“Our Workarounds on Empathy and Theory of Mind”

Diablogue #14: 

 

Enjoying an outdoor snack in the Rockies.
Enjoying an outdoor snack in the Rockies.

We’re back! Apologies for missing our post last week due to circumstances beyond our control.

Helpful Hint:  Be direct. Ask for what you need. A person on the spectrum is not wired for subtlety, grey, or to take hints.

 

So, let’s diablogue: 

Christina: You sometimes experience challenges with being able to grasp or accept that others can think or behave very differently from you. This can cause you great angst. For example, you can’t fathom —or tolerate—liars, whereas as I can observe or experience someone lying and ‘imagine’ or ‘back-engineer’ a set of life experiences—or even a one-off situation— that might have caused that person to lie. This is related to the concept of “theory of mind.” Here’s what the Autism Research Institute says about it:

“Theory of mind refers to the notion that many autistic individuals do not understand that other people have their own plans, thoughts, and points of view. Furthermore, it appears that they have difficulty understanding other people’s beliefs, attitudes, and emotions.” https://www.autism.com/understanding_theoryofmind

Ken: I would have to say I agree with your statement, and that explanation is valid. It applies to me.

Christina: Let’s talk about empathy.

Ken: Empathy is an emotion. As an aspie, I have behaviours as workarounds for my challenges with emotions.

Christina: But you have emotions… you’re not a robot. In fact I’d say you often over-emote.

Ken: That is correct. However, depending upon the situation and the sensory and emotional confusion, they are often totally on or totally off.

Christina: Inappropriate? For the situation, you mean.

Ken: That is correct. Also, misapplied. For example, most people on the spectrum have binary thoughts. We have yes, no, right, wrong, up, down.

Christina: Yeah. That’s why you have such a hard time with schedules with hard deadlines.

Ken: Yes. A deadline is a promise. Either I keep it or I break it. I either succeed or I fail. And I cannot tolerate personal failure. From the point of the failure on, my day and my performance rapidly degrade.

Christina: No matter the degree of ‘failure’?

Ken: Correct. As I previously mentioned, there is no degree. Either suceed or fail.

Christina: So, let’s get back to the problem. You cannot empathize, but I need to you to. All the time. Daily. Big things, small things.

Ken: My workaround is to act kindly towards you. I draw on my deep moral compass of equity and equality.

Christina: So you don’t feel what I feel—which is “theory of mind”—you respond to the unfairness of the situation, of life. Or whatever.

Ken: Ultimately, I treat people—you—the way that I want to be treated.

Christina: With kindness?

Ken: To be acknowledged, validated, accepted, and understood. So I try to follow those internal guidelines and enact them externally. In other words, to treat others the way I want to be treated. I cannot violate my own ethical and moral codes

Christina: So your workaround for your inability to conventionally empathise is to draw on your deep moral codes.

Ken: Yes.

Christina: That’s a natural workaround.

Ken: Hardwired. Another example is that I cannot stand rudeness in others and I cannot tolerate it in myself—it is against my moral code.

Christina: Ok.

Ken: So, what is or are your workarounds for my challenges with empathy?

Christina: Logic. My logical brain reasons out what’s happening and why you cannot give me, in some moments, the emotionally-aware response I need. I still want it though—crave it, even, sometimes. I’m wired for it. So if the feeling is acute I’ll ask directly for what I need, like a hug or for you just to listen or let me be sad and not say anything or try to fix it.

Ken: And how do I function in those situations when you ask me?

Christina: You almost always instantly do what I ask. I can depend on it. Which reinforces my rather unusual—for me— behaviour, to ask directly for something another kind of man would sense and respond emotionally to—for me—at least to some degree. Lots of men are a bit thick about that stuff just because they’re men.

Ken: I do that because I know that I am black and white and don’t see the grey. So when you make the grey black and white, I then know what to do and how to do it and will walk through hell to give you what you need.

Christina: That shows me you are not a cruel, hard, or cold person by nature. You just have a kind of emotional blindness. Some other men might slough off my needs or trivialize them. Slam the door and go off for a beer (laughs). But you will move mountains to fill my smallest of needs once you know exactly what they are.

