I've seen tons of threads on here from people with partners with AS, looking for advice - usually along the lines of not getting anything back from their partner and wanting to know if it's because he/she doesn't give a damn, or because the AS gets in the way.
I couldn't find anything the other way around though, and the Aspie feels like they don;t get anything back from their partner. I will be the first to admit that I often have no idea what to do if my partner gets all emotional about something. Mostly this takes the form of depression or just a big old fashioned sulk. I have tried to say/do something to cheer him up when he gets like this in the past but it doesn't seem to help so have stopped trying. Mostly he looks like he actually likes wallowing in it.
I think he thinks "we support each other", whereas I think we drag each other down. Any time I am not good, if I try to say something it generally seems to start a round of what I think of as competitive misery, so if I mention that life is grinding me down, I will get a 15 minute dissertation on why his life is worse than mine. I think I have had sympathy once, quite recently.
Fact is, I do often feel ground down. I am the main wage earner and I sometimes (well, often) feel like I am slowly killing myself just to get by. Especially at this time of year, mental health is pretty much at rock bottom. He has never once asked me how my day was, although will happily give me a blow by blow account of all the things that annoyed him as soon as I walk through the door at the end of a 13 hour day. I get no help whatsoever around the house. When I told him straight "I need help, I can't do all this on my own" it had no effect. He just ignored me and carried on as before.
I have been married twice and with my current partner for 5 years. All three of them it has felt like they don't give a stuff most of the time. Either they don't notice when I am struggling, or they notice but pretend not to because otherwise they might have to do something about it (like pull their weight occasionally). I will admit that I am not the most "in touch with my emotions" sort of person and I don't spend my whole life telling other people how I feel. I don't like overwhelming emotions, they make me uncomfortable. I am starting to wonder whether I should have stayed single. I left my second husband because I could not see what I was getting out of the relationship, apart from a ton of extra work and responsibility. Part of the problem is that everyone (family included) thinks I am "so capable" when inside I feel like I am going to end up burned out and irretrievably broken at any moment.
Has anyone managed to make this work? Anyone got any advice?
Hi Moggsy. I've never managed to make it work very well. I was married once, for five years, and for much of that time I was in a state of confusion. I knew I loved my wife - but I found it difficult to show my love in what would be regarded, perhaps, as the more 'usual' ways. Once we had settled into the relationship, I found it very difficult to respond to her touch, or to actually touch her myself. Physically, there was very little between us (though this wasn't helped by the fact that she was hugely self-conscious and was quite sexually inexperienced). At the end of it all, she must have felt that I'd simply ceased to love her and was emotionally cold towards her - when the fact was, I simply didn't know what to do to make it work. I even kept a diary detailing my frustrations and confusions about my feelings. I showed it to her afterwards, to try to prove to her that I hadn't stopped loving her and didn't know what was 'wrong' with me. I'm not sure how much of it she took on board because she didn't talk about it, and after we sold the house, she insisted on breaking all contact with me. Another factor for me, of course, was cohabitation. It was the first time in my adult life that I'd cohabited, and I simply felt psychologically displaced. I wrote a poem at the time, loosely based on something by William Carlos Williams:
I didn’t tell you
when you returned
and I said I’d missed you,
(which, in a certain way,
I didn’t tell you (it might
have upset you, or led you
to misunderstand - as often
you do) I didn’t say that
actually, while you were away,
those few brief hours, I sat alone
and thought of nothing except
how much I sometimes miss
This was, of course, all pre-diagnosis. When I finally got that diagnosis, 10 years later, I was in the middle of an 18-month relationship which was only the second time in my adult life that I'd cohabited. I'd not really wanted to cohabit, but there was little choice, because she came from France to join me and didn't have an income for a while. It was very difficult. I did everything, because she had BPD and said she found all domestic tasks and shopping to be 'exhausting'. She refused to do them. She was also extremely untidy, and I found it hard to cope. At the end of that, she said to me 'You never really got in touch with my feelings, did you? You never asked me how I felt' I thought I had shown it to her in the things I did for her. Clearly, I didn't. She also said to me, at the end, 'Don't you dare say that your behaviour was in response to my behaviour'... which, in many senses, it was! She wouldn't have it, though.
I'm sorry... this isn't really helping you, probably. I can't really give advice. All I know for myself is that, if I ever have another relationship (and it doesn't look likely now), I will never be able to cohabit. And it will need to be with someone who is very understanding. Probably ND themselves.
I don't know if you saw that article I posted, but there's an interesting section in there about couples who are mixed NT and ND. Here's the relevant section:
"Most of the participants talked about experiencing depression and presented their depression and AS as connected and interlinked. Some people talked about knowing that emotional intimacy was an integral part of ‘normal’ life but said they found it too uncomfortable to cope with.
In many ways I sort of wanted to have a relationship because that is what really you are supposed to do. That is what normal people do but being in that situation was just something I felt so uncomfortable I didn't want to have that sort of level of intimacy, you know, I do not want to share every detailed aspect of my life… I mean sharing sort of, you know, entirely every aspect of your life with somebody. I am not sure I could ever be truly comfortable with that. You know, like sharing a room with somebody. My God that would drive me nuts, you know, it would not be happening. (Robert, aged 27)
Again, this extract highlights the tension between being aware of what people are ‘supposed to do’ but not being able to do that. Participants demonstrated a high level of awareness of the appropriate social code and the weight of its expectation. Robert talked about having casual sexual encounters and he had a few relationships in the past but had come to realise that he would not be able to share his life with someone in the expected social form.9 Those participants in long-term relationships (with neuro-typical people) talked about the difficulties within their relationships because of their emotional detachment from their partners.
