Husband thinks people are always thinking badly of him

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10 Feb 2015, 6:56 pm

I was wondering if anyone has advice on the best ways to deal with this issue.
My husband was recently diagnosed with autism (would've been AS), he is in his forties, we have two children together. I would say we were "happily married" until around the end of 2012/start of 2013, since 1997 (and we had been together since 1994), so quite a while.

Anyway, he is very paranoid that other people are thinking badly of him. He thinks everything he does socially is wrong and he worries incessantly about it. I think this is even worse now that he has received the ASD diagnosis (although it was bad before and not much worse now).

Some examples:
-He volunteers at a library and someone asked him to proofread an essay. He sent them feedback. He then freaked out and thought he was too harsh. Should have told them it was great. It wasn't great though. I read his feedback- it was perfectly fine. I thought it was really nice- he commented on stuff he liked about it, and he politely *suggested* changes- which would most likely increase their grade. He's a good writer, his changes were good suggestions IMO. I told him that I don't see a problem- but he is still worried. He cried about it, he's so worried.

-He took our kids to the aquarium and handed the person at the entrance the membership cards that we have. They had expired. So they asked if he wanted to renew it. He said yes. He confirmed the phone number, paid, and they renewed them. So what is so terrible about that experience? Well, according to him, they think he is weird and crazy because he didn't know the cards had expired, and also that they were annoyed because he sounded weird when he told them the phone number. He worried about this a lot and is scared he'll get the same person at the entrance next time he goes.

I don't know what to say about these things. I tell him that I don't think he has anything to worry about (and I mean it- honestly I don't think either of those people mentioned above even noticed what he's worried about) but he doesn't believe me. He obsesses over these things.

-Someone told him they liked his shirt the other day. He has been worrying ever since about what is wrong with it. Nothing is wrong with it- it was a genuine compliment. I told him that, but he is convinced he missed the sarcasm. He does miss stuff sometimes, but I don't lie about it if he asks.

In fact, the other day, we were watching TV, and I said "I didn't see that coming" and I meant it literally. I know that's a phrase that is sometimes used sarcastically, but I didn't mean it sarcastically. He asked me if it was sarcasm, I said no, and then he thought the "no" was sarcastic! He used to trust me, because I don't use hard-to-detect sarcasm around him (I do use sarcasm but in an obvious fashion, and also if he misses it, I would tell him, I wouldn't answer sarcastically!!). I don't know why he doesn't anymore and I hate that. At our worst, 2-ish years ago, I definitely said some things to him that I shouldn't have said, but I don't recall ever doing something to confirm that fear of his.

I think he has incredibly low self-esteem. One time I got home early and came in, he didn't hear me and was talking to himself. He was basically just degrading himself. Saying the meanest things. He has been bullied by other people but he is by far the biggest bully of them all (to himself). He tends to hold it together when others are around and then freak out when he's alone, which is good considering we have kids, but I worry a lot about him freaking out alone because I think he is really mean to himself. He seems really sad and doesn't talk to anybody about it. He did tell me once that he felt like a failure and he wanted me to like him (I do like him), but then he later apologised and said he shouldn't have said that. And when I came in and he realised I'd heard him talking to himself, he wasn't happy, I could tell he was mortified actually.

My friend thinks it's manipulative, like he's trying to guilt-trip me. But I don't think so because he's not really asking me to do anything. Her ex-husband used to get mad at her for not loving him enough- like if he cooked dinner, he'd be mad that she wasn't appreciative enough and didn't love him. She thinks mine's like that too but I don't think so. He doesn’t get mad at me for doing the wrong thing, he gets mad at himself. When I caught him talking to himself, I'd never heard that before. He doesn't do it around me or for my benefit.

I want to know if anybody has any suggestions for me as his partner. I worry about him and feel lost.


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kraftiekortie
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10 Feb 2015, 7:03 pm

The only thing you could do: reiterate when you are not being sarcastic and being straightforward.

Reiterate that you love him.

Reiterate that you want him in your life.

Reiterate, also, that you need his help with raising the kids.

The worst thing is the world, to me, if feeling powerless about the challenges of raising autistic kids. If he would play more of a role in raising the kids, I think he might feel better.



