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?


  1. I have to be told everything, though I am improving.

    My wife needs to tell me in advance to take days off. If she wants a cuddle, she needs to spread her arms at me.


    She can "Program" me up with rules.

    Example: I now NEVER ever get a drink without asking her if she wants one.

    I give her a hug/kiss when I get home, when I go to bed etc.

    A combination of rules and signals does the trick for us.

    Your friend might just be looking for a bit of empathy but if she's looking for solutions, direct her to the web.

  2. She was looking for solutions. I can't really tell her to go look up Asperger's, though. I think it would be too presumptuous of me and would tread dangerously close to making my husband uncomfortable and unhappy. I feel torn.

  3. Hmmmm... tricky.

    If it were a friend of mine, I might just tell her to be very open and honest with him about how [all of the above] affect her.

    My husband and I have mainly just agreed not to share his AS diagnosis with his family. So I would probably share my experience and strategies too. Sometimes it's just nice to know there are others in the same boat!

  4. Elizabeth, you're in a rough spot. Do you think it's possible she confided in you because she thinks your husband shares some of the same qualities and she was looking for someone who might understand, or was she venting? We are also in the closet, so to speak, about the diagnosis—a few close friends know but we don't explain or apologize for his quirkiness otherwise. Personally, although this is hard when a friend is hurting, I think your loyalty has to be to your husband. It's a shame the movie ADAM is in such limited release. Perhaps when it's on DVD you can pass it along to her as a good chick flick with a really cute guy in it and hope she picks up on the similarities on her own?

    Abby, I agree it's tricky. And that it's a relief to find someone to talk to who understands that being in an NT/AS marriage goes beyond "men are from mars." Not so sure the "open and honest" would work, though. How I was communicate with my husband has changed drastically since we learned about AS. A story a friend told the other day captures this. Her husband works a 9-5 job and she has a flexible schedule but works Saturday mornings. She makes a point, every afternoon, of taking the kids out to run off their sillies, tidying up the house, and having dinner started so he'll come home to a calm and neat house and will be able to relax and enjoy his evening. She'd come home on Saturdays and find the house is chaos, the kids are jumping around, and he hadn't made her a sandwich. So she was crabby the rest of the day because he doesn't treated her as well as she treats him. So she finally realized that she hasn't asked for what she wants. She sits him down and explains her daily routine then says, "And you know how nice it feels when you come home? I want to feel like that on Saturdays, too."

    That's all she had to say for him to have lunch waiting for her, the house tidied up, etc. Sometimes, he even drops by her office with coffee mid morning.

    I laughed and laughed at this story—she's not married to a man with aspergers. If I used those exact same words, and I probably would have before I knew about AS, my husband and I would have ended up in an argument about how my mood is entirely under my own control and nothing to do with him. Further, that he never ASKED me to tidy up or start dinner, so I should admit I do them because they make me happy or because I feel it is important for kids. On and on it would go; we'd both end up wounded and angry and the house would still be a mess and the kids nuts when I got home from work. However, now that I know about AS, I would not bother to say anything at all about the fact that I perform this wifely courtesy for him 5 days out of 7. I'd say, "Please take the kids out to the park for 30 minutes while I'm at work, and make sandwiches for all of us to eat when I get home at noon." And it's likely that he would do all those things because I asked him to. (If my friend heard this translation, she'd think I was being too bossy and was possibly a control freak—but that's life with a man with asperger's.)

  5. You know, Anon, I think that's a good point. I had realized it, but not thought of it particularly that way.

    I'm also seen as being bossy by onlookers when I speak to my husband the way he desires, without the extraneous stuff. Since he is an introvert, it isn't uncommon that people think he's henpecked, which couldn't be further from the truth.

    I believe my friend is someone who is explanation heavy, She wants to be understood. I don't know, but I would suspect that she probably does give the friendly explanation like you describe.

    If she brings it up again, I might suggest the direct approach.

    I think she was venting and I was there, but that she now regrets having said anything to me because she should be happy with having a good man as her husband who works hard, pays the bills, takes care of the family's (physical) needs, etc. I wish there was more I could do to comfort her. I don't think the Adam movie would be a good idea since it is so forthcoming about his diagnosis. What's the other movie that didn't actually talk about Asperger's? I'll look that one up, too.

  6. Eliza -
    I remember how relieved I was when I figured out about Andy - everything just slid into a new focus. Feel free to share my Ah-Ha Moment post with her if you think she might be open to it. Andy is fine with my talking about his "diagnosis" with others.
    The movie PS I Love You has Harry Conick (?)as an Aspie but doesn't actually say it out loud. He just says he is biologically rude. That might be an in.

  7. HA! "biologically rude". I like that.

  8. Just a comment, yes, living with an AS can be difficult, but knowing the AS diagnosis meant the world to me! I was filled with guilt and confusion, and blaming myself for the lack of communication and barriers.
    Just knowing what was going on meant that I could finally understand and cope! One minor incident helped me, it at once brought me joy, and showed me how the syndrome manifests itself in my beloved. I was doing the laundry one day, and hurriedly just placed the hamper in the opposite corner from where it has been for almost a year. Next morning, my husband's clothes were piled in the corner where the hamper used to sit. Ordinarily this would have been an indication of laziness to me, but then I realized this was a part of his routine and he had placed the clothes where he had learned to place them, regardless of where the hamper was located. I immediately moved the hamper back to its usual spot and the clothes continued to be placed in the hamper neatly every evening. Without my knowledge of AS and the need for following routines, I would have been angry that my husband "couldn't even pick his clothes up off the floor." Now I know that it's not him just being lazy, it's him following his set routine. It made the world of difference in my mind set. I don't resent him for the clothes being in the floor now, and I am glad I was able to understand what was really going on! This is just a small example of what I've learned and feel free to share this with anyone!