Did anyone else find the Chris Packham show (https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b09b1zbb/chris-packham-aspergers-and-me) worrying?
Had Chris chosen to be single, I would have applauded every aspect of this show and agreed wholeheartedly with his horror at the 'curative treatments' he witnessed in the USA / sentiment that his Aspergers was an intrinsic and positive part of his make-up.
But he isn't single, and I was horrified at how casually the show treated the dysfunction in his relationship with Charlotte.
He admitted to having difficulty in empathizing with other humans. The only feeling he expressed for Charlotte was gratitude that SHE loved HIM; he showed her no affection, avoided physical contact with her, said that he only knew how long they'd been together because she had told him (10 years), aggressively forced her to greet his dog before he otherwise acknowledged her after a significant period of time apart... for her part she acknowledged many difficulties in the relationship but the show presented her concluding that it was worth it because she so admired how his mind works. Was that just editing? Can it really be enough? Surely anyone can admire how his mind works, it doesn't mean that you have to be in an exclusive 'romantic' relationship / 'partnership' with that person to witness it.
I worry for her enormously, because I am only just now recovering from a "catastrophic" end to a relationship with a man on the Autism Spectrum. I wrote on this forum about it last year. The short version of it is that I supported him for years, and he ended our relationship a few hours after my Dad's traumatic death because HE found it too intense.
There was more too, but beyond the scope of this post. It's impossible to express the psychological impact these events have had on me, it was devastation upon devastation. That was about a year and a half ago. It has been a very tough time and although I'm starting to pull through now, my own mental health has been in the toilet for most of it.
What is a relationship for if not reciprocal intimacy and support? The show completely glossed over his really unpleasant attitude to humans in general, and Charlotte in particular. In addition, I'm concerned that the show may have given the impression that treating a partner with such disdain is acceptable. It's not.
I completely agree that Aspergers has unique potential to offer a whole other set of intellectual skills which are of enormous value to humanity, but it is my opinion that it is irresponsible for someone who does not have the capacity for human empathy to be involved in a romantic relationship.
That's quite a surprise, I've only watched the first 20something minutes because it should only be possible to watch it in UK and that was the longest clip I could find that would run here. I was convinced he lived there on his own with his dog. There seemed no space for anyone else really... I'm honestly surprised now to read that there is actually someone and can imagine that this would not be easy. Guess even if it wasn't mentioned or presented that way quite a few people will feel about it in a similar way as you do, even without the bad experience you have had. On the other hand being autistic doesn't necessarily mean to be unable to give love to someone else (sometimes perhaps even too much and in an too intense way). It also doesn't mean that people should stop themselves (or be stopped?) to get involved in a romantic relationship, I think. That's always going to happen, isn't it, can anyone be blamed for that? I agree that they could have been more honest, the way it seems to have been presented wasn't exactly advertising autistic people as good partners anyway.
Hope you recover from your experience. Perhaps in a way it doesn't matter so much why a relationship fails, when it does it usually hurts at least one enormously.
Given the available time, I thought the programme was excellent. My only criticism relates to scheduling: I would have liked the programme on BBC1 at prime time. Making that programme could not have been easy and I think Chris Packham should be applauded for helping to improve the understanding of autism and Asperger's in particular. I did not find his attitude to people unpleasant, but that is probably because I have a similar attitude. I much prefer animals to people. With regards to the relationship with Charlotte, we do not know if there were reasons (other than time constraints) for limiting the time given to that aspect of Chris Packham's life. The relationship seemed ideal to me. If Chris and Charlotte are happy or contented, or whatever word(s) you wish to use to describe a relationship that works for them (and they are not hurting anyone), then we should not criticise that relationship. People are different and a relationship means different things to different people.
He seems to connect with his partner in a way that feels comfortable to him....that feels safe and manageable....whether he feels any guilt or concern that it might not be ideal for her is another matter
I haven't seen the show, but what you say about his attitude to her rings bells with me - sadly. I am a little older that Chris. I've had a lifetime of failed relationships, and now choose to be single. The only way I could ever have a 'relationship' again is with the understanding that it would have to be 'living apart'. So, it would need to be with a very understanding and accepting person. Healthy relationships are built on compromise (something much harder for someone on the spectrum), so why should I force someone to accept my conditions for a relationship if it wasn't what she wanted? From what I gather, Chris and Charlotte both seem to be accepting of the arrangements. Many couple - ND or not - choose such relationships now. I have a friend who has sustained a successful relationship with his partner for nearly 20 years, and they live in separate houses, about half a mile apart. They love one another. But just looking at how each of them lives - her tidy and comfortable, him messy and cluttered - would be enough to guess how long it would last if they cohabited. I also know a number of cohabiting couples who, whilst loving one another, find cohabitation very difficult. It can put huge strains on a relationship.
