Sad about little eye contact: and request for insight

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Beth333
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09 Oct 2015, 12:57 pm

Hi. I'm new to this site and forums. And I have a question (buried below) and would love some feedback. I'm married to a man who I love a lot who has aspergers. One thing I'm learning to live with, but its very hard, is a lack of eye contact from him most of the time. With other people, a lack of eye contact typically means they are angry, or don't like you, or (from time to time) maybe just tired and stressed. So, during our routine interactions like saying hi at the end of a work day, or saying goodnight before bed - I miss this a lot. For me, eye contact is a major non-verbal way to connect with someone and for them to show you they are thinking about you, and you matter. So here is my question: would anyone out there who also doesn't make a lot of eye contact mind explaining to me why making eye contact might be a non-preferable behavior? What is it about looking someone in the eye that might lead to you to NOT want to do it? (assuming you like the person and want to be around them ...). I would really value learning more about that, from the perspective of the "other side".
Thanks,
Beth



sly279
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09 Oct 2015, 1:23 pm

Aspie male. I love women's eyes and looking at them. However most the women I've talked to or dated said they find anyone looking into their eyes bad one said it feels like stealing their soul. 0.o

So it may not be because he's aspie. Wish I could help you more but besides what those women told me i dont know as I like eye contact well I don't make it when out and about as I shouldn't so I look at ground but I do with someone I love and know won't be upset about worthless me looking at them.



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09 Oct 2015, 1:28 pm

I love looking a crush in the eyes, it makes me feel high. :heart:
I especially love brown eyes. :heart:
The last girl I had a crush on has beautiful big brown eyes. WOW! :heart:


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nick007
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09 Oct 2015, 1:29 pm

I feel anxious when I make eye contact with anyone even with my girlfriend.


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wilburforce
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09 Oct 2015, 1:32 pm

People (as in people not on the spectrum who don't generally have problems with eye contact) avoid eye contact when they are angry? I can't say I've ever noticed this before, and I thought I was getting pretty good at these kinds of things. If this is true, I'm kind of disappointed in myself that I never noticed it. The people I have known tended to stare/force eye contact when they were angry, I think as a way of trying to establish dominance.



Beth333
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09 Oct 2015, 1:55 pm

oh that is right - people often do want to force eye contact when they're angry - because they may be confronting someone. That is true. So maybe instead of "angry" I should have said "disgusted" or "dismissing". Those feelings are are intense negative feelings. So, now that I am typing this, I realize I have to take responsibility for how I interpret the lack of eye contact. My historic interpretations of it can't really apply w/my husband. I did read related posts where people talked about feeling anxious when holding eye contact. My husband has reported that to me, when we were in therapy. even when nothing stressful was happening (we were having a pleasant conversation) it was still stressful for him to do it. Thank you for taking time to respond.



The_Face_of_Boo
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09 Oct 2015, 1:56 pm

It is also said that people avoid eye contact when they're lying.



wilburforce
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09 Oct 2015, 3:08 pm

ETA double post



Last edited by wilburforce on 09 Oct 2015, 3:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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09 Oct 2015, 3:08 pm

Beth333 wrote:
oh that is right - people often do want to force eye contact when they're angry - because they may be confronting someone. That is true. So maybe instead of "angry" I should have said "disgusted" or "dismissing". Those feelings are are intense negative feelings. So, now that I am typing this, I realize I have to take responsibility for how I interpret the lack of eye contact. My historic interpretations of it can't really apply w/my husband. I did read related posts where people talked about feeling anxious when holding eye contact. My husband has reported that to me, when we were in therapy. even when nothing stressful was happening (we were having a pleasant conversation) it was still stressful for him to do it. Thank you for taking time to respond.


If you already talked about it with him in therapy and just me pointing it out now is making you think about it and not him saying it, it sounds like maybe you are inconsiderate of your husband's feelings and experiences. You don't sound very well matched.



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09 Oct 2015, 3:34 pm

wilburforce wrote:
Beth333 wrote:
oh that is right - people often do want to force eye contact when they're angry - because they may be confronting someone. That is true. So maybe instead of "angry" I should have said "disgusted" or "dismissing". Those feelings are are intense negative feelings. So, now that I am typing this, I realize I have to take responsibility for how I interpret the lack of eye contact. My historic interpretations of it can't really apply w/my husband. I did read related posts where people talked about feeling anxious when holding eye contact. My husband has reported that to me, when we were in therapy. even when nothing stressful was happening (we were having a pleasant conversation) it was still stressful for him to do it. Thank you for taking time to respond.


If you already talked about it with him in therapy and just me pointing it out now is making you think about it and not him saying it, it sounds like maybe you are inconsiderate of your husband's feelings and experiences. You don't sound very well matched.


Ok that's not very helpful Wilburforce. She is allowed to express how something makes her feel. She's not saying her husband is a bad person. She's just explaining how a certain thing makes her feel. This doesn't mean that they are not matched, it means that they have to find a way to work around the situation. Believe it or not no couple on earth is perfectly matched. They all have to make compromises and meet in the middle.

I don't like eye contact. It makes me anxious.

I can imagine that he doesn't feel anything other than anxiety about eye contact and can't quite get his head round the fact that it makes you feel good, happy emotions. It's completely outside of his realm of understanding/experience. It's like when some people enjoy being tickled and others absolutely hate it. We are all different.