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10 Feb 2015, 8:56 pm

kraftiekortie wrote:
The worst thing is the world, to me, if feeling powerless about the challenges of raising autistic kids. If he would play more of a role in raising the kids, I think he might feel better.


I think he would too. When he's here, he is great with them, I really couldn't ask for a better dad for them. The problem is when he's not here all of a sudden and they have to deal with his "disappearance" (which is when he was so anxious he wasn't leaving the house and stuff like that). The last time was 5 months ago. We said after 6 months with none of that, he would start overnight visits, so it'll be soon that he does that again. I probably seem like a control freak, I probably am a control freak... I am deathly afraid of screwing up my kids by staying with their dad and they do have to be my number one priority. I feel like they need their dad though (and I want him). He has been spending time creating a homeschooling curriculum and he is very motivated to do that, which is good, I haven't seen him motivated like that in a while. Public school isn't working out, and like I said, he is very good with them, so I'd support that if he were definitely here to stay. We agreed that if he continues with no issues until next September then he'll give it a whirl. We'll see...


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kraftiekortie
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10 Feb 2015, 9:04 pm

Is he interactive with you kids--like does he play with them on the floor? I think that's important for autistic kids--to have somebody "on their level."

How are your kids academically?

I know you mentioned that both are nonverbal.

But that doesn't preclude learning....at all.



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11 Feb 2015, 1:13 pm

I can relate to what your husband is going through. I always knew that something was different about me, but I'm female and grew up before ASD was on the radar, so I thought I was just a lone weirdo. When I "discovered" Asperger's syndrome and started researching it, I had a mental list of about five or six things about myself for which I was seeking some answers. The more I read, however, the more boxes were checked. Things that I thought were individual quirks, or even things I thought everyone did or thought turned out not to be normal at all. My whole worldview, I found, was not the worldview of the majority of humanity. I realized the entire social world did not work the way I thought it did, and that I had been breaking all kinds of social rules my entire life. I felt extremely confused and embarrassed.
For a long time (maybe 2 years?) afterward, I suffered from really severe social anxiety. I had always been a socially anxious person anyway, but now I found myself obsessing over my body language, my facial expressions, and all sorts of things I'd never really thought about before. Before, if someone made a comment to me I took it at face value. But now that I knew there were other layers of communication, I started trying to dissect everything everyone said. Were they lying, were they being sarcastic, were they trying to get me to do something? What was the "correct" response, the one they were expecting? I got terrible migraines from trying to think about all of this every time I was in a social situation. Even going to the mall would bring on a headache.
Eventually, gradually, I learned to let go a little and accept myself. I still try to be and do and say the "right" things, but not with the same fervor. I have realized that it's literally impossible for me to come across as completely NT for more than a few moments. And that's okay. I have found some measure of balance between making the extra effort to connect with the world, and being myself. I think your husband will eventually do the same. It just takes some time.



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11 Feb 2015, 3:29 pm

I second YippySkippy. I have been told I over analyze everything and am paranoid but the reason for that is based on growing up not knowing anything about Autism or Aspergers. I broke social rules all the time like stand very close and lean over women, mention how fat someone was and estimate their weight or talk very fast and loudly about my interests. It's hard not to internalize it when you are suddenly shunned over and over without explanation and have NO IDEA WHY, even though I understand AS now and hyper analyze everything I do.



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11 Feb 2015, 3:35 pm

The problem is that in our society, there is too much emphasis on perfection and how things should be.

I think a lot of Aspies don't realize that most NTs say one thing and have a total disconnect on what they actually do themselves.



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11 Feb 2015, 7:19 pm

What YippySkippy says makes sense. I'm not sure why/ mildly disturbed by how he isn't trusting that I'm being honest with him now though. It's like he thinks I was mocking him the whole time we were together or something, which I wasn't and would never. Huh. So time is what helped you. Ok. Is there anything else? Is there anything I can do?

KraftieKortie, actually my younger son is partially verbal. He's very delayed but he has about 50 spontaneously mands and 50 other descriptive words that he uses in context. Unfortunately his speech is also very unclear because he has low muscle tone in his mouth. He also uses PECS quite well. My older son has no complex communication method (just noises and aggression really :( ).

