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Roger N. Meyer "...of a different mind "
Puzzle Pieces Image


--And Don't Know That They Need Your Help Asking

Copyright 2001 Roger N. Meyer



     [This article is an edited version of my  response to a request for feedbacks by the NS partner of an AS spouse.  Married for a long time to the man, she is constantly flabbergasted at the inappropriateness of his choice for such things as gifts or even incidental items he thinks of giving her and others.  As his partner, she asks whether being blindsided and embarrassed like this is "a part of the picture."  She concludes her story of a particularly awkward situation with this sentence:  "This inability to 'talk' when necessary, to ask for help or advice seems to be a major cause of trouble - both on big issues, and small ones."]



     I think you "have it in a nut shell."


     These communication problems come with the territory, and the issue of judgment--of appropriateness of conduct and choices as well as susceptibility to the suggestions of others through an effort to please are the issues that present some of the constant challenges in the relationship and in child rearing.  In our partners group, a couple of the partners mention that their spouse's interests always take "first seat," and the biggest challenge appears not only how to join in with the spouse--there are ways to do that--but how to "bring the spouse out to my place and my space."


     That means judgment and decision forks in the road as far as child rearing, educational issues for the kids, things like meal planning and the other issues that form the basis of negotiation in a relationship.  Many of them have been forsaken, much as the shopping process remained "off the radar" in your marriage because of the very concerns you just shared.  I think the AS partner picks these misgivings up, and a combination of one spouse's misgivings, resentments, and "I don't go there any more" conclusions really closes off a lot of possibilities for communication.


     At the time those feelings run high, that isn't the time to consider addressing the issue because neither partner is "ready" for anything other than action/reaction.  But at later times, especially as the relationship "ages," there can be times when both of you agree to set the topic as one for "out of context exploration."  This means setting a time and place where the issue hasn't recently undergone a lot of heat with no light, but where there's agreement that because it's an area that hasn't been systematically explored in a dispassionate way, that setting a separate time and place just to discuss it might be valuable.


     The tricky thing is timing and also finding a way to keep the discussion "logical" rather than becoming so emotionally charged that you get back into the "I'm not going there" mode for both of you.  Liane Holliday-Willey makes frequent mention of this type of dynamic and how she and her husband work things out.  She also mentions that her kids have been helpful around these kinds of issues, because as the Mom with, Liane has been prompted by her husband and kids' behavior to look at these kinds of issues when the passion has cooled and it's possible to explore them without a heavy emotional charge coloring the discussion.


     Perhaps your taking on a limited chunk of the issue at any one time might be a helpful way for both of you to approach "being on the same page."   In most of these complex problems, there is a way to divide them into their separate components.  It's an exercise in inductive logic, but also in common sense.  By using the term "common sense" I don't mean to suggest that your husband will ever have any more of it than he now has, but knowing how limited his capability in this department is shouldn't prevent you from exercising it "at your end."  In fact, if you don't, and just sit on your embarrassment and resentment of always having to double-guess him and cover his mistakes, you're making your own part of the partnership far more challenging -- over time -- mainly because he'll then become totally dependent upon to come to his rescue.


     He is capable of learning -- we all are -- but at a pace perhaps matching that of molasses spilled down a gently sloping concrete driveway in the midst of winter.  Slow, perhaps, but steady.


     You no doubt can start to tease out the various components of your expectations and his, your differing values, differential sensitivities to the same issue, avoidance behaviors and thoughts, a list of actions/reactions, and the effect that these issues have on others in the family or the overall on your relationship with with your husband and your adult son [by another marriage] and start to look at them one by one.  Start with the absolute simplest and easiest ones first, and then for good measure, and to verify your progress, throw in an occasional toughie as you go along.  Perhaps having a third "neutral party" there to keep both of you focused and on track with the singular topic or part would help.  Also, the neutral person could help both of you keep your emotions in check -- or at least help you to track them -- because the charge that builds up over the global issue will want to sneak into the tiniest part and overwhelm you as you work through each element one by one.


     When you have worked out a dynamic of handling the teasing out of separate parts of a big issue--his assumptions, his agenda behind the repeated shopping feaux pas may become clearer to both of you.  If there are breakthroughs -- and there are likely to be some AHA! moments for each of you -- you might find it successively easier to look at other big issues by breaking them down into their components and deliberately devoting "work time" to their resolution.


     Even once resolved, it may be necessary for the cognitively higher functioning part to run the AS spouse through the same scenario numerous times before he can set his automatic pilot on the more efficient course that both of you have agreed seems to work better.  Keeping in mind that both of you have established an operating dynamic in your marriage that works well enough to keep you together after all these years, when you encounter glitches like this, they mean that both of you have bought into something that kind of works, but ends up in moments of utter frustration for you and equally utter confusion for him.


     The idea here is to gradually substitute a different kind of process of dealing with that one global issue that could then work with the other "biggies."


     Lots of work, but even in normie marriages, what keeps them thriving is work something akin to this.  It's just that in normie relationships both partners don't have to approach things with as much repetition and revisiting.  That couples consciously work on these issues is well known--whether it's a normie marriage or our kinds of arrangements.


     Whole book store sections are devoted to the techniques of marital and relationship problem solving, negotiation, and self-help.  Because of the special kind of logic that folks on the spectrum bring to these common problems, the work involved in getting through them--one never gets completely "past them"--is much more deliberate, out in the open, and "blatant."  But there's nothing wrong with being any of those things.  Because those of us on the spectrum ARE dense about the subtleties, it doesn't hurt to have the velvet hammer lying around on the living room coffee table where in other relationships it's probably in the glove compartment of the car or the night stand drawer.


     Just my thoughts on a Sunday morning.



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