In my last post, I talked about how much aspies hate being asked "how was your day". It was entirely from an aspie point of view and I made no apologies for our behaviour but simply told things as they are.
I got a lot of feedback about that post including a few messages from NTs about how much strain this puts on the relationship. I started to think about how this affects my relationship and discussed it with my wife.
She replied that "it's downright rude" and she has a point though I'd probably use the word "direct" rather than "rude".
Who should change? You may have gotten the idea from my last post that I think the NT should change to accommodate the aspie and if I was speaking only as an aspie, I'd probably agree. From a relationship point of view however, it's obvious that this isn't the answer.
My intention with this series of posts is to try to see both sides of the story.
But first... a bit of a meander...
Changing People It's my firm belief that you can't change people. In my life, I've seen this demonstrated time and time again and I've come to accept it as a universal truth. Admittedly, there are some heroes out there who can turn their life around by successful avoidance of addictive substances, crash dieting or a change of religion. These people are few and far between.
I first started to think about changing people when I was going out with my wife and she'd say "oh... you won't be doing that after we're married" (usually about spending inordinate amounts of time on the computer). After a few rocky early years though, we both came to accept that we'd married each other because of who we were - not who we could mould each other into.
I still spend inordinate amounts of time on the computer but I accept that it is my wife's role to remind me that there is life outside of it. I find that I compensate by swinging pendulum-like between too much time and too little time. I strive for balance but rarely find it. Computers are in my "blood", they're a special interest and I can't avoid them. The best I can do is fight back against their call.
It's true that people change as they get older. I eat rice now (I hated it when I first got married) and I actually love chilli and curry, which were big no-no's then. Of course, I still won't go near sultanas, grapes, dates or prunes - so I'm not completely changed.
Limiting Change What really concerned me about the responses to my last post was the suggestion that people "changed" after marriage or changed after their diagnosis. Don't get me wrong... it's impossible to not be changed after big events, such as marriage, children and a diagnosis of a condition but there are limits to be imposed on these changes.
I'm sensing that the catalyst for change isn't so much marriage as diagnosis - or perhaps the acceptance of the diagnosis. It's good to relax into your condition (aspergers) and be yourself for once. It's something that I'm often encouraging aspies to do.
It's good to acknowledge that you don't enjoy a lot of conversations or social gatherings but at the same time, you can't forget family. You should take care not to change so much that you stop being the person your partner married.
Having obtained an aspergers diagnosis at last cannot be an excuse to abandon society.
Now, before you get up in arms about this.. let me explain;
Scenario 1: Aspie Bob. Aspie Bob has always had a lot of social issues. He never was a particularly well adjusted aspie and he always felt uncomfortable. Luckily for him, he still managed to get married to a girl who loved him for who he was. Of course, he didn't know that he was aspie - he only found that out after he was married.
The diagnosis changed aspie Bob a little. He realised that it was ok to hate social gatherings and he didn't feel so bad about avoiding them. He still spent time with family and friends but now, at least, they understood why he felt so uncomfortable. His diagnosis brought more understanding to his family and ultimately more happiness.
Scenario 2: Aspie Dave. Aspie Dave was a well-adjusted person. He disliked social gatherings but still attended and would often be the centre of attention when he got there. He was always telling jokes - actually, he was always talking non-stop. Sure, often he'd say the wrong thing and this would cause some friction but most people just said... "oh, that's Dave, he doesn't mean it".
Aspie Dave was married with a family too - and he received a late diagnosis. As he read more and more about his condition, aspie Dave began to act more and more aspie. It was mostly subconscious (hypochondria) (Correction: psychosomatic) but aspie Dave started to attend social gatherings less frequently. He accepted that, as an aspie, he wasn't great at this social thing, and more or less withdrew inwardly. He stopped talking to his family.
Summary In the second case, the diagnosis itself is a catalyst for change - and not a change for the better. In fact, Aspie Dave's acceptance of the condition caused him to throw away the adjustments he'd made over the years to compensate for the condition.
I'm not for a moment suggesting that aspies shouldn't be themselves. They certainly should. There's no reason to "pretend" to be anything other than what you are around your family. The problem is that it's part of human nature to be a hypochondriac (Correction: psychosomatic). Whenever we watch a documentary about a rash, we find ourselves sub-consciously itching. The same is true for mental conditions - but worse, since the immediate effects aren't always so visible.
In my next post, I'll try to look more on the conversational side of things without getting side-tracked (I hope).