Monday, August 30, 2010

Aspies Have Feelings, Too.

It's true.  Aspies have feelings, too, and their feelings can get hurt.  But because they don't know how to verbalize and express their feelings well (especially in times of stress), we NT wives may think our aspie spouses are made of stone.  And so we might treat them as if they are made of stone.  Anger, yelling, and long emotional monologues about unmet needs and deep unhappiness are all attacks to the aspie.  These attacks must stop.

We must realize there could be much tension, confusion, depression, or even despair going on internally for the aspie.  He may be thinking such things as "What did I do now?  Why is she upset about something so trivial?  Doesn't she know how hard I am trying?  Every attempt I make is unappreciated.  Nothing makes her happy.  She makes no sense!"  He feels attacked.  Anger and bitterness take root in his heart.  His first response becomes defensive.  He may withdraw, retreat, and put up a wall to protect himself. This is his necessary self-preservation as he sees no other alternative that will work.

Walls like this can take a long time to break down.  Diagnosis of Aspergers sometimes starts the process.  But if he is unwilling to learn anything about AS, it has to start with a "Cease Fire" on the part of the NT.

The NT must realize the hidden pain her aspie spouse feels.  She must learn to STOP her emotional outbursts.  She must learn not to communicate until and unless she can be calm and rational.  But the NT cannot all of a sudden develop super-human self-control over her emotions.  And so the aspie must agree to help her learn better self-control over her emotions.  This can be done if each partner agrees to use and adhere to a "trigger phrase" that serves as a code word for stopping all further communication on a topic until BOTH of them are calm.  Once they are both calm, the conversation can resume.

The time of "Cease Fire" will allow the aspie time to safely come out of hiding and eventually he should be ready and able to learn, with her help, a new pattern of communicating with his NT wife.  Be patient, but know there is hope.  You will begin to see your aspie soften toward you.  He will become less defensive as he feels more safe.  And this is real progress.  One step at a time.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for writing this. I am in the reverse situation. I am the Aspie wife of 2 spectrum kiddos and my husband is the NT. Much of what you write is applicable to marriages with our family dynamics as well.

    I can understand and visualize how using a "trigger phase" and "cease fire" would be quite beneficial. We take "time outs" in our household but that's probably because we're so used to using that vernacular with the kiddos.

    I look forward to continuing to read your writing and hope your marriage continues to grow closer and stronger. :-)