Sunday, January 29, 2012

Showing HER Appreciation - Part 1 Flowers

This is the start of a series of articles on how to show your non-aspie partner "appreciation".  It follows on from my article; Working on Your Asperger-Neurotypical Relationship Part 2: Appreciation.  You won't find information on living with an Aspergers partner here because this particular series is aimed at teaching aspies to become better and more appreciative of their neurotypical partners. 

My point of view here will be from the aspie male in a relationship with a neurotypical female. After all, it's the only one I can speak about from experience. If anyone has any insight into the way in which the needs of neurotypical males differ from aspie males, then please feel free to note them in the comments.

If you've been dating your current partner since you were young, you might think that she doesn't care for flowers. Certainly, that was the case in my situation.

The Past
As a "first girlfriend", my now wife never expressed any interest in flowers. I knew the names of many flowering trees and she did not. She never took my mother up on her invitations for a walk around the garden or a visit to local nurseries. Most importantly however, she never actually asked me to bring her flowers.

It was therefore quite a shock to me to find out (after we broke up as teenage lovers) that I didn't "appreciate" her because, among other things, I didn't bring her flowers.

Now bear in mind that I didn't have the best of role models. My father, a suspected aspie, certainly didn't bring my mother many flowers - and we all knew that flowers were a passion for her. In fact, I have very clear memories of the one time that he did - their tenth anniversary. How my mother raved over them and dropped very unsubtle hints for more. I lived with my parents for at least another ten years and no further flowers ever materialised in the time I was there.  Apparently though, now they're a little more frequent.

My then "ex-girlfriend" talked to me about her new man on many occasions. It was a very difficult experience and I found myself having to play the part of the "gay friend" since she obviously only wanted me as a "friend". I learned a lot about romance from those discussions though.

When her relationship headed south (stopped working), I pleaded with her to "drop him and go out with me". I followed up the next day with flowers - some shockingly expensive red roses which just about wiped out my wages for the week.

I didn't realise it at the time but I had competition. Her ex was competing for her affections too - and he brought flowers as well.

It turned out that my red roses beat his yellow ones. It was the first time that I'd ever heard that specific flowers could have special significance.

Flower Tips from the Present
Over the years I've tried to deliver flowers with some regularity to show my appreciation. Here are some flower tips;

  • Not when you're in trouble
    Flowers should say "I love you", not "please let me back into the house". You can use flowers to help with forgiveness but only after you've resolved your differences with "saying a heartfelt sorry" and deeds (proving that you mean what you say).

    If you give flowers as a means of prompting forgiveness, it might work sometimes but eventually it won't. Eventually your female partner will start to associate them with bad things.

    You'll know this has happened when a random gift of flowers results in the question; "what did you do?"
  • Be regular but not to regularAgain. Flowers should say "I love you" - not, "it's Tuesday".  In a healthy relationship, thoughts of love  or simply things that remind you of your partner should pop into your head fairly regularly.  When they do, you should decide to give them.  Obviously you shouldn't be more regular than once per week but also, you should try for at least once per month.
  • Follow the thoughtsIf your partner has done something particularly good for you, like cooked a special meal or bought you a surprise, then a "payback" via flowers can be a good way to show both affection and appreciation.

    Similarly, if you know that your partner is having a difficult time, perhaps a friend is sick, her workplace is giving her a hard time or she has simply had a "bad week" then flowers can cheer her up and let her know that you"re thinking of her - even if you can't actually be there.
  • Quality is better than Quantity
    Flowers bought at a florist are nearly always much better than flowers bought at the supermarket.  Even worse though are flowers from the bottom of the "flower chain".  Petrol/Gas station flowers. These flowers have usually been poorly looked after and exposed to a lot of bad fumes.  Stay away from them unless you can't get flowers anywhere else.

    Note that flowers don't always have to be from a shop. There's no reason why you can't pick flowers from your yard or while on a bush walk.  Just don't do anything illegal and don't steal from other people's gardens.

    Finally, don't be afraid to ask advice from florists. They're usually quite happy to give it.  Talk about the type of occasion and the feelings you want to convey because different flowers have different meanings.  You might also want to talk about longevity.  Often I'll ask for flowers which have a bit more staying power.  Roses look fantastic but they usually don't last.
Keep watching for more in this series as I try to cover other ways to show appreciation.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Working on Your Asperger-Neurotypical Relationship - Part 2 Appreciation

This follows on from Part 1: Talking.

Last time, I talked about the need to talk in our relationships and specifically, to ask your partner what they need. In my case, I got the rather vague answer of "I want to be appreciated more".

That answer really confused me. If she'd said, "I want to go out to dinner more" or "I want more flowers" then it would have been a specific and measurable thing but she didn't. Instead she used a vague and undefined term - and the only thing I got was that I must have done some of it but it wasn't enough. I had to do more.

I guess to really appreciate my point of view, suppose I'd been asked the question and replied that I wanted a bit more lavacultophilia (not that I actually do).  My wife would be in a similar quandry (except that lavacultophilia is a real word which actually means a desire to stare at someone in a bathing suit).  I got this randomly out of the Grandiloquent Dictionary. In my case, looking up appreciation doesn't necessarily give me anything I can use.

So, getting back to the point.  I was left with a mental journey I needed to go on to determine what appreciation was and how to give more of it;

As far as I can tell, there are an unlimited number of parts to appreciation but here are some of the majors;

  • Flowers
  • Saying "Thank You"
  • Saying "I really appreciate.... " with a specific target in mind (eg: ironing, food etc)
  • Spontaneously helping out
  • Praising HER to the kids (ie: "Isn't your mother clever")
  • Listening and Showing Empathy
  • Spontaneous Gifts

It's possible that it could also mean less of the following;

  • Criticism
  • Sarcasm
  • Being dismissive of opinions

I'm trying very hard to be more appreciative and some of these things are working. I'll talk about flowers in my next post.  The praise isn't working so well with most of my efforts being brushed off - so obviously I'm doing it all wrong.

Spontaneous help is working a little and listening/empathy is hardly working at all. I'll be working on those and will hopefully have a positive post later.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Welcome to 2012

Welcome to 2012, the year the Mayans thought it was all going to end. I'm not actually a big believer myself and I'm pretty certain that I'll be writing a similar new year post next year.

2012 is set to be a momentous year for the autism community. The revised DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) will be finalized (though it's not due out until May 2013) and will bring with it some quite controversial changes which will no doubt throw some members of the autism community into "damage control mode".

If the writers have their way, Aspergers will become an obselete term and the name of this blog will no longer have any meaning. You'll notice that I'm not rushing to change it.

This year, we'll be finishing off a few articles which have a part one but no part two. The "best of the best" series will hopefully be back and we'll have some more reviews including one for the best asperger relationship book I've ever read.

We'll also be reviewing some films and hopefully looking at some android apps which will enable you to affordably get the same sort of autism assistance experience that you get on an iPad at a fraction of the cost.

All in all, it's going to be another great year and I hope you'll come along for the ride.