Hi all, just looking for a bit of advice. I have a 13 year old son who has been diagnosed with ASD, on the high end of scale. He has a serious problem with anxiety and finding life at school difficult, it’s a long day when you are trying to mask your fears/anxieties. He comes home exhausted! Anyway his problems don’t end there, when he gets home he has to deal with another issue, his Dad - His Dad is at the moment in the process of being diagnosed with ASD. The relationship has got so bad He can’t stand being in the same room as his Dad. I told me his Dad makes him feel very anxious. I’ve tried to encourage my son to talk to his Dad but he says ‘there is no point as he won’t listen...’ I feel stuck in the middle. I can totally understand how my son feels as my husband has never really had much to do with him, only to reprimand or instruct. If they are in close proximity with each other it’s not long before my husband is barking out instructions of what my son should or shouldn’t be doing. It’s awful watching this relationship getting further and further apart as my son becomes more aware of the relationship other fathers have with their children. Should I say something to my husband?
I really feel for you. It must be painful to feel ‘stuck in the middle’ in this way.
As a mum, I kind of think it is part of our role to enable our children’s voices to be heard and to support them, and encourage them, to understand that their point of view is valid and important and that they have a say in their own lives and in their relationships with others, especially how they want to be treated by other people.
In this respect, I think, if I were in your position, I would talk to dad. And in doing so I would try to put your sons’ feelings and needs across to him in a way which does not feel threatening or blaming, but is emphasised, none the less, that your sons’ views, needs and opinions, are just as important and valid as your husbands.
With so much going on right now, with your sons’ diagnosis and your husbands pending one, it would be totally understandable if tensions and fears were running high all round right now.
And I think it can be very common too, when kids become teenagers, for relationships to become strained as the ‘way forward’ becomes more complex now they are no longer simply (largely) ‘abiding children,’ but instead they are developing their own differences and distinct (sometimes clashing) personalities.
Do you think, if you were to talk to him, that your husband would be open to listening to you and changing and/or acknowledging your sons’ needs and opinions as different to his own? How do you imagine he might react if you did sit down and talk this through with him?
I have personal experience of this, so I’ll share a little of my experience with you.
I grew up never being alone in the same room as my dad, ever. I think I was 16, after I’d been left home a while, that I was in a room with him for the first time by myself.
I love my dad and honestly, he has done so much for me, as a child and an adult. He still supports me. None of us knew at the time that I was autistic but I was most definitely not like the other kids.
Like all my autism traits, the anxiety that I felt when around my dad was somehow simply accepted. My family was never really big into talking about things like that, it was simply accepted.
I’m so grateful I was never pushed in to being in the same room as him or being pushed to talk to him because over the years our relationship has grown into one of mutual love and respect. I still can’t tell him I love him or allow and physical contact between us, but that’s the same with my Mum and most other people anyway, that’s just me. But I think we both know how much we love and respect each other.
I’m also aware that Tony Attwood had a difficult relationship with his son who grew up with undiagnosed autism. They enjoy a very loving and supportive and friendly relationship now. I wouldn’t describe my relationship with my dad like that but a lot of that is because of how I communicate with people.
My suggestion would be to maybe develop a system where they don’t have to have too much interaction. They’re both going through big changes. And I would then suggest, for you to look after you. These things have a way of working themselves out if we allow them. Some relationships take longer to develop and today, I couldn’t love my dad any more if I tried.
It sounds very much like his dad is like my biological father who just barked orders occasionally or shouted at me for no apparent reason (on reflection I believe these were 'melt downs'). He didn't show any love or affection and due to this as an adult, I would never call him dad. He and my mother separated in 2008 and I haven't spoken a word to him since. I'm really glad we don't have a relationship and don't feel like I'm loosing out on having a 'dad' as I know its something he's not capable of having that relationship - I believe my ASD in inherited from him.
If I was in your situation I'd let your husband know, then if he wants to try and repair the relationship he can. If he doesn't then your son will be able to have his alone time without any guilt.
Thank you for such a supportive and insightful reply. Motherhood can be a lonely path sometimes.
I agree, it is our role as a parent to enable our child’s voice to be heard and understood, but it is very difficult speaking to my husband, he either doesn’t want to hear, dismisses it and becomes defensive or worse, self-depreciating, accusing me of making him feel guilty for being a ‘rubbish father’. It’s just hopeless. I know it’s unhelpful to assume the response will always be the same but I guess I’ve become scared of making matters worse. So I’ve remained quiet hoping things will get better and tried to encourage and empower my son to speak to his Dad - which he has only ever tried to do in anger or frustration. He said he can’t and doesn’t wants to as he feels his Dad is a stranger. This is why I thought maybe I should try again. But there never seems to be the right moment to broach the subject. It’s just so sad. My son should feel happy at home and feel free but instead I can see he worries constantly about the reprimanded.
Maybe I should take solace in what BlueRay so beautiful articulated - Some realationships take longer to develop and today I couldn’t love my Dad any more if I tried.
Thank you all for being so kind, you honestly don’t know how much you have helped.
