragged through the mud during conflict if your partner’s any good at fighting. It’s the gut- punching shock of a gratuitous criticism that requires 20 positive overtures to weaken its impact. This isn’t scorekeeping, but about tipping the balance. There is a free app for this. We’re on it.
what matters most is how well you walk through the fire – Buk
Neither partner is to blame when a disability creates uproar between them. To know what’s going on means we can stop looking for answers in the upside-down and survey the dysfunction with a focus and a map. As it dwindles.
All this crazy mixed up interacting is rooted in the difficulties anyone with ASD has in maintaining and understanding relationships. There’s no wrong in it. Some of these troubles have nothing to do with me. Knowing that helps me not take things so personally.
When he hits all the right emotional notes, and I can almost see him sweat, that says something about how much mental effort it takes to get there. I want to understand more about this difficulty, so I can ask less of him.
It’s not unusual for women with trauma backgrounds to hook up with Aspies. Our own shit-stirring temperaments, sensations, cognitions and neurobiologies are different, but significant. Whether subject to a wider range of malleability than our partners is an open question. We all go at our own pace, and according to Gestalt theory, come to battle on our own field, with personal history we know nothing of or how it’s influenced this moment; and what internal and external forces are acting on each that are unknown. There is much to take in about another person that commands humility.
I’m a Cluster-B hellcat in long-term recovery myself, but these traits are notorious for busting out within relationship even after years of taming. You might say we’ve got alchemy, Michael and me.
The point is, we are more than the sum of our disorders, which, by definition, can wreck your life, left unchecked. Unless you’re saddled with a preening hands-off motherfucker who spells his disability AWEtism, in which case you have my sympathies. Maybe remind him the facts are always friendly, as Carl Rogers was fond of saying.
And while I adore the Gottmans, invoking their teachings doesn’t mean encouraging professionals to deny our reality and normalize what goes on under ASD/NT rooftops with what goes on inside their clinics. You think we have problems, wait till I tell you about Grant and Helen. More about that next round, if we make it through this one.