I'd like to draw your attention to this (currently untitled) article which is on one of the blogs I read;
The article can be found here
I'm not quite sure if there's a problem with that site but at the moment as it's not accepting comments (I'm sure there would be plenty otherwise).
I guess that's one of the main reasons I'm referring to the article here. It's crying out for comments.
These articles really move me. They're one of the main reasons behind the "emotionless" or "empathy-less" aspie myth.
A quick "aside"...
I know that aspergers isn't gender specific and that despite the significantly higher incidence of diagnosed male aspies compared to female, the number isn't to be trusted. Aspergers presents quite differently in females compared to males and although it's obvious that females have just as much difficulty with the condition, it seems much less likely to be recognised.
Nevertheless, I see the male aspie as bringing far worse empathy issues into relationships than females. Ignoring gay relationships, I think that this is because the NT partners in AS/NT relationships have different expectations.
I don't particularly agree with Simon Baron-Cohen's "extreme male brain" theory but I can certainly see where it comes from. As a general rule, in the NT world, females tend to be more emotional and more empathetic than males. I think this is one of the reasons that empathy is less of an issue in AS/NT relationships where the aspie is female. A female with aspergers possibly has a better chance of showing empathy than a male - and a male NT is less likely to notice an absence of empathy in his AS partner than a female.
Ok, having explained (possibly) why men are more likely to be the aspie at the centre of an empathy issue in a mixed AS/NT relationship, I can move on with looking at the blog post itself.
You can often "see" the women who write these sorts of posts crying out for attention and I hope that their partners know about the blogs, read the posts and most importantly, think about what is being said. It's not about laying blame, it's about highlighting needs in the relationship.
If your partner writes a blog, you should become a regular reader. Not just of the posts themselves but also of the comments. I know that some people get upset about what is posted on blogs but really, it will help your relationship - not hinder it.
As for the subject matter; I could recognise quite a bit of myself in there. I've improved in recent years but there's obviously still a long way for me to go. Some of the things which struck chords are;
- Poorly chosen comments
Sometimes I think I'm making a quip or an honest comment but it comes out as an insult. It's sometimes because my attention is distracted and more often because I presume that my mind can be read. (I know it can't but I tend to expect other people to have the same frame of reference). Comments about weight may once have been an issue in our house but now the "F" word is recognised as a bad word. Everyone is accepted for who they are.
I needed to be corrected though. I didn't learn it on my own. I had to be insulted using my own personal weaknesses to learn how it feels. It's not about disrespect, it was simply that (stupid as it may seem) I didn't understand that it hurt.
Am I cured? No. Sure, I've learned not to make jokes about certain things but I also just sent a Christmas card this year which caused insult. I was thinking one thing and the recipient thought something different entirely. Improvements are still needed.
- Reactions to the Sick
When my wife and kids get sick, I'm desperate not to catch it. I don't kiss, I don't hug and I wash my hands after contact. I get out of the room if a coughing fit starts. It's not nice but I have difficulty not doing it because it's a bit of an OCD thing. I have to admit though, I've never really given a second's thought as to how it must feel on the other side.
My score - Fail. Thanks for highlighting that problem. I'll work on it.
- TV Shows and Empathy
Usually I have too much empathy with movies. I find myself with tears in my eyes because of something "cute", it doesn't even take a sad event. Even worse, I'll be sad because of a toy in "Toy Story" or something that happens to Fozzie Bear in one of the muppet films.
I try to hide this because I'd never hear the end of it if my wife caught me crying in one of those films. It's weird though that I don't have any empathy with death in certain films. For instance, if I watch a horror film, I usually don't have any empathy with characters who die. Similarly, the sudden death of Brad Pitt in Meet Joe Black had me in fits of laughter.
TV Shows are quite different to films and I get almost no emotion from them because;
(a). They're often too short for me to get into a character.
(b). One advertising break will destroy the reality for me.
(c). TV isn't as engrossing as a film.
I'll admit to feeling quite weepy over Rose Tyler and Donna Noble in Doctor Who though.
My score - I think this is a pass, more than a pass... I'm more emotional over films than my wife.
- Vacuuming the Walls
I've never done this but I don't think that was the point of the article. I have had these random thoughts on how we could do things better. Particularly; how we could raise our children better. I'll start doing it not realising that it's probably very insulting and implies that I think my wife isn't doing such a great job.
Of course, I can't keep it up and soon my "new routine" drops in favour of doing other things. These days, when I'm asked about things like this, I try to simply shut up or say "I don't know" because if I don't then whatever I say is likely to be taken as an insult rather than an idea.
I guess I'll have to take a fail on that one too.
I don't think that love lasts very long at all. It goes off. It needs maintenance and it transforms into something better than love but probably not quite as deep. Whatever the next level is, it needs friendship, companionship, respect, understanding, support and empathy. Most of all, it needs constant maintenance on both sides of the relationship and both partners need to engage in self-improvement (hence my pass/fail comments here about myself).