Friday, September 11, 2009

Or everyone else is just a really convincing robot

Here's the video I was waiting for. It would be interesting to see if an fMRI study of neurotypical adults compared to adults on the autism spectrum showed any difference in the rtpj region of the brain or if the magnetic redistribution of neurons showed any temporary changes in the responses those on the spectrum would give to empathy questions.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Read two fiction books...

Life has been normal around here so I haven't had anything to say that wasn't already said.

I've found two things now that I think are worth discussing.

The first is this psychology study:

By imagining many possible worlds, argues novelist and psychologist Keith Oatley, fiction helps us understand ourselves and others.

Could reading fiction be helpful for people on the spectrum? I've often wondered this myself. When my husband has no idea what to do, I've asked him what the character from a relevant book would do in similar circumstances. It hasn't helped him to answer yet, but I wonder if it has affected his actions at all. I'll come back with the second either later today or tomorrow.

Update: The video I'm wanting to post isn't available yet, but this one discusses the role of fiction in developing theory of mind so I'll link it for now and hopefully the video I want will be up soon.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

That's Interesting


It's my husband's favorite new word, I think.

You know, the politically correct word you use when you need to say something but have nothing nice to say...

"What an interesting sweater you have on! Where did you get it?"
Translation: You're dressed hideously and apparently have no fashion sense. Your hair is atrocious, your makeup leaves something to be desired, and even your pet looks a little mangy. Since I have nothing nice to say, I'll tell you that the shocking sweater you are offending us all with is interesting and then I'll ask where it is from as if I cared, and it might actually allow me to have some compassion and understanding if you say something quasi-reasonable like your 6-year-old knitted it for you and you'll be heading straight from here to the hospital to see him.

It gives nothing away about how you really feel but allows you to offer something as if you were. Interesting...

My husband's verbosity has dwindled away as I suspected it would, but this word has taken its place. Interestingly, a work friend just told him that he's become more verbose, and unfortunately more cynical, there. Maybe he's using all his verbosity up on them.

I'd sometimes rather the 21 questions game of not talking over this new 1-answer phenomenon. I go around in circles deciding how to respond. Do I become happy that he's talking and try to engage more? That's not worked well. Do I go back to the same method of 21 questions as if he hadn't said anything? Would that discourage him from talking if it got him the same response as not talking? At least then I'll have some idea where he stands. Do I tell him how frustrating that answer is? That I don't think that word means to me what he thinks it means? Of the social connotations it conveys? None of it has really reached a solution we're both comfortable with. Whatever I say, he just says it is interesting. What that means to him is that he's relying on me to inform him and is emotionally detached. What that means to me is that he's intellectually engaged and therefore to some level emotionally attached (excited, interested, invested, etc). Imagine the frustration we both have when the expectations are so disparate.

I think we're going to have to define the word interesting or ban it from our vocabulary completely. Maybe then I'll get some of that wit he's wasting on the co-workers. Even my husband will tell you that they're about the most uninteresting bunch around. And from him, that's saying something.

Monday, August 10, 2009

What can I do for my friend?

"I'm married to a robot!"

"He thinks emotions are illogical. I have to rationalize everything."

"He gets these interests and he just throws himself into them. If he isn't doing them, he doesn't know what to do with himself. Right now he's into running, but I feel like I've lost my husband to running. Running is his other woman."

"The closest we get to each other is sitting next to each other on the couch. He doesn't seem to understand that I want more than that! He thinks that's quality time together."

"He worked on our 15th anniversary! He knew it was our anniversary, but he said he thought we had agreed that he would take whatever other shifts he could. He couldn't understand why I wanted him to make an exception to the rules!"

"He's such a good husband and a good man. He doesn't drink or gamble. This is really not a big issue. Why does this bother me so much then? I don't understand how he thinks. It's been almost 18 years and I still don't understand my own husband! It's so hard!"

"He has a lot of trouble putting things into words. When he was younger, he was told he had a learning disability. He's a really smart guy, he just has trouble with explaining stuff. He's a doer, not a talker."

All the above were statements from a friend of mine, trying to make sense in her marriage.

Is anyone else thinking what I'm thinking?

I've agreed with my husband to not disclose the difficulties we've had or my husband's diagnosis with anyone locally. The friend's self-esteem is shot and she's blaming herself for all the miscommunications and difficulties.

How can I be a good friend to her in these circumstances?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Days of the Leprechauns

“You don’t know about brownie points? All my buddies keep score.
In fact every married male should know about ‘em.
It’s a way of figuring where you stand with the little woman —
favor or disfavor. Started way back in the days of the leprechauns,
I suppose, long before there were any doghouses.”
Los Angeles Times, March 1951,
and the first known use of the term "brownie points" in print.

My mother-in-law chose this morning for her bi-annual health nag. About twice a year, she starts grilling Andrew on everything from what he's eating to the last time he saw the dentist. I spend the time seething at her speaking to my husband as if he were five years old while he goes on about his day seemingly unphased.

I usually let myself suggest a few statements he can tell her, choosing to vocalize only those that are actually appropriate despite my annoyance. If Andrew even realizes that I said something, he doesn't focus on what, and even if he hears me, he doesn't ever repeat my brilliant statements. It's way too much thinking on his feet trying to figure out what both of us are saying, navigate both conversations, and contemplate the news article or the carpet patterns or whatever else he does to escape the whole situation. I don't blame him.

Things were going along as usual and she was laying into him about his cholesterol score, which is ideal. I suggested a lighthearted, "Eliza's taking good care of me, Mom." Then my husband looked me right in the eyes, flashed me a smile, and in the next break she took for a breath, he said just that.

I need to pause now just to relive the whole thing.

I am still floored.

My mother-in-law sputtered, offered her thanks to me and said she was sure I was, and the health nag trailed off into some other topic.

That's brownie point worthy there, my friend. I was very impressed.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Marriage Encounters

Over at his Life with Aspergers blog, Gavin Bollard (a non-practicing Catholic with Asperger's) talks about how the Marriage Encounters program saved his marriage, despite his hesitations around going.

Gavin begins his 4 part series on his Marriage Encounter weekend with this:
Whether the organisers realise it or not, the marriage encounters programme is particularly tailored for the aspie mind.

As part of this series of posts, I'm going to have to "spoil" some of the secrets of Marriage Encounters. For this, I apologise in advance. If you're already booked in on a course, or if you're definitely going on one, you should probably ignore these posts - I think it's better if you learn via the real event.

If this doesn't apply to you, then read on...
Here are the links to Gavin's review of Marriage Encounters, which he broke into four blog posts: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four.

