Helpful Hint of the Week: Get feedback; don’t assume! Check in with each other as you are communicating to make sure you are not misinterpreting a tone, gesture, or facial expression. For example, if you see a scowl, say: “I see you are scowling.” Then ask, “Are you frustrated, angry, or something else?” This works both ways, for different reasons.
Christina: Ok, we were talking about you looking big-headed or stuffy when you use formal language.
Ken: That is correct, and it is not only language.
Christina: And it goes both ways.
Ken: Correct. I am not only being misinterpreted, I am misinterpreting.
Christina: Right. I remember a big one. Remember Big Valley? Our first year together?
Ken: I’m trying to forget.
Christina: Dusk. Little blue church on a hill. Full moon. We hike up. Very romantic. We’re all alone. I sit on the grass and gaze at the moon. I expect you to come, sit, cuddle, say sweet nothings. You never did.
Ken: Romance is an emotion.
Christina: Really, I still almost can’t believe it. How you could be so oblivious. I was hurt. It was a perfect moment. At that moment I thought you were cold and disinterested in me.
Ken: And that’s a perfect example of misinterpretation. Because as we know now—which we did not know then—it was because of my emotional and social blindness.
Christina: But you couldn’t see me sitting there alone?
Ken: I saw you sitting there, but it never occurred to me that you were alone, or lonely. Because I was standing a few feet away.
Christina: Actually I remember it as 30 feet away and you looking in the other direction. Like, analyzing the moon or something. Did you feel we were connecting that night? That’s what the night was for, for me.
Ken: I was looking at the town. I didn’t think about connecting. I don’t know those things are missing until you point them out.
Christina: Hmmm. Did we ever talk about that at the time?
Ken: And I misinterpreted the meaning of you being quieter when you came down from the hill than you were during the rest of the day. I thought you were tired after a long day.
Christina. I was sad and puzzled.
Ken: I didn’t know that at the time… until you told me. Now you’ve learned –we’ve learned—to check in. When you need something. Or I do. And I’ll go across the world to give it you if—if I know what it is.
Christina: It’s true. You have always done so. That’s ‘Aspie Romance’ maybe, a kind of after-the-fact outward expression of caring. Anyway, things are better now. Fewer incidents.
Ken: However, those incidents are the reason for my self-flagellation, for missing things that are so obvious to everyone else. I’m trying to force myself to learn a different way, to be better.
Christina: Yeah, you beat yourself up. All the time. Too much. And then people misinterpret that as you having low self-esteem.
Ken: Correct. However, at those times I am trying to reprogram my brain, knowing that I will never succeed but hoping that I will.
Christina: Adult Aspie mini-tantrums.
Ken: There is no misinterpretation there.
Christina. Two or three or four a day. Over different things. Like when we’re driving home and we’re talking and we’re about to pass the turnoff to Safeway and I say, “remember we have to pick up a few groceries,” and you curse and suck in air and scowl. And I think you’re mad at me.”
Ken: That is incorrect. I am actually mad at myself and self-flagellating again. Because you had previously informed me that we needed to stop for groceries. And I just about drove past the turn-off. I would have made a mistake.
Christina: But it looks like anger, and at me, and then I get mad at you for being mad at me when I was just reminding you about something we had both agreed on. It drives me nuts. It’s not a healthy pattern.
Ken: Now we can laugh at these incidents after the fact. But in the beginning they caused us great hurt and misunderstanding.
Christina: For sure. But odd that it still happens, again and again. Like we’re not smart enough to break the patterns.
Ken: Because to reiterate, I am attempting to reprogram my brain. Knowing that I will not fully succeed but trying anyway.
Christina: I empathize; I really do. It must sometimes seem futile. But I honour your trying. I’m trying too. To not have those knee-jerk unkind responses. I should know better. I do know better. But it’s hard NOT to react the way my own brain is programmed.
Ken: For me, there is no other choice. It’s either do or don’t do. On or off. So as I’ve told many people, if I’m not dead, I’m not done.
Christina: You just want to be real boy—you’ve used that phrase.
Ken: Yes. Just like Pinocchio. As I have mentioned ad infinitum ad nauseous. Even though I know that I cannot reprogram my brain, I can, however, modify my responses and behaviours.
Christina: Yes, and you have. A lot. Many little things. Truly, I know the effort you make.
Ken: Perhaps I am a hopeless optimist. However, I have never tried stopping, and I never stop trying.
Christina: It’s a good thing. It’s helping to keep us married. That and my work to understand, to not jump to the wrong conclusions. To realize your intent is ALWAYS good, kind, fair.
Ken: Wow, this was exhausting. Painful. For the first time, I am having to answer questions that, being on the spectrum, I am not equipped to answer.
Christina: I hear you. But for me… I actually enjoyed this talk. Now I finally ‘get’ why you ignored me that night. How you saw it. Thank you. What should we talk about next post?
Ken: I have got nothing left
Christina: Me too. Ok, we’ll decide next time.
Next post – Dialogue #4 (To be determine)