We need to talk about loyalty

Hi, trauma-informed fucktards. One day, you’ll thank me for this.

I never thought I’d see the day that neurodiverse couples counseling would become standard fare across the big cities. This has been my dream from the git, for all us raggedy Cassandras seeking some kind of informed support, partnered as we are with someone who has an invisible, social-emotional neurodevelopmental impairment.

Clinicians are getting their AANE course certifications and popping up like weeds. Even Gottman’s finally got a page on hooray, neurodiversity. All of this in two years, and more to come.

Now, hold your horseheads, Tex, I have questions.

There’s a lot of psychoeducation in these spaces, though they don’t call it that. Warming the dutiful, biddable spouse to the autistic worldview. The same wife who sought out, called and hired the therapist and whose distress drove them to begin their lucrative treatment.

I have a word for the therapists: iatrogenic. It’s important, ask your supervisor!

If we google “autism and loyalty” we get around 9 million hits. You know what I’m talking about. It’s at the top in all those canned appreciation lists about the good traits linked to the stock, autistic phenotype. It’s a deliberate shift toward gratitude, and nothing wrong with that, but I can’t believe they hand these to women in ND counseling sessions. Based on my lived experience, I can spell out my partner’s observable attributes, I don’t need some infantilizing list that looks like it was written by an apologist.

(He’s reliable – you always know what to expect!)

Whenever I see the word loyalty listed as an unmitigated value, it sets my teeth on edge. If an ND couples therapist were to riff on this quality in our initial session, she would trigger an incident.

Blind loyalty? That’s what abuse victims are indoctrinated with to keep them tethered to their perpetrators, and what a qualified therapist helps their captive overcome in trauma-informed therapy.

Children who are molested by their primary caregiver night after night? They don’t need to be indoctrinated into blind loyalty. This is the only life they know. As far as they’re concerned, buttfucking daddies are perfectly normal.

Children do come to learn what’s happening to them is wrong, of course. And then they fight the foster homes.

Their minds are falling apart.

Good job, loyalty!

I am that woman on the other side of the counseling divide. Maybe. I might be self-aware, might not. Perhaps therapy will bring unresolved issues to the surface the way it does. Fuck around and find out.

Abusive systems thrive on secrecy. The rule is to tell no one, hide the evil that goes on behind these walls. To reach out for help in these homes is a supreme act of disloyalty.

Real therapists know how loaded loyalty is in human relationships because they are often the ones who are tasked with releasing victims of the guilt their offenders have poured into them.

Goofball therapists have no clue how they can alarm someone with an interpersonal abuse history by waving partner LOYALTY around as a green flag. They’re telling me there’s no escape, that I can’t get away from him. You say he’s unfailingly loyal, our spidey senses tingle with memories of obsession. Imagine the fucking phenomenology of a single woman for once. Just guess.

Loyalty is a tendency, or even compulsion. Its autistic appeal can be seen in its obligatory, rule-bound roots. It is not a virtue. Fierce loyalties could be nothing more than perseveration. Autistic inertia. Insistence on sameness and the known difficulties with transitioning from one thing to the next. It is not a gift, 9 million wordsmiths, to be intellectually lazy.

Loyalty. Tied to conduct. Period.

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