Marriage Encounter programs are available in the United States and Canada and are currently conducted in English, Korean, and Spanish. They are all sponsored by a Christian church (the current list on their website says Baptist, Canadian Anglican, Catholic, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Mennonite & Brethren, Pan Orthodox, Presbyterian, Reformed, Seventh-Day Adventist, United Church of Christ/Christian Church, United Methodist, and Wesleyan churches hold them). Their FAQ says "while the Weekend may be presented in a given Faith expression, each is open to couples from other orientations. The opportunities of the Weekend go beyond the boundaries of any one expression."

Their FAQ also says that "no couple is ever denied the chance to renew their marriage because they are facing financial difficulties. This concern should not influence your decision to attend a Marriage Encounter Weekend."

To find out more, visit the Marriage Encounter website here:

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Windows to the Soul

When we discuss problems with in-laws or a partner's primary love language, we're talking about practical issues and how to successfully change our habits to address them. There's a topic I've been wanting to discuss that's in a completely different realm and I haven't known how to put it into words. Fr. Frank Pavone's recent blog post about eye contact unknowingly gets to the heart of my unresolved issue with my husband's Asperger's: it's in his eyes.
Eye Contact
Fr. Frank Pavone
National Director, Priests for Life

It’s a basic aspect of human relationships: make eye contact. When we fail to do so at the appropriate times, we fail to show interest in the other person. We may seem too distracted to care, or perhaps ashamed of something. Failure to make eye contact is failure to connect.
When you love a person, you want to look into his or her eyes, rather than loving from afar. You want to see the person’s face. Even the love of God is described this way. The Book of Revelation announces the ultimate destiny of the human family, the culmination of their salvation, in this way: “They shall see Him face to face” (Rev. 22:4)
The eyes teach us about the one who suffers, whether it be an animal or human victim. For a moment, we pierce the veil that separates our experience from theirs, and temporarily see and feel the world as they do.
OK, so my husband is literal in his speech.
OK, so he has trouble processing emotions.
OK, so he doesn't read between the lines.

These are all morally neutral differences between people which can be bridged with patience, knowledge, and perseverance. This is all in the realm of thoughts or feelings, but deeper than that is a longing in my soul they don't touch--a longing for my husband's salvation. My marriage is my vocation and my God-given work. It's the way I will learn and live and do to become the person I should be, and to help my husband and children do the same. We're not talking about my love language; we're talking about love itself.

My personality predisposes me to a certain set of sins. Gluttony isn't something I ever struggle with, but visit me on a particularly rough day and you'll most likely see me despairing, being slothful or vain, and I might be induced to unrighteous anger. Like every other faithful Catholic I know, I am constantly confessing the same struggles and failings. By willfully choosing to reorient myself and ask for His graces and forgiveness, I hope to eliminate these sins from my life and to bring my actions into accordance with God's will. Tears flow from my eyes as I long for better and more and know how short I've fallen of what I'm capable of achieving.
Baptism washes off those evils that were previously within us, whereas the sins committed after baptism are washed away by tears. The baptism received by us as children we have all defiled, but we cleanse it anew with our tears. If God in His love for the human race had not given us tears, those being saved would be few indeed and hard to find (St. John of the Ladder).
My husband's current inability to pierce this veil, to see and feel the world as others do, keeps him from knowing the pangs of love or the agony that comes from not living in accordance with it. I don't mean the giddy feeling of excitement, but the indescribable depths of emptying oneself for the sake of another that only composers and poets come close to conveying. It is out of this love that we were created and to it that we are called and in which my husband and I should be actively participating so that we can make it present for our children. It's the life and presence that can be seen in the eyes, the windows to the soul.
Matthew 6 (Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition)
21For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also.
22The light of thy body is thy eye. If thy eye be single, thy whole body shall be lightsome.
23But if thy eye be evil thy whole body shall be darksome. If then the light that is in thee, be darkness: the darkness itself how great shall it be!
Most of the time, my husband's eyes are dull and cast downward. I've read of some people with Asperger's feeling actual pain from looking others in the eye because of the emotional intensity of it. There is no question to them that it is an intimacy, a vulnerability, and a sharing of themselves with another in a profound and personal way and it is for that reason they avoid eye contact. My husband hasn't expressed or shown discomfort from looking in people's eyes, but he rarely ever does. It symbolizes to me my husband's disconnect from the divine reality within and around him. They exemplify a self-servitude that is irreconcilable with living within a relationship, with one's wife or one's Creator. I know that when his eyes are lifeless that he will not be a spiritual leader of our family, will not see himself as someone who has done specific things he shouldn't have thus creating room for him to grow, and will not love me in this deep and abiding way to which he is called. I know when I look in my husband's eyes if he desires salvation for himself or for us not with intellectual assent, but with his soul. The answer often scares me.

Where is my husband's treasure? Where is his heart? Where is the light in his eyes? When his eyes shine because he is acting out of that Christ-like self-emptying love, everything else in our life falls into place. That doesn't mean it all becomes a bed of roses! It means that our yoke is heavy but our burden is light and we're able to successfully address these other issues. When it happens, it is like Saul on the road to Tarsus who had been blinded, but upon turning to God regains his sight and the rest of his life as St. Paul fell into place. "And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he got up and was baptized... (Acts 9:18)" With that spiritual awakening, there is peace in our house. We have a harmony and an intimacy. It is as if we effortlessly float about, not even needing to take harsh plodding steps. Then with a snap it is gone. Thunk. We hit the floor and my husband walks away in a dull stupor, as if it were all a dream.

I don't think spiritual direction would, could, or should address those practical problems of in-laws or primary love languages, but it seems to me that there is a clear need for spiritual guidance that addresses the spiritual predispositions that having Asperger's inclines him to. For my husband, his sins are usually those of omission instead of commission. Those with obsessive-compulsive disorder or anxiety are likely to become scrupulous and need specific and different, often even contrary guidance than the mainstream receives, especially regarding their confessions. There are detailed guides for them available and special training for confessors for working with the scrupulous. I believe those with autism spectrum disorders require the same, including the need to place oneself under the guidance of a single spiritual director who is well-informed in how to address these needs.

I want to know that despite love languages and communication barriers and neurological wirings that my husband loves me. I want the peace that I get rare glimpses of to pervade our relationship and our home. I want to look in my husband's eyes and see God.
Ephesians 5
25Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the church, and delivered himself up for it:
26That he might sanctify it, cleansing it by the layer of water in the word of life:
27That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any; such thing; but that it should be holy, and without blemish.
28So also ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife, loveth himself.
29For no man ever hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, as also Christ doth the church:
30Because we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
31For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall be two in one flesh.
32This is a great sacrament; but I speak in Christ and in the church.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

It's a good thing I wasn't drinking anything...

When people are laughing, they're generally not killing each other. ~Alan Alda

We were driving home from church today when Andrew realized we needed to get gasoline in the car somewhat soon. We were passing a Wal-Mart, so he asked if they had a gas station. They didn't. Andrew was obviously disappointed and pulled into a gas station next door instead. When he pulled up to the pump, he just sat there and let out a loud sigh as he mumbled something about pre-paying. I mumbled back that it was a moot point when one was paying with a debit card and Andrew said that he had wanted to go to the Wal-Mart to be able to use his cash.

