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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Aspergers and shifting blame

I've not had to wait long for the boot to be on the other foot. And the way that Ethan and I both handled our mistakes has really brought home the differences between us and pinpointed the reason why I find Ethan's attitude so difficult.
Today, we'd planned for Ethan to take Sam to Legoland Discovery Centre after school - we'd been promising him it for ages and today we'd finally found a day that we could make it work. Before I left home to take Oliver out for the afternoon I reminded Ethan to take his wallet. On my way home with Oliver, I called Ethan to arrange where to meet him so that he could take the car - and I checked whether he'd got his wallet: 'Yes', came his rather irritated reply. Ten minutes later I met him at school as he was picking up Sam to go to Legoland. 'You have got your wallet, haven't you?' I shouted after him in what I hoped was a light-hearted tone whilst knowing that asking the same question three times is often necessary with Ethan. Ethan nodded, waved his hand dismissively and off he went.
Fifty minutes later, I got the phone call. As soon as I saw his name on the caller display, I felt my heart lurch. I'm generally on tenterhooks when Ethan's doing something with one of the kids, or out with friends - I'm hoping against hope that all will go well but bracing myself for something to go wrong. It also occurred to me, as the phone rang, that I automatically scan my brain for whether whatever the problem is could be something that I've caused. I've read about partners of people with Aspergers living with self-doubt and feeling that somehow they're responsible when things go wrong. I vowed to myself I wouldn't go down that road and I do fight my corner ferociously with Ethan but, subconsciously, I think I'm nearer to that point than I'd realised.
Anyway, the words I was greeted with, as I picked up the phone and said hello were "What time does Legoland close?" - no greeting, no small-talk. I get that, the phone-call is purely information-based. So, sticking to information, I asked the reason for his question. Sticking to his un-emotional, information-based approach, he announced: 'I've not got my wallet.' I was genuinely floored. Three times I'd asked him, three times he'd said yes. And yet he'd driven all the way to Legoland, forty minutes drive away, before actually checking whether he did indeed have his wallet. Massively annoying and frustrating to say the least - and I was thinking of poor Sam in a hot, sweaty car missing precious time in Legoland. But the worst part of the whole sorry episode came next. "That's why there's meant to be money in the car..." he started, referring to the change we keep in the car (there was £10 but not the £15 he needed). I knew exactly where he was going with this line - he's always moaning about me using money from the car and not replacing it. Perhaps a valid point. But what struck me, in that moment, was that exactly a week ago as I drove the car with its roof box into a multi-storey car park and cracked it from one side to the other, I phoned Ethan and the first thing I said was how sorry I was. I didn't blame him for putting the box on there two weeks before we went on holiday. I didn't blurt out 'I've knackered the roof box,' I said sorry. Whether it's down to Aspergers or being male, whenever he messes up, Ethan will always look for someone else to blame (and it's often me since I'm the nearest person to him - in every way). It's wearying to say the least. And frustrating and hurtful and destructive to self-esteem, certainly destructive to a healthy, happy relationship.
It all worked out - one hour, 36 miles, one argument and one revelation later than it would have taken had he just checked he'd got his wallet. And I now have a choice - to let resentment and disillusionment build or to try to help us both learn from this encounter about each other's feelings and needs. Whilst not taking responsibility for his mistakes, I'm sure there are lessons I can learn about how to support him more without turning into a doormat. I'm well aware that he is always supportive of me, sometimes in his own unique way. 
At the end of the day, it's not about a plastic box on a car roof or about plastic bricks in an over-priced warehouse - it's about the way we treat each other in the inevitable frustrations of life. 


  1. Laura,
    I empathise. Mr H very rarely apologises, and if he does then it's with a caveat, he's sorry but it wasn't actually his fault, I should have reminded him/ checked his bag etc etc. he works away alternate weeks, and almost every week he rings me when he gets to work to tell me hat he has forgotten to pack shirts/ socks/ pants and that I should have reminded him. Idiot
    Hannah x

  2. Laura (and Hannah), mine too. "I'm sorry BUT ..." "I'm sorry, but WHY DO YOU ALWAYS ... ". So not really an apology at all. See Tony Attwood's response (about halfway down the page) to the question "Why is it that even visual reminders to the AS partner, for example a whiteboard list, to say or do particular things, don't appear to work for longer than a few days?"

    I would like to be his wife, not his mother!

  3. I am struggling with the problem with my son. I am really feeling at a lost to teach him how to accept blame. He truly feels it is always someone else's fault. It is almost impossible to punish him because he will just sit in timeout and grip about his rotten brother and forget that he was the one who stole his brother's treats.