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Autism/Continutation of High Functioning Autistic with Neurotypical Me

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Hi Melanie,
I couldn't figure out how to add on to the previous question, so I started a new one...
Thank you for your kind email message – I reread it many times in the past week to remind myself to be patient, that he loves me, and that I shouldn’t pressure him into talking to me.  I was patient - it was excruciating to do so, but I did it.  I emailed him once to tell him that I was going to a dark place bc I thought he was deciding to never speak to me again, and he did quickly reassure me that he was busy with work, feeling melancholy, and processing the email I sent him that had the details of yours and my conversation...  He said he would talk to me soon… (this was a week ago)
He contacted me tonight, via text, and asked me if I would see him this weekend.  I told him we had to talk bc it would not be easy for me emotionally to see him casually.  We did speak on the phone, I told him how I felt and asked him if he was willing to discuss the email I sent him. He began with asking me what I needed from him to be in a relationship with me– I said:
1)   Someone who can plan for the future with me
2)   Spend quality time with me and share some activities
3)   Work through day to day challenges together – i.e. cleaning the house, etc.
4)   Him to tell me what he needs and not to shut me out
5)   Respect and willingness to relate to my friends and family, or at least be with me to spend time with them sometimes
I then asked him what he needed from me, and he said he needed me to be okay and okay with him and that he wanted it to work out.   He then seemed not able to go on, and was overwhelmed by the conversation – stating he hadn’t been sleeping lately and was a little groggy.  I said okay and that I understood, but that I was concerned that what he needed was to be with someone who didn’t need so much from him…  I also told him that I thought that part of what happened last year when he shut down from me was him reacting to being overwhelmed by my needs.
He then said: “maybe – but maybe I need someone to need things from me to help me stay on track.  I’m not sure.”  He wants to talk more about all of this on Saturday, and to try to work it out.
FINALLY, my questions.   I haven’t seen him for close to a month and have been miserable and sad the whole time.  Not a day has gone by that I haven’t thought about him, and thought about how, if possible, I would be able to move on from him.  I find myself scared now – scared to try and talk with him to work things out bc I am so fearful that I will continue to be hurt.  I did tell him this – that I was scared of being shut out again and not be able to help him,etc.  What are some ways that you and your husband compromise issues that you don’t agree on?  For example, this is a recurring issue which happened a lot in the past.   He went out all night with an old female friend of his, he wouldn’t text me to let me know he was safe at her house (they would go out drinking), and he would expect me to be okay with this.  I originally had issues with the fact that she was female, and when we were really not getting along, the trust issue was worse.  I now don’t fear for him cheating on me (at all) – but I would still like to know that he is safe.  Or, that it would be nice if he could send me a reassuring text good night just because he knows I worry…  His reaction to my reactions are that I should know that he can take care of himself, and that he doesn’t want to promise to contact me in case he forgets.  Do you think this is an issue that can be resolved?  This is also a good example of the types of issues we have where I am not able to explain to him why I am hurt by him not thinking of me, or being considerate of me.  These types of things (to me) seem like common sense and in the past I was highly angry and aggressive about trying to explain this to him.  I am confident that I understand now that that is not the way to go – but I am scared that I still don’t know how to deal with issues like this!!??
The fear I am feeling is basically a fear that it can’t work out and that I have to move on.  I do not want to feel this way and am TRYING to stay optimistic, but as you said – maybe he just can’t do anything else than work and sleep??  And if that is the case, isn’t it wrong for me to continue to perpetuate this?
I have to say that the conversation we had on the phone was reassuring – neither of us got frustrated with the other and both genuinely seemed to be trying to just say clearly what we wanted to convey.  I guess maybe that is the crux of the matter – I am very emotional and whenever I let my defensiveness and emotions take over I have a hard time holding it together…  I honestly think you have helped me with trying to do this Melanie, and I thank you so much for your help.  Again, any advice at all that you could send my way will be unbelievably appreciated…
Thank you.

Answer
The situation you describe would make me very upset.    Yes, you should know that he can take care of himself, AND he should know that you (and most other females in the world) need the re-assurance that he is fine. But I can really relate to both sides.   I desperately hate to promise something that I am likely to fail, and I get really upset when my husband or children are out later than expected (or after a potentially dangerous situation) and fail to contact me.  Gratefully my husband and children do not drink, so I don't have that to worry about, but this is a good example of the sort of things that FREQUENTLY arise between men and women especially.  (Sometimes I think my husband is totally devoid of any common sense at all, and I'M the one who is autistic. From what I hear, most women feel this way at one time or another)  I think this is less a NT vs ASD issue than it is a male vs female issue.  BUT, the important thing here is that you work out a solution that you are both willing to live with.

"What are some ways that you and your husband compromise issues that you don't agree on?"  Communication.  Forgiveness.  Communication.  We don't do it perfectly.  He can be passive-aggressive, and I can withdraw.  But the better we understand and forgive, the more smoothly life progresses.  Understanding, sacrifice (on both sides) and compassion are key components to love for one another.  There will never be guarantees, not with your ASD boyfriend, and not with a NT boyfriend.  But the better you are both able to communicate and understand each other, as well as forgive each other when you fail (and you will), the happier you will both be.  In any negotiation BOTH sides need to compromise.  Without a balance, hurt and bitterness can grow.

The only actual ASD issue I see here is that of him shutting down when he is overwhelmed.  You will need to learn what contributes to his level of frustration and see if there is something you can do to help him avoid becoming overwhelmed as well as (patiently) understand and forgive when he has to retreat for a time to recover.  He will need to avoid shutting you out and let you know how and when you can help him in the above noted areas.  This is not something I can describe for you step-by-step.  Rather, it is something that needs communication and negotiation as you go.

I appreciate your encouragement at the end of this note.  I'm not a counselor or anyone special, just a mom and wife with ASD with lots of understanding about autistic living.  I am glad to hear you have benefited from things I have said - it certainly seems to be the case in the follow-up letters you have sent to me.  I think you are on the right track, and I am delighted that your conversation on the telephone went so well.  I can't tell you whether or not to hang onto the relationship, but if you decide to call it quits, I suggest you do so not because of his ASD traits (don't give up on him), but only if you and he are not well suited.  I suggest that the better you understand each other the more clearly you will see which outcome will work best for both of you.  I genuinely wish you the best, and congratulate you on the progress you have already made.

Melanie

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Melanie R Jones, ASD, PT MTC

Expertise

I am an adult with autism, and have an educational and professional background which helps fill in where needed. Answering questions about autism is extremely easy for me, because I have lived it daily for my entire life. Although individuals with autism are all unique, we have many things in common, especially in the interactions we have with neurotypicals (or those often referred to as "normal"). When something confuses you about an autistic's behavior or needs, I can help. I am not a doctor, however, so I cannot diagnose.

Experience

I am autistic and have four children who have special needs related to ASD. I have worked with autism from just about all directions, as a child, peer, parent, employee, patient and therapist. There is much misinformation about the autism spectrum, partly because it has been described comparatively recently in the medical literature and partly because most of the information published has been provided by those "outside looking in". As a physical therapist I have had training and experience in behavioral management and rehabilitation which blends well with the neurological, psychological and medical education I pursued in college.

Education/Credentials
BA Biology/Psychology Wells College 1981 BS Physical Therapy Upstate Medical Center CHRP 1983 Manual Therapy Certification 1989 Independent Studies

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