Any tips on negotiating a long-term Aspie – NT relationship?

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Cayenne100
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22 Apr 2022, 9:49 am

This angry alien is turning 60 next week, and her life is yet to get on track.

Recent couples’ counselling with my increasingly disappointed and frustrated husband has confirmed suspicions that I’m an Aspie. My various struggles with parents, school, work, authority, relationships, and myself, have come into sharp focus, but now I feel even more alone, angry, and vulnerable. Angry and hurt at being called ‘stupid’ because someone didn’t explain something properly; at being called ‘weird’, (and worse), because I couldn’t deftly negotiate the unwritten rules of social interaction (they’re not rules then, are they!!); and at being threatened with visits to a psychiatrist because I was an unhappy, awkward and not-quite-right teenager. And I feel so alone because I am an only child with no living relatives, childless by choice, and my neurotypical husband of 26 years is finally running out of patience.

I ask too many questions, must have things explained a certain way, don’t like much physical intimacy, and I resent the continued bond my husband has with his dysfunctional family, who emotionally neglected him as a child, for which he is in therapy. He has always been loving, compassionate and tolerant, but his problems at work, difficult family history and other ongoing issues are all taking their toll, plus he’s just realised that I am unable to change into the person he thought I was in the earlier years of our relationship. The persona I initially presented to him, and to the World in general, has been a well-practiced charade to help me become relatively successful and well liked.

:? I'm an imposter in the normal World. There are certainly elements of me in the facade, but as I get better at it, the boundaries of ‘real me’ and ‘acceptable me’ have become somewhat blurred. I don’t even fit into my own relationship anymore. My husband tries so hard to understand my Aspie brain, and he is my only constant and reliable interpreter of the neurotypical world. Previously, I could be myself around him, but he doesn’t always like what he sees, and I think he was expecting me to be able to change. He’s seen a therapist in the past, as there were aspects of himself that he wanted to change or come to terms with, but I know he resents that I am hardwired, and no amount of therapy or counselling will transform me into ‘normal’. We’ve even discussed whether I should obtain a formal Asperger’s diagnosis so he can explain to his family why I’m so different – outspoken, rational, and not prone to let unnecessary emotional stuff get in the way of a sensible decision. He previously encouraged me to bare my soul to his rather dumb and judgmental sister, but her response was devastatingly insensitive and hurtful.

I am so wrapped up in my own struggles that I’m unable to give my husband the support he needs and deserves. I am much better at devising practical solutions to problems anyway, as ‘support’ seems like rather a vague term. When we try to talk things through we often end up arguing because he doesn't fully understand me, and I don't fully understand him. There are so many things I just don't 'get'. We are basically two unhappy people stranded on a life raft, being tossed about on dark and stormy seas, with no land in sight. I’ve tried counselling, but previous attempts have left me feeling emotionally exposed and embarrassed to be me. I also have an aversion to telling complete strangers loads of personal stuff whilst having to pay for the privilege. This is OK though, as you don’t know me! And I'm no longer sure that I do either.

I’m in danger of losing my husband - my only ally, my only travel companion on the bumpy road of life - and I do not see a way we can both be happy. Splitting up won’t make us happy either.

Any tips on how to negotiate a long-term Aspie – NT relationship would be gratefully received.



TheOutsider
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22 Apr 2022, 10:39 am

Welcome to Wrong Planet! I'm fairly new here myself, so I'm happy to offer you a very sincere welcome. I'm also newly late diagnosed and have been in one long term relationship with an NT (I'm a man and she is a woman). I can relate to your struggle to some degree and I sympathize with what you are dealing with.

I've contemplated my past relationships and have come to the conclusion that the only way to make relationships work whether they are Autistic/NT relationships or not is to compromise and meet one another's needs. For example, I have a great deal of difficulty understanding the tradition of gift giving. It doesn't make sense to me in any way and if something doesn't make sense to me, I struggle with conforming to it. Well, looking back, that was something that I should have conformed to if my priority was to make things work because it was important to my girlfriend. Conversely, she should have been less critical if I didn't live up to her expectations regarding birthday or Christmas presents.

That was just one example, but I hope it helps to some degree. I'm sure that your marriage is far more complex than my relationships have been, but at their core, I believe that all relationships are fundamentally the same.



Fnord
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22 Apr 2022, 10:42 am

Cayenne100 wrote:
Any tips on negotiating a long-term Aspie – NT relationship?
When the missus starts talking:

1. Smile.

2. Nod your head.

3. Say, "Yes, dear" as if you mean it.

4. If she is still speaking, repeat from Step 1.

5. If she stops speaking, go back to what you were doing.



klanka
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22 Apr 2022, 11:00 am

That's a hard one, you seem to have tried everything. You dropped a couple of hints about what the problems were but I didn't see much.
Asking too many questions
Having to have things explained a certain way
And being unemotional?



Cayenne100
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22 Apr 2022, 11:31 am

In rely to Fnord, I AM the missus! And no - it's not quite as simple as you suggest...



Fnord
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22 Apr 2022, 11:41 am

Cayenne100 wrote:
In rely to Fnord, I AM the missus! And no - it's not quite as simple as you suggest...
My bad.  I blame lack of sleep and too little coffee.

I guess what I was trying to say in my previous post is that being agreeable -- not necessarily agreeing to everything -- is more important than interrupting and asking 'why'.

