Tag Archives: Love

Is it me? I honestly don’t think so

Every now and then my wife cold shoulders me, freezes me out, gets angry at me, puts me in the doghouse, gives me the silent treatment, pick any or all of the above.

It usually lasts two to three days, and can be extremely hurtful, since when it is happening, the only things she will say to me are criticisms or spiteful observations, or threats (to leave).

The cause can be anything – but you can be sure that she will make it look like something I did or said, or failed to do or say.

Currently I’m in the middle of a freeze-out, the reason being that I reacted less than positively when she announced that she intended to buy a handbag for £800 off Ebay. A second-hand Louis Vuitton, no less. I expressed my opinion that no handbag was worth that much, and it was a bit of a crazy thing to do when we were trying to save money for some fairly major life changes (involving emigrating half way across the world) and she was already working her notice at her job.

My reaction seems to have brought out some normally well-hidden insecurities about the fact that after we emigrate, she will be fully dependent on my income, something that I have absolutely no problem with (and have expressed this many times), and normally, neither would she – it’s just that when she goes off in high dudgeon like this, all the things that would normally not bother her, suddenly rear up and become huge issues in her mind. And now when I approach her I’m being treated to comments like “I can manage on my own”, “I can pay for this myself”, “I can be independent”, “I’m going to look for somewhere else to live”, etc etc. I generally don’t respond as I’ve realised that if I rise to the bait, things get worse.

In other episodes, it’s been a different issue that suddenly gets magnified – like can she trust me to stick by her when we’re old, or any number of other things that, honestly, people in their millions successfully ignore because it’s not something that justifies worry, or that worrying will help to resolve.

Sometimes, in the throes of one of these freeze-outs, I’ve taken a passive, apologetic stance, treating her as the alpha of the couple and agreeing that I was in the wrong (no matter whether I was or not). At other times I have stuck to my guns, when I know that my position is rational and logical, and hers isn’t either of those things. That’s what I’m doing this time around, and I actually think in this situation my Aspergers helps me keep a cool head because I can just use my autistic shell to retreat into and protect myself from all the emotion flying around. Not that it stops the hurt I feel inside. Curiously enough, whichever stance I take seems to make very little difference to the outcome – which is that, after up to three days of alternating silence and spiteful barbs, she transforms back into a normal human being and following a lengthy heart-to-heart all is forgotten.

Right now I’m hoping that today is the last day of the current episode and things will start getting back to normal overnight and tomorrow. She headed out an hour ago for ports unknown saying “don’t wait up”, so at the moment it’s anybody’s guess what I’m in store for when she gets back.

In the six or so years we’ve been together I’ve endured at least nine or ten of these episodes. Two or three were my fault, but not so the rest. Filipinos have a word for it: Tampo (link is to an enlightening article on Wikipedia).

At the end of the day, I endure. I do my best to hold my tongue, or to say placatory things if I think that’s appropriate, and I wait it out. I do this because, when it comes down to it, I love her more than I’ve loved anyone else in my life, I want her to have the best, happiest life possible, and I honestly believe that her life is better with me in it, and vice versa.

The things we do for love.

POSTSCRIPT: Sure enough, after almost three days of tampo, she apologised, explained how hard it is for her to be straightforward and express her anxieties when she’s upset, and everything returned to normal.

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An Autistic Christmas

I don’t make a big deal about Christmas. Why would I? I’m not religious, and I don’t have kids. As far as I can see, those two things are the only reasons to make a fuss about what, to me, is just an orgy of conspicuous consumption.

However, both of my major relationships have been with women who like to mark the occasion, so for almost all my life, I’ve reluctantly engaged in the annual activities of finding a tree (or dragging the artificial one out from under the bed), putting up lights, trying to find relatives’ addresses to send cards, cooking a roast dinner, often having to ensure the company of one or other side of the family, before taking everything down and putting it away a few days later and breathing a long sigh of relief.

In my current relationship, we’ve reached a kind of equilibrium where we have a small table-top tree with a handful of decorations and lights, we send small presents to my parents and my niece, we don’t send cards, we go for a walk on the morning of the 25th, followed by a nice dinner that I usually cook, and that’s pretty much it. I’m OK with that.

