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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.


BobbiSheahan said…
I love this! My husband said the same thing. After I made him read it. :D
I kid, I kid. He actually does a lot of these things already. I'm a lucky girl.
Bobbi Sheahan
Anonymous said…
You should be giving yourself some credit for realizing the importance of appreciating your wife more. Aspergians have a limited theory of mind, so you're taking great strides in understanding your wife better. It does not come naturally to you, but you're attempting to have dialogues in ensuring that your wife is heard. I must praise you for sharing this struggle on a public blog. Awareness is very important and enables other Aspergians to see that they are not the only one struggling.

I have a friend who suspects her husband of having Asperger's Syndrome. She mentioned how frustrated she is with her husband. They have been married for 23 years and she frequently threatened her husband that she'd leave him if he did not work with her. It took years of work between them to make their marriage work, but she still longed to feel wanted. He has never taken her out on a romantic date, gave her flowers, or any other expected relationship rituals. It may sound trivial, but it is important to the woman.

Let me elaborate. There are mental, physical, and emotional needs. Examples of meeting mental needs are intellectual discussions, reading, picking up on a special interest, and attending museums. As for physical needs - fresh air, adequate nutritious foods, and exercising. Emotional needs involve hugging, feeling valued, knowing that someone is supporting/being there for them, and having a sense of belonging.

Aspergians often think emotional needs are unimportant. This is very dangerous as it can be a factor to damaging a relationship. Think of this way. If you don't give the woman a flower on her anniversary. It interprets to the woman that you don't care about her and that she is not being valued by her. This leaves her feeling inadequate and unworthy. Giving her flowers boosts her emotionally as she would feel cared for and valued.

Just to elaborate on this post. My commentary went longer than expected. Oops!
Anonymous said…
I guess things are different for me, i have an AS husband (and kids) and i dont feel like i need anything more from them than what i get. I love him for who he is and wouldnt have married him if i didnt! He might express his love for me by programing my iphone rather than telling me he appreciates me, and thats fine with me, i get it. Im sure im not the 'perfect' wife, fulfilling all his needs, so why should i expect more than what he knows how to do... We are all different after all....hes weird and cool and hilarious, im not trading him!!
I read a book once that explained that while women crave compliments...they tend to have low self esteem and brush them off. Just because the praise doesn't seem to be be getting the response you desire, does not mean it isn't working. Think of it like a chemistry or cooking experiment...adding a few grains of salt doesn't change the taste or chemical content of a gallon of water much, but if you keep adding will eventually. PS I guess I need to be more receptive of my own husbands praise! Thanks!
Bird said…
I have Asperger's and my husband most likely has Asperger's and our son has Asperger's. I have come to understand things in this way:

People have different ways of connecting to others. Some people need words to feel appreciated and love. Some people need actions to show that they are appreciated and loved. Some people need gifts to show that they are appreciated and loved, but many times, people need a bit of a combination of all three.

I have no problem telling my family that I love them and cooking a meal for them to show them that I care and love them... sometimes I make their favorite meals and deserts as a gift to them, as well. I sometimes leave notes to give them written words and tokens that I love them. Things like: "I love you very much and thank you so much for taking out the garbage. I really do appreciate it and it helped me out a lot this afternoon. Thank you and lots of love to you."

My son does these things too, though not as much. He will give hugs and tell me he loves me and give me gifts of drawings or playing his piano for me. He says thank you and please and so on. He helps with housework, especially when I don't feel good and he sees that and wants to make sure he is giving me a hand.

Hubby has trouble doing things though. He doesn't leave notes most of the time, doesn't read things I write, I have to tell him to do the dishes or help with laundry if I don't feel good and he never cooks. Not his thing. He does tell me he loves me all the time, but I am a person of action and show. I like tangible things. I love words, don't get me wrong. But I've always been a doer and I like it when someone does something, too. He does a lot of other things for us and for me, though. He will go to the store so I don't have to. That is showing me he loves me by doing something for me that I would rather avoid. If I'm sick, he will bring me food, stay close in case I need something, and when I've had to go to the hospital, he never leaves my side.

I don't think theory of mind is all there is to this and that is what makes it so difficult all the time. I really don't.

I think when we talk (or write or physically show) and let each other know what things make us happy, then that helps a great deal. Each of us is different but there are some very basic things within all of us that need recognition. If I can see it within myself, then I know it is most probably there for someone else.