I think you're right- they CAN learn, but not in public school. By the time your kid is about 10 and still doesn't talk, they write that kid off as a lost cause and school turns into babysitting- they have NO expectation that my 15 year old can learn anything. My younger son is actually really easy to teach IF he is interested in the subject (right now: stop signs and fish- there is LOTS you can do with stop signs and fish). They can't even teach him, so teaching my older son (who is harder to teach) is totally out of the question. Everything my 12 year old knows is stuff we taught him- he learns nothing academically at school- they are still sending home preschool worksheets. He can do them, but he tends not to comply. There are problems with the environment at school, he gets distracted easily there.

Ordinarily, I would never consider homeschooling a high-schooler because I feel that there is stuff that high schools can provide that one parent cannot- science labs, expertise in each subject, etc. but because my kids are both doing pre-school, maybe kindergarten, stuff, I think the goal now is for them to learn SOMETHING, ANYTHING rather than nothing. The way school works is they want to kid to master x, y, z before moving on to the next level, but my kids have scattered skills, and they can do x, but they can't do y and z and may never do y and z, which means they'll never move on and learn anything else. It seems like it would be a better approach to go with x and expand on x. Say we're doing x at kindergarten level, let's move on to grade one x even though they haven't mastered kindergarten y or z... If that makes any sense. That's something their dad can do, and school will not. And that's probably more info than you bargained for so I'll stop now! :D


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kraftiekortie
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11 Feb 2015, 7:54 pm

It's all right, Welcome to Holland...I enjoy your posts. Go on and on and on to your heart's content!



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11 Feb 2015, 8:13 pm

Quote:
I'm not sure why/ mildly disturbed by how he isn't trusting that I'm being honest with him now though. It's like he thinks I was mocking him the whole time we were together or something, which I wasn't and would never.


He likely doesn't trust himself, and his own ability to discern other peoples' true natures. When you find out that so many of your perceptions of the world are incorrect, you start to question everything. That includes your relationships. I remember wondering whether my husband was cheating on me, because I knew that I wouldn't be able to pick up on the signals if he was. It's really about not trusting your own instincts and judgment, not about anything the other person has done. The only advice I can give you is to be patient with him and not to take his mistrust personally.



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12 Feb 2015, 11:53 am

YippySkippy wrote:
Quote:
I'm not sure why/ mildly disturbed by how he isn't trusting that I'm being honest with him now though. It's like he thinks I was mocking him the whole time we were together or something, which I wasn't and would never.


He likely doesn't trust himself, and his own ability to discern other peoples' true natures. When you find out that so many of your perceptions of the world are incorrect, you start to question everything. That includes your relationships. I remember wondering whether my husband was cheating on me, because I knew that I wouldn't be able to pick up on the signals if he was. It's really about not trusting your own instincts and judgment, not about anything the other person has done. The only advice I can give you is to be patient with him and not to take his mistrust personally.

Thanks. I hadn't thought of it that way.


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14 Feb 2015, 5:23 pm

This isn't exactly on the same vein but this is another thing I am worried about.
What if making an effort isn't enough???

He has an anxiety disorder as well that is pretty severe I think. I know he's trying really hard, and I'm glad, but I worry that trying really hard might not be enough because I don't think his anxiety problems were ever just a lack of effort, you know? And what if it can't be fixed? He didn't used to be like this so I would hope it's temporary but I don't know. He's been doing really well lately. He's even been going to the school by himself and collecting our son, which is a big step, because speaking special ed teachers stresses him out more than speaking to other people.

We went out together this morning just to get bagels from the local place (10 minute walk). He was fine but he started having increased anxiety on the way home, for no apparent reason and had to sit down for a minute because his heart was racing (he's very fit; it's not a physical health issue). It didn't escalate into anything probably because he has some coping strategies that are working right now, but I could see what a struggle it was for him. That scares me.

If it were just me and him it would be ok. My fear is about this impacting the kids. I mean, today they didn't even notice- they were fine. But what if it becomes worse and he goes back into his not-leaving-the-house mode. Is it possible that no amount of effort could prevent that? I don't know if it is or not. I do think he stopped trying at his worst a few years ago, so I do think he has control, but I don't know how much.