I pointed out that the gas station we were at would also take his cash and suggested he give them a $20. (It was an expensive station and that would be plenty to get us home to cheaper supplies.) During all this time, my thoughts were really on a woman who stopped 5 yards from a trash can and then wobbled over to it in her too high heels to throw away a bag of trash and I was hoping she hadn't worn the interesting outfit to church, then correcting myself and hoping that she had worn it to church and not to other possible venues more likely to be associated with the style of dress. Andrew seriously asked me what they do if you give them too much money. I brought my attention back to us as I said that you go back in and they give you your change. It turns out he's never pre-paid with cash before.

This is particularly amusing to me because anything car-related is Andrew's domain. One of his previous passions was cars and he knows them inside-out and backwards. I don't even bother to think about car stuff because I know Andrew has it covered. But today, he was sitting in the driver's seat apparently assessing his options of purposefully underpaying, driving to a new station, or losing any excess because he didn't know what else to do at a pre-pay gas station.

He's knowledgeable about so many things, always beats me in games of strategy, and often feels like he has done no wrong since he has good intentions, so little amusing moments like this help me to love him because I can see that he does have vulnerabilities, doesn't know everything, and is just as human as I am and still has much to learn. I feel like more of an equal to him. I feel like a friend. It feels good to laugh.

What monstrous absurdities and paradoxes have resisted whole batteries of serious arguments, and then crumbled swiftly into dust before the ringing death-knell of a laugh! ~Agnes Repplier

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Curiouser and curiouser!

Two curious things of note happened this weekend. The first is that my husband got a call from a client who needs some help. My husband knows exactly what the client needs to do and all my husband has to do is call him up and tell him. It won't require any more of my husband's time or effort. He won't call, though. He has all sorts of reasons, but they're basically excuses. He did say with my questioning that it was too much for him to handle right now, but he couldn't say what part or why. It isn't the rest of life that's getting to him; he just can't call a client and tell him what piece of paper needs to get mailed where. He agreed to write an email to the client instead, which I expect will eventually happen with my prompting.

I don't get it.

I have some guesses: maybe my husband feels put on the spot to call back right after hearing the message and is freezing. Maybe the fact that he can't actually fix it and can only tell them what needs to be done is the problem. Maybe his thoughts are on weekend things and it is too much to bring them back to work things. I don't think I'll ever know on this one.

The second curious thing of interest is that I'm seeing a subtle but definite difference in the way he relates to me and I believe I know why. He's pursuing a new passion and the people who tend to share his passion also tend to speak respectfully about women. For instance, on a forum he visited, a man commented that his girlfriend was alright looking but nothing special and a number of people then proceeded to make statements along the lines of, "What do you think you're doing talking about her that way? Keep that up and she won't be your girlfriend for long." The clear social expectation for him to speak about his wife respectfully, to be happy with his marriage, and to work at pleasing me is what I believe has him being much more vocal than usual, especially at home. I am quite happy with it, too.

When he wraps his arm around me, I can feel his presence and feel connected, in the moment, and protected. When he whispers in my ear that I look beautiful, I am happy that he noticed me, feel attractive and wanted and worthy. When he is more attentive to my needs and responds to my requests, I feel like we're a partnership and in it together, I appreciate his effort and care, and I feel loved.

I am suspecting that he'll forget about all of this as he becomes more passionate about the hobby itself, and I sure will miss it if it goes. I feel conflicted about encouraging the hobby because, at this stage, it is a positive force in our life. If the culture of the hobby gives way to the details of it, like has happened with his other hobbies, it could quickly become a drain instead. I'm trying to walk the balancing line of being supportive and hopeful while being a bit of a grounding rod and a realist at the same time. I find it is easier to do, emotionally speaking, when I feel loved and appreciated and have my husband's arm around my waist as we face it together.

Monday, July 27, 2009

If you're happy and you know it...

In addition to my husband being generally happy, cooperative, and volunteering information and thoughts for the last couple days, he did something yesterday that I don't remember him doing before.

I asked him, as I always do when these times come along, why he was in such a good mood. His answer is usually either that he didn't realize he was in a good mood or he doesn't know why and the conversation goes no further. Yesterday after I asked, he told me exactly why he was feeling good. A meeting he had at work went well and he was relieved it was over. My jaw about hit the floor! He wasn't guessing or coming up with an answer only to have something to say, he knew immediately that he felt lighter and why. Wow!

Also going on this weekend is that a friend's child is gravely ill. Andrew has been asking me every hour or two for updates, even calling when he is away from home. His voice doesn't betray worry, it sounds like he's asking for an update on the weather, but for him to call and specifically ask for information so repeatedly clearly indicates that he is worried. In a strange way, it knocks a little chip off of one of my personal fears. I don't know why, but I worry that if I should ever die before him, he would shrug and go on in life never looking back. To see his concern for a child who isn't even close to him shows me yet again that he clearly does have emotional connections to people, even if he doesn't have a clear connection between the feelings and the thoughts about it. The child is still in imminent danger so prayers would be appreciated for him. Update: the child is no longer in critical danger and is now recovering. Prayers are still appreciated.

I feel like I'm on vacation right now. Like back home is nasty weather and stress and drama but that this all-inclusive resort we're at just lets the stress melt away. Like I'm sitting by the pool with a Planter's Punch in one hand and my husband's hand in the other and we're next in line for a massage. I don't know how long the vacation will last, but I'm really enjoying it while we have it.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Dimples and Dreams

I'm feeling a little more hopeful today for two reasons.

First is the wonderful support so many people at Wrong Planet have been giving to help me understand my husband. No blame, no condescension, just their experiences and some ideas to try based on them. I am very grateful for that and just keep going back to the posts to read and re-read to let it all sink in. It gives me hope that there can be understanding and with that we can have harmony.

Second is that my husband is in one of his good moods. He goes around smiling. I can see his cute dimples. He's playful and witty. He's present in the moment and interested in what is going on around him. I've never figured out what causes him to be in these moods but I really love when he is. I've asked him and looked for patterns, but it is one of the mysteries of our marriage for now. One of the kidlets commented that we're having tickle fight kind of days. Silly, fun, hopeful days. I like these days.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Just a spoon full of sugar

I am on strike.

As long as I'm not offering the solutions to our problems, his part in the conversations is the same two things on a perpetual loop.

Eliza, E-liza, Eliz-A...
How do I stress your name? Let me count the ways.
I stress it at the beginning, at the middle, and at the end
As far as my intonation can reach, when feeling stressed
By the ideas of Love and ideal Connection.
I stress your name to the level of every day's
Most quiet need, with frustration and protest.

