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Living with an aspie

Oh dear, how often must the non-aspie have thought, 'I can't do this anymore. It's like I'm going mad, nothing makes sense!' I understand. It's hard enough when you are the aspie in question, so I can imagine it must be impossible at times to cope with an aspie from the outside.

Things which have no meaning are important in the aspie world. Noises the non-aspie has never even noticed are magnified and become an unreasonable stress to the aspie. Little routines, recognised by the non-aspie. seem to hold the key to the day's happiness. How can the toast being the right colour have a bearing on a person's emotional health? What does it matter which spoon you use to eat your cereal?

So many mysteries, so many ways to drive the aspie mad when, it seems, it should be the non-aspie who gets in the van and goes off to happy land. After all, what better way to push someone off the brink than by dancing along it beside them?

I think a word that must often rise up between the aspie and non-aspie is exasperation, from both sides. The non-aspie looks at their beloved and thinks, 'Why does it have to be done this way? Why can't I whistle while I make my tea? Why do you have to have things your own way all the time?' The normally patient non-aspie can be pushed to a point of temper that creates damaging arguments or unhappy atmospheres.

From the aspie point of view, it's logical (isn't it always?). They have made it clear, lots of times, which way things need to be done. It's always been all right before, the best beloved was happy to make sure they didn't use the wrong spoon. They never minded the wasted slices of toast before. Why does it suddenly matter today? And why, when they know it infuriates you, do they have to whistle all the time? It's not as if anyone enjoys listening to it, only the whistler is ever happy, not the whistlee.

The aspie may be a supremely aggravating person to live with, for many reasons, but they have their ways and it can seem illogical and upsetting to them if the non-aspie suddenly decides not to suffer those ways, or play along with them. Routine comes in many different guises, and one of those is the behaviour of your nearest and dearest. If that behaviour changes, for no obvious reason, how confusing and exasperating it can be.

Now, I must pause here, in defence of the non-aspie. Your behaviour may change and, to the aspie, there is no obvious reason, but we all know how obvious some things have to be before the aspie notices them. They haven't noticed you are tired this morning, or feeling ill. They haven't remembered you had an argument with your sister yesterday, or that you still need painkillers for a sprained ankle.

Yes, they know you may be about to lose your job; that was old news from last month. It wouldn't occur to them you were lying awake, thinking about it, worrying over it. That's the aspie seeming cold and uncaring again. In reality, the imminent job loss has been thought over, worried about, cared about, all at the time you discussed it and a little while after. Now, weeks later, there are lots of other things that need attention and as you didn't come up to the aspie and say you were upset about it, then how are they to know?

You see, the non-aspie is as mysterious and annoying as the aspie. Their little ways, which seem to be accepted as normal by so many people, often make no sense in the aspergers universe. Why does the housework have to be done before you go out? There's plenty of time when you get back. Why do you need to have a routine for the unimportant things in life, like the shopping, ironing, going to the hairdresser? Can't you just do them when they need to be done?

Why can't you apply for that great job in the paper? We aspies know you can do it, we see the qualities you have that make you perfect for it. Why do you have to concentrate on the physical skills that are lacking, instead of shooting off to see if you can do it, before deciding you can't? Why does it always have to be based on a practical reason?

In the aspie world, full of colour, explosions of sound, familiar things making comforting feelings, distractions leading to intense difficulty, or bringing us to a new understanding of life: in this world, doing things because it's the way they should be done makes no sense. Aspies, though creatures of habit, are also creatures of the moment. We forget it's Wednesday, forget the appointment, forget what was supposed to be for lunch today.

We remember that dream we woke from at 3am, the one that would make a great mosaic if we can only find the right pieces. Or we remember the grand plan, that will make all other grand plans meaningless. Or we wake up feeling like soggy bark, mulching down into the forest floor, good for nothing and certainly not able to go out and meet life's routines.

This is where we can meet, non-aspies and aspies alike. We know why we want to do a certain thing, even if the reason is a tenuous emotional connection. The toast has to be just so, the spoon has to be mine, because I feel better if it is that way. That is my reason. And if I feel better, the day is better.

So, when a non-aspie is exasperated again in the face of trying to make the aspie see that another thing is important, when the aspie only sees it as boring, practical stuff that has no place in their universe, try explaining why it's important.

If you, as the non-aspie, were to say, 'I need to do the housework before we go out because it makes me feel good and I can enjoy the day,' then we'll understand. What so often gets said instead is, 'The housework needs to be done before we go out.'

The word 'need' doesn't compute in this scenario. The house will not fall down, you will not be dragged out and arrested if the housework stays undone. What's the need? Why are you delaying our day out for that? Don't you care? How did I end up with someone who would rather do housework than spend the day with me?

Explanations are key. The non-aspie will very likely be better at verbal explanations than the aspie. The routines loved by the aspie will have been explained by actions more than explanation - in other words, the best beloved will have found out which is the wrong spoon the hard way! They will have learned what to do and what not to do by the aspie's reaction, rather than a calm discussion.

So, although the aspie may not have explained in the conventional sense, it doesn't mean the non-aspie can't use normal words and conversation to explain their feelings. It's as simple as getting the aspie's attention (cough) and telling them how you feel. No, I do not mean by saying, 'You're driving me insane today!' I mean telling the aspie, 'I need to do this because-'.

I'll end there for today, as I feel exhausted at the idea of all that unnecessary housework. I'll be re-visiting the concept of aspies and non-aspies living together in future posts, as I know it's one of the major hurdles we all face.

For now, I'll leave you with the promise that we can live together, even if we have to learn new ways of doing things. Hang in there, walk carefully, listen to each other.

And non-aspies, please, if your aspie has taken the trouble to say they think you can do a certain thing, consider the fact that they may see in you this bright and special person that the rest of the world has missed. Have another look at that big opportunity you think you can't do. Take the aspie at their word and see if there is a part of you that can come alive by being seen through the aspie-lens. You'd be amazed how wonderful everything can look with the right focus.


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