As for the emotional side... I know how it feels to be in love - that is, romantic love. That, of course, is a whole lot different to the enduring love that's supposed to come when that's all settled down. And it's that side that I struggle with. In that sense, I don't think I know what 'true' love is at all. I don't think I can have that kind of feeling. Like Chris, my attachment to my pets is far stronger and more profound to any attachment I've ever had with a human being, aside from my parents. If anything happened to any of my animals, I'd be horribly distraught. I'm not even sure I'd know what to do. Maybe it's because that is an unconditional love. They depend on me, would never lie to me, would never cheat on me, and are always there when I want them - and vice-versa. They don't make any difficult demands on me. They're vulnerable - as I am and always have been throughout my life. That all sounds very selfish of me, doesn't it. But it works, for me and for them. And I'm not causing any other human being any grief with my demands and my behaviour. So perhaps it's the best way to be. Maybe it seems like a huge sacrifice - to live the rest of my life without a loving relationship with another human.
But, as I've said, I'm not really sure what that is anyway.
I am on my second marriage...i’m Self diagnosed aspergers....my OH the perceived normality....
i have made a pact with myself that this will be my last relationship....
ooo...I have a son too...
enforced hermitage and castration ?......
does that make the world a bit less scary for those normal folk if we are tucked away....less damaging for them....less stressful and complex for us...as the can’t reach us? .....I feel like a creature from a brothers Grimm tale....living in the woods and scaring any children passing by......
Please don’t think that this is a grumpy or antagonist reply.....it is certainly all food for thought!
My point is that I really don't think I know, after many years of trying, what 'love' is. What it is to feel love for another person. Enduring love, that is strong enough to withstand the difficulties. It's not an emotion I understand. My emotions generally usually exist in extremes. So, I can feel the hyper-reality, fireworks-in-the-sky, total brain-overthrow of romantic love. Or I can feel extreme dislike or aversion. There isn't much in-between. It's all very black-and-white. I really don't think it's fair to inflict that on another human being. I'm quite happy to accept my hermitage and psychological castration in order to maintain my emotional stability.
The other side of this is that people have told me they find me warm, easy to be with, companionable and friendly. And I think I am. I like people. But I feel much happier and more settled in myself if they're not around. I cultivate friendliness with people I like. But I don't make friends.
Interestingly, I was reading an essay about Kafka and his psychological state, and how it informed his fiction. It seems that people really liked him and found him an interesting, stimulating and engaging companion. He liked them in return. But he also didn't encourage close friendships, and might seem to the uninitiated emotionally cold. Some psychiatrists have proffered the idea that he had schizoid personality disorder. I'm pretty certain, though, that he was on the spectrum. And I find huge identification with him. To my way of thinking, there's far too much emphasis in society on 'disorders' when it comes to the workings of the human brain. Anything that isn't seen as being part of the norm is therefore a disorder. I prefer to think of myself as 'differently-ordered.' There's a world of difference between 'different' and 'wrong'.
Mara said:What is a relationship for if not reciprocal intimacy and support?
I hope you find that with a neurotypical.
Mara said:it is my opinion that it is irresponsible for someone who does not have the capacity for human empathy to be involved in a romantic relationship
Even neurotypicals end relationships at very bad and hurtful times causing devastation.
I think I'm a probably over empathic female but I find it hard to connect to my OH, I don't think it is all me. I was uncomfortable too at his obvious distancing, was that just editing?
The hardest bit to watch for me was his step-daughter having no grasp of why he wouldn't go to her graduation. I can completely understand why he would do that given a choice (private income and house), but can simultaneously feel her pain at being left alone in that situation. It felt to me that he had enough power and money to implement complete isolation/selfishness.
Most of us don't have that option and wouldn't want to hurt others that much (perhaps I mean females here, but I'm not sure). It hurts me to be hurtful, though sometimes I know I am. His girlfriend said in the Radio Times interview that they were working towards living together, I saw no sign of that from him and it made me sad for her.
I wish you all the very best strength with your recuperation from an obviously difficult relationship and time.
I watched this yesterday after reading about it in the forums.
I cut him and the programme makers some slack.
The title Aspergers and Me
The intention as he said was to show what it was like to be him.
it was very brave of him to do that and reveal how it is for him, leaving him open to criticism from everyone for a condition that have such effects on him.
He's opened the door for discussion and enlightenment at the risk of making himself look like an ogre and to be shot down in flames for it.
I thought it was unfair to pressure him to go to the graduation.
The programme was about Packham's Aspergers and clearly through the programme he has difficulty connecting and it seems that the dog was the conduit for the connection and greeting, maybe he was eager for that (love me, love my dog) rather than being aggressively demanding and dominating.
He's clearly had it with people, but not laboured the points of what and why, he's looking for peace and calm and luckily for him he has got a house in a remote location and is finding the control he needs for his peace and calm. Good for him. It's not possible for all Aspergers to do that, maybe not all Aspergers want that, but there is a point across that some need to have that remoteness even if they can only manage some down time in a peaceful room now and again - highlighted by his room with the blinds.
I don't have any sympathy for the two females, they've known him all those years and know the score with him, I could cynically wonder if he didn't have the fame and fortune if they would be around him now or if they'd have been gone long ago.
I would like to second Jedders' comments.
As I mentioned earlier, Chris Packham should be applauded for making the programme. Yes, he is more fortunate than most people with autism but that does not detract from the programme (particularly as he acknowledged that he is more fortunate than most).