What do you want me to DO?
This is the useless conversation that just fills up time and gives unfounded hope. It doesn't matter what I say because it will never be done and good ideas might be permanently refused because of their connection to our disagreement. It also really bothers me that the issue is not addressed meaning it will only repeat to infinity because the desire for doing isn't to address the issue but to address the conflict. But then the conflict is resolved by the promise of doing and so the doing never gets done.

When I don't answer that, it goes back to Eliza, Eliza, Eliza...

Earlier today, he actually thought of a solution and implemented it.
I am conflicted over trying to be hopeful because he did it, which is huge, and being realistic because his choice on what to do didn't take me into account at all. My husband's love language is food. I don't care at all about food and have made it clear that his using it to get out of conflicts makes me feel like I'm using him or that I have a butler, not a husband. In the past, I've offered numerous other ideas that would more directly meet my needs at the time but today he fell back on the only thing he knows and made me a breakfast of my choice.

I'm choosing to appreciate it for what it was, to acknowledge that he did in fact DO something of his own thinking, and to realize that it is better than some of the alternatives. It was followed by him picking fights, refusing to help, being intentionally snide, and basically feeling like he had gone out of his way to do oh so much for me and that I now owe him. The concept of remorse seems to be completely lost on him.

I'm trying to give him room to improve and will bite my tongue and hope for more, and when that isn't happening then I'll unemotionally address it and he'll say he understands and is going to act, but when that doesn't come and he again hurts me, I'll let all of it out about how this just keeps happening and how hurtful it is and he'll say that everything was perfectly fine and then I went crazy over some inconsequential thing and then he'll offer me a cup of tea and the cycle will repeat ad infinitum. I feel helpless to change it or to have any effect on my own life. And yet, I again hold my tongue and wait...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I'd thought we'd found a harmony

I just saw this article posted on Wrong Planet and it so diplomatically said what my long emotional rant two posts down said that I wanted to give my thumbs up to it.

The thread it was posted in is now 4 pages long, has drifted considerably, and most recently had a post saying any NT woman who identified with it was a "whiny wife" who didn't appreciate her hard-working man. I'm not looking for a fight so I decided to re-post the article here and leave it at that. This might not describe others' experiences, but it accurately captures mine.

I wonder if Carol Grigg is acquainted with St. Augustine's writings. She seems to agree with him.

St. Evodius: Whence, therefore, are evil things done by men, if they are not learned?
St. Augustine: Perhaps it is from this, that man turns himself away from learning, that is, estranges himself from the fact of learning. But whether this or something else be true, this surely is evident—that learning is good, and because it is derived from [the verb] to learn, evil things can not be learned.

Bats in the Belfry

Apparently I've chosen to insist on there being reason amid the chaos and to ensure my eventual emotional demise by continuing to search for it.

I can objectively see how it is crazy to keep looking for something when there is no indication it exists. I find it easier to keep believing it exists based on my previous knowledge and first-hand experiences of it combined with the anecdotal evidence of others who exhibit it than I find it easier to live my life without reason or purpose outside of self-pleasure.

I have no idea where my husband has gone. Maybe to visit a lawyer based on my saying I couldn't handle it. Maybe to pass the time and come back to pretend nothing happened. I can reasonably believe he isn't doing anything constructive. He never has. But there I go being all rational again. See how awful I am at this game? I thought he was supposed to be Mr. Predictable Scientist and I was supposed to be Ms. Irrational Emotion--isn't that the AS male-NT female stereotype? Then why is he the one off destressing from his own poor choices while I'm home doing all the work again?

I never know what tomorrow will bring because I never know who he is today. As soon as he has some new interest or influential person around, all of his values and priorities and thoughts on life change. I'm so tired from trying, not achieving but trying my hardest, to be someone I'm not to conform to his world of chaos and confusion. He's not once even attempted to step out of his world since we married. I'm crazy to think he would now. Why do I do this to myself? Why can't I just be happy with things? Things I'd have to give myself. Why does every ounce of my being hunger for something he won't give? Well, I know why. And I ought to because it is what I am actually called to. But why doesn't he ever try to give it?

Obviously, it is enough to drive me batty long before death do us part to keep thinking and living in these never-ending loops. There is no word I can speak or action I can do that will change this cycle.

If I'm going to go crazy, I might as well have fun with it right? Too many cats is a little cliché. What's something a little more substantial I could sink my teeth into? I'm not into scrap booking. Or anything too strenuous. Maybe I'll take up motorcycling. And pedicures. At the same time. Or maybe I should go to the other extreme and schedule out every 15 minutes of my day. But I'll only do things found in children's books. Today is Wednesday so we'll have elephants over to eat zoooop! Sundays will be ice cream days. Andrew might not be too happy with the string beans on Mondays, but I'll be crazy schedule lady and will have a porcupine with me, so surely he wouldn't mess with that.

Now where could I find an elephant and how will I get it home tonight? Since my husband isn't home, the elephant can sit in his chair. It's no crazier than trying to live my life guessing what goes on inside my husband's head. And ice cream Sundays sounds like a lot more fun! So why aren't I happy yet?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Pit of Despair

The true triumph of reason is that it enables us to get along with those who do not possess it. -Voltaire

I wonder what Voltaire knew that I haven't figured out.

You know what I feel like right now? A rat in a cage. I can see all the other rats in their cages. They look about like mine. Some cages have different colors, nicer furniture perhaps, but nothing of substantial difference. There's a single lever in the cage. When I push it, I get a beautiful symphony sometimes, I get an electrical shock at others, and periodically I get the food and water I need to survive. I decide that I will get that food without the electrical shocks and over the years (I don't know the comparable time frame in rat lives), I try to figure the lever out.

Does it change what I get if I push with one foot or the other, or maybe with both? Does how long I hold it down make a difference? Is there a time of day or a pattern? With nothing making sense, I dig deeper. I call out to the other rats and find out their experiences. I try to apply more complex formulas. Time of day plus number of previous lever pushes, plus weight on the lever, plus time held might be the key. Or maybe I need to include the lever pushes of my neighbors in my calculations. Or maybe only those neighbors whose cages look like mine, and how close does it need to be to count? Or maybe I shouldn't push the lever at all. I try every combination I can think of, but I am still no closer to understanding what I'll get when I push the lever than I was on the day I started and now I have a lot more pain and suffering from all the electrical shocks I received while trying.

I have seen other rats push their levers and in response have their cage doors opened and they move about at ease, have free access to food and water, and no longer receive the electrical shocks that they once experienced. I keep hoping for my own cage door to open the same way. What's different about them or their cages? Did they push more? Less? Eat more? Less? At different times? In different ways? I spend so much time trapped in the cage trying to start my life that the trying becomes my life. But what's the alternative? Running around my cage in circles? Starving myself to death? Screaming at the wind. I've tried it. Actually, I haven't tried starving myself and have no plans to do so. I have tried other unhealthy things over the years and then I'm only worse off. Anything logical, reasonable, positive... it all gets me right back exactly where I started. A rat in a cage without the fundamental dignities of life.

