Do I Have To Parent Him?

I used to be very resentful of running my ASP’s life. I felt that he didn’t contribute anything, I did everything, and the last thing I wanted was to be his personal secretary or his mother. That was just another level of burden that I was *not* willing to endure.

Then I reached the end of my rope. Things had gotten so bad. I hit bottom and was willing to do anything to stop the hell I lived in. I felt trapped, like I couldn’t leave him, so I was desperate to do anything to make things better.

I don’t think you’d have to hit bottom to follow the Aspie Way, but you do have to be motivated to make things better.

I had to do everything in stages. I took care of me first.

Once I was okay, I worked on letting go of all my expectations and resentments from the past. To do this, I had to frequently remind myself that ASP has disabilities, and so I can’t expect as much from him.

I started fresh. I re-approached the relationship with the expectation that I’d get nothing from him. As far as I was concerned, I was single and he was no more than a roommate. I did not tell him this, which was important because if he felt like I’d abandoned him, he would have shut down.

Next, I resolved to treat him with polite calmness, no matter what. I said “please” and “thank you” with nearly anything I said to him.

Once I was doing a pretty good job of remaining calm, which got easier over time, I started asking for small things, always gentle and always polite.

He did every thing I asked.

Maybe at this point I was parenting him a little because I was asking him for a lot of things, including some things that seemed obvious to me. But already he was better at taking care of himself. Before we met, he lived independently and took care of all he needed without my help, and once I was no longer a source of stress, he resumed taking responsibility and did his share around the house. It was only tending our relationship that gave him trouble at first.

It took a few months, but for less pain than I had been going through before all of this, I got a loving, attentive, considerate husband who was rapidly taking on more responsibility, without being asked.

Without the stress of me being upset all the time, he had the desire to please me and actually looked for ways to do so. He took my suggestion of setting himself reminders on his mobile device for all kinds of things. I don’t know all of the reminders he set up, but I know he had one set for every night, when he would “ask her about her day” and “tell her something nice.”

Now he has a daily routine that includes doing more than his share around the house, and he takes good care of me. He doesn’t use reminders anymore and isn’t on a schedule for his interactions with me. His actions are more spontaneous now.

Rarely, I still have to ask him for things that, if he weren’t disabled, I wouldn’t have to ask. Like I might have to say, “Honey, would you please help me unload this box? All of the books go on that shelf,” but this is so easy now that I’m not resentful. I am rewarded by him doing what I ask without argument and by him asking, “What else can I do?” with a smile and love in his eyes. It is so easy and just doesn’t feel like parenting any more.

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A Happy NT/AS Relationship

My ASP and I just had our 18th wedding anniversary! We’ve been together for over 20 years now. ASP said to me, “18 is the age for an adult, so I guess our marriage is an adult now.” This was so sweet. We’ve been through SO much together; there were years when I never would have believed our relationship could be happy and mature like it is now.

Another thing he said was, “What can I do for you?” which is something I hear a lot from him. He’s very attentive to my needs, is very affectionate, and is expressive about his love for me.

Doesn’t sound like an Aspie, does it? I assure you that he’s an Aspie through and through. I once had Cassandra syndrome, depression, an auto-immune disease, and was so miserable in my marriage, I felt so trapped, that I wanted to end my life. I think it was hitting bottom that convinced me to set aside all of my pride and treat ASP the way he needs to be treated, even though he definitely didn’t deserve it. It felt like more punishment at first, but I was willing to do anything. The pay-off has been so worth it! It was the best decision I ever made.

Here’s some background on my decision. Both of our children, ds age 16 and dd age 13, have Asperger’s. I watched them grow from happy, loving, normal toddlers into, well, Aspies. Watching them and ASH led me to believe that Asperger’s is largely an anxiety disorder. Most of the Aspie behaviors that were a problem seemed to be built as a defense mechanism, a wall erected to keep others from hurting them. They are terrified of strong, negative emotion. The other big fear they have is of failure. They are naturally competitive perfectionists.

I thought about how these fears would apply to an intimate relationship. ASP wouldn’t want to be too affectionate or loving or attentive because this would make him vulnerable. He wouldn’t initiate sex or a date or anything else because he was afraid of being turned down. He’d disappear into video games at every opportunity to escape the possibility of upsetting me, which to him feels like punishment. I don’t think he was aware of the reasons for his behavior; the Aspies I’ve known don’t understand themselves or their emotions very well. But I was convinced that I had figured him out.

So here is what I did: I decided to do all I could to lower his anxiety. I didn’t raise my voice, I didn’t criticize him, I didn’t get upset about him in front of him, I minimized using sarcasm, and I was generally patient and tolerant of him. It took me a while to get the hang of all this, but I did (never perfectly though).

Another big help was that he went to a psychiatrist and got medications for anxiety, depression, and ADD. The anxiety medicine was so helpful! I am so grateful that he was willing to get help. He hates taking medicine and is now back to being med-free. He was medicated for about two years.

ASP’s anxiety became manageable. He started telling me how he really felt about things because he was no longer afraid that he’d upset me. We had long talks about his fears regarding me, and I did a lot of calming and reassuring him that I did love him and I wouldn’t leave him no matter what. After so many years of me wanting to leave, it took about a year for him to believe that I was staying. Once he had that straight, he really started to change. He started to hold my hand, kiss me spontaneously, and tell me he loves me. One night he confessed that he had been miserable in our marriage too, but he just had no idea how to make it better.

So much is better now, but not everything. He still lacks theory of mind. He has no idea what I’m thinking, what I want, or why I do the things I do. This kind of sucks. I want my partner to know me and anticipate my thoughts sometimes. But in the bigger picture, this is a small thing. And he’s learned to do some things to let me know he wants to meet my needs, like frequently asking me what he can do for me. He used to be so inconsiderate that I wouldn’t have believed he was capable of considering me before he acts, but he is and he does!

I now have a husband who pampers me and puts me first in all things. If I want anything from him, I just have to tell him, and he’ll do it. He’s loyal and devoted. He loves me like no NT could. He never resents anything he does for me or the kids. And now that he’s made these changes, I know they are for good. Once he makes a rule, he sticks with it, and now, thanks to some sacrifice on my part, he has lots and lots of rules to please me. It’s wonderful!

I wouldn’t trade my ASP for a normal guy ever. He’s the best, and he gives me so much that only an Aspie can give.