What's the aspie perspective on this sort of interaction?

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rooish
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21 May 2010, 11:48 am

Aspies, do you have input? Or NTs, too...!

So, this morning, I got up early to bake some cupcakes for my hubby as an anniversary present (in a couple of days). About an hour later, he gets up (has the day off today), comes to the kitchen, doesn't say anything about the baking and goes to play online chess in his office (after playing upwards of 5 or 6 hours of chess yesterday).

I'm having a day where I'm feeling particularly lonely, and wish he had got up and wanted to just hang out with me. I went into his office, sat down and said "I"m having kind of a lonely day". His response: "What? I asked if you wanted to go to the flea market later". (something I don't really like to do, but he loves). We're living in a new town where I don't have any real friends, so I say: "but you're my only person here - I'd just like to hang out". No response. I get up a leave after a minute. An hour later, he's still playing online chess.

What do I do with this? I'm guessing he's annoyed that I'm interrupting his chess. I brought him a cupcake about half an hour ago, gave him a kiss and said happy anniversary. He thanked me, ate it, made no comment on how it tasted until I said "seriously, you're not going to say anything about how it tastes?!" Then he responded with "yeah, it tastes great!".

I'm just at a loss. First, if I thought my husband was emotionally hurting and lonely, there's no way I'd let him stew in that without trying to ease his pain. I know that if I tell him later that it hurt me that he couldn't be bothered to stop his chess when I said I was feeling lonely, he'll probably apologize, but it won't change the behavior next time. What could I do differently? Is there something I should be saying to have these emotional needs met? Should I just give him his chess time and wait till he's done? What if it goes on for hours? I'm making the assumption here that this is aspie behavior and that he has aspie tendencies. I may be wrong about that, don't know.



FredOak3
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21 May 2010, 11:54 am

Do what my wife does. She'll walk up to me and say "Don't make any plans for {DayofWeek} because we are going to [Whatever She has planned]."

If I piss and moan, she just says "You're not going to ruin this we are going" and 90% of the time we go and I have a good time.

She complains all the time that I don't plan anything and I tell her it just isn't in my nature, so she takes the initiative and off we go.
She gets to do what she wants and has me as company and usually everybody is happy.



j0sh
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21 May 2010, 12:13 pm

He's probably not recognizing your emotional needs. You may wanna try saying things like "I'm lonely and I want you to spend some time with me" instead of stuff like "I'm having a lonely day." Just be as direct as possible.



Bluefins
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21 May 2010, 12:20 pm

It's the kind of thing we just don't think about. I agree about making plans - if you're set on doing something, it's very annoying / difficult if you have to do something else instead.



Mosaicofminds
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21 May 2010, 12:51 pm

Yeah, when you say you're lonely and having a bad day he might be taking it as information rather than an implication that he should do something. It's not that he doesn't care, it's just the idea "I can/should do something about this" doesn't occur to him--especially if he's so hyperfocused on chess that he's barely taking in your words anyway. If he's currently playing chess, I would say something specific like "I would like you to stop playing chess for a while and do something with me. Would you like to do x or y with me now?" Suggesting specific activities makes it more concrete what you want from him, more than one gives him a choice so he doesn't feel pushed around. Later, when you have his full ttention and are talking peacefully, I would tell him something like, "I don't know if you're aware of this, but when you spend hours playing online chess instead of spending some of that time with me, I feel like you don't want to be with me and that makes me (sad/angry/whatever you feel). Can we talk about this?" saying how his behavior makes you feel can help him understand your behavior, and his, better, and it may also add to his library of emotional info. Believe it or not, if someone behaved toward him as he does about the chess with you, he probably wouldn't interpret it the same way and it doesn't occur to him that you would. Btw, Daniel Goleman and others recommendframing your complaints in terms of how things make you feel for NTs, too. It's less likely to make the listener feel attacked and act defensive. Hope this helps.



Willard
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21 May 2010, 12:56 pm

This is exactly the sort of conflict that made me realize living with a partner is not right for me.

The problem is not the inability to recognize that you have needs - you've gone out of your way to make that pretty clear...I guess. :shrug:



I've been in that situation so many times it annoys me to even hear about it. HE DOESN'T KNOW WHAT THE HELL YOU WANT HIM TO DO. You're feeling needy, okay, fine - needy for what? What exactly? What constitutes 'hanging out' to you? Is there something specific you want to do? Then say so, but be specific. Just saying 'I'm feeling kinda lonely' tells someone with AS absolutely nothing. I hear you, but I don't identify with that, because loneliness is a state of mind I rarely experience, and when I do, I'm actually quite capable of finding something to do that keeps me distracted until I don't feel that way anymore. So I really cannot fathom what the hell an intelligent adult needs from me, unless they spell it out.