I don't have a solution. Would something else work instead. Some other signal of interest?


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Beth333
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09 Oct 2015, 9:51 pm

Thanks Hurtloam for that feedback. This has been useful to me because I sometimes think, "if he really cared about me he would try harder." but I'm understanding now that that thought will probably result in me feeling disappointed. I like the idea of another signal of interest - that's a great idea that I'll consider.

Thanks everyone for your help here.



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10 Oct 2015, 9:50 am

I have given a lot of thought over my lifetime about what I'm aware are my issues with eye contact, and I have found that sometimes I don't make good eye contact because it's uncomfortable, but sometimes I don't make good eye contact because I almost literally seem to "forget" that eye contact would be appropriate in this or that situation or moment.

I can "forget" to do it. Sometimes I'm unaware of this, and other times I actually become aware that I overlooked doing it.

A lot of my eye contact has to be deliberate, ie, something I literally think about and perform deliberately according to what I've learned is "the right way" to use it. That can be exhausting. I forget to make eye contact more than I remember, and when I remember it's often because of a deliberate sequence of awareness.


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10 Oct 2015, 9:14 pm

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LillaA
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11 Oct 2015, 7:35 pm

Beth333 wrote:
So, now that I am typing this, I realize I have to take responsibility for how I interpret the lack of eye contact. My historic interpretations of it can't really apply w/my husband.

As an NT in a relationship with someone on the spectrum, I have to say that this ^ is the most important realization you will make. A lot of things that you have historically associated with one thing or another, you have to realize are nothing more than an association you learned with time, and that those associations don't necessarily apply. I think this is something healthy to realize in any relationship, but imperative in a neurodiverse one. Realizing that avoiding eye contact being associated with {deception, dismissiveness, distrust, avoidance, etc.} is merely an association, same as associating pie with sweets, and that it can be paired with other things (same as pies can be savory), is important. It allows you to build a new "interactions dictionary" specific to you and your partner. Since everyone is unique, building your own "dictionary" is helpful in any relationship, so really I think the fact that a neurodiverse relationship requires it just makes the relationship that much stronger than those around it, once the interactions in the relationship are firmly based on each other, not anything else.

Once you learn to re-associate, things that were problems before can stop being one...most of the time. There's still times they are, and you just learn to deal with those. Knowing that you're being somewhat irrational in light of the dynamics of the relationship helps. Even though the feelings are very real when you're struggling with them, just knowing that this is a matter of association etc. helps to deal with them.

All that being said, to those who are concerned about her seeking the answers elsewhere than from her husband's mouth, I can understand that and understand why. Usually people who are treating their spouse poorly don't admit it to their spouse, so, if he was - say - being deceptive, and that's why he wasn't making eye contact, than he wouldn't likely say "I won't make eye contact cause I'm lying to you". So, the fact that he says he's "anxious" when he makes eye contact might not relieve her. A liar is anxious making eye contact, too. The fact that he says it's related to being on the spectrum doesn't necessarily help either, cause that'd be a really convenient cover-up for a liar. However, if she finds - as she has here - that this is truly something that people on the spectrum at times have trouble with, then it helps to alleviate the fears. Maybe this is just an NT thing to have fears and need some outside confirmation, but I think it's more universal than just that. Many people on here have sought a formal diagnosis of AS because just knowing themselves, or maybe knowing themselves and their partner, wasn't enough - they wanted someone from the outside to confirm it. It's that same desire for confirmation that can drive partners - regardless of their neuro-status - to seek answers from outside their relationship to confirm what they're hearing inside of it.

But, to the OP, looking to your husband is the best place to learn about how your husband deals with things and why he does, cause each person is different, and his reasons for doing or not doing something may be different from those of everyone on here. So, the other posters are right that your best bet will be to learn to listen to, learn from, and trust your husband. Realize that you might not be able to confirm here or elsewhere everything he tells you about how he feels and how he interacts, so take the things you do have confirmed as ways to strengthen your trust in him, but don't get caught depending on outside confirmation. Each NT and each Aspie and each person in general is different and will bring different struggles to a relationship...but learning to understand each other and the struggles that are brought is the key to a happy relationship. And...it sounds like you and your husband are on the right track. :)


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izzeme
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12 Oct 2015, 3:40 am

In my experience (and i have done some soul-searching on this exact topic), making eye contact for me has the opposite meaning as it has for an NT.

Making direct eye-contact is a sign of agression, or dominance at least, not something you'd do in a regular relationship.
With other people, it means that i am the most 'potentially dangerous' event, they focus their attention on me instead of their surroundings, which means that i have lost the ability to know what is happening behind me (which i, instinctively, read off of the face of whoever is across from me). Naturally, losing half of your situational awareness is unsettling.
If i love someone, i want to keep them safe, so i keep an eye out for what is happening behind them, as our conversation takes away her (or his) ability to know what is happening there, and i assume them to do the same for me.

This effect is even happening with 'half' eye-contact (where i look at someones forehead, preventing direct contact).
If i make direct contact, the 'soul piercing' pain mentioned above is also clearly noticable, on top of the anxiety of losing half of my situational awareness.

This article might offer extra insights on the topic of eye-contact.