ARE YOU SASSING ME?
The other day my man told me he’d appreciate it if I responded to his perseverating, irksome questions in a clear, plain, factual manner. Suddenly he wants the acoustic Dylan. We’re together five years I’m just now hearing this. Honey, I’ve been electric from day one. Don’t look back.
But, he said, he felt he was being mocked when I told him I am not the scissors police.
Oh. That. Well, it would have pleased me if he’d responded to my banter in a similar vein. “You don’t have to get snippy about it,” he could have replied, and we’d snicker at our adroit wordplay. But, ask him to change his protocol to suit my pleasure? A bit much.
I did tell him I wasn’t trying to piss him off. And that sometimes NTs banter when they want to avoid a fight. We get saucy to make a tense interaction amusing so we can keep our cool. Saying “I’m not the scissors police” was meant as a de-escalation tactic. I’d hoped to see his delight in me reflected back and instead saw hostility, as if he’d suffered an enormous insult.
Being on the Spectrum, he might never pick up on the way we play these nuanced games. I may never look up and see him beaming admiringly at my insouciance. For all I know he’s busy figuring out what police have to do with missing scissors. These are lost intimacies I need to come to terms with.
Not so much with Aspies, and this is one thing that distinguishes them from narcissists — how upfront they are about the will to pull people’s strings. The mindset is instrumental, mechanistic, they like to tinker. Yes, they can be naïve about it. And with little empathy to stop them from interfering with people, boundaries will be tested.
When he starts in it helps to remember a person isn’t autistic if communication is working, because problems in social communication are a defining feature of ASD. This I will wearily (not triumphantly) point out when bad juju liberates my partner to cross my intellectual boundaries and issue directives on how I can improve my quirky communication style. If only we could move past this.
I’m asking, if an Aspie can’t give you what you want, does he think he can take from you what you have? It must be worthless, he reasons, or what you present would be part of his repertoire too. This is a crippling thought. Maybe my dear partner can help me get over it.
Don’t do that or you’ll no longer get along with yourself. I asked him if we’re having this discussion, the “how bodacious does she get to be?” discussion. Because if we’re having that talk he is with the wrong woman. We’re not having that talk he said. “Now stifle yourself.”
I get along well with all kinds of people, but it’s hard to believe someone is acting in good faith if they can’t see after pestering me all morning that I don’t give a flip about where the good scissors are. I tried to tell him it’s nothing personal but I can’t become someone who cares about this. Let it go.
He kept telling me I lost them, having blown past my fight or flight till I tensed up into freeze mode. The mute, pathetic “I’ll just disappear” boundary. He doesn’t read any of my behaviors as boundaries. Then it occurred to me he could be perplexed for real. Which made me holler “This is mindblindness!” half delirious from yet another incomprehensible interaction.
Scissors are on your mind, they’re not on mine. But you keep coming at me as if this is my problem too. See? It’s part of your ASD. You’d know that if you’d read the books.
It is your problem, he insisted, because you had them last and should know where they are.
I had them last? Wait… did you say should? I’m not available for “shoulds.” How can you know I had them last? Why would anyone know that? Who can live under this kind of scrutiny? And you know how unreliable memory is? Elizabeth Loftus has shown us that usually what we think happened hasn’t and what has actually happened has not…
I found a pair in the cutlery drawer and asked him if he could use these scissors. He looked at me with saucer eyes, then declared I slipped them in there when he wasn’t looking.
Gaslighting! I blew my top and showed him the door. Out he went in a huff and a puff.
I raced to the internet to find the ND self-advocates are dropping insufferable love guides on wikiHow and assorted self-publishing toilets where egalitarianism goes to die. They give an NT reading these sites no counsel regarding her own emotional experience in highly charged interactions with an ASD boyfriend. She’s to function as a poultice, soothe and accept her partner with what they’re calling “unconditional love.” Be patient, kind and caring about that disabled stalking off, they crisply instruct. For this neurological meltdown was precipitated by the multi-syllabic sensory overstimulation. Also known as he lost the argument.
These ridiculous websites proliferate unchecked in an era of virtue signaling. No one pushes back, including the readers. It takes an exceptional woman to play Tit of the Universe.
We’re told: Expect an autistic partner to come with acute anxiety and an abnormally low threshold for frustration. Suppress your own sensations and make space for his to fall apart big and loud (meltdown, shutdown) because he has fewer coping resources. This is only fair, as he’s disabled and we’re functional Allipstick women.