Everybody's a mad scientist, and life is their lab. We're all trying to experiment to find a way to live, to solve problems, to fend off madness and chaos. -David Cronenberg

I've reached a point now where I feel that I must either accept that my door will never open and resign myself to being a caged rat who must endure electrical shocks at random times if I intend to keep getting the fundamental necessities of life, in which case I keep my sanity but loose all hope, or I must try once more to use reason and figure out just what it is that will unlock that door in which case I might eventually be successful but I'll surely have gone mad in the process. In which will I be more fully human, more fully present, more fully myself? Or must I lose myself to some degree no matter what?

My husband is not rational. I have to believe that. If I don't, then I'll drive myself crazy trying to figure out the reason behind his actions. I believe he is like a toddler, acting on impulse and emotion, thinking only of himself and unable to comprehend how his actions have greater consequences for others, and as such is irrational, unpredictable, and self-involved. No amount of apparent logic falsely applied makes any of it make sense. I am not an individual to him, I am a role to be filled. I am replaceable with anyone else who will provide the services of cooking, cleaning, childcare, and companionship. I must accept that I have no power to change our situation. I can't get us half-way there. I can't get us anywhere. He has the key that unlocks the door and he doesn't much care about finding it. After all, he's not the one getting shocked trying to get us food. Why would he start now?

I could try to cheat. I could try to manipulate or bribe him into giving his support. I could throw him on the lever and let him see how it feels. But what would it gain me? And could I live with myself once I got there? It would be my luck that food would come out that time anyway. Maybe it is sour grapes or maybe I've been working under an illusion all along. Why do I presume that the rats whose cages are open have it better off? What am I even striving for?

Freedom is just Chaos, with better lighting. -Alan Dean Foster

I give up.

I'm done trying to figure it out.

I accept that there is no rational explanation for what I experience.

It doesn't matter how precisely I choose my words, how carefully I plan my steps, how scrupulously I hold myself to the light. There will be no triumph of reason because there is no reason here to be found.

Optimism is the madness of insisting that all is well when we are miserable. -Voltaire

I'm miserable and if I insist a moment longer on remaining optimistic, I will go mad. My life makes no sense. There is no reason. There is no order. There is no goodness or freedom. Trying to delude myself into believing otherwise is a fantasy created from denial. I must therefore conclude that the way my life is going is not leading me or my family toward God because there is order and goodness in all God's creation. We simply can't keep doing what we've been doing and expect things to improve, but AHHHHHHH!!!!!!!! it doesn't matter that I am aware of this because I'm not able to do a %#@$! thing about it.

In a world without the law of God, you have chaos, oppression, tyranny, and everyone doing what is right in their own eyes. -Randall Terry

I really don't care what kind of neurological syndrome or wiring or disorder causes my husband to hurt me this way. Today was an extraordinarily low blow. If he was of sound mind and able to enter into the marriage covenant, and there is a presumption that he was and a case history showing that Asperger's is not sufficient grounds for an annulment of it so no wondering if he was, then there is no excuse for his persisting on this path. He is hurting his wife and doing nothing to change it. I'm mad! And I'm so very sad that his knowledge of this won't change a thing. We're called to better. We're called to more. There is no reason that we don't have it outside of his hard-heartedness. And if someone wants to tell me that it is inherent in his Asperger's then my answer today would be, "So what?" Really. Boohoo. Cry me a river.

I don't care.

We've all got crosses. We've all got temptations. Apparently when I'm angry I'll use poor grammar. That doesn't make it right. What would make this right is for him to grow up, stop acting like a toddler, and recognize that there are consequences for his actions and there is a world outside of himself and then to ACT on it.

I'm just a little bitter right now.

And weepy.

And so unpleasant that I excused myself and spent my time writing this entry instead of unleashing the full measure of my emotions upon others.

I hate feeling this way.

I try hard to not compare our marriage to other couples we know. I never know what secret crosses they bear. I focus on comparing ourselves only to the minimum to which we are called, on recalling the good moments, on being realistic and hopeful. Then when I read those minimum requirements and I have to believe that we'll never achieve it, my heart is ripped out of my chest anew because a husband who is one with me is rightfully mine and he's denying me of it and there's not a thing I can do.
Asperger's didn't do this. My husband did and he continues to choose it with every passing minute in which he doesn't get off his butt and change it.

St. Evodius: Whence, therefore, are evil things done by men, if they are not learned?
St. Augustine: Perhaps it is from this, that man turns himself away from learning, that is, estranges himself from the fact of learning. But whether this or something else be true, this surely is evident—that learning is good, and because it is derived from [the verb] to learn, evil things can not be learned.

I wish I could take him by the ear and drag him somewhere and force him to learn. I wish there were a way to reason with him. I wish I could see good triumphing. I wish, I wish, I wish... As it stands now, I can choose between accepting the antithesis of what I'm called to being as the best I will get or I can defy reality and believe that continuing to do the same thing will one day get me a different result and that I'll eventually have a husband who can love me. Maybe the movies summed it up best:

Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something. -The Princess Bride

Monday, July 20, 2009

Birds of a feather

Last night, I had a wonderful night's sleep. I laid my head down on the soft pillow, wrapped my husband's arm around me, and slept like a baby.

I used to have the most uncomfortable pillow and I would complain of neck pain and poor sleep nearly every day. Nothing big or dramatic, just a minor annoyance. Then my husband wrapped up a gift and gave it to me: a big, soft pillow. He knew I'd like it and he glowed when he handed it over. He'd searched for just the right one. He was right. I've loved it ever since. I would have never thought to ask for a pillow for a gift.

When I am feeling sad, wondering if my husband knows the real me, understands what makes me tick, I remind myself about the pillow he chose. He knew exactly what I needed. Sometimes what we need is different from what we think we want. When I am feeling sad, wondering if I should have married Andrew, I remind myself that God often gives us what we need and not what we want and that it is only in retrospect that we can sometimes appreciate God's wisdom and providence. Life is hard. Being single is hard. Being married is hard. Being a woman is hard. Being a man is hard. Having children is hard. Being infertile is hard. Everyone has crosses to bear. When I put it into perspective, my constant, loyal, fun, funny, stable, adventurous, principled husband not being in touch with his feelings is a pretty inconsequential cross, even if it lays open my own weaknesses. Sometimes life is too hard and I just take a time-out, go take a nap, and tune out. But isn't it ironic that I curl up on that pillow he got me? Maybe when I can't get it by being hit over the proverbial head in my waking life, I get it by having it pummeled into me one feather at a time through osmosis while I sleep.

My life and its problems, as frustrating as they can be, is really a cushy life filled with pleasures and luxuries many would by happy to trade me for. I hope I can learn that sometime soon, but in the mean time I'll just keep holding on to that pillow as my proof that it isn't hopeless and I have a pretty darn good husband after all.