Ken: Yes. Because that is the right thing to do. You are doing many things for me, and this is the way I must reciprocate rather than be just a taker in the world. To carry my half of the relationship. It is my responsibility to look after your emotional wellbeing, though I am ill-equipped to do it sometimes. You help me to help us. Anything less would be unacceptable for me. You see value in this relationship and work very hard for its success. How can I in good conscience do any less?

Christina: That is worth a lot to me. It really is. I can make things clear; it’s not a lot to ask, really. I’m used to doing it by now. Well, maybe in the odd stubborn or weak moment I’ll choose to just be upset that you didn’t notice, quietly be sore about it. Resent it even, or feel sorry for myself. But that’s pretty rare now because I know how immature those reactions are. How unkind. You are a gargantuan model of kindness, and I feel crappy if I don’t reciprocate with kindness.  Overall, though, I’d say that I’ve learned to accept your package of actions—kindness, patience, and perseverance— in lieu of conventional empathy, or a so-called sensitive ear.

Ken: I see the value in this relationship is that you are one in a million. Where others in my life have given up or given in, you just keep giving. Because of that, we keep going the extra mile for each other. Our hearts demand it of us.

Christina: Yeah. What can I say to that?!

 

Next post #15 ~ Topic to be determined!

“Ken’s 12 Autism Spectrum Diagnostic Criteria: Part 2”: “Addendum and Reset”

Diablogue #13

 

Christina and Ken discovering a fun namesake licence plate on somebody else’s vehicle in Drumheller, Alberta.

Helpful Hint: Always endeavor to keep things equal. Work together and continue adopting and adapting 50-50.

 

So, Let’s Diablogue:

 Ken: I’d like to make an addendum to the previous blog about being compelled to say the truth and always self-checking to avoid social mishaps. Most of my workarounds involve self-talk in the form of axioms continuously repeated as self-mantras. My over-arching social workaround in many situations—at least the one that works for me—is this: “There is the truth, and then there is the ‘right’ answer for the situation.” The trick is to know which is which and when to apply each.

Christina: Yes. And that’s hard to know—even I struggle sometimes.

Ken: Before we go on with this post, I wish to explain how we will continue with the blog. My sense in this diablogue so far is that I am falling victim to my Aspie nature of information dissemination and data regurgitation.

Christina: Well, if there was any falling, I fell too! My Aspie trait? (laughs). What do you mean, exactly?

Ken: In the past two posts we have offered a fun test for Aspergers, which I am glad we included. But that led me a little off course in just talking about the diagnostic criteria, which for many people is redundant information.

Christina: And which they can find on the net.

Ken: Correct. We need to return more particularly to demonstrating our very real yet rewarding struggle of adapting to each other and creating new workarounds, constantly reinventing our relationship.

Christina: It’s true. I feel we’ve drifted a little. A part of me likes data too. But I think the strength of this blog is the messy, personal, relational work we do. 

Ken: Absolutely. It is a never-ending process. We also need to address a recent salient comment. We asked several specialists for feedback on the blog, and one replied. He applauded us for our “good intentions by trying to help others.” However, he urged us to avoid a tendency to define the relationship in terms of “one person as having a disability or problem and the other not.” He observed that in some of our blogs, we focus on an Aspie difference, “presenting it as a failure in social interaction and emotional understanding, and the other person trying to understand that deficit and provide corrective strategies.”

Christina: Right. That raised red flags for him about us as a couple, signaling a power imbalance. What happens, he said, is that “one person has the power or authority of knowing the right social behavior and understanding emotions, and the other does not.” That’s a smart observation. It’s an easy mindset to slip into, especially since society at large considers autism to be all–or mostly — negative.  The medical model of needing to ‘fix’ it, and until it’s fixed, the job of us ‘normal’ folk isn’t done. It’s kind of like what  I experienced with my middle son and his deafness. I worked hard to avoid him feeling handicapped. It took a lot of non-debilitating attitudes, words, and actions. It’s sort of the same thing here.

Ken: I wholeheartedly agree. We need to show how each of us has workarounds, not just me. That we are both creating them.

