Step One: Let Go

First and foremost, you need to let go of any bitterness, anger and resentment in your life. This may be the hardest step. You do this by taking care of you, which is ultimately what The Aspie Way is all about: making life better for you. You will be amazed how much better you feel once this step is accomplished.

Here are some ideas to get you started.

If you’ve been battling in your relationship long enough, there is a decent chance that you need professional help. See a therapist and/or a psychiatrist to help you rid yourself of the heavy burden of bitterness, anger and resentment. If you have these negative feelings from something other than your NT/AS relationship, work on resolving these issues so you don’t transfer your hard feelings onto your ASP.

Find support from people who understand. If you’re lucky enough to know other NTs who are with Aspies, then make a pact together to be hopeful and positive as you support each other. Or join an online support group. Or contact me, and we can email. Conversely, if you have people in your life who spew negativity all over you, then distance yourself from them.

Pamper yourself regularly. With life often being a whirlwind of activity, it is important for you to take time out for yourself. Exercise. Get a pedicure. See a sad movie and cry (crying releases chemicals that make you feel better), meditate, chill out with your favorite music, watch a sunrise/sunset, write in a journal, read a good book (anything but romance, which sets unrealistic expectations!), or indulge in anything else that you can safely do for you!

Along the way, work on dropping your expectations of your ASP. If you don’t expect anything, he can’t disappoint you, right? Take care of things as if you’re single. Once you stop expecting anything from him, many of the past hurts you carry should fall away.

Really process that ASP has a disability. Asperger’s or high functioning autism (HFA) is not just a bundle of bad behaviors bent on ruining your life (no matter how much they seem to!). It means that no matter what you do, he has to struggle every day just to function. Normal conversation to you is a marathon to him. Communication can be confusing or even painful. Nothing, except his special interest, is truly safe. Start thinking of how you would feel if you had his disabilities. Let compassion replace bitterness, anger, and resentment.

If you’re having trouble recognizing what is part of his disability and what isn’t, read all you can about the syndrome. If you know your ASP is a good guy who is otherwise healthy, then you can attribute most of his difficult behavior to the anxiety underneath his Asperger’s/HFA.

Remember the guy you fell in love with. He’s still in there! Throughout your journey with The Aspie Way, look for signs of this guy. Reconnect with him as you can.

As you free yourself from the heavy burden of bitterness, anger and resentment, move on to Appreciate His Gifts, part two of The Aspie Way, which I will post soon.

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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.

I Tried the Aspie Way, and it Didn’t Work!

If you have adopted the Aspie Way philosophy and it isn’t working, there are several possible reasons. First, please read the About page here.

But if you’re basically healthy, your ASP is basically healthy and the Aspie Way still hasn’t worked, there are other factors to consider.

First and most important: the Aspie Way is a way of life, not something to “try” here and there. It requires consistency and repetition and patience. For my ASH, it took six months for his meds to start working, as compared to the 90 days the same meds take for an NT. During this six month period, I was learning to change. I slipped up *a lot.* I did not see results until I had truly changed and could consistently keep things low stress with my ASP. It really didn’t take him that long to start trusting me once I had really changed. But when I was full of doubt and was bouncing in and out of depression and in and out of the Aspie way, there was no basis for the trust required for the Aspie Way to work. For ASP to trust me, I had to be trustworthy, and the occasional low-stress conversation, alternating with upsetting ones, just didn’t cut it. The low stress environment had to be the primary environment for a few weeks before I started to see the benefits.

Another situation that could make the Aspie Way difficult, if not impossible, would be if you are in a long distance relationship and have little contact with each other. For many Aspies, “Out of sight is out of mind.” Let’s face it, Aspies are visual and are quite focused on the risk/reward ratio of any situation. If he hardly sees you, if you’re not there to offer him the support and love and compassion he needs, and if his contact with you is risky (in other words, sometimes he’s gets a weepy, complaining, high-stress you instead of the compassionate, accepting, loving you), chances are he will avoid contact with you and will simply build a new life for himself without you. If this has happened, there may be no way for you to build trust with him or the fresh start that is needed for the Aspie Way to work. I’m not saying you will definitely fail if you’re in a long distance relationship, but I am saying that it becomes crucial that you make sure every interaction with him is as low stress as possible. And you may not be able to do this. I don’t think I could have. I needed my few months of regular, daily practice before I could really change.

On the other hand, let’s look at a long distance relationship with your ASP from a more positive view: maybe having less contact could work in your favor. Maybe you’ll find that it’s easier for you to control yourself when you know it’s only for a short time on the phone or on Skype or however you connect. Then, once the contact is over, you can cry or yell or get support from a friend or otherwise work through your stressful emotions safely away from your ASP. If you approach it this way, your long distance relationship could be a blessing.I think it all depends on you and what you can do. Everyone is different.

Consistency is key. Be patient. Believe in yourself. If you can do this, I believe you can do the Aspie Way.

The Aspie Way Philosophy

Before you read this, please see the “About” page for this blog.

Our hypothesis is this: Aspies are suffering with crippling anxiety. They often don’t even know it because they don’t understand their own emotions. All the hellish traits we have to deal with are all because of this anxiety. So the key to the Aspie Way is to communicate in a way that does not trigger stress. Once stress is triggered, ASP can’t learn, will forget, and will either meltdown or withdraw, either immediately or later.

We also believe that underneath every ASP is a scared little boy who wants to please us more than anything. The problem is that every time they believe they’ve failed, that little boy goes deeper and deeper inside himself, where, you guessed it, he can’t learn how to please us.

So the answer? Get that little boy to trust you. Show him that he can make you happy by being very vocal about your appreciation of his gifts. You have to watch for those gifts, so many of them are easy to take for granted because they’re things we think they “should” do anyway. But regular tasks are more difficult for them and should be appreciated. So say lots of “thank you’s” over every day basic things. Say it even if you don’t feel it. As long as you don’t sound sarcastic or upset, he will hear it, will know he is succeeding at making you happy, and therefore will keep trying.

What about all the things he’s *not* doing “right?” You simply ask for what you want. Ask politely without emotion. Emotion scares the little boy. Just ask for what you want without explanation and always say please. Never add stuff like “…like I asked you already.” This will shame him and bring his walls up. Keep it very simple, monotone, blank face.

Depending on how bad things are you may have to start with small requests. You will have to ask for things you want him to figure out for himself. You will have to accept that he might not be capable of knowing what you want unless you tell him. You will have to change your expectations to be in line with his disabilities.

I am also a strong advocate for professional help for both the NT and the AS in the relationship. Medication for anxiety, ADD and depression for your ASP can bring miracles. The NT may need medication just as much to be able to control herself while learning the Aspie Way. I think the Aspie Way will work without meds, but I believe it will be a longer and more difficult road.

Last but not least, making these changes is hard. Expect to slip. It’s okay. Your ASP will forget bad days when they’re replaced by good ones. Go easy on yourself and take good care of yourself. Do what you need to do to process your anger and set boundaries for yourself. There’s no way I could have done any of this when I was drowning in bitterness and hopelessness. I had to fix me first. I think often the first thing the NT must address is sleep deprivation. Good sleep = calmer you. And a calmer you = a you your ASP can trust.

What do you think? Any thoughts?