Wednesday, September 29, 2010

NT/AS Clue: Compliments

NT/AS Clue:  Wife needs frequent compliments in order to feel loved.

When an NT wife does not receive compliments from her spouse, she may feel like she has no more value to him than a dog or a slave.  You can like a dog or a slave, and can even be very kind to and provide well for a dog or a slave.  But a wife should know without a doubt that she is higher in her husband's heart than a dog or a slave! 

It could make her feel loved, valued, and cherished if her husband would give her at least one compliment each week.  It also means a lot when he says something praiseworthy about her to the children, and says something appreciative about her to others as he has the opportunity.
Maybe he could set aside a day of the week to be "Give Wife a Compliment" day.  Saturday or Sunday would be ideal (because weekends are hard).  And the more abstract and broad, the better.  Example "Mmm, good potatoes" is not as complimentary to her character as "You're a good cook."  In front of the children it could change to "Mommy is a good cook!"  But because abstract words and generalizations may be difficult for the aspie, the NT wife may need to write out a list of compliments she particularly wishes to hear.  

I know this totally goes against the grain of everything  the NT believes to be 'normal' and it is painful to have to fish for compliments.  But if the NT wife wants or needs compliments from her aspie spouse, this is worth doing.

The list may look like this:
1.  You are a good cook.
2.  You are such a kind person.
3.  You are a very thoughtful person.
4.  You have great organizational skills.
5.  You look beautiful! 
6.  You make our home a lovely place to be.
7.  You work so hard for our family.
8.  You are a wonderful mother.
9.  You are a blessing to my life.
10.  You have so many strengths which help me.

When he first starts giving compliments from the list, it may sound robotic or wooden.  But it is very important that she always responds to his efforts appreciatively and cheerfully.  With time and practice it will come more smoothly.  And he may even start coming up with praise for her on his own!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Quit, Professor Higgins

If you haven't seen the musical "My Fair Lady" with Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison, you really need to get it asap and sit down with your spouse and watch it together.  It is hysterical and relevant in a "let's see the humor in the EXTREME male brain" way, too.  The movie has always been one of my favorites, but I didn't connect Professor Higgins to Asperger's until recently when I read the comparison in the book "Loving Mr. Spock".

Time to re-watch it . . . this time thinking a bit more about Eliza's choice.  Would I have been happier if I had married "Freddy", the sweet, sentimental sap who sings love songs and brings her flowers every day but doesn't work hard or know how to earn a living?  Or do I really prefer the intelligent, successful, quirky, and  clueless Professor Higgins?  And why?  But don't think too hard on it.  It's silliness and fun, and a time to laugh, so go enjoy and find the humor in that classic example of the extreme male brain.

Here's a little clip from one of Professor Higgins' songs, "Why Can't a Woman Be More Like a Man?" 

What could've depressed her;
What could've possessed her?
I cannot understand the wretch at all.

Women are irrational, that's all there is to that!
There heads are full of cotton, hay, and rags!
They're nothing but exasperating, irritating,
vacillating, calculating, agitating,
Maddening and infuriating hags!

Why can't a woman be more like a man?
Men are so honest, so thoroughly square;
Eternally noble, historic'ly fair;
Who, when you win, will always give your back a pat.
Well, why can't a woman be like that?
Why does ev'ryone do what the others do?
Can't a woman learn to use her head?
Why do they do ev'rything their mothers do?
Why don't they grow up- well, like their father instead?

LOL  :)  Enjoy!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Why Is This So Hard?

There is nothing new under the sun.  I suspect Asperger's has been around for several thousand years.  Women have struggled to understand their husbands, to respect them, and to put up with their idiosyncrasies for many generations.  Our ancestors have been where we are.  But we have much more information and understanding (certainly about Asperger's) than our foremothers had even one generation ago.  So why is this so hard?

I don't know!  I do know that the roles in marriage were very, very different prior to the feminist revolution.  The men made the money and the women took care of the children and the house.  The men came home from work and probably sat in their chair, smoked a pipe, and read a book all evening while the women did everything else.  He wasn't taking care of the children, and so

she wasn't upset by how he was taking care of the children.  He wasn't lifting a finger to help with housework, and she wasn't disappointed by this because it wasn't expected of him.  I'm not advocating we go back to these starkly contrasting gender roles, just trying to think through the differences here.

Generations ago, extended families lived nearby.  I suspect most women had sisters, aunts, grandmothers, mothers, and in-law females all around them, maybe even in their own home.  This provided emotional support and probably much physical help as well.  Neighbors and church members were more involved in one another's lives giving encouragement, advice, and setting an example others could visibly observe.

What do we have?  We have TV.  Television is no help and no real picture of a functional family life either - quite the opposite, in fact.  We also have the internet.  We have information at our fingertips which can wisely be used to aid our understanding.  We have forums and blogs which let us in to others' lives so we know we are not alone.  These things can help.  But technology isn't enough.  So we have counselors who will listen, empathize and give us guidance.

But step back a few generations . . . it is obviously possible to survive without the knowledge of Asperger's we have now.  Surely we, too, can manage a difficult marriage without paying a professional counselor.  But we do need the support and counsel that is found in relationship with others.  We must determine to seek it out and find it!  And yes, pay for it if necessary.

Younger women desperately need older women to walk alongside them and show them how it's done, teach them what they've learned, and listen and encourage them along the way.  These ladies are out there, and can often be found in the churches.  But it's been so long since anyone has asked them for advice, they may be shocked at first if we do.  We should do it anyway.  Ask them over for tea, or take them out to lunch.  Quiz and question and pull out the wisdom they've acquired over the years.