Friday, July 17, 2009

In the Doghouse

Ever feel like these guys?

It is a stereotyped joke, but in my husband's case, there are two things that aren't so funny to me. Dual Bag's inability to reflect on what happened, to understand his wife enough to see the situation from her perspective, or to figure out where he went wrong is not an anniversary-only occurrence around here. Exerciser's saying what he thinks the women want to hear with apparent understanding and sympathy when nothing has changed is the way my husband chooses to handle it, too.

Of course, this is a commercial and has a lot of dramatic effect. My husband doesn't excitedly present me with a vacuum as a romantic gift (he's not an idiot!); he draws a blank every time he tries to think of a gift to give (which would require putting himself in my shoes and thinking through what I would like and not like, something he can't do) and then ultimately doesn't give me one when nothing comes to mind. Not because he didn't want to or didn't care, but because he didn't know what to do so that translates to him being unable to do anything. If I want a gift, I have to explicitly say what I want. I have to be careful to make sure it is the right size, color, price, or returnable because otherwise I'll end up with exactly what I asked for, even if it wouldn't work out.

Exerciser's sobs is far more dramatic than my husband's blank stare and three-word expressions of understanding, but the effect is the same. The projected exterior does not reflect what's actually going on in the interior, which hasn't changed and he doesn't understand why it should. This is a difficult thing for me and I unfortunately sometimes react like the catty wives in the commercial, putting him in the metaphorical doghouse because he should have known better. What should I expect him to know, though? When should he be obligated to ask when he doesn't know? Is it a lie, as I interpret it, to project something he doesn't feel if he mistakingly thinks he does feel it? Is it presumptuous or manipulative of me to use my knowledge of him, his nonverbal communication, his actions, and his previous explanations to determine for myself how he appears to feel independent of what he says? How many times do I have to explain myself before I can expect him to know what makes me tick? And is he able to apply my explanation about the anniversary gift this time to the birthday gift next time?

Not knowing the answers makes every day seem unpredictable and I view my husband as apparently irrational and ultimately emotion-driven when he can't provide a logical or historical reason for his decisions. I feel helpless and out of control because no amount of my logic or emotion will change the circumstances. That in turn makes me feel unimportant, unappreciated, replaceable, and invisible even. I vacillate in my response between becoming defiant, hopeful, insistent, logical, determined, energized and angry at times to being sad, dejected, hopeless, emotional, and feeling useless at others. No matter how I respond, nothing seems to change. It is like a game of chance. Always the same odds but the numbers that work this time won't come close on the next.

Let's make up a scenario: Our anniversary is coming up and I want to go to dinner and a show. We talk every day for a month of how nice it will be to have the whole day off together, how we will be able to take our time getting ready instead of rushing around, talk of maybe going window shopping at that store we wanted to visit... It is on the calendar, we both want to do it and are looking forward to it, and all is well. Andrew agrees to take off from work and to purchase the tickets while I agree to have the clothes and babysitting lined up. We run through possible problems like if the show is sold-out, if the boss asks him to work, or if a child gets ill, and all appears to be understood and agreed on.

Then there's a problem: I'm a procrastinator and on my end the likely breakdown would be in putting off my accepted tasks for too long. I might be scrambling the day before our anniversary trying to find another babysitting arrangement when I find out my expected babysitter is booked. Even though procrastination is a perpetual problem for me, I realize at this point that I was wrong, I feel guilt and remorse, I am upset with myself and know I could have done better, I'm sorry for putting my husband in this position especially if I have to recruit his help for the tasks I took on, I'm stressed and anxious trying to get it all done in time and worried that I might have ruined it all, and I feel like a failure. I apologize, I sincerely intend to amend my ways, and I feel miserable for putting us in this position...again. It is slow going, but the trend does slowly improve with time.

Let's assume for the sake of simplicity that I managed to stay on top of my tasks but it is my husband who didn't this time: The boss has him working on a project. It is long term important but not immediately essential. The boss calls him up and asks if he can go to a meeting on the day of our anniversary, but there's no indication that the boss is aware that Andrew has that day off or why. Without ever consulting me, Andrew's thought process is that I have the clothes and kids taken care of, he has the tickets in hand, that we don't have plans on the calendar until the dinner reservations at 6, he can leave work at 5 and go straight to the restaurant, so he agrees. He calls me up and starts the phone conversation with, "The boss just called and asked me to work today..." I casually respond by saying, "Too bad for him! I get you all to myself today!" with a big grin on my face, looking forward to this day we've been talking about for so long. His voice hesitates as he haltingly says, "I told him I'd come in. I didn't think we had anything planned." At this point, my heart sinks into my chest. We now know that we aren't on the same page and someone has to give.

I say, "I was looking forward to spending the day with you like we've been talking about all month. Will you call him back and tell him you did have plans and can't come after all? That it is your anniversary and your wife would kill you?" In his work and with his boss, this would not be a problem. He can't do it, though. He has now made plans with the boss and doesn't see my issue. We didn't have "plans." There was nothing definite. It doesn't matter what I say at this point, he's not going to be home. Even though this throws off all of the discussed plans of him dropping off at the babysitter's while I ironed, of us getting ready at 4... No dice. He feels a little sad that I'm disappointed, but he doesn't see anything else that can be done about it and accepts that this is the way it is. No matter what I suggest, he can't see that there are other options. If I talk long enough, he might suggest that he can stop by home over lunch to say hi as if that makes it all OK. He won't tell the boss that he needs to leave after the meeting or ask if it can be moved to earlier in the day. He'll show up at the restaurant with a smile on his face at 6:15 saying he and a co-worker he doesn't even like got to talking about her new car and he couldn't leave on time, expecting me to have a big smile on my face as if everything were seamlessly going according to plan.

The reshuffling, the chaos of changing the plans on the kids, the time crunch of getting it all in, the emotional disappointment and resentment... none of it will register with him. It won't occur to him to apologize, to be nicer than usual, or even that I am upset. It is a very good thing that I don't like flowers or chocolates because there'd be no chance of my receiving them as a token of his remorse because he has no remorse to express.

If I tell him again how hurt I am, he'll say he is sorry and ask what I want to eat. His thought process is that there's nothing he can do about it now so we might as well move forward. It is almost like he's predestined, like all of life is outside his control. He couldn't tell the boss that it was his anniversary and he wouldn't come in, he couldn't tell the co-worker that he'd love to talk but it was his anniversary and he had to go, he couldn't go back and undo what I was complaining about because it is already done. If I ask him why he couldn't do it, his answer will inevitably be, "I don't know," and there the conversation will end. And if he couldn't have done anything about it, he couldn't have been in the wrong. Life just goes on. If I press him, he'll insist that he's sorry. But he'll also say there was nothing he could do and he wouldn't do it differently again and he doesn't see why I'm upset. He'll acknowledge that I am upset, and he's sorry for that. There's a disconnect, though, in that he doesn't take personal responsibility for it. If I push for hours or days even, using every bit of logic and emotional reserve I can muster, I will usually get small concessions and maybe even large ones where the lightbulb does seem to go off, but nothing will be different the next time around.