When Mrs. Fnord speaks, I smile, listen, and nod my head only to let her know I am listening.  Then, when she is finished, I paraphrase what she has just said in a more simple form to show that I understood what she said.  Then I express my opinions and maybe mention (or remind her of) a few facts she may have overlooked.

For example, she wants me to drive her to visit a friend on the friend's birthday.  The friend lives 30 miles away (48 km).  I point out that the trip itself may take up to an hour, and suggest a departure time that will get us there a few minutes early.  Then we hash out the details.

My point is that communication -- two-way communication -- is essential to any relationship.



Cayenne100
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22 Apr 2022, 12:05 pm

Hello Fnord. Thank you. I must get used to not asking 'why' all the time, but I find that difficult... as I'm not always sure when I am supposed to be asking. Have a good evening Fnord.



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22 Apr 2022, 12:33 pm

Welcome aboard!



Schwiitzer
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24 Apr 2022, 8:33 pm

I wish that I had more of advice but I can say that I sympathize with what you are going through. I'm going on 19 years in a marriage with my neurotypical wife and things have been very rough the last couple years I have been in and out of therapy we have tried several couple counselors and after all of this time and so many suggestions and things that just never seem to work for me I finally discovered that I have ASD. Since that time I have been still having problems but they seem to be different problems.

People always say that communication is the key to any longer relationship. If your like me thenthats very discouraging. Hearing that makes me imagine my marriage is destined to go up in flames. That's like telling a blind man to throw a football into a target 100 ft away when he's never thrown a football in his life. That's been one of the key problems in my relationship. All I can suggest there is to try and learn about how ASD affects you and try to learn from others that might have gone down the same road. I'm currently just at the beginning of my road so I can't say too much.

One of the keys to a relationship I'm sure you know is having a good attitude towards each other in general. I can't remember what relationship book this was from but one author wrote that every couple has an emotional reservoir. If the emotional reservoir is low for both of you it doesn't matter what happens there will be problems. Arguments misunderstandings frustration anger all of these things come much much easier when the emotional reservoir is low. The level of the reservoir is changed in the everyday activities and interactions that you do. It's not about the big stuff or the arguments those are just triggers bigger problem is what happens in between.

That's where my wife and I are having struggles. 19 years of living with an undiagnosed husband with ASD has led to a lot of frustration and misunderstandings and those don't just go away overnight. I have only been aware of my autism for about a month now and since learning about ASD is my new special interest I've been trying very hard to do the different things that I've learned from others experience.

One thing that I struggle with a lot is my emotional regulation level. Miscommunications and emotional sensitivity are usually what triggers my meltdowns. When I lose control of my emotional regulation I say things that are mean, I do things that don't make sense to her, I make more mistakes and then blame myself. It can take hours or even days for me to get back to baseline. For years now this is happened but I didn't recognize what it was or how to stop it and I'm learning now ways that work. I'm learning ways of navigating day to day activities without ending up in a meltdown every week.

I'm trying to focus on the little stuff right now. I know that doesn't help in the middle of a crisis but maybe it's something that you can do as opposed to trying to tackle such a large problem that has been building up for years.

I really really hope that things get better for you soon.



jimmy m
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25 Apr 2022, 7:58 am

First off, I may not be the best one to answer. I had a stroke a year ago and it destroyed about 2 percent of my brain cells and because the cells of my brain use many series combinations, it disorganized around a total of around 20 percent of my brain. But I survived and am still walking and talking. So to answer your question.

If you are near 60 and trying to make a life decision. I am 73 years old and I would remind you, that my journey through the river of life may sooner than later become yours. I guess what I am trying to say is STAY THE COURSE.

Although you have succeeded in using your Aspie skills to blend into the NT world, perhaps you can still continue, while at the same time learn all you can about what is buried deep inside you. Help your husband in his journey of life. Be his hero.


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25 Apr 2022, 1:24 pm

I am ASD-1 and married to an ADHD gal.

We've been married for 22 years. Even though I only got the diagnosis in 2019, predictably, Autism has created some turbulence in our lives starting before we were married.

Some things that have helped me:

<=>- Retirement. I understand that may or may not be an option for you but I think retirement helped me a lot because it reduced how much stress I was under away from home (I was usually unhappy at work). So, I'd recommend doing whatever you practically can to reduce the amount of stress in your life, whether or not that can include retirement.

<=>- A separate work space at home. Sometime after we married we set up a card-table in the corner of a spare room and I used it as my "office". I would go through my mail there, use my computer there, read there, etc. I have since upgraded to a spare room that is now completely my "office" with a good-sized desk and shelves with my books, etc. In both cases I was partially hidden from direct-view from outside the room. A separate area for me has helped.

<=>- Routines. I follow routines as much as I can. She's ADHD so there is a lot of turbulence but I try to stick to a consistent routine and she has, at least partially, adjusted to it.

Oh, and there is a phrase I use. I use it with a smile...sometimes she rolls here eyes rather than smile...but I use it nonetheless. Whenever I think she has bumped up against one of my Aspie traits I note:

"I have a doctor's note for that!"
She's not too crazy about that but it make me feel better.

And, oh, she has learned a bit about Autism. It is comparable to her having read the instructions for me. I hope your partner has spent at least a little time on-line learning about Autism.


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