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Saturday, 19 April 2014

Comparing my Aspergers spouse = not really very helpful

Yesterday we set off on a happy family bike-ride in the balmy Good Friday sunshine. What could possibly get in the way of us having a lovely relaxed afternoon together?
Before we even set off, Ava and I had come to blows - over what she should wear. At 9 years old she seems to be careering headfirst into pre-puberty and is becoming almost as frustrating to live with as Ethan - though I love them both dearly!
As soon as we arrived at the place we'd planned to cycle, we met someone we knew. The guy was with his daughter who is in Ava's class at school. She and Ava inevitably wanted us all to cycle together.
The girl's dad subtly tried to gauge our reaction and asked which way we were planning to cycle. 'We're going this way,' came Ethan's very definite, un-subtle, 'no-room-for-negotiation' reply! I knew Ethan wanted it to be just us. I knew the unplanned, unannounced presence of these other people was hard for him to deal with - and maybe I should have let it go. But I just couldn't help myself, the unfriendliness and awkwardness in the air went against everything in my nature... 'We can go either way really,' I said, sensing Ethan glaring at me, 'it doesn't really matter to us.'
We stumbled over each other in politeness for a while - Ethan giving off negative vibes, me encouraging this guy and his daughter to join us and the poor guy trying to read through our conflicting lines and do the right thing! He went down the route of us both going our separate ways at first and he and his daughter cycled off, only to stop a few yards on, obviously wondering if they were the ones now being unfriendly, to say 'We could all ride together if you like...?!'
The upshot of it was that we cycled together for a while. It was frustratingly slow progress as we had to keep stopping because Sam's legs were tired. It was in a conversation during one of these stops that I was struck anew at how difficult it can be to have a decent conversation with Ethan. And also, with an 'average' bloke there for comparison, how negative and bitter he can sound.
The topic came up of when the kids are due back at school following the Easter break. Ethan responded in a grudging tone 'I'm surprised they've not shoved an Inset day on the end of the holiday.' We talked about how they're only back for a few weeks before they're off again. Then how there are only 7 weeks before the school year is done. The context was 'hasn't the time flown?' and I know Ethan was just trying to join in but his contribution of 'They're never there,' just sounded unpleasant: It was the unfortunate combination of his choice of words and tone of voice. Probably, my expectations and preconceptions colour how I hear him too. But Ethan's comment ended the conversation. Neither of us N/T's could think of anything cheery to say to that.
It was shortly after that stop-off that Sam gave up entirely. He was on a bike that was too small for him, his legs were working like the clappers to keep the wheels turning and he was just knackered! He let his bike fall to the ground and started crying.
Ethan responded the best he could. He tried to encourage Sam. But it didn't come out very tenderly. Again, the combination of words he chose and tone he used, meant he came across as impatient and irritated. Unfortunately for Ethan, his reaction looked worse in light of the up-beat, encouraging and positive  solution-finding response from the other dad, who proceeded to push the back of Sam on his bike as he rode along beside him.
Poor Ethan. It must have been hard to see another bloke sorting out his own son so effectively in a way that Ethan struggled to achieve. I was short and critical with him too, having had my senses and emotions awakened to what other people's husbands and dads are like. Without a direct reference, you often forget how tense your family life is compared to other people's.
We did, at least, talk things through a little bit when we got home (which, incidentally, was hours later as Sam ended up with a flat tyre and had to walk the last mile!)
I'm pleased to say that Ethan was in touch with his emotions and said how he struggled with someone else pushing his son on his bike and how he'd struggled also with these unexpected guests joining us in the first place. He stopped short of saying that this guy's presence highlighted his shortcomings and made him feel uncomfortable - but we both knew it.
After fourteen years of being married to Ethan and a few years prior to that dating him, I do love him, but sometimes in a resigned kind of way. And I know how hard life can be for him. Sometimes, when he's trying hard to fit in and be sociable, I feel a surge of love and affection for him. But, other times, when faced with the sociable, easy-going, up-beat ease of other people next to the awkward, gloomy tension of Ethan, I find myself looking at him through other people's eyes and just seeing someone abrupt, negative and difficult to get along with. It's tricky when that person you're seeing in such an unattractive light is your husband.
And I know this blog might seem like just a tool for criticising Ethan and moaning about my lot in life. I don't mean it to be. As I've written before, I'm an N/T partner with plenty of difficult-to-live-with traits of my own. It's just that I happen to be the one writing this blog, hence Ethan comes in for all the criticism. I should get Ethan to write a post about how frustratingly chaotic, emotional, illogical and demanding I am to live with...make myself vulnerable for a change... this space!