Also, I have no "real life" support on this at all. I have two good friends who know the situation, although I haven't shared everything with anybody we know because he doesn't want them to know, and they both have said RUN- DIVORCE- NOW for quite a while. Normally I think if "everyone" agrees then they are probably right, but then again, I only really have two people's opinions. They are two opinions that I value though. So this just scares me a lot, and I'm looking for info I guess. The fact of the matter is, getting divorced doesn't solve the problem anyway, because the kids would still be in his life regardless, and then I might even have less control if they went to house on a schedule or something- at least right now they live with me full-time.


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15 Feb 2015, 11:15 am

Quote:
We went out together this morning just to get bagels from the local place (10 minute walk). He was fine but he started having increased anxiety on the way home, for no apparent reason and had to sit down for a minute because his heart was racing (he's very fit; it's not a physical health issue).


This seems a little odd because you also mentioned that he volunteers at a library, and took the kids to an aquarium on his own. Wouldn't you expect both of those situations to be more stressful and anxiety-inducing than this one? I wonder if he finds interactions with you especially difficult. He knows that the future of your marriage is largely dependent on his behavior, and that's got to be an enormous stressor. So, you're probably seeing him at his worst when it comes to his anxiety.
Does he take any anti-anxiety meds?

Quote:
But what if it becomes worse and he goes back into his not-leaving-the-house mode. Is it possible that no amount of effort could prevent that? I don't know if it is or not.


It's possible that the ASD diagnosis may, in the long run, help his anxiety quite a bit. It makes the world less confusing and unpredictable, and it offers an explanation for why people respond to you in the ways they do. Obviously, though, no one can say for sure.

Quote:
I have two good friends who know the situation, although I haven't shared everything with anybody we know because he doesn't want them to know, and they both have said RUN- DIVORCE- NOW for quite a while.


This kinds of pizzes me off, to be honest. A marriage is a very intimate thing, and I don't think it's anyone else's place to tell someone they should divorce unless there is abuse involved. They don't walk in your shoes, and they won't live with the outcome of any decision you make. It's also possible they're experiencing a sense of schadenfreude (consciously or subconsciously) about the situation.



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15 Feb 2015, 2:39 pm

YippySkippy wrote:
Quote:
We went out together this morning just to get bagels from the local place (10 minute walk). He was fine but he started having increased anxiety on the way home, for no apparent reason and had to sit down for a minute because his heart was racing (he's very fit; it's not a physical health issue).


This seems a little odd because you also mentioned that he volunteers at a library, and took the kids to an aquarium on his own. Wouldn't you expect both of those situations to be more stressful and anxiety-inducing than this one? I wonder if he finds interactions with you especially difficult. He knows that the future of your marriage is largely dependent on his behavior, and that's got to be an enormous stressor. So, you're probably seeing him at his worst when it comes to his anxiety.
Does he take any anti-anxiety meds?

I thought it was weird too and I have thought also that it might be me. Not sure what to do about it, but I definitely think it's a possibility.
The library is a safe place for him and he isn't interacting with people, just shelving books, so that's not as surprising. But I would think the aquarium would be a highly anxiety-inducing sort of excursion.
He does not take any medication. He tried something but it made him feel like he couldn't pay attention to anything and he didn't like it.


Quote:
Quote:
I have two good friends who know the situation, although I haven't shared everything with anybody we know because he doesn't want them to know, and they both have said RUN- DIVORCE- NOW for quite a while.


This kinds of pizzes me off, to be honest. A marriage is a very intimate thing, and I don't think it's anyone else's place to tell someone they should divorce unless there is abuse involved. They don't walk in your shoes, and they won't live with the outcome of any decision you make. It's also possible they're experiencing a sense of schadenfreude (consciously or subconsciously) about the situation.

Maybe. My one friend had an unhappy marriage and she felt really free and happy when she got divorced and I think she thinks I will too. She thinks our husbands are/were quite similar, but I don't. She would argue I can't see it from within the madness.


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16 Feb 2015, 4:29 pm

I've noticed divorced women are usually quick to suggest their friends should also get divorced. :? I don't know whether it's because misery loves company (just because someone acts happy doesn't mean they are), or they want their own choice validated, or they just think you'll have more time to hang out them.