Friday, October 28, 2011

Tips for the Aspie Female

What I Wish My Aspie Girlfriends Knew About Friendship

1.  I wish all aspies would read Dale Carnegie's How To Win Friends and Influence People.  And take notes.  And work on applying what they read.

Applying the principles in Carnegie's book will draw people to you. It teaches you how to show interest in another person. It focuses on making the other person feel appreciated. It teaches you to shut up and listen. And to ask questions about what someone else is interested in. People are by nature very interested in themselves. So if you act sincerely interested in them, you will be showered with attention.  People will like to be around you!  But a meaningful female friendship takes even more to sustain than Carnegie's book delves into (it was written by a man, you know). 

2.  I wish my aspie girl friends would accept that a close friendship involves mutual sharing.  This is give and take.  This includes asking about the feelings of others.  It also includes sharing your own feelings.  But maybe feelings talk is beyond you.  Okay.  Mutual sharing of some sort is still required.  At least habitually ask something about others.  And habitually share at least a little something about yourself.

Some of my aspie girl friends never ask anything about me.  They talk about topics of interest (that is, topics of interest to them), but never ask about my life, my thoughts, my health, anything.  These are very superficial companions--and it is very hard to feel close to these aspies.

And then I have a few aspie girl friends who ask a lot of questions about my family, my health (no, not about my feelings--are you kidding?), but do not share anything about themselves.  This gets old.  Because friendship should be give and take.  Give of yourself by asking about others, yes.  But the give also involves letting the other person "in" to your life/thoughts/feelings as well. Because too much "giving" of yourself in the realm of mere asking about others . . . can seem like "taking" too much from the other person.

The asker-only aspie can come across as an intense counselor or may even make the NT feel as if she is standing before the Inquisition.  It can be downright frightening at times to be the "special interest" and focus of a female aspie!  These are often the aspie females who will never respond to your questions via email, either.  "How are you?  What did the doctor say?  Are you okay?"  C'mon, aspie girls.  If someone asks you a question it means they care about you.  Please make the time to answer it.  Answering questions about yourself and voluntarily sharing at least a little something about yourself (on a regular basis) is necessary fodder for a solid female friendship.

Sound tricky and confusing and way too difficult?  Not to an NT.  It comes naturally.  Your turn, my turn.  You share, now I share.  I give, now you give.  It's a dance and NTs assimilate this naturally on the playground as wee bairns [children].

If you truly care (and you keep saying that you do) about sustaining friendships with other females, it will take very hard work.  Stop throwing your hands in the air and whining about how you always try and it never works.  Keep trying and keep working.  Read books on friendship. Get interested in the study of friendship.  Make it a scientific research project and determine to master this subject area with the dedication of a PhD student completing a thesis.   Ask questions about others.  Respond to questions via email (quickly).  And share a little something about yourself.  And keep doing all of these things.  Over and over again. 

You can do it.  And we can be friends.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

When Your Girlfriend Has Asperger's Syndrome

(By "girlfriend" I am simply referring to any aspie female friend.) 

I am the wife of a man with asperger's, but I am friends with many females who have strong aspie traits.  And the same lessons learned in an asperger marriage apply in relationships with aspie females.  You gotta be prepared for some things.  You must drop those expectations that they will act like your typical girlfriend!

1.  If you need a shoulder to cry on, the aspie female is not the one you should call.  She might get V E R Y uncomfortable seeing your tears.  And then you might get very hurt that she is just sitting there staring at you as you pour heart out.  If you need emotional support, be sure to call someone else who will be higher on the empathy scale.

2.  But the aspie female is likely VERY loyal and ready and willing to offer practical help to you, even when no one else will  . . . . if you clearly ask and spell out exactly what would be helpful.  She wants to help, but seriously doesn't have (forgive me, but it's true) the common sense to know what to jump in and do to help.

3.  She might not respond to your attempts to stay in touch.  She may have "always been there for you" when she lived down the street, but if one of you moves away, you may rarely hear from her.  It doesn't mean she doesn't deeply care about you.  But the idea of a friend or family member "being close" may be taken literally. (Example:  "you're close to people you see often because they live close to you.")  The idea of emotional closeness is not easily understood by the aspie.  And knowing what it takes to sustain a long distance relationship long term?  That may be a one-way, very determined effort on your part.