  1. thanks for sharing Laura! I really do not see it as you criticizing your husband, but more like sharing your thoughts and feelings. i have experienced what you experienced, and i have to say it is hard not to compare. And it is so true, you do not really know the tension in your own family until someone else comes along and you see so clearly just how 'easy and relaxed' other people's family seemed to be. My husband doesn't make it a point to be friendly, he shows that he dislikes the person if he does. And if he is neutral, he will not even attempt to speak to the person if it doesn't serve his purpose. Oh, the self focused ways of the Aspie! I am resigned to not inviting people over when he is around because it is just too much hard work to be worth it! Now that he is currently away, I did invite some friends over a few days ago, and it is just so nice and relaxing. Laura, thanks again for sharing :)

  2. I agree with the previous person that I don't think you sound critical at all. It's just an essential tool for getting through the frustrations of living with someone with Aspergers. Our family life is also very tense and even ordinary actions and events are very difficult. I too have rhree children and often end up in the role of mediator! Please keep sharing - it helps to know other people are in the same situation. One consolation is that the children who are now teenagers are often much better at coping with their dads irritability and anger than I am. They accept him the way he is and work round it whereas I think I am still hoping I can change him!

  3. You don't sound critical Laura, just frustrated by the tensions of family life, and feeling sometimes that rather than being a fully paid up partner in your family, your husband is another child for you to manage. I used to think that my husband would settle down and get better with age, now I realise that he is actually getting worse as middle age sets in!

  4. Yes please Ethan, I'm watching this space. And a cheer to him for explaining his emotions to you, that's something I would pay for. Laura you are an amazing lady, and I can identify with all the feelings you described (so well). This is why couples don't reinvite us once they've been to our house or just do not invite us at all-the men especially cannot deal with the guy-from-unknown-planet. And we get isolated.
    Bring on the swop-shop for trading in AS hubbies! But no, we have families and we have ability to adapt and grow so we push on, and not forgetting that our spouse has a tag-along disability not chosen by himself at birth.
    And thanks to Aspies's Wife for making me giggle, you are so correct in describing the ignoring trait when they don't see useful purpose for the person they are dealing with. Except, it's not funny at all. Sometimes that person is me, or my child, in context of a moment.
    Anyway ladies, keep inviting and socialising, true friends can become regulars. And what I now find helpful is that my hubby just removes himself to the bedroom with the excuse of his backpain (and continues his addiction to Game of War) so everyone can visit in a relaxed mood. Not ideal, yes, but a compromise. Anyway, no matter what I do, we will never be the couple who sits close in social visits, with my hubby's arm around me. But of course, my temparent sets high standards for relationship). I used to get so angry when in the early years, a couple would visit us and sit entangled and my husband would watch and then move closer and put his hand on my knee. Yes. But, unless we were in that context, he wouldn't be touch-feely. It did not take me long to start believing the lie that he doesn't love me really. Especially since I am outgoing, love people and friends around, my love language starts with T for Touch, and T for Time! Anyway, its going on 2 decades now. Starting to learn am I.
    Ps. I have a plan to stow away his iPad in a bank safety deposit box so he can be more aware of what goes on in the home. Suffice to say I don't want to take responsibility for a possible mental breakdown, so that keeps me from the evil, desperate stunt.
    I am buying my first real book on AS, Loving Cindy Arie