Like: For me, I like to hear "I love you" and I like to have a gift now and then, so I do that for others and I like to have help with the housework, or to give hugs. If they have more specific things they want or need, then, the policy in our house is that we say so. It doesn't always work, but at least it's something we do try to do.
Anonymous said…
I'm having a hard time here trying to understand, from nearly all of these posts, that the Aspergian should be doing all the work trying to make the NT happy? I get this sooooo much. "I love you IF I can make you what "I" want you to be". This is where most of our fear and anxiety come from. Talk about reinforcing the feeling that no matter what you do, the NT is not going to be happy. Either they love you for who you are or they love an image they have of you, not the real you. You can't change other people and it's rude to try. Accept people for who they are or move on. You're just wasting everyone's time.
Gavin Bollard said…

I've done plenty of articles about accepting the aspie for who they are.

Those articles were mainly aimed at neurotypicals and they encouraged understanding and acceptance.

This particular series is aimed at the aspie. It's all about how the aspie can contribute to the relationship, hence it's bound to feel a little one-sided.

All relationships require work and all relationships require constant change.

If both parties aren't willing to put effort into the relationship, then it will fail.
Penny said…
Thanks for part 2! Keep them coming, I need all the help I can get.

I have a question though. How can I get my partner to explain his expectations of me before we attend a social event without sounding like an idiot?
Anonymous said…
Thank you especially for this part:

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

Being dismissive of opinions"

Those are exactly the things that hurt me more than he will ever know.
KickingBird said…
As she wants is for you to tell her, "I appreciate that you did this or that." or appreciate it when you (fill in the blank.)

Or thanks yous when she does something that you appreciated. Thank yous goes a long way.
KickingBird said…
She just want you to tell her when she does things that you appreciate, (not everytime) but, it is nice to be told sometimes that a person appreciates the things that you do.

You can easily show your appreciation by saying, "Thank you" when she does something nice for you. You can go even further by saying, I really like it when you _____." or I really do appreciate it when you______." If a person never gets any acknowlegegment or praise for the nice things that they do for you, they might begin to feel like you do not notice the nice things they do for you.
Audrey said…
Perhaps it is different because I am an Aspie gal but my hubby finds my lack of empathy at times very laughable. It's not that I don't care, it's just that my expression comes out a little different than what I meant in my heart. Often my compliments are insults but I truly did mean them as compliments so then I get hurt that he does not see it as a compliment:)
I wonder if my son who has A.S. ( when he gets older) will feel the way you do?:)
Anonymous said…
I have AS and so do all my children. My husband doesn't. I also have problems with complimenting people. They mainly take them as insults. So now I just listen to how others compliment each other and rattle it off that way. I mimick how others interact on things I see turn out positive. I'm 38 almost 39 and just found out March 2011 that I had asperger's. It took me this long to feel normal around people and I still have social problems but not as many.
I'm so happy I stumbled upon your blog today, as I'm going through this very journey myself. I'm Aspie & my husband is NT. I'm lucky - he has lots of experience with Asperger's and therefore is tolerant of my Aspie traits. Because of this, I am getting quite interested in learning how to meet his emotional needs better. In many ways, I think it's easier for an Aspie wife/NT husband than the other way around.

Have you read Journal of Best Practices by David Finch? It's a memoir about this very journey & it made me feel so understood. I would expect it to be a good read for NTs married to Aspies, too, because Finch does a great job explaining that he feels love for his wife & just bungles the expression of it.
aspmom said…
Gavin, keep complimenting your wife and showing verbal appreciation even if you feel you are not getting it right. But . . . instead of saying how you appreciate things she does, make sure you often use words that compliment her character (more about who she IS, rather than simply what she DOES, does that make sense?).

Like, you are right on with the "clever" comment. "Clever", "hardworking", "giving", "thoughtful" and so on. For an NT those character qualities being verbally recognized may mean a whole lot more than comments regarding actions she performs. I'm just sayin'. :) It could make a big, positive difference.
Anonymous said…
There's a book called 'The Five Love Languages' based on the premise that different people feel the most loved through 5 different basic forms of expression. Furthermore, people often tend to try to speak their own preference, but if that's not your spouse's preference, it can actually just frustrate them. The book is a quick read and my wife and I were both surprised to find that the somewhat cheesy-sounding theory proved true for us. It could be worth a look in this effort.
Anne-Marie said…
my boyfriend was recently diagnosed with aspergers and we've been trying to figure out how to bridge the gap between us. i've found your blog really helpful for seeing his side of things. i just started a blog to help document what it's like on the other side of things and though you/your readers might be interested.

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