My wife suggested, a while ago, that I pen an entry which delves into relationship. Part of the reason I have refrained from submitting additional posts is that it is much harder to describe the aspects of my interpersonal interactions in a way which is coherent or which does not mire myself down in my own displeasure associated with confessing my social ineptitude.
I very seldom shrink away from an intellectual challenge so here goes. I will have to admit that the subject matter is not my strongest field.
Let’s start with my crown jewel. I have been married for over ten years now. We met at church. We were both not interested to begin with. So what brings a college boy and a nurse together? We are polar opposite people in just about every fundamental archetypal fashion. She has emotional and social intelligence conveyed and received by some seemingly magical intuition. I need someone to explain to me why they are emoting some way and then I still don’t get it most times.
I tend to think, she tends to feel. I look for the logical, she looks for the practical. I think linearly, she thinks like popcorn. What she thinks is fun, I think is work. What I think is fun, she thinks is work.
Together we work.
I would like to analyze why relationships in my past never worked out until I met my wife.
By elementary school I had found my true love. We were going to live together the rest of our lives. We were going to have children and grow old together. This plan was perfectly logical. Suspected causes of breakup. Girls want to go places. Girls want friends around. Girls want a little drama. I decided that endeavor was ill fated from the start.
High school I dated once. I had turned down girls because I hated dances. The notion that you could go to a dance with a friend girl just seemed too foreign. I dated a girl. Screwed up that situation. See earlier reasons. Wished I could have stayed home anyways.
College girls were even more elusive. I asked a girl out once. It was after biology lab. She said she had a boyfriend. Maybe she did. How do you meet girls in college when all you ever want to do is go to class? Living at home with your parents is also a road block. Having no interest in anything relating to college life outside of academics is also a problem.
The problem with being autistic and forming relationships is that you have to find people who will tolerate your idiosyncrasies. There is a reciprocity of friendship that is hardwired in NTs that is missing in Aspies. This does not mean that we cannot form very strong friendships. We do not tend to form large groups of friends or spread our pool of friends to very wide or disparate areas of our lives. From my observations, NTs have an ability to act like they are best friends with large numbers of different people in whatever situation they encounter. They will also interact in what seems to me an overtly superficial and inflated exchange of expression and mannerisms. This is normal in human interaction but foreign to me. I tend to have one or two best friends in my life. If I were to increase the sample size of friends, I would feel as though I am being insincere.
While observing human behavior, I have always felt like I have come from another planet.
Male friendships have always been more difficult than female friendships. Females tend to nurture the baby giraffe-like tendencies of someone on the spectrum. NT males will treat each other abhorrently and like it. Finding friends associated with interests is helpful. Especially if you can interact in some type of shared interest or structured environment.
Both sexes are guilty of the most difficult of social communication: subtlety. Why do people not say what they mean? Reading between the lines doesn’t work for me. Most women, when they are interested in a man, will drop hints or flirt. They might as well not even try with ASD males.
When my wife and I first started to spend time together, it was not your typical dating. She invited me over and we would just talk. She understands me unlike anyone else. We both will be thinking the same thing at the same time. How this can happen is still a mystery. We both talk quite fast when we are excited about something and we can both follow each other during a conversation. We both love music.
One of the reasons my wife and I work so well together is because of how direct she is. She will tell you what she thinks and that is that. There is no guessing. She is very maternal. She is secure in how loyal I am. She displays her non-verbal emotions louder than anyone I have ever met. While we are very different people, we both share aligning core values. I have always felt like I was an octogenarian living inside of a younger body in the wrong time. We both tend to have a more conservative-common-sense-approach to living our lives.
She needs social outlets. She needs me to not talk about my interests all the time. She needs more physical contact than I do. I am either on or off. I am loving and playful or I am cerebrally engaged like an automaton. She requires a bucket of emotional interaction, I require a thimble. We have to make time for each other. We need to have our time in independent space.
I still struggle with social interactions. There are days when I would rather lock myself in a room or a shop building and not interact with anyone all day long. When I have to get up from my desk at work and go somewhere, I am hoping that I will not bump into anyone. This is not because I don’t like my coworkers. On the contrary, I am quite fond of them. I simply am sooo overwhelmed by the amount of energy that I consume interacting with people. Days like this I am overcome with anxiety.
I am often asked how it is that I do so well interacting with other people or how I do not appear to be on the spectrum. I have had to work very very hard my entire life to keep an appearance of being neurologically typical. People who have lived with me have seen the two very different sides of my personality. I have an all business side that has acquired expertise in many areas of knowledge and professional acumen. I have another side which reveals my AS tendencies. I am far more comfortable when I can let the Aspie out. The key has been striking that balance. Since I have internalized the knowledge of my condition, it has changed my life. I find that I can share who I am with the people around me in whatever situation I encounter. People are easier to interact with when they know you are on the spectrum. The really strange part is, I imagine it is in large part me who makes that interaction easier. I do not feel as though I need to pretend.
It is my intention, by authoring these posts, to help others. I hope they will help other people on the spectrum and their loved ones. I titled this post, “Piloting The Relation Ship.” Dealing with other people is a lot like managing a ship. There are calm seas and there are storms. There are times when the sails must billow and times when they must be furled. I have lived my whole life wishing to remain on shore. Solid ground is certainty. Solid ground does not sink. The problem with being an Aspie is that you never want to leave the dry land but, you dream and long for the journey that is the Relation Ship. You spend hours imagining the places that you could go. You dream about how different your life would be if you could detach from that mooring mast. You think of all the reasons why it will never work. You have tried a couple times and were blown back to your starting point. NTs just take the yoke and go. Here are some techniques I have used to take those steps to college, work and matrimony.
1. Learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable. This requires an enormous amount of self discipline.
2. Say yes when your entire being is yelling no.
3. Move around in large crowds seeking out places that are tolerable but not overtly.
4. Make eye contact with people even though you don’t want to.
5. Ask questions. Some of the best ways to talk to people is to get them talking and…
6. Listen. Even if you think it is the most boring topic find something interesting about it.
7. Smile. Practice being happy. Not superficially.
8. Talk on the phone. Make yourself interact with people regularly.
9. Do nice things for other people for no reason.
10. MOST IMPORTANTLY:Give yourself quiet time to decompress. I call it Aspie Time. It can involve an interest. You need to recharge or you will burn out.