Monday, September 22, 2008

Letter Writing in Relationships - Communicating in Aspie (Part 2)

A Quick Recap
In my last post, I made a list of some of the many aspie issues which can put a strain on relationships and explained how letters are great levellers because they remove all of the non verbal cues, which the aspie has difficulty reading.

I had some great feedback on my last post about the dangers of relying solely on written communication. I'll cover this in detail soon but in the meantime, a good message to take away is that the letter should contain everything you need to know. There should be no reading between the lines.

Writing Letters to Your Partner
There are a few useful things to remember when writing a letter to a person with whom you're already in a relationship.

No matter how angry you may be about something, it should be assumed that you eventually want your relationship to remain intact - otherwise, why would you bother to write a letter at all.

For this reason, you need to at least remember to start and end the letter on that note. This means, start with; Dear ... and end with some kind of declaration of love. For example; "I hope we can patch things up because I love you and I think that we're so perfect for each other that we should stay together".

Sure, sometimes writing something like this can feel fake, cringeworthy or cliched but if you're writing letters, its probably something that your partner needs to "hear" you say - and something you need to hear yourself say.

Nobody made you do anything
This is more of an NT trait than an aspie one but many people in relationships try to justify their misdemeanour's by suggesting that actions by their partner "made them do it".

Eg: "if you had been home on weekends, I wouldn't have had to have an affair".

One action doesn't automatically follow another - there is always choice involved. Sure, it's probably motivated by feelings and events but its still a choice.

Be Emotional
If you are an aspie, it follows that your partner will sometimes misinterpret your difficulty reading expression and expressing yourself as a lack of caring. It's this kind of thing that leads to labels like "unemotional monster" being attached to aspergers.

Of course this label is completely wrong. We certainly feel emotions, even if we don't always express them well. Writing a letter gives you a good chance to compensate - so use the opportunity.

Be honest. Think long and hard about how you actually feel and try to let your partner know. Don't leave it as a simple "I feel happy" (or sad). Put a bit of oomph into it. Aspies actually have very strong emotions at times.

For example, when my wife looks at me and smiles, it feels like the whole world stops. Her smile is as powerful as the sun warming rocks. One good smile can keep me going for a very long time. It more than makes my day.

If your partner can make you feel like that then use the letter to tell him/her.

Similarly, if you feel lonely when your partner doesn't come home until late, then, how exactly do you feel? Is it irritation, like an itch you can't scratch? Or depression - feeling like there will never be a another sunny day. Perhaps it's simply boredom, like the night will never end.

From these examples, I hope that it's clear how describing your emotions in a letter is much more than a few simple words. I know that sometimes you feel like this is a bit "corny" but if you really mean it, then it's not.

Next Time
In my next post, I'll try to cover how to use letter writing to resolve relationship problems.


wolfwhosings said...

As always, this is a great resource for me. I would have to say that some of my closest friendships at the moment have come about due to IM conversation and emailing. Geographical distances aside, I don't know that I ever would have been able to interact as well with these friends in person, had I not had the "level playing field" of text first. (Too much time spent trying to keep on top of the flow of conversation, figuring out how to posture myself, remembering to smile and nod and not stare...)

I have used letter writing to resolve friendship conflicts before and it has worked well. I do usually have to explain that I do better with the written word than with face to face contact or a phone call (at least now I can say WHY) and those who care about me have been accommodating. Honestly, I think it allows everyone to gather their thoughts, at least as an initial foray into reconciliation.

Your notes to add phrases of affection should not be discounted in friendships either. I find myself not wanting to "presume" to be so affectionate (years of those deep, sharp emotions and bad socialization lead to defaulting to a safe "cool" mode, as you know) but I know that "I said it once, I shouldn't belabour the point" doesn't work for most people. Over time, you also come to know how "sincere" other people are with words of affection, too. Saying "I love you guys!" means a lot of things to a lot of people...

Also, yes, reading between the lines is a horrific problem. I do it, I do my best not to, but I still find myself doing it. I think it's because we have to be such detectives to figure this whole interaction thing out, we get addicted to the information and want more to make ourselves feel more secure. It's a little too easy to invent information from inference though and wind up in the spiral your correspondent spoke of earlier.

Thank you again for this blog. I hope you know how much you've helped so many people.

Anonymous said...

I ended a relationship with someone who I believe might be an Aspie earlier this year. We were both writers, and it often struck me as odd that we rarely exchanged any letters (except the - very - occasional email). After the breakup, I've been mentally writing a letter over and over, but it will likely never get sent. After more than 6 months, including 3 with no contact, it seems like a moot point, short of tying up loose ends that I'm still not even sure I'm ready to tie up.

I really think that expressing my (and our) thoughts in writing may well have provided a better outlet for the issues we faced and opened up a dialogue that was more constructive than the "you always..." conversations I frequently launched into.

Thank you as always for this blog. I'm sure people are finding some help through your pieces.