A few days ago I decided that this week’s blog entry should be something positive – about how hard Ethan works to support us, his family. About how difficult it must be for someone with Aspergers to keep up with an emotional wife who keeps organising social occasions and three chaotic, noisy children. Never mind the stressful, demanding job he does that requires him to be sociable and put other people at their ease all day.
But then Sunday and today happened. And the positivity drained away. It boils down to the number one gripe/obstacle/bone of contention in our relationship: the way he communicates. Today, a misplaced wheelie bin was enough to make him sound like he hated me: ‘What did you do with the bin last night?’ he barked at me from the bottom of our driveway this morning amidst the steady stream of mums (all of whom I knew) winding their way down our lane to school with their offspring all looking over to see what the angry shouts were about.
And on Sunday, the effort and tension of holding it all together for nearly four hours while we had guests broke the moment they left. ‘No, we’re not doing the balloons,’ he bawled to a sobbing Ava, whom earlier he’d whipped into an excited frenzy with promises of releasing a helium balloon into the night sky. ‘It’s too late. You’re going to bed.’ Never mind that he’d promised the kids they could release their balloons that night. Never mind that they were, obviously, disappointed. If he’d just said, ‘Aw, sorry darling. It’s got really late tonight. We’ll definitely do it tomorrow,’ the great heaving sobs from Ava, the ensuing argument between me and him and an evening of not speaking could probably have been avoided.
But then, this afternoon, thankfully, despite the tricky start, we’re coming full circle back to positivity. When I got back from work I, calmly, explained how damaging it was to our relationship, and to the kids, to be shouted at so aggressively all the time over every slight irritation (our wheelie bin being returned next door by the bin men, Oliver spilling his drink, Ava leaving her clarinet at school, me leaving notes to myself on the kitchen side that get in his way). Ethan came up with the usual explanations – he was simply trying to make himself heard (my counter argument: volume doesn’t have to equal aggressive tone) – he didn’t feel aggressive, that’s not how he meant it (my counter argument: that’s how he sounded. So it’s kind of irrelevant what he meant because aggression and irritation are what he conveyed, whether he meant to or not) - he doesn’t mean to speak like that (my counter argument: that he manages to speak pleasantly to other people so he must know the difference and be able to control how he comes across).
Once all the arguments and counter arguments had been exhausted, he apologised, he got it (at least he says he did) and he thanked me for pointing it out.
I could have come home and blasted him with disapproval, disappointment, disdain and countless other dis’s. A few years ago that’s what I would have done before shutting him out of my world. I’m glad that I too am starting to change and adapt to the challenges we face. I’m glad I chose to talk. I know it won’t solve the problem overnight: he’ll probably speak to me the same way tomorrow. But perhaps, with my support, he won’t be quite so aggressive quite so often.
And, knowing that I’m writing about his failings on this blog, he’s still just brought me a cup of tea and a smile. And this morning, while I was working, he washed the kitchen floor unasked. So it’s not all bad!