Christina: That’s the truth.

Ken: Therefore, we need to have more of a balanced conversation that is equally relevant and relatable to readers who are both autistic and non-autistic partners. We need to have equal voice because it is truly a 50-50 relationship.

Christina: And that balance is what keeps it alive. And thriving. In my opinion.

Ken: We need to demonstrate the process of encountering a problem and creating and utilizing a workaround that works. Also, to constantly keep tweaking the ones that do not work until they do. We are equally adopting, adapting, and contributing corrective strategies, and we are equally committed to doing so.

Christina: I think this change will mean that we’ll say a lot more about fewer things. Go deeper instead of skipping along from one thing to the next.

Ken: Agreed. We will continue to address the topics from the previous post—autism traits— but in a more personal and equal way. We will focus on how each of us is affected and how each of us has adapted by working together. This will bring us back to our original vision for the blog, for it to be, in part, cathartic. We wanted to use this as a voyage of discovery. To learn and to share.

Christina: I do think we’ve being doing some of that. But it’ll be good to refocus and do it more and better.

 

Diablogue #14: ~ “Both of our workarounds in managing the autism trait of difficulty with empathy and theory of mind.”

“How do you know? ~ Ken’s 12 autism spectrum diagnostic criteria: Part 1”

Diablogue #12

 

Ken and Christina overlooking a point near Ken’s birthplace of Wayne near Drumheller, Alberta.

 

Helpful Hint: “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.” ~ Dr. Stephan Shore. There are multiple criteria, each with multiple degrees, that can lead to an infinite number of unique and individual diagnoses.

 

So, let’s diablogue:

Ken: The following list is a excerpt of a much larger list of criteria on which I was surveyed. To mention and address all of the criteria would be exhaustive and prohibitive and would require a blog of its own. From this list I recall from my diagnosis, we will choose 12 to discuss.

  1. Motor skills—lurching gait, morning awkwardness
  2. Speaking cadence—robotic, monotone, repetitive
  3. Difficulty with conversational audio clues— tone of voice
  4. Above average to high IQ
  5. Difficulty with executive functioning—multi-tasking
  6. Lack of reciprocity in communication—doing all the talking
  7. Intense focus—ability to stay on task
  8. Difficulty making transitions
  9. A need for rigid schedules and routines
  10. Hyper sensitive to sensory stimuli—sight, sound, touch, taste, smell
  11. Eidetic memory—photographic recall
  12. Eye contact—difficulty with social applications
  13. Difficulty differentiating facial expressions and body language
  14. High pattern recognition—visual and auditory
  15. Social connections—challenges with making and maintaining
  16. Strong sense of justice —rigid, hard-wired moral compass
  17. Strong sense of loyalty
  18. Difficulty with empathy or theory of mind—understanding and sharing others’ feelings
  19. Difficulty with emotions—understanding and expressing
  20. Extreme difficulty with ambiguity—black and white thinking
  21. Extremely high vocabulary and extremely poor spelling
  22. Literal thinking—understanding words literally
  23. Inability to infer or guess
  24. Compulsive word play and puns—humour, wit, playfulness
  25. Socially inappropriate bluntness and truth saying                                                     There are more….

Christina: Wow. Big list.

Ken: True. Yet not definitive.

Christina: Do all autistics show all those traits?

Ken: No. They can have more or less—but according to my specialists, at least 12. Some say all people have at least one or two autistic traits. My diagnosticians told me that it’s not clearly defined, but if I met at least 12 of the multiple criteria I would be considered to be on the autism spectrum.

Christina: Only 12? (laughs) I think you’ve got all of the ones on your list!

Ken: Correct. And more that I cannot immediately recall.

Christina: Ok. So let’s talk about your “magic 12.”

Ken: Those would be the ones that most significantly impact our relationship.

Christina: Ladies’ pick first: Your tendency—which you almost always stuff back now, to be blunt. To say what you really think when it could hurt people’s feelings.

Ken: Correct. In social interactions, the first thing that I think and the first thing I actually say are different…

Christina: (interjecting) But, that’s the same for me… for a lot of people. We don’t blurt out what we are actually thinking either.

