Thursday, December 26, 2013
Asperger's and marriage - the honeymoon period
If you're reading this, odds are great you're married to an Aspie and are trying to figure out just what the hell is going on in what was once a great marriage? Well, you married an Aspie, that's what the hell is wrong.
People with Asperger's don't do marriage very well. I read somewhere on the internet (I really gotta start bookmarking this stuff) the longest most Aspies can hold out with "the facade" is about two years. All the times my STBE were in counseling I'd said often, the first two years of our marriage were great! He was attentive, he brought me home little gifts, he shared equally in the housework, he was easy to talk to, we solved problems together and I felt loved and a part of his life.
But then our son was born, prematurely I might add, following a not difficult but not easy pregnancy. I was starting to see signs of "something" being not quite right, but I was young and in love and let them wash over me. However, it was after the birth of our son things went south. More on that later...
One of the "signs" things weren't quite right in our marriage was one of the earlier times his kids from his first marriage came for the weekend. At the time, I worked from 6:30 AM until 2:30 PM as a CSR for a major camping club company. I was home every afternoon by 3:00 and would jump into the whole "wife and mother" thing. I also loved cooking and was always trying something new (I collect cookbooks) for dinner. This particular day, I made a dinner salad that was slightly labor intensive - bacon, vinaigrette dressing, smoked turkey, three different kinds of lettuce, toasted almonds, sliced strawberries, and a few more ingredients I can't recall. I called everyone to dinner, set the salad bowl in the middle of the table and went to get everyone's drinks, calling out as I walked into the kitchen, "What does everyone want to drink?" When I came back with said drinks, the salad bowl was empty and all three of their plates were filled, except for mine, which was completely empty. I stood there, gobsmacked that I wasn't served, too. I quietly set down everyone's drinks, went back into the kitchen, made myself a sandwich (FUMING) and went into the living room to eat my sandwich while they enjoyed this dinner salad I'd obviously made for only them. My STBE finally (FINALLY) noticed I wasn't at the table with them (and it only took him several minutes, I'd already finished my sandwich and glass of milk), noticed what he'd done and told the kids, "When you've finished eating what you want of your salad, give the rest to Nancy so she can have some."
Trouble in paradise? He never apologized for doing that, only gave me the explanation (One that meant it wasn't his fault), "I guess I'm just used to serving just them". Really? We'd already been married for a couple of months and you'd only been divorced about a month when I met you so how was it a habit was formed so quickly? I never bought that as an explanation and it still bugs me I didn't walk out right then.
I have 21 years of stuff like that, where I was the afterthought by both him AND his family. Christmas gifts sent by his family that were addressed to just him and our son. Same deal with Christmas cards. For 21 years I was a stepmother to his kids and when they were told I'd filed for divorce, it's as though I never existed. Gone *poof* (looks like they might have gotten some of their dad's aspie-ness?)
Also, Aspies prefer their solitude. The strain of interacting socially with anyone, including their spouse at home, is just too stressful. There's no small talk. No discussions of current affairs. No "How was your day, honey?" Nothing. They just want to crawl into their hole, put some earbuds in and watch television, movies or videos online. BUT - and this is the strange part - they want you there sitting right next to them. Yes, they're ignoring you, but get up and leave the room to do something else and their feelings are hurt, left, right and center.
Another aspect of the AS/NT marriage is, you're probably a social person with lots of friends; or at least you used to be. Now, all you see in front of you is a life of solitude and being ignored by your Aspie. The problem with Aspies is, they really DO want friends, they're just not very good at the whole "friend thing". They can go hours, days, weeks, months and not talk to anyone outside of work. There's no parties, no dinner invitations, no celebrations of friend's weddings, nothing. Aspies prefer to stay home. Period. The thought of going out into a social situation terrifies and paralyzes them. But they'll never tell you that. They'll simply wait until the day of the event, generally only two or three hours before you're supposed to leave, and they'll pick a fight. It could be something completely inconsequential (and it usually is) or something major, but the bottom line is, whatever "it" is, it's your fault. You'll take a long, long time finally connecting the dots and when you approach your Aspie with this observation, whether it's as a loving or exasperated spouse is irrelevant, the response will be the same - they deny it and throw a raging fit. YOU want to help them, THEY want to refuse to acknowledge they have any problems at all, that it's YOU with the problem.