My dearest SMM,
I can hear just how lonely you are feeling with all this right now. And it is not ‘unhelpful for you to assume the worst’ at all but instead it seems, to me, that you have a lot of experience of your husband’s reactions to things and therefore you are simply sharing your realistic idea and experiences of how he will likely react.
Please forgive me if I speak out of turn, however, what is making me feel really sad right now is that, from what you have posted, it sounds as your husband not only dismisses yours sons opinions and needs, but that he also dismisses yours too (by making you feel guilty or wrong) whenever you try to talk to him about important things too?
Is this correct?
Thank you for your kind words.
No, I don't think you are talking out of turn and I appreciate your honesty. I agree, my husband doesn't really have much time for other people, especially if they are making any demands upon him. I find my self walking on egg shells so as not to make matters worse but worry that this is not helping my son.
Do you have many friends or relatives, people you are close to and who you can share your worries with? I ask as it sounds to me as if what could really help you right now is to have people on your side that could give you some support and build up your confidence? So you feel braver when talking to your husband.
Having a child on the spectrum can be a very lonely and frightening life, and I think it can make us feel far more vulnerable as mums (as parents, and also as people too) and this vulnerability can perhaps lead us to be more inclined to ‘accept the unacceptable’ simply because we are too afraid or exhausted and therefore may not feel able to make changes (or challenge people) or make any 'ripples' in any way which we fear (or believe) may make our own lives any more difficult than they already are?
However, it’s not really okay for your husband to make you feel scared of ‘rocking the boat’ or ‘making things worse,’ or feel guilty whenever you are simply trying to share your valid concerns with him. And although he may try to make you feel guilty or to blame, I would try my very hardest not to be ‘hooked’ by this if you can.
I think, sometimes, people may try to make us feel guilty as it is an excellent way of making us shut up, not speak our truth, or make us self-doubt ourselves. Which is not really okay, and if used manipulatively, it is a kind of bullying really. And although your husband is on the spectrum, this is not a good enough reason for him to bully his family, however ‘indirectly’ or ‘unaware’ of doing so he may be.
A quote keeps coming to my mind although I don’t remember who wrote it but it goes something like… ‘we should not have to rip ourselves to pieces in order for other people to feel whole.’ And by this I think I mean; you and your son should not really have to walk on egg shells in order for your husband to continue to believe he is being a good father or a good husband, if he isn’t.
And being a good dad and a good husband are his roles, his responsibility, not yours. It sounds as if he (and your son) are very lucky to have such a lovely, kind and supportive person as you in their lives; however, I think that your husband needs to begin to take personal responsibility for the effects his behaviours and his attitudes are having on you and your family’s wellbeing.
Do you think he would ever consider attending family or couple therapy?
AngelDust you are so kind.
Thank you for the quote it really resonated with me and got me thinking - in a more positive way :-)
No, I don’t think my husband would attend family or couple therapy. I truly think he believes it’s others that need the help. He’s not all bad, honestly, just finding It difficult to see the positive at the moment.
I don’t find talking to people about things like this very easy. Feels a bit like you are betraying their trust and influencing other peoples view. That’s why I throw open the issue on this forum, where there are others who understand ASD and how difficult it can be at times bring up an ASD child. I have been opening up a bit to my Mum recently. She just nods her head and says ‘sounds just like your Father...’ Thinking back (a long time ago now :-)) I never had a relationship with my Father, still don’t, I’ve not even had a ‘proper’ conversation with him. I used to look at my Mum when I was a child and wonder why and how she puts up with it. But she did and still does. I guess that’s what frightens me, it’s just like watching history repeat itself. Fingers crossed it won’t end the same way - our son needs as much support as he can get. He is already one of the most compassionate people I know. I’ve never understood why people say ASD people lack empathy, maybe sometimes they find it too overwhelming to act upon their feels but I’ve seen my son reach out and help a freind, who also suffers from anxiety, in such a gentle and caring way.
It’s been wonderful to unburden, thanks again, hope it’s not been a burden upon you.
Big hug back.
Reading your comments on here SMM, regarding what your mother said to you, about your husband being ‘just like your dad’ reminded me of me and my relationships with men and the book I read that brought more awareness around this for me and paved my way out of the misery and pain of it all.
I’ll put a couple of links down here. One explains the book, so you can get an idea if you would like to read it (if you’re at all interested ~ you might not be into reading, I don’t know) and the other link will be for a pdf copy of the book should you decide you’d like to read it.
I highly recommend it but mostly for people who like to take responsibility for the situations in their lives and not look outside of themselves for solutions or blame. It might not work so well (but I don’t know) for people who like to seek answers outside of themselves. None of these methods (looking in or out) are ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ both lead to the answers we need etc, it’s just that some people prefer one method over the other. I use both at different times.
Actually, the links I got for pdf’s take you to different sites. I checked several of them out and they all seem legit, so you can download it for free or you can buy it in a hard copy or on kindle, I got a kindle copy. You might not be interested at all but you will definitely find identification with the authors story and understanding.
Oh, and the book isn’t about ending relationships. It’s more about understanding yourself better so you can better navigate your relationships and bring more harmony and understanding to them as opposed to confusion and misunderstandings.