Over the years I've written quite a bit about AS/NT relationships. I've written about accepting your aspergers partner for who they are and how to reach them in the relationship.
I guess that it's all been a bit one-sided but today I'm starting a series which might rectify the balance. These posts is directed at people with Asperger's sydrome and are about being the best partner that you can be.
All relationships need work. They're not "fire and forget". You can't simply say, ok we've ticked the boxes; we're married, we have a house and we have kids. That's not where the work ends.
There's a saying from Marriage Encounters which I like to repeat. "Sometimes I love my partner -- and sometimes I have to work harder at it",
Life is all about change. As aspies we often don't like change but we're powerless to stop it. Like it or not, people change and situations change. In order to adapt to these changes, we too need to change.
We may have loved our partner because among other things, she shared our love of Star Wars but that was twenty years ago. As aspies, we often retain our special interests for life but our neurotypical partners do not. We have to accept that these things change and conversations which were once interesting to them are now considered "boring".
It took me years to learn that my wife no longer loved movies. She didn't care who the director was or what else they were working on. For her, a movie at the cinemas is an "escape" from the rigurs of daily life and kids. No matter how good the movie was, she does not want to talk about it afterwards.
Of course, that's all I want to do after a film and our rides home were probably torture for her. It didn't help when she told me to stop talking about it either because she'd mostly use fake excuses like; "I have a headache". "Oh, Ok", I thought, "I'll save this interesting diatribe for some time when she's feeling better".
It was a long time before she was honest with me about her reasons and even then I'd get it wrong thinking that she didn't want to talk about that specific movie. After all, when her words were; "I don't want to talk about the movie!" what else can I think?
When it finally sunk in, I said "well, you talk then and I'll listen", probably quite snappily. She didn't talk though because she claimed to be busy driving and our conversation dropped into awkward silence which was only broken about ten minutes later with her saying; "so what? are you not talking to me now or what?"
I was confused. On the one hand, she wants me to talk about something but on the other, it needs to be things directly related to her - and outside the realm of my special interest.
Instead of a wall of talk, I need to be more give and take. I need to guess something that she wants to talk about and ask questions.
It's not easy. I'll ask about the kids or family or budget but I'm often met with "oh, so now you want to talk about it .... after I've been doing it for years....". Obviously they're not the right conversations either.
It seemed that there was no easy answer but apparently there is.
You're supposed to talk about "us". When you're out as a couple, the conversation should be about "us". The questions you need to ask are;
- How are you feeling?
- How was your day?
- Is there anything that I can do to help?
- What do you need from me?
- Are you happy in this relationship?
- How do you feel our relationship is going? (don't ask this one while she's driving).
Once she picks herself up off the floor and answers you, you need to think about the answer she's given you and try to find a way to work at delivering it. Also, don't be surprised if you get asked the same question back - be prepared to give an answer.
In my case, the answer was; "I want to be appreciated more" ... and I guess that's the topic of my next post.
In the meantime, if you're an aspie, then your homework is to ask your partner one of those questions. Also... If you're a female aspie, I'm keen to know if your partners have similar needs or if they're just happy to talk about special interests?
BTW: A big shout out to Aspie Wife Aspie Mom who first got me thinking about "the other side".