Ken: However, I have observed that it is a much more natural and automatic process for non-autistic people. It appears as if you do not think about it, you just do it—you say the appropriate thing. The difference with me is that, good, bad, or ugly, the truth is the truth, and I have a strong urge to state it. For me, I have an uncomfortable physiological response from having to withhold the truth…

Christina (interrupting) What does it feel like?

Ken: I feel a phantom pain of impact, like running into a brick wall. My breath catches, my body heats up, and my heartbeat increases.

Christina: Sounds like an anxiety attack.

Ken: Precisely. It takes everything I have to not act upon my first impulse.

Christina: Every time?

Ken: Every time. To varying degrees.

Christina: Which explains why socializing—even casual chitchat— drains you.

Ken: Absolutely. It is because of that physical reaction. My first impulse is always to speak the truth…

Christina: like, umm… ‘Why do you want to know that?’ or “You have a lot of body piercings,” or “that is not relevant.” …

Ken: (interjecting) Or, “that is not logical; it doesn’t make sense.” And yes, unfortunately you are correct. I used to actually blurt things like that. And I never understood why people reacted the way that they did because it was simply the truth, whether people wanted to acknowledge it or not.

Christina: Now you know that being blunt turns out badly.

Ken: Definitely. I have developed workarounds such as re-wording, softening, or suppressing my thoughts.

Christina: Right. In fact, you are outwardly extremely social! You can talk at length on any topic with anyone. That was, and still is, one of your best qualities! And since I’ve met you and we’ve been working on reciprocity, you are getting to be an even more interesting and enjoyable conversationalist. 

Ken: True. However, that is a learned behaviour which I can manage well only under low stress conditions. I must maintain a diligent awareness and rigid control in order to not trip up or expose myself.

Christina: I regret that it’s so hard on you. And I understand that’s part of the reason you need to rest, be alone, and sleep a lot. And we need to limit our social activities or sometimes separate—I go, you don’t—which is ok with me. So… we’d better get another diagnostic criteria in here or we’ll have a 24-part series! How about your eidetic memory—that’s such a cool word and an even cooler thing.

Ken: Alright. Everything I hear, see, and read, sticks. Like little videos in my brain. Non-spectrum people often have difficulty with this kind of memory. That always puzzled me because for me, it takes effort to forget.

Christina: Whereas I forget everything, immediately, all the time. It’s a pain in the neck. It’s exhausting, trying to remember things.

Ken: Your ease in social situations helps me avoid discomfort and exhaustion, and my eidetic memory does the same for you.

Christina: Beautiful! Let’s start with a third criterion next post, and try to get through more of them.

Ken: Agreed.

 

Next Post: Diablogue #13 ~ “How do you know? ~ Ken’s 12 autism spectrum diagnostic criteria: Part 2”

“How has the Asperger’s Syndrome diagnosis helped?”

Daiblogue #11

“To Diagnose or Not to Diagnose…that is the question!” (Acknowledgement to Shakespeare—who is also considered to have been on the spectrum)

 

Christina & Ken four-handing it on the family baby grand! piano.
Christina & Ken four-handing it on the family baby grand!

Helpful Hint: If you think you might be on the spectrum and it is in some way impacting your life or the people around you, talk to your GP for a referral to an autism specialist. Remember, it’s just information! Diagnosis or not—and what you do with a diagnosis— is a matter of personal choice. (Caveat: remember that serial misdiagnosis or incomplete diagnosis is common.)

Below is a link to a 5-minute multi-question informal (not diagnostic) survey that’s interesting and fun to do. Ken scored 9 out of 10 on the autism quotient (very autistic) while I scored 0! Whew! We can hang on to our blog title: “I am autistic, I’m not” (!)

http://www.channel4.com/programmes/how-autistic-are-you

 

So, let’s diablogue:

Ken: Getting a diagnosis was equal parts painful and enlightening. It simultaneously opened and closed doors. How did my diagnosis impact you?

Christina: In the same ways. But I think today, six years after your diagnosis and after almost 10 years of marriage, the diagnosis is what’s keeping us together.