Sitting there sighing, waiting for me to figure out what it is you're pining for and swoop in to romantically fulfill your emotional needs is not in my DNA - I literally do not have the brain functions that make that a normal, natural thing to do. What part of NEUROLOGICAL DISORDER did you not understand? I know how mean that probably sounds, but I'm just trying to make clear that we have a void in our brain function in this area, and we don't just 'know' how to respond to that kind of expectation, and it's not because we don't care about you - it's because the whole concept really doesn't make sense to us. No Theory of Mind, little capacity for Empathy - it's all right there in the DSM.

Say what you mean and mean what you say. He knows you're wanting SOMETHING. That doesn't mean he has the ability to know how to respond to that need. And your waiting around, expecting him to suddenly 'know' what to do, is just putting pressure on him that in turn, only makes it more likely that he'll shut down and wall you out completely. He doesn't know how to come and 'meet you halfway' - if you want something from him, you're going to have to go in and get it. As FredOak3 says, you pick the activity and bring him along. Just be sure you give him enough advance warning to get used to the idea and plot it into his internal routine plan, or you'll get an irritable grouch who'll dig in his heels and be unable to cooperate with you.

Also, keep in mind that the more mental energy that work, etc demands from us - especially if it involves socializing of any type - the more solitary down time we require to recover and recharge. You're not being ignored because you're not important, it's just that we only have so much to give before we literally have to shut down and zone for a considerable length in order to be able to face human interaction again. I know it must feel callous and heartless from your side of the wall, but it's really not you - it's the neurological disorder, and it can't be helped. What you most need to recognize is that just because he's not in a wheelchair doesn't mean that you aren't living with someone who is severely handicapped - often more so than even he wants to admit.



Last edited by Willard on 21 May 2010, 1:04 pm, edited 2 times in total.

ambi
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21 May 2010, 1:02 pm

If someone tells me they're lonely I don't read in between the lines that they are asking for company, not just telling me how they feel. I don't understand they are asking for some action from me. If you said "I'm lonely, could we hang out together?" I'd get that you're asking me to fill a need. Also you don't need to do only things he likes just because he doesn't initiate things - a marriage is a partnership. So plan things to do together ahead of time that make you both happy.



marshall
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21 May 2010, 1:14 pm

I can relate to both sides. I think I'm like your husband in that I struggle with something called "inertia". Once my mind is heavily into something it's very hard to break out of it and do something else, especially on short notice. Don't interpret his reluctance as the chess being more important to him than you. I'm sure that's not the case. It might just take him more time to get into an empathetic mind frame.

Getting upset with him will probably make it even more difficult for him to relate to your needs and cause him to react with annoyance or anger. Try your hardest to communicate your needs in as calm / non-accusation way as possible. I realize that him reacting in a negative way to your request is hurtful to you but it almost certainly isn't intentional.



bee33
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21 May 2010, 1:25 pm

This may be a naive and perhaps even not appropriate suggestion, but why not take him up on his offer to go to the flea market together? Even if you don't like flea markets, you'll be hanging out together?

It sounds to me like he thought he was trying to accommodate your wishes, and from his perspective maybe he feels you rebuffed his one attempt.



pschristmas
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21 May 2010, 2:33 pm

Just "hanging out" doesn't mean anything. Suggest an activity -- like the flea market suggestion he made; that was him suggesting togetherness. Suggest going to the beach or taking a walk or watching a movie if you don't like the flea market. For me, there has to be a central focus, a purpose, even if that purpose is window-shopping. No matter how much I love someone, just sitting in a room staring at them is both boring and stressful at once, since I'm not engaged but I am thinking of all the other things I could be getting done.

Also, with regards to the baking, he either didn't notice anything different -- you were in the kitchen cooking at breakfast-time, after all -- or he just figured you were doing your thing and enjoying yourself so he'd do his. This is my prefered kind of togetherness -- both in the house, doing their thing and enjoying themselves, occasionally touching base with each other. Of course, my NT daughter tells me that this kind of togetherness drives her up the wall. :lol:



azurecrayon
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21 May 2010, 2:35 pm

i doubt that he even really heard what you were saying. especially if he was still focused on his chess game as you were speaking to him. i know my SO quite often responds to me while hes doing something else, but he doesnt actually process what i am saying. its more of a distracted "im answering you so you will go away and let me get back to what i am doing". hes not really purposefully trying to blow me off, his mind is just still engaged with what hes doing, and he automatically tries to deflect outside distractions. i can oten tell by his flat monotone voice when hes doing it, that and the fact he is still staring at whatever object is holding his interest.