This has implications on our faith life as well. How can an orthodox Catholic go through an examination of conscience and give a good sacramental confession, admitting his wrongs, asking for forgiveness, and firmly intending to amend his ways in this situation? How can he seek spiritual direction if he won't tell the spiritual director about the different way he thinks? How can he grow as a husband, father, Christian, or man if there's nothing he can see or do to change?

If you asked my husband the question, "Do you see why your wife was upset?" he would tell you yes. I would mistakingly take this to mean that he understood that he had made a commitment to me for a special and emotionally charged day and then broken it when he had the ability to keep his promise, that he shouldn't have done that, and therefore that I was subsequently disappointed.

If you asked my husband the question, "Why was your wife upset?" he would take a long time in trying to come up with an answer and would repeat verbatim something I had said. "I didn't give her the support she needed." If you asked what that means, he'd eventually say he had no idea.

If you asked my husband what he could have done differently, he might repeat some of my suggested scenarios back of telling the boss he couldn't come in or of telling the co-worker he had to go. One might interpret this as accepting that there were things he could do differently and so he didn't make the best choice.

If you asked what he had the power to do differently, of what was in his sphere of control, he wouldn't be able to come up with an answer. This latter question requires thinking back and imaging himself doing something different and imagining the possible consequences of it, which he can't do.

I struggle with how much I can reasonably expect from him. It isn't his fault that he thinks differently than me, but is it his responsibility to recognize that he does and to accept workarounds that meet both our needs? Is he able to recognize that he thinks differently than I do? Why can't he assign emotional tasks to me like weighing two people's potential emotional reactions and which would be a prudent path, like I happily assign machine repair to him? What can we do to keep this cycle from repeating and how much responsibility does he share in making that a reality? They are answers to questions I haven't yet found.

Friday, July 10, 2009

An Apple a Day

While a person might be described as passionate, somber, or as a worry-wort, it isn't until those people become manic, depressed, or paranoid that those in the medical profession may ethically intervene. The debate is when a person has gone far enough outside the bounds of "normality" to necessitate medical intervention and who gets to decide that an individual has gone too far.

What is the goal of the medical profession's treatment, anyway? Is it to bring people into the range of normality or to completely eliminate the deviation? Should a person be left just a little bit cancerous? Just a little manic? Just a little depressed? Individuals with bipolar disorder are said to be more realistic and to have a better perspective on their emotions, to be more creative, better at setting goals and have greater motivation than the average person. Some of the world's finest artists are considered bipolar. There are streams of thought that doctors should only treat the depression side of bipolar disorder, should only treat the mania if the person is in physical danger from it, or should only treat the mania enough to bring it down to the hypomanic state and not to eliminate it. This is influenced by the requests of those in manic states who refuse to take their medicine and say they feel great and don't want to be brought back down. What is a doctor's obligation in this situation?

Derek Paravicini's blindness is said to be one of the contributing factors in his auditory abilities that make him a musical savant.

Stephen Wiltshire's memory for details that aid in his being an artistic savant might be partially explained by his autism.

If Derek's blindness and Stephen's autism were taken away, would their quality of life be benefited or harmed? If they would be harmed, would it be ethical to treat them for these conditions? Who decides?

With the proliferation of depression medication in the USA, people aren't feeling happier. Are the treatments helping? Is it ethical for doctors to prescribe a treatment that might work, even though it might exacerbate the problem and they don't really understand what's going on with the problem or how the treatment works to address it?

In the deaf community, no treatment was available and an identity of being deaf emerged. One had to accept that this was one's reality and would remain so. In combination with being unjustly connected with insanity or mental deficiencies, those who were deaf could not function within the larger community because the larger community rejected them. It was only through schools like Gaullaudet University that deaf students were empowered to become fully functioning members of society. There, they learned deaf culture among their other studies to learn to be proud of who they were and the great people through history who were deaf, who helped shape a community they could belong to with pride, and their own language--American Sign Language.

With the advent of cochlear implants, controversy arose. Was deafness something needing to be fixed? Was a parent denying a child his heritage if the child was removed from the deaf community by becoming a hearing person? Were those with cochlear implants traitors? Some high schools and colleges began removing ASL from their approved foreign language credits. In some circles, the treatment for deafness led to the deaf community being expected to fully integrate and not maintain a separate culture. Many (most?) in the deaf community did not and rejected any calls that expected them to do so. They said they didn't need or want to be fixed--there was nothing wrong with being deaf.

Following on its heels, autism diagnoses are on the rise. What is widely established as an incurable syndrome that must be accepted as one's reality is now being challenged with people like Jenny McCarthy claiming to have cured her son of autism through intensive therapy.

Did her son have autism? Was it caused by vaccines as she believes? Should she have tried to cure him of it? Are some or all forms of autism curable? Numerous treatment models, adaptations, diets, modified vaccination schedules, and other ways of trying to treat autism have arisen, but enough information isn't available yet for any consensus.

In the void, an autistic identity has developed for some in which they identify as being autistic, see it as a source of pride, identify with famous people in history who might have been autistic, and do not want to be treated for something they don't see as wrong. Which brings us back to the question of when a person has gone far enough outside the bounds of "normality" to necessitate medical intervention and who gets to decide that an individual has gone too far. When it comes to Asperger's and autism, what do you think?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Putting the A in Anonymous

One of my high school teachers was the kind you wouldn't be surprised to find on the news one night. She was quite popular with the students and stories swirled about her throwing parties for teens which included alcohol and drugs. It could have been the fantasy of a few of the male students, but I'm inclined to believe there was some truth to the rumors. The only accomplishment of her class was to teach us hundreds of the most common prefixes and suffixes in order to most accurately guess on multiple choice tests, and when that failed, how to outright cheat. I never knew of the entire world that exists to fill the market for scholarly deceit!

Thanks to that teacher, I know that there's a website where one can print off a cheat sheet that appears to be a coca-cola bottle wrapper and I know that the prefix a- means without, as in amoral, atypical, aardvark and abysmal. Likewise is the doubly-complicated vowel-preceding prefix of an- as in anaerobic, anarchy, and anonymous.

So why is my anonymous blog looking rather onymous? Elizabeth and Andrew are chosen names in honor of Eliza and Andrew Johnson whose marriage had some of the traits of my own. I thought it sounded better than calling myself Mrs. FiveEggsIn and my husband Mr. FEI. I briefly considered more heavenly namesakes such as Nicholas and Thérèse, both saints known for their anonymity, but decided that I had a long way to go before I could connect myself to them in such a public way. I figured one of the worst US presidents and his sickly wife were something we could do better than, so Andrew and Elizabeth it was.