. . . . .
Trying to fit in had emotional and spatial dimensions. Some people learned by watching other people and developing ‘tricks and ploys’ to facilitate their participation in social life. A few participants talked about forcing themselves to endure social situations they knew they would dislike, such as going to gigs or staying in the halls of residence at university, because they wanted to learn to overcome these difficulties and ease social interactions. A couple of participants described reading books about body language or self-help skills to learn how to interact ‘normally’. This process again was about learning a surface level of fitting in; it was not internalised or lived but learnt. A married participant, for example, talked about trying to develop his emotional communication to improve his relationship with his wife;
The problem with emotional communication is in both directions or all directions. I can't read my wife's emotions, except on a very broad brush; happy, angry. I would have difficulty putting in the finesse of ways. And the same thing applies to my own. I don't communicate my own emotions usually because my emotions don't communicate themselves to my mind. I know I have got emotions but I don't explain them. (Richard, aged 58)
He returned to this theme later in the interview and the following extract includes his wife's comments;
Sue: Yes, I mean on a number of occasions we tried various forms of counselling which hadn't really had any effect at all because the general aim of most sort of relationship counselling is to try to get both sides to appreciate the other person's point of view and that is something that Richard just couldn't do. He couldn't put himself into my shoes and see anything from my point of view.
Richard: I remember, the counsellor was saying, “You should take more account of your wife's feelings.” But even then I think I knew the problem was that I didn't know what her feelings were and that was why I wasn't taking account of them, so it wasn't helping. They were telling me to do something that I knew I wanted to do but I couldn't. (Richard, aged 58 and Sue, aged 56)
Again this extract highlights the way in which the participant knew what the problem was but did not have the appropriate symbolic capacity to resolve it. He was not able to put himself in the shoes of his partner to have some idea of how she felt. The foundation of most therapy/counseling logic is the question “tell me how you feel” and this question is overwhelming and impossible to tackle for people with AS.
Furthermore, the inability to reach the stage of taken for grantedness meant that interactions remained conscious activity – ‘conscious work’ as Richard called it – a process that had limitations and was tiring, draining and constant."
I think the problem with "tell me how you feel" is that I find that pretty uncomfortable too, and my experience is that when I do grit my teeth and do it, it has no effect whatsoever. So a degree of pain for zero gain. I too think that if my current relationship floundered, I would call it a day, and just go back to being happy with my own company.
I have a natural tendency (probably conditioned in me from a lifetime of my 'difference' being seen as a 'deficit') to always be reflexive: to always take the blame for the collapse or destruction of any relationship. I say to myself now - because I'm hard on myself - that I wouldn't want to inflict myself on anyone else.
If I'm honest with myself, I probably got into some relationships because having a relationship is what you're supposed to do. Even before I was diagnosed, I realised that this was a problem. When I was younger, men were also my "special interest" for a while!
I think it's one of the few things I feel bad about related to AS. I had relationships with people for no better reason than it seemed like a reasonable idea at the time. I was like a dog chasing cars .... great fun chasing them, not sure what to do with it if it actually catches one (and can't drive either!). I probably (almost certainly) hurt some people who didn't deserve it in the process, just because I had no awareness of what I was doing or why at the time.
Hey mirror! I must be your doppleganger!
I think we all feel that social pressure. As a teen, and even up into my 20s, I was looking around me and seeing everyone else with boyfriends or girlfriends. It was the 'expected thing'. Survival of the species, and all that! And I was awfully self-conscious of the fact that I could never seem to attract a partner. I was worried in case other people thought there was something wrong with me. On top of that, of course, was the natural desire for sex at that age! But I don't think I ever wanted a proper relationship. The problem was, when I did meet someone, my emotions went haywire. The 'romantic' early phase was always a complete overload for me. I couldn't eat, sleep or function properly if the person wasn't there. I've carried that with me throughout my life. It's partly why I also steer clear now of romantic involvements - because of the chaos it can cause in my head.
hee hee ..... thanks .... I think!
So have you found any answers to this vexing question?
Yup, I can totally identify with that. The rollercoaster of emotions involved is exhausting. I am more of a "maintaining and even strain" sort of a person most of the time.
Reject relationships and stay single!
Any time I am not good, if I try to say something it generally seems to start a round of what I think of as competitive misery, so if I mention that life is grinding me down, I will get a 15 minute dissertation on why his life is worse than mine. I think I have had sympathy once, quite recently.
Fact is, I do often feel ground down. I am the main wage earner and I sometimes (well, often) feel like I am slowly killing myself just to get by. Especially at this time of year, mental health is pretty much at rock bottom. He has never once asked me how my day was, although will happily give me a blow by blow account of all the things that annoyed him as soon as I walk through the door
Like you, also the sole earner, plus domestic goddess, carer to partner and I'm also a mum. No interest in understanding autism (my GP referred me in the summer) and thinks it can be cured by a pill. Have also just self-referred for MH support. Partner aware of this but unless it impacts his quality of life directly... no need to show any interest.
In the majority of cases relationships have caused me more harm than good :( I've got to the point now where I dont have the emotional resilience to keep one going.... and I suck at them anyhow!