one aspie trait to remember when talking is that they often take very literal interpretations of what you say. if you say "do you want to watch tv?", thats exactly what he hears. you might MEAN "will you come watch tv with me so we can spend time together?" he may say no to the question you asked because he doesnt feel like watching tv, but you feel like hes rejecting spending time with you.

another trait can be difficulty initiating and sustaining conversation. dont expect him to tell you if the cupcakes taste good. if they didnt, he wouldnt eat it, so by eating it you had your answer =) there was no need for him to actually say anything. if you want to hear him verbalize it, just simply ask.

so essentially, say what you mean and mean what you say =) its quite like talking to someone from a foreign country who has just a rudimentary understanding of english. be direct, dont use innuendo, and ask for exactly what it is you need.

something to consider in regards to the computer time... it sounds like his computer is in his office. is there another computer or laptop he could use from the living room for some of his play time? or can he move his office computer in there? that way you are not stuck alone in the rest of the house all the time while he is in the office. this would be a compromise so that you are not completely alone and yet he still has play time. my SO sometimes talks about moving his computer into our bedroom, and i always tell him absolutely not. if he did, the kids and i would never see him again.



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21 May 2010, 3:39 pm

Nobody yet has mentioned the problem of routine. We LOVE routine and if anything comes along which disturbs this such as a visit to a flea market instead of a chess game then it can get upsetting. There's also the point that your husband probably has less than zero awareness of what's going through your mind.

But.....................................

Thank you for caring. Thank you for baking the cakes, I'm sure that they tasted great, and I don't think that you have done anything wrong.

Vanilla_Slice



rooish
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21 May 2010, 8:15 pm

Wow, thank you so much for all of the responses. This is all very new to me, this idea that my husband may just be neurologically different from me. As in about 72 hours. So, I really appreciate everyone who took the time to give me a different perspective. I WANT to understand. I don't want to feel hurt by these things. I want to know how to communicate with my man in a way that works for both of us. Thank you for the specific suggestions on how to broach things - that's really helpful. To the person who asked why I didn't just go to the flea market. Normally, I would and often do things that he wants to do. However, I have a chronic illness that leaves me with very little energy and I was feeling wiped out from baking. And Vanilla Slice...really, thank you for telling me it was nice to bake the cupcakes. I think I needed to hear that. :-)

I did try to explain to my guy why it hurts me when he's so focussed on playing chess that he doesn't "hear" me when I say I'm lonely. I know he doesn't mean to hurt me. He understood, I think, and apologized. I don't expect that it will change things much in the future, but I think it will maybe help some that I understand a little more what's going on.



lyricalillusions
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21 May 2010, 10:40 pm

It sounds like he's addicted to online chess & I definitely think you should tell him exactly how you're feeling & ask him to be honest with you about how he's feeling. If there is anything wrong, you're never going to be able to fix the problem until you're both completely honest with each other about how you're feeling.


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Mosaicofminds
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21 May 2010, 11:17 pm

"This is all very new to me, this idea that my husband may just be neurologically different from me. As in about 72 hours."
Phew. You seem to have wrapped your mind around the idea pretty quickly, but still, I know from my own family that it's a huge mental adjustment to start thinking of someone you love as autistic and reframe their behavior.

"He understood, I think, and apologized. I don't expect that it will change things much in the future, but I think it will maybe help some that I understand a little more what's going on."
This may frustrate you, but with autism and other learning disabilities, even if he understands how his behavior affects you and decides to change it, change may come extremely slowly. Willard put it the best, I think, but it's kind of like a mental block...the brain just doesn't want to do certain things, and it takes a LOT of effort to change that even a small amount. Realistically, he may feel that he's putting forward his ultimate effort while you may feel that he's barely done anything. On the other hand, YES, it will DEFINITELY help both of you to understand what's going on, so the news isn't all bad. :)



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22 May 2010, 4:35 am

You need to be direct with him. Even if he's NT many guys don't pick up subtle clues that easily. By direct I mean something like "I would like to go out to the park with you and have some good time TODAY. I'll give you one more hour of playing and get ready to leave, then we head out of the door at 2pm pronto." "Oh and I'd like Italian for dinner at that restaurant I've been wanting to try."

Some might say it's not romantic or whatever, but you chose the guy already and if sensitivity and romance didn't come with him, you need to be realistic and figure out the most effective way to get what you want. Of course I'm not saying he has to do exactly what you say, but you can discuss efficiently and decide on something you both will like.