Ken: Hmmmm. Perhaps. That being said, I think there are an equal number of different ways this diagnosis has affected each of us.

Christina: For sure. Knowing that you are physiologically different—that your brain is actually configured to work differently from mine—helps. I can now interpret things for what they really are, not what they seem to be. The diagnosis cleared up a lot of my misunderstandings of you.

Ken: The diagnosis has also helped me avoid misunderstanding and misinterpreting others. It has made me aware of the effects that autism has on people. This allows me to adjust my behaviour and find scripts and workarounds that make interactions better for everyone.

Christina: And knowledge about autism lets us have intellectual and practical conversations about what’s going on without getting tripped up by miscommunications—or emotions.

Ken: Affirmative.

Christina: So all this suggests that we wouldn’t have made it this far together without the diagnosis. Is that what we’re saying?

Ken: Perhaps.

Christina: It’s good that we went ahead with it, then, right?

Ken: Yes. However, for me, the decision to get a diagnosis was deeply personal and complicated. I calculated that the positives would outweigh the negatives.

Christina: That’s interesting. But for me, once the possibility was raised, it would have been hard for me to not get more information—a diagnosis. I’m kind of driven that way—maybe that’s my Aspie trait!

Ken: (laughs) Ultimately we decided together to move forward with getting a diagnosis. I wished to get it so that I, or shall I say we, could base our future on accurate and appropriate data. I speculated that the diagnosis would give us insights into my needs and abilities instead of us continuously struggling, leading to more misunderstanding and frustration on both our parts.

Christina: Totally. Before the diagnosis, I would endlessly hope that if I gave you enough clues you would figure out how to be sensitive to my feelings, to “tell” when I needed you close, needed my space, needed to cry and not talk …

Ken: (interrupting/interjecting) To me the signals for needing closeness or space appear to be exactly the same. Therefore, I do not know which way to proceed.

Christina: I know that now because of the diagnosis. So, I can let those desires go…to a degree, anyway. I still have the needs, but the rational part of my brain helps me adjust my expectations and my actions. “He’s autistic,” my brain tells me now. “Tell him exactly what you need. Or go talk with one of your women friends.”

Ken: And the diagnosis has given me the chance to adjust my behaviours to sometimes to catch on and give you what you need.

Christina: Absolutely. You meet way more of my needs now, and I hope I meet more of yours, like respecting your need for more sleep and time alone to recharge.  So… do you think all adults who feel that they might be on the spectrum should get a diagnosis?

Ken: Yes, in part. I believe that if more people with autism got diagnosed, it would increase awareness. It would be more difficult for the non-autistic world to overlook, ignore, and sometimes even shun us. We would be more visible.

Christina: Makes sense.

Ken: That being said, we have a few friends who may be on the spectrum or have family members who may be touched by autism. Some of them seem to function adequately without the need to know. As we stated previously, the decision to pursue a formal diagnosis is a complicated and deeply personal one. Each individual—in consultation with their families and significant others— need to weigh all of the factors before making the decision to pursue a diagnosis.

Christina: I agree. Both getting a diagnosis and living as autistic without a diagnosis are heavy, but different, loads.

 

Next Post: Diablogue #12 – “How do you know? ~ Ken’s 12 autism spectrum diagnostic criteria: Part 1”

“Humour and Aspies’ unique senses of it.”

Diablogue #10 

For 30 years, Ken was the Klondike Kid at Klondike Days in Edmonton. He and Christina made the 19th century Western era the playful theme of their wedding. Humour, in all its guises, remains key to their relationship.

 Helpful Hint: If applied appropriately, humour is a great resource. Humour is a bonding agent that helps make and strengthen connections.

 

So, let’s diablogue:

Christina: Before we get into humour, let’s answer the question Mr. Asperger wrote as a ‘comment’ April 23: “How does the actual writing of your blog work? Is it one person recording the conversations? After all, it flows like a conversation that is verbal, but, I can’t imagine you both sitting down at the same time and recording one after the other.”

Ken: Perhaps you could explain.

