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Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Aspergers and gaps in communication

I, in fact we, came close to throwing in the towel this weekend. Let me just say, for the record, it is so hard to be in an Aspergers/neurotypical partnership – for both of us! We cling on by the skin of our teeth and crawl forwards with gritty determination. Not because we feel like it, a lot of the time, but because we’ve committed ourselves to each other: and because we’ve got three small children who need us to be together. And because, to be frank, although struggling through together is pretty grim quite a lot of the time, the alternative would be worse, I think. We’d be poorer, if not emotionally then definitely financially. In fact, I’m not sure how we’d do it. And we’d both be miserable and feel we’d failed and, although I push Ethan to his limits a lot of the time, I think, without me and the kids, he would let his Aspergers get the better of him and lead a pretty lonely life.
Our major problem I’d say, if I had to pick one issue out, is communication. How we both do (or don’t) communicate – in our words as well as in what we don’t say, in our tone and in our expressions.
I spend most of my time feeling that Ethan is disapproving or grumpy, as I’ve mentioned before. Largely because the natural relaxed state of his face is a frown. He seems to find it very difficult to smile– even when he’s happy. I’d settle for neutral but even that evades him. Secondly, he misses out great chunks of essential information when he communicates a message. What his head is thinking isn’t what comes out. Take Saturday morning, and part two of the helium balloon saga (those bloody balloons have caused nothing but trouble!)...
Ethan had got the kids to write messages on a piece of paper that he’d tied to a helium balloon and was going to set free in the garden. Sam had been griping about not wanting to let the balloon go, largely ignored by Ethan, but went along with writing his part of the message anyway. As they headed outside, Sam piped up again that he really didn’t want to let the balloon go. So Ethan said, ‘You don’t have to let it go.’ Sam instantly calmed down. All was peaceful until, ten seconds later Ethan, along with Ava and Oliver, let the balloon go. Sam started wailing and ran inside – not only upset that this balloon was gone forever but also that, from his point of view, daddy had outright lied to him. I, being me, marched out and challenged Ethan in front of the kids, as he was trying to enjoy a ‘moment’ with Ava and Oliver. From his point of view, I ruined his moment and he felt unduly criticised and belittled by me in front of the kids. He couldn’t understand what the issue was. Sam always acted like that, according to Ethan. And he’d told him, quite plainly, that he didn’t have to let the balloon go. Ava and Oliver could do it.’ Only the problem was that he hadn’t added on ‘Ava and Oliver can do it.’ He’d stopped at ‘You don’t have to let the balloon go.’ Which, to Sam’s mind (as would be the case with most kids – if not adults too) meant that the balloon was safe. Ethan didn’t get it – AND SMIRKED: which sent my irritation levels through the roof. I told him to stop smirking. He told me he wasn’t smirking (he truly didn’t realise that he was. Apparently inappropriate reactions – such as laughing when someone dies (or loses their balloon!) – are quite common from people with Aspergers). He followed this by telling me to shut up and stay away from him and stormed out of the house, slamming the door as he went.
Ava then joined in the wailing and told Oliver and Sam that mum and dad were going to get a divorce and that they wouldn’t see daddy anymore. Cue three wailing kids.
Ethan stayed out all day – he only came back at 9pm because I had to work.  During the course of the day both of us contemplated the possibility of separating. And the kids definitely contemplated it! But, as always, when tensions and frustrations calmed down, we managed to talk things through, and we struggle on. Because, despite the arguments, the kids are better with us together and because in different ways, and for different reasons, we need each other. I’ve gone back to the Asperger’s books – I still know so little about the Syndrome. And life goes on.


  1. That relaxed face is a real problem. People just don't realise what it means to live with someone who rarely looks at you and hardly ever smiles. And the smirk - I get that and am glad to hear someone else articulate it, it sometimes makes me feel unreasonable rage but as I'm a non-violent person he's safe - so far! Please keep writing, I'm sure it helps you and it sure helps me.

    1. Hi Sally,
      Thanks for getting in touch and sorry that my response is so late.
      Totally understand the unreasonable rage - it's like a red steam rising up and exploding out! It usually vents inself in words through me - which I then regret later, particularly if I've off-loaded in front of the kids.
      My husband, it has to be said, is probably more patient with me than I am with him (and he has an 'excuse' for his behaviour!) We'll keep muddling through and I'll keep posting my musings - like you say, it's therapy for me and, if it helps and encourages others, that's amazing.