An extension of this whole "I don't need friends" thing is, they don't need YOU as a friend either so there's no "friendship" in the marriage. After a long enough period of time, you start to notice this. Something else you notice is: you're a maid, a cook, a sex partner (maybe...), a taxi service to the kids and basically a "Guy/Gal Friday" (Aspies are generally male, roughly 4 to 1 - Did you see that? I found a link to the information!) but you're not a wife/husband. You've become an accessory to the Aspie, someone for them to take out and play with when the mood strikes, when they're feeling "less Aspie". Any marital interaction, on any level, is always on their terms, never yours.
There's also no problem resolution in an AS/NT marriage. Aspies don't like "conflict". But "conflict" is overstating it a bit. I'd go to my STBE, calm as a pond on a windless day, and say, "Honey, I feel we should discuss _________." He would go into panic mode, start suffering from anxiety and want out of the discussion immediately and the pacing would start. To many Aspies, any discussion regarding the marriage is "confrontation" and/or "conflict" and they avoid it at all costs. At one of our many, many counselors, he told the therapist this made him anxious (and threw in just how "confrontational" I am/was, for good measure). The therapist then told us what we needed to do when we felt ourselves getting anxious or stressed; we could call a time-out.
The reasoning was, the person calling time-out was feeling stressed and wanted some time to settle down. The rule was, whomever called the time-out had to be the one to bring the discussion back up, once they'd settled down. My STBE, though, was usually the one to call the time-out, he just wouldn't bring up the discussion again. This went on for about a month before I figured out what he was doing. He was manipulating the situation to suit his need to never discuss marital problems. When I pointed out to the therapist he was doing this, the therapist put him on a time limit to end the time-out, 24 hours. It was at this point he decided we no longer needed counseling. For my STBE, any discussion outside of his interests was "confrontation" and he ran from it like a raging lion was on his tail.
I should mention, this particular counselor was someone we started seeing in year two of our marriage, not long before our youngest was born. If I had to guess, it would be the strain of knowing a baby was coming soon got to be too much for him.
I seem to have gotten off on a tangent, of sorts, and I'm sorry for that, but the bottom line is - Aspies do dating and the first year or two of marriage really well. After that, well, it's all downhill.
In this divorce, I've been visiting some websites that lend support to NTs divorcing their Aspies (because we NEED IT!) and some of them express guilt over leaving their Aspie and moving on. See, the powers that be in the Aspie therapy world tell us, "They can't help it" or "It's an illness, just like any other" and "Would you leave if he had cancer, or heart disease?" It's all about making sure the Aspie/Narcissist gets further validation it's not them but the rest of the world that is at fault. There's no accountability, no consequences for their actions and no making them responsible for their behavior. No, no, sweet abusive baby, let US take care of YOU! You just go on being the BEST abuser you can be! I'LL be the one to learn how better to put up with it!
However, if my STBE had heart disease or cancer, he'd see a doctor and do whatever it took to get better. This past July, my STBE had a "cardiac event" of some sort and spent four days in the hospital because of it. (I found not too long ago he's had this "cardiac thing" since around 1997 but never told anyone. Why did he keep it a secret for so long? Why didn't he tell ME?) Why is it because it's Asperger's he refuses help? Because the very nature of Asperger's means they don't see it's they with the problem, but the rest of the world. Narcissism and Asperger's look a great deal alike so make sure you see a licensed psychiatrist/counselor to help you figure out which one it is. And if you can get this person to even go SEE a specialist, make sure it's someone who's got experience in these severe disorders. Aspies believe the rest of the world really should just leave them to be the person they are and to adjust to them, not the other way around.
When his heart started giving him problems that day in July, it took me HOURS to convince him to go the ER, which is a dance we do every single time there seems to be something seriously wrong with him. It will go on for hours and usually ends once I get to the part where I'm telling him just how important he is to the world and taking care of himself is taking care of the rest of us, that we need him to the nth degree. It became exhausting, really. I'd finally gotten to the point where I wouldn't play the game. Whenever he started in with his, "I'm sick" stuff, I'd tell him he should go the doctor, he'd start in with, "Noooooo, I'm fiiiiiiiiiine". I started responding with, "Okay. See you later."
He called this abuse and started joining boards online and telling people, "I'm an abused spouse". I call it being an Aspie with malignant narcissism. But that's a post for another day.