Christina: Right. Well, I should say that we started out not knowing quite how to do this.

Ken: Yes. We were trying to achieve the “flow”, as Mr. Asperger says, of two people sitting having a conversation and the readers listening in. However, our challenge was to adapt that audio-format effect to print.

Christina: So we played around with a few options. I thought it would work to have two laptops, sit in a coffee shop, create a Google doc, and write at the same time through the internet into the same collaborative document.

Ken: That was our first attempt.

Christina: Yes, and the photo with the first blog showed us doing that.

Ken: However, due to my slow keyboarding speed, I could not get down what I was saying or thinking fast enough. I became frustrated, and we quickly realized we would have to modify our method.

Christina: Right. So then we actually tried to audio record our conversation, which Mr. Asperger thought we might be doing. We passed the iPhone back and forth as we talked. The idea was for me type out the transcript later.

Ken: That did not work because of ambient noise and volume control problems. It was very unnatural and interrupted the flow.

Christina: Yeah. So finally we fell upon the method we’re using now. We talk, and I type. It’s no problem because I type really fast. I’ve spent my life typing—first as a journalist, then in university.

Ken: I am hoping that this will be a temporary situation because I am now in a job that requires a great deal of typing. Therefore, by practise, my speed should increase.

Christina: (skeptical) I’ll believe that when I see it!

Ken: (laughs)

Christina: I hope that answers Mr. Asperger and anyone else’s curiosity on how we are doing this. If we change it up again, we’ll let you all know. Okay. Let’s get to today’s topic: humour.

Ken: Early in my life I discovered humour as a social survival tool.

Christina: Survival?

Ken: Yes. I always had the sense that I was different. As a child I didn’t know what, why, or how. And sometimes others would react to what I said or did in negative ways. Occasionally others would laugh at me.

Christina: You had to find a way to stop it.

Ken: Yes. The way I found was with humour. At first, it was unintentional, incidental, or accidental. I would say something and people would laugh. I observed that they were laughing at what I said. This shifted their laughter off of me directly and onto what I saying. I could control what I was saying.

Christina: Humour became a tool that you still use today.

Ken: Correct. Humour is one of my positive traits. Most people value it. It connects me with others and helps some people develop a positive option of me. It works, even when I am not working at it.

Christina: Ummm… but you know, it doesn’t always work for me. That knee-jerk aspect of it. Sometimes what comes out isn’t very funny–to me, anyway!

Ken: You are not alone. That being said, would you rather a grouch?

Christina: Nope. But do you realize we’ve barely said anything funny in this whole post on humour? That’s seriously sad!

Ken: That is because I have found that humour is a serious business.

Christina: Is that supposed to be funny? I can’t tell.

Ken: Viewer’s discretion.

Christina:  Arghh! One last thing. Humour is different I’m sure for every Aspie. Right?

Ken: True. If you have heard one funny Aspie, you have heard one funny Aspie.

Christina: We’ve only touched the surface of this topic. We’re going to have to come back to it another time.

Ken: We shall.

Christina: Lots of people have asked us if or how your formal autism diagnosis has helped us deal with its realities. I think that should be our next blog topic. Ok?

Ken: Yes.

Next Post: Diablogue #11 – “How has the Asperger’s Syndrome diagnosis helped?”

“Awesome Aspects of an Autistic/Non-Autistic Alliance PART 2”

Diablogue #9

Christina and Ken at Pyramid Lake, Jasper
Christina and Ken at Pyramid Lake, Jasper

Helpful Hint: Celebrate the diversity of the alliance and focus on its strengths.

 

So, let’s diablogue:

Ken: One of the great benefits for me of having you, a non-aspie partner, is that you have the natural gifts of sociability. Most of us on the spectrum have challenges in this area. Where other people have given up, you just keep giving.

Christina: Giving?

Ken: You accept me for who I am and how I am, and you end up being my defacto advocate and interpreter.

Christina: I get it. Just like how you are always there for me in some of the ways I need—like calming me down when I get emotionally overloaded, or always being willing to come rescue me if I’m lost on the road somewhere. You appreciate me being there for you to rescue you in social