4.  Disagreements or conflict of any kind could rapidly destroy the relationship.  If you ever try to address something the aspie female does that is upsetting you, she will likely feel attacked and may get overly emotional.  "You don't like me/love me!  You hate me!  You don't appreciate or admire me anymore!"  She won't be able to see that she is not considering your feelings.  Trying to get her to see your perspective is really rather pointless.  You have to drop that attempt at resolution 'by talking it out' as you do with other NT women.  The bottom line is, the aspie female just wants you to be cheerful and kind and patiently forbear with anything and everything she does, even when you are annoyed as hell by her behavior/habit/etc.  How what she does/says affects you is entirely beside the point!  And this being so, few female aspies are able to sustain friendships with NT women.  It will take unrelenting effort on the part of the NT to make a relationship with an aspie female survive.

5.  But when it comes to shared hobbies, similar areas of interest, and like minded ideas . . . you can have the best, most interesting and fascinating companion to hang out with.  The devotion and focus toward the shared interest will make discussions and outings fun, fun, fun.  Do you both love running?  Bridge? Sewing? Movies? With any activity that centers around a shared special interest, you may find you always have an eager girlfriend to join you!  And that can be a really wonderful thing.

Maintaining a relationship with a female aspie will be a lot of work.  There are expectations that must be dropped.  Do not expect empathy and remember she is NOT the best shoulder to cry on.  But know you may have the strongest loyalty you have ever known.  And you will have a knowledgeable and focused companion during outings that revolve around a shared special interest. 

I love my aspie girl friends and enjoy their company very much!  Easy?  No.  Worth the effort?  Definitely, yes.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

"What the . . . huh?!"

Just when everything has been fine and dandy for a while, a "What the . . . huh?!" moment comes along and knocks you on your rear.

Cuz you did it again.  Your feelings were hurt and you thought he would care that your feelings were hurt.  Ya Big Dummy.  How could you forget like that?  He doesn't give a rat's be-hind about your feelings.  You know that.  C'mon.  You've been told a gazillion times.  When will you ever learn?

But seriously.  It hurts like the dickens, doesn't it?  "What the . . . huh?!" moments are all too frequent in an NT/AS relationship.  And they recur.  No matter how long it's been since the last time it happened, it comes back.  And it hurts.  It's the nature of the beast.  It's self-centered.  "It's all about him/her (the aspie)."  It's never about your feelings.  Your feelings simply do not matter.  All that matters is your smiling, unemotional acceptance of everything life throws your way.

And you forgot again.  You made an attempt to explain why you felt the way you did.  You attempted to share a piece of your heart with him.  But it's just not about you, ya know.  It's only about him!  He doesn't listen or try to understand the feelings-talk.  He gets defensive and feels attacked.  "So it's all my fault?!" is his response to everything you say.  "Damn, you big jerk!" you want to scream back at him.  "Would you just hear that I am in pain and act, even just act, like you care?" 

But I'm not being fair. The rational, logical part of me knows that.  This pain, at its root, is caused by his autism.  He does care about me.  If I have a broken leg, he comprehends that and will even perform acts of kindness that show he cares.  His brain just doesn't comprehend empathy for my feelings.  He doesn't "get it."  And he can't.  And I shouldn't expect him to.

The best analogy I have ever read was on a forum post by cmasp on leprosy.  Leprosy prevents a person from feeling pain.  And so a leper can put their hand into boiling water and not take it out, thus resulting in serious injury.  You can explain PAIN to a leper, but they cannot know what it feels like.  They can be taught to take a hurting person pain medicine, but they don't truly understand.  And the aspie can be taught ways to respond to you, but he isn't going to understand--deeply understand--what you are expecting from him in the realm of empathy.

And so the cycle continues.  I expect the impossible.  I get hurt.  I try to share my hurt and he gets defensive.  Will it never end?  I despair.

But love always hopes.  And God "opens the eyes of the blind."  I believe that.  Maybe, just maybe, I need to quit seeing him as the only one who is blind in this relationship.  Maybe I should hope that God would open my eyes to the wonder of His creating us male and female, autistic and neurotypical.  Maybe I should start hoping that I will rejoice more in these trials that bear the good fruit of making me less selfish, more patient, more tolerant, and more kind.

Maybe if I change what I hope for I'll have less "What the . . . huh?!" moments in this NT/AS relationship.


Let's hope!