Elizabeth, Elspeth, Betsy and Bess,
They all went together to seek a bird's nest.
They found a bird's nest with five eggs in,
They all took one, and left four in.

I hear tea tree oil is good for that...

I was searching around for some connections and found a lot of helpful, nice people on and off the spectrum. Being in a funk and all emotional right now, the ones who dealt only in stereotypes weighed heavily on me a la: "There's nothing for an NT wife to do but to divorce her AS husband and then complain about him on message boards for decades or to continue using him as a sugar daddy while having an affair" and "If you want to be a good wife to an AS male, take it from someone in his shoes that the best thing you can do for him is to move out, leave him alone, and move on in life so he'll be free to concentrate on what he actually cares about instead of pretending to care about you." Those are my chaffed and emotional paraphrases.

Instead of wallowing in the extremism of others and allowing it to further drag me down, I decided to do a little exercise about how we, like most people, don't fit the stereotypes. It is like cleaning the mold from the shower grout of my mind without any of the cleaning or the insidious fungi! Hover your mouse over the questions and after a moment the answers will be revealed. See if you can guess where we conform to the stereotypes and where we break the mold.
I believe it is common blog etiquette at this point to ask a question such as, "Any others out there who don't fit the stereotypical mold?" in order to encourage comments. Considering I have more ice cream flavors I would like to be eating now than I have people who are reading this, I'll reiterate that comments about you, your thoughts, your observations, your successes, your frustrations, your favorite desserts, or anything else of importance are appreciated on any post and leave it at that. Unless I break down and go get some ice cream, that is. Mint chocolate chip sounds awfully good...

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

"But he thinks you're attractive, doesn't he?"

A friend was confiding in me her struggles with body image, compounded by her husband's struggles with purity in his thoughts. She said to me, "I know that's just the way men are wired. Isn't your husband the same?" I hesitated a moment, trying to find a way to be honest while simultaneously meeting her desire for support before deciding there was no way to do both.

"That doesn't happen to be one of his particular struggles. He'd be more likely to notice the keychain a woman was carrying than the skirt she had on." I added a lighthearted laugh in an attempt to keep the conversation casual and moving forward, hoping to convey through my tone of voice and body language that I did understand her concern even if I didn't share the same circumstances.

"But he thinks you're attractive, doesn't he?" she said with some incredulity, apparently more worried about my body image at this point than her own.

"Oh yeah...when he thinks about it."

The conversation quickly trailed off, replaced by superficial banter. I knew that it would have been one of those bonding moments that bring women together had the discussion gone differently and I silently mourned the loss of commonality and friendship. I don't discuss my husband's differences with acquaintances both to respect his request and on principle (I have plenty of weaknesses of my own I wouldn't want him bringing up in casual conversations), but the kinds of conversations women have around me rarely address my marriage's particular struggles anyway. I imagine my friend felt more alone than ever, wondering if she was the only woman concerned about her husband finding her slightly-larger-self attractive at the end of the working day in which he was surrounded by a seemingly endless supply of thin, young women in heels. Since weight isn't something I struggle with, she politely implied I wouldn't have a clue what she was going through and hasn't brought the topic up again. What she didn't know is how much I could sympathize. The feeling of worthlessness, unattractiveness, and competition with "the other" that is created when a woman wants to feel loved in a way she can understand is something I experience regularly even though my husband doesn't have roving eyes.

On any given day, I could walk right in front of my husband buck naked and be completely invisible to him and totally ignored. The few times I hinted at his lack of interest in me or my life, I was told that my husband must be gay, must be having an affair, or must be involved in a gay affair. The marriage counselors we visited had no idea what to do with us. One called my husband an "odd duck." No one could relate.

"The other" I compete with is my husband's latest passion. This week that would mean he'd notice me if I were carrying a box of oh-so-difficult to find .380 bullets but in the past it has been anything from his connections to his family-of-origin to entrepreneurial ideas and anything you could imagine in between (before our marriage, his passion was me which is why he showed so much interest at the time and was able to woo me off my feet), but it has never been another woman (or man, for that matter) that I was romantically competing with. How can I be so sure? I asked him.

In a series of short and direct questions, his answers of no to every one means if he has ever had an affair (which I doubt), it is buried so well that I am not going to discover it. While my husband has a natural skill for answering what was asked and not what was intended, and because of his literal take on words he is adroit at talking in loopholes if he desires (meaning our entire conversation can quickly focus on the implications and definitions of particular words if I don't stay vigilant), he is unlikely to outright lie.

My friend went home and told her husband yet again about her insecurities. He assured her that he thought she was beautiful, hugged and kissed her, held her hand more, spontaneously praised her, and overall spent time and effort showing her his love. The next day, he was back to the demands of a high-pressure work environment and was ignoring her need for frequent flattery for the most part, but she was buoyed for a while and able to communicate her needs and fears effectively. I told my husband about our conversation and how isolated I felt in not being able to relate with other women. He nodded his head and said, "Mmmm..." in agreement, never lifting his eyes from his plate or giving any other indication of concern or support. He didn't touch me all that evening until he leaned over to kiss my forehead to say goodnight--one of the few times our routine includes physical interaction. It was a little underwhelming so I expressed my frustration and desires on how it could have gone differently to his expressionless face. Getting nothing, I said, "I need you to hold me." He happily obliged, wrapped his arm around me, and was snoring in contentment, happy with the perfection that was currently his life as I laid alone in the dark and cried.

Starting Out...

I need support. I need to connect with other people who experience the same things I experience. I need to be understood.

I also need to respect my husband's privacy and his legitimate request that I not put him in uncomfortable or potentially compromising positions by discussing the fact that he has Asperger's with those in our life.

The compromising medium is to start this blog and to hopefully discover the blogs of others who are making similar journeys through it so that I may learn and laugh and grow in love for my husband among them.

Sometimes I appreciate the joys of living with my husband. Loyal, passionate about what interests him, intelligent, slow to anger, usually well-researched, adventurous, practical, patient, curious, and observant, he also has the most adorable dimples and a fire that fills his eyes and knocks me off my feet when he's inspired.

Other times, I feel like we live in different universes and I wonder if I will ever know what goes on inside him, or if there even is anything more than what I see, and I am tempted to despair. While I tend to be intuitive, introspective, communicative, nuanced, and working in a realm of people and perceptions to see the gestalt or the "big picture," my husband is quite the opposite. Add in a house full of people and pets, in-laws worthy of the movies, random forays into new hobbies or pursuits, a shared passion for our faith, and a burned dinner or two and you have our life.

Love, look at the two of us,
Strangers in many ways.
Let’s take a lifetime to say,
“I knew you well . . .”

-The Carpenters