Oh, please. It’s more like Autistics are attracting a massive cohort of love addicts with deprivation and abandonment schemas, subclinical disorders and unresolved traumata. Insufficient ego strength, family estrangement, serial loss, and et al-aholism with a tendency toward decompensation under stressful conditions, that’s us. On a spectrum, of sorts. An under-functioning NT, saddled with a one-way relationship and a houseful of screaming kids, exhorted at every turn to provide an intimacy-avoidant Aspie with nurturing services sans reciprocity, and discouraged to take stock of her own codependency is totally in her element, just as she was raised to be.
Why not pity privileges for both according to need? A round of compassion for the house, dawn to dusk. Who doesn’t seek a certain comfort — a soft place to fall — when we know ourselves to be the wretched of the earth?
Few women will have anything to do with a well-meaning but awkward, cranky, hyper-masculine eccentric cut off from his emotions. Any woman goes that route has her radar permanently attuned to the high maintenance frequency, well before she met her Aspie. We’re here, we walk among you. Your counseling models are not viable, all you have are ideas, none of which came from researching neurodiverse marriages. Let’s make a deal; you stop telling us to take care of our mates and we won’t nosedive into Cassandra’s lap.
The NT/ASD caretaking formula is set up for two people to trigger and act out on each other in predictable, self-perpetuating patterns they deny are happening, constantly minimize, and wish would get better, all without working on themselves. Things end badly when they begin with requirements. To wit:
This is the voice of the functional NT partner? Looks more like something your grandmother wrote before she threw herself off ten rooftops over a scoundrel who deprived her of love and agency. I see those words in that old-time lady script, and pull myself up sharply — off your knees, please, and let that be a reminder to ye.
To go along with something I don’t agree with just to keep the peace is a good way to lose my sense of self. Then blame my partner for putting me in that spot. True collaboration happens when people are individuated. It sounds counterintuitive, but you doing you regardless what your partner thinks is a precondition for accepting his influence.
TEND YOUR OWN GARDEN
I think of these as cross-cultural relationships. No wonder we keep going over the same ground. Michael’s gracious aunt Ro once told me we can take care of each other by enjoying the beautiful foliage in the other’s garden, while noticing the weeds, thistles and crabgrass. I can be sad about the brambles and show compassion for the problems they cause in his garden. I can hope they go away, but they’re not mine to tend. All I can do is wish him the best outcome with his weeds and shift my focus to our relationship.
As a Cluster-B personality I could shove boundless reading material at my partner, make our relationship all about how to handle me and my tragic identity politics, but it’s an imposition on him and has nothing to do with us. Plus it would bore me and we can’t have that because boredom’s at the top of the list — a massive trigger for doing stupid shit. This is why borderlines get in such trouble — for doing reckless, impulsive stuff out of boredom, just to see how they come through it. Here I am now, entertain me. Cherry bombs or cherry tomatoes? My salad, my choice.
Ha, no. We owe it to ourselves and each other to heal as much as we can. His autism is his responsibility. My recovery is mine. The more self aware we become, the less we scare ourselves, the less we offload our bullshit into the environment, the easier it is to laugh about getting wound up about missing scissors. No legit counseling resource would have you make your partner your project. Only ones that see the relationship as alchemy two people create together (and bring out in each other) make sense.
The day after the scissors conflagration I came downstairs, and the kitchen was spic and span. The litter boxes were fresh, there was a pot of coffee on, Michael was sitting on the fainting couch reading a couples manual, and was that lavender pot-pourri warming on the stove?
He apologized about accusing me of gaslighting him concerning the scissors. Seeing them in the same drawer he had searched in earlier was terrifying. It was easier to take that out on me than reckon with the possibility he was losing his faculties.
Shoot, I’ve been doing it wrong.
Because it doesn’t mean I’m addlebrained if I can’t find an item in a cluttered drawer the first couple tries. It’s just — third time’s the charm, nothing’s wrong with me and down the road I go.
What he didn’t notice was how hard he was being on himself. Or that he was attaching meaning to an event. He’s supposed to be into maths and physics. I’m the meaning junkie around here.
We’re taking a little cooling-off period to see what we can salvage. Just before parting, we pulled these two cards completely at random from a Tarot deck. Amazing.
This deck is another turning point. A couple years ago, when I offered it up for him to cut he was appalled that I’d ask him to touch it. I was stunned that this appalled him, and the usual squabbling followed on schedule.
Considering all our problems, the first thing he said to our counselor next session was “Robin believes in the Tarot. She’s using a Tarot deck on us now.”
“Will you ever stop being so one-dimensional?” I wailed.
Today he dealt the deck like Cool Hand Luke, smiling wide at harmless whimsy that took us to a promise we couldn’t get to our usual way. People change for the better and never tell you —