And maybe we should realize it's a fairly new thing for any husband, Asperger's or not, to be expected to fill so very much of his wife's emotional tank.  Maybe in large part because we don't have the support of a community of women around us, the poor guy is expected to fill that giant emotional void all by himself.

What do we need?  What do aspie's wives, in particular, need?  We are emotionally and often physically exhausted.  We need housecleaning help, we need babysitting help, we need cooking help (fast food/frozen food works).  If it's too much for him to take on, maybe he can work more hours (or deliver pizzas) to pay for this help.  Maybe we can barter with other moms for an exchange of time/babysitting/goods/talents.  Mostly we need emotional support.  And so we MUST regularly meet with other (preferably older) women for emotional support, making sure we are reaching out to them and picking their brains for advice on managing life. 

Trying to figure this all out.   It shouldn't have to be this hard.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Dwell With Them With Understanding

Okay, this is a word to the Aspie husbands who really want to be loving and understanding toward their wives.  Hopefully your wife understands AS and is able to communicate her thoughts and desires to you in a way that makes sense.  But if she doesn't know how to do this, you should make the first effort to find out what she wants and needs.  The Bible says that husbands are responsible before God to love their wives and to dwell with them in an understanding way.

So here's something you guys can do.  ASK your wife to write down five practical things you can physically do that would make her happy.  It may look like this:
1.  Bring me flowers.
2.  Give me a compliment.
3.  Ask me if I'd like to take a break/nap while you babysit the kids.
4.  Give me a massage.
5.  Take me on a date.  Go to a movie, out to dinner, or once the kids are in bed you can bring home takeout from a nice restaurant, watch a movie, and then do the dishes. 
If she won't write a list, then try ALL of these things I've suggested.  At least one of them should be "her thing".

Here's the kicker.  Try doing at least three things from this list every week.  When she revives from the initial shock, you will likely find her warming up to you as she feels happy, cherished, and loved again.  These frequent displays of love will help melt away her anger and bitterness.  She will know by these varying and physical displays of affection it is better to be with you (weaknesses, frustrations and all) than to be alone. 

I recently read of a man whose wife of many years died unexpectedly.  He found her journals to be full of pain, frustration, and anger at the way he had treated her their entire marriage.  This sent him into a deep depression, with enormous guilt causing him to ask "How could I have been so hurtful and thoughtless to my wife?"  Don't be that man, finding those journals, and beating yourself up once it's too late to show love to your wife in a way that communicates love to her in her way.

You say you love her.  Go find out what communicates love to her and SHOW HER . . . NOW!

Peter 3:7  "You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered."

Ephesians 5:25-33:  Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.  In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies.  He who loves his wife loves himself.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Top Ten Survival Strategies for the Aspie's Wife

As an NT in an aspergers marriage, I struggle daily.  The good news is that as I learn more about AS, the struggles are lessened in severity.  But when I began this journey, I had no quick-reference survival strategy to help me focus. 

A year into the journey, I now have a list of the top ten most important things to remember during the difficult times.  This all presupposes an acceptance that aspergers is a reality in your life (and I believe it to be ordained by God to be a part of my marriage).  Here are some practical strategies and vital points to remember, in no particular order.

1.  Don't EVER talk to him while emotional (at least not until you learn how to speak his language).  Take your emotions elsewhere.  (I pray and journal.)

2.  If you want something done quickly, do it yourself.

3.  If you ever need anything, clearly say exactly what you need.  Remember you cannot ask for empathy/understanding or other emotional responses.

4.  If you ever want anything (including gifts), ask for exactly what you want.

5.  If you want verbal praise or compliments, write a list and ask for him to say something from the list.  Ask him to do this on a regular basis.   

6.  Deal with the anger and bitterness in your heart.  Whether you realize it or not, it is there.  You probably have anger toward him and at God. 

7.  Study forgiveness.  Learn what it truly means to forgive and to be forgiven.  Then forgive daily, 500 times per day, if necessary.

8.  Make a list of his strengths.  Be thankful and express appreciation for them.

9.  Read the list of his strengths and remember why you married him.

10.  Show him respect in your tone of voice, in your words to him, and in the way you talk about him to others.  Pray to be able to respect him in your heart.

In the beginning of understanding Aspergers Syndrome and how it affects your marriage, the emotions are simply overwhelming.  It's nearly impossible to think or to act rationally during this time.  I hope these clear-cut steps give you some helpful direction during those "how do I survive" moments.  Keep in mind that as you learn more about AS, and learn how to communicate in aspie language, things will get better.  It can get better than it is right now.  You have to take one day at a time.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Relapses Recur

Relapses recur.  Even when communication patterns have been going smoothly for a while, the NT will face a scenario which makes her emotional.  She will forget about waiting until she is calm and rational to continue a discussion.  She may even "go there" and attempt to explain her feelings and her desire to connect on an emotional level.  It can spiral into a long, drawn out conversation that will never go anywhere productive and will leave her sobbing in the closet.

When this happens, especially if the aspie is still in denial that there is anything different about his way of thinking, the NT may question her sanity.  This is when positive Aspergers forums are the most help.  At under the forum "AS and Relationships That Work" there is a sidebar link called "From Loneliness to Balance".  You can there read posts that are likely to mirror exactly what you are feeling.   But better than that, you will be encouraged that it can get better.  

Drill, drill, drilling this into memory.... I must give up all efforts to show aspie spouse my emotional pain.  Unless I can tell him a practical way to help me, there is only more pain to be found in sharing my emotions with him.

But it's okay.  This is normal in an NT/AS relationship.  Relapses will recur.  The great news and hope is that as we learn to communicate better, these relapses will become less and less frequent.