This year I had the bright idea of inviting my ex to join my partner and I for Christmas lunch. Not my best idea as it turns out.

Let me give this some context.

When I ended my previous major relationship in 2010, after a few months of awkwardness my ex and I decided that we should try to be friends; my own thinking was that if we couldn’t salvage something, then what had the last 20 years accomplished? Or something like that, it’s hard to explain. But anyway, we tried, and it worked, and we get along very well as friends. It’s probably how we should have stayed in the first place to be honest.

Since starting my current relationship in 2012, I made it clear to my partner that my ex and I were on good terms, and since then we’ve met up together (all three of us) a number of times – dinner at our house, coffees at my ex’s, etc. At one point my partner remarked that it was a hard concept for her to wrap her head around, the fact that I was still friends with my ex, but that she was OK with it. Too bad I’m hopeless at reading between the lines, otherwise I might have realised that the cultural gap was too great (my partner is from south east Asia) and she was just trying to deal with it for my sake, while feeling deeply uncomfortable with the situation.

Us autists are often labelled as lacking empathy, which is actually not true. We can feel things like compassion very deeply, but often it can be overwhelming because our brains can’t process it properly, leading us to try and block it out and by doing that, giving the impression of being cold and lacking emotion. Either that or we feel compelled to act on our feelings in situations where non-autistic people might have more success reigning in their emotions and realising what is appropriate and what is not.

Anyway, it was compassion for someone that I thought might be lonely over Christmas that led me to suggest to my partner that we could invite my ex for Christmas lunch. She agreed, said it was a nice idea, and so that’s what we did.

It wasn’t until early Christmas morning that my partner sprang on me her real feelings, which was that she didn’t understand why I would want to be friendly with my ex unless there were still some feelings there, and that she had serious doubts about our relationship and my feelings. My heart hit the floor and my head filled with dread as I realised that I hadn’t understood any of the undercurrents in the situation for the past five years. Though, to be fair, when she had always previously claimed that everything was fine with us socialising with my ex from time to time, I hadn’t stood much of a chance of understanding.

Though I love my partner dearly, I’m not blind to her faults, and one of those is the ability to become quite sardonic and spiteful if she’s not happy with how she feels someone is behaving towards her. I’m not trying to be judgmental about it – everyone has their own way of handling bad situations, that simply happens to be hers. Me, I either retreat and hide from it, or just melt down into a seething rage, so who am I to talk?

But despite my partner behaving perfectly well while my ex was with us yesterday, her mood seriously deteriorated afterwards, with all kinds of comments along the lines of “I don’t think we should get married any more”, “I think you’re still in love with her”, “I think you’re confused”, and more.

The rest of the evening was spent with me trying to defend my position but at the same time offering to stop social contact with my ex, and my partner launching into me with spiteful rejoinders, not accepting what I was saying.

I’m not going to accuse her of being irrational, because I don’t think that’s either fair or strictly true. What I do know, however, is that the only thing that will mend this is time. Time for her to think more about the issues involved and come to some kind of understanding.

I hope we’ll be OK. We love each other to distraction despite each other’s faults, and when it comes down to it, I hope that will carry us through.

One thing she did say after my repeated questions of “why didn’t you tell me?” was that she feared my feelings towards her would change if she challenged the friendship.

So when it comes down to it, what we have is that my partner has been lying about this issue for five years, simply because she was scared of losing me if she challenged the situation, when if she’d just been honest we could have resolved it so easily. That doesn’t make me feel great. Part of me is angry at her for assuming that her honesty might damage our relationship, and part of me is angry at myself for not seeing that it might be a problem, even if not discussed.

Today she’s back at work (another stress in her life – the hours are long and tiring and her employers don’t seem inclined to grant her request for reduced hours) and, although I have a long to-do list, I haven’t really been able to think about my own work. The best way to describe my activity today is probably “mooning around”.

There are more nuances to this story that I haven’t gone into, but they don’t change the essence of the problem, which is that I just don’t understand how people think unless they spell it out to me.

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