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Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Aspergers and negative reactions

A short (and not that sweet) entry this week but am sure that many of you will relate...
Sometimes (often) it's the little but constant things that are the most annoying and disheartening to deal with.
Yesterday, over dinner, I was telling Ethan about the activities that Ava was going to be doing on her school residential in a couple of weeks. The conversation went something like this:
Me (cheerily): The itinerary sounds really full on. They get them up at 7am, activities start at 8.30am and go right through until 9pm at night. They're doing abseiling, canoeing, raft-making, climbing, caving, obstacle courses, team-building...
Ethan (disdainfully): I hope they've got some good supervision.
And that was the end of that conversation. It was so irritating that, out of all the ways he could have responded -said how good it sounded, what a great time she'd have, even just an 'oh wow' - that he said something negative and scathing. It's like his mind is auto-set to respond in the most negative way possible to every piece of  information. I understood his point - they would need good supervision with that many kids doing those kinds of activities and it was a valid concern. But maybe mention that after you've said how good it sounds or, if you're going to take that as your initial approach, say it in a half-jokey 'wow, it's gonna be crazy' kind of a way. There was none of that with Ethan, just negativity. And the effect on me was instant deflation.

I finished my food, popped my plate in the dishwasher and went upstairs to put the kids to bed, feeling weary. 

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Aspergers and how to lace a trainer!

Loved what someone wrote on the Different-together Facebookpage recently about rising above our present circumstances and learning, sometimes slowly and painfully, to let things go...

I loved it because, through experience, I've found it to be the best way. Most of the time my AS husband doesn't mean things the way they come out - he uses the wrong words and the wrong tone of voice and the wrong facial expression (if he uses one at all). All these things combine to produce the overall effect of him seeming irritated, angry, miserable - or all three. The times that I have been able to stay calm, not take offence and gently point out how he's coming across, he's been genuinely surprised and sorry. The problem is that I am human. And NT. And sometimes, whatever my logical side tells me, my emotional side, which feels hurt and cross and fed up, wins out. So too often, the way that I know I should respond isn't the way that I do respond: rather than point out gently, I lash out angrily. This makes Ethan defensive and cross (because, after all, in his mind he was just communicating information and I, as usual, have gone all intense and completely flown off the handle about nothing). Arguments, tension and resentment follow...

...take the incident of the trainers.

We were running late (as usual). I asked Ethan to help the kids get their shoes on. Sam had a pair of new, never-before-worn trainers that he desperately wanted to wear. A couple of seconds later, Ethan's dulcet tone range out down the hallway...

                "Who's threaded these laces?" he shouted aggressively (to my ears). "They're done completely wrong." He followed this angry statement with an exaggerated sigh.
I stomped down the hallway. I was instantly irritated:
a) that Ethan was shouting at me about the laces on Sam's trainers rather than just sorting them out (as I would have done).
b) that Ethan was claiming that the laces were threaded 'wrong' when actually they were just threaded differently to how he would have done it.
c) that Ethan was looking for someone to blame and shout at because he was frustrated (the fact that he was overly frustrated over such a tiny thing annoyed me too).

I didn't process my thoughts so clearly at the time. I just felt generally fed-up and annoyed with him. So I didn't do what I should have done. I shouted back at Ethan, told him how annoying and unpleasant he was, how difficult to live with. I grabbed the trainer out of his hands and started re-lacing them myself. While I was doing this, I told him, angrily, that this was the way kids had their laces threaded these days, that they'd come from the shop like this, that they weren't 'wrong' just not the way he would have them, etc, etc. He shouted back, telling me to stop patronising him, that the shoes were actually threaded wrong because he couldn't pull them tight, that I always had to take over, etc, etc. Exasperated, I shouted that if he didn't want me to 'take over' then he should have sorted it quietly by himself in the first place instead of shouting at everyone else about it. He shouted get the idea!

In the middle of all this, Ava shouted at both of us to stop arguing. She told us that we were behaving like kids arguing over how a trainer was laced up and that IT DIDN'T MATTER!! She laboured the point a bit and, at the time, infuriated us both more. But she was completely right. More importantly, she was showing us how much the kids hate it when we fight.

Later on, when I'd calmed down, I apologised to Ethan (although I couldn't resist pointing out that he was at fault too!) We both recognised that we'd handled the situation badly and he explained that he didn't mean to sound like he was angry. And I was reminded how right that lady was when she wrote about letting things go.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Living with an NT can be really hard work!

There are times - the whole of yesterday being one of them - when I realise that, in equal measure (perhaps more so) Ethan could be writing a blog about how hard it is to live with me!

Yesterday we had a family day out. I spent most of the day jabbing verbally at Ethan. On the car journey there I had a go at him for getting overly irritated with a bad driver - hooting his horn and gesticulating rudely (one of the few times he does employ body language!). When we were there I had a go at him for being 'selfish' for not being willing to go in the haunted house with Sam for a second time (it was a bit - the point wasn't really whether he wanted to or not but the fact that Sam wanted him to, a point that seemed lost on him). When he gave the cone bit of his ice-cream to Oliver I told him he was lazy for not taking it to the bin. And when he got concerned about where Ava was, I criticised him for fussing.

I may have had a point on some of these things (his attitude towards other drivers over tiny things when he himself drives with absolutely no courtesy for anyone else at all really makes me mad) but, over the course of the day, I had done many things that could have warranted criticism or being called selfish. I'd been bossy and controlling, I'd been irritable, I'd stressed over things that didn't really matter. Through all of it, Ethan kept quiet.

Right at the end of the day, Oliver wanted his long-sleeved top on to go on a twisty, turny 'hang on for dear life' kind of a ride with me. On searching for the top, we realised that Ethan had taken it back to the car already. I had a go at Ethan (of course) and then looked for the car keys. I couldn't find them and blamed Ethan for losing them, stating that he had gone to the car last. I was convinced he had and proceeded to tell him, step-by-step, why I was right. He was convinced that I was the last one to have the keys and tried to explain to me calmly but firmly why he was right. I very quickly got really annoyed and louder and angrier, the kids backed away, other people at the place stared at us. I just went on and on about why I was right and why he was so annoying. I was horrible.

In the end, he walked away (we'd found the keys), went to the car and got the top for Oliver. When he got back, Oliver excitedly grabbed the top and pulled eagerly at my arm, pleading with me to come on the ride. Ignoring him, I picked up where I'd left off and continued ranting at Ethan about how wrong and annoying and infuriating he was. He told me how horrible I was to spend time with and Oliver gave up and went on the twisty, turny thing by himself. Ethan walked away. Seething, I cornered Oliver on the ride and asked him whether he'd  gone to the car with daddy before or after the ice-cream (this was the crucial point in the argument about whether Ethan or I had gone to the car last). "We had an ice-cream after we came back from the car, mummy," said Oliver simply and innocently. Just the facts. And, in that instant, I realised that he - and Ethan - were right. I'd been the last one to go to the car. Which meant that, the whole time I'd been shouting at Ethan about him being wrong and unwilling to accept what I was saying,  I'd been wrong and unwilling to accept what Ethan was saying.

I said sorry and Ethan was nice. He didn't give me a hard time or dwell on it or repeatedly bring it up. He accepted my apology and we moved on. That was it.

I can't help but think, if the boot was on the other foot, I'd be writing a blog entry about him right now - about how awful and impossible it is to live with a husband with Aspergers, how thoughtlessly he behaves in front of the kids and how long-suffering I am.

Some of the posts on the different-together facebook page lately are about Aspies being 'right' and I do recognise these traits in Ethan. The difference between him and me is that generally, he only insists he's right about something when he knows he is (so they tend to be practical or scientific issues) and he explains calmly (and persistently) why. I, on the other hand, insist I'm right often and impulsively (when quite often I'm not) and go about it passionately, emotionally and intensely. 
We're not always the easier breed to live with!

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Aspergers and learning on the job

Well, we went as a shiny, happy, sociable couple to the wedding reception! 

Ethan was making a concerted effort after the near-divorce proceedings that had arisen in the build up to it (see my earlier post) and we had a really lovely time!

I also, it has to be said, was making a concerted effort to be sensitive to Ethan's needs while we were there. When we first arrived there were quite a few single sex groups of people we knew a little bit that ordinarily I would have zoomed right in on and joined the conversation, leaving Ethan floundering. This time, knowing that Ethan would find this group chat overwhelming, I held back. We 'warmed up' in the little seating area next to the main bar where the music was quieter and chatted amicably one-on-one (which is really the only kind of chatting Ethan can comfortably do) with the other people who were hiding out there!

After a while, seeing that Ethan was safely enjoying a conversation with one other man, I went and had a dance. Ethan was able to legitimately excuse himself at regular intervals to go to the bar (I've never been so well attended to!) or the buffet table (proper man-size sausage and bacon butties!) meaning that he had short but regular 'breathers' from conversation.

After a while, when we'd both had a couple of drinks (and sausage sarnies) and were feeling relaxed and people had dispersed a bit either to the bar or to dance or to sit at tables, it was easier for Ethan to chat to one or two people at a time - and he did. I didn't even have to be around. Allowing me to catch up with my friends and to dance  - with all the gay abandon that comes from three glasses of wine!

The fact that he was feeling relaxed and comfortable and was chatting easily with people boosted Ethan's confidence which, in turn, made him more sociable which made him more confident. It also helped that he had something specific to talk about that he was interested in and that was interesting for other people (blokes at least). Yes, you've guessed it, (that bloody car) that I ranted about in an earlier blog has come into its own in more ways than one!

We came home and didn't argue. There was no awful feeling of dissatisfaction or embarrassment or frustration or of not fitting in for either of us. And we fell asleep cuddling (a bit too much wine for anything else!)

The night really was an on-the-job tutorial for how to get the best from a night out with an AS partner. And all it took from me was a bit of patience, a bit of understanding and, until Ethan was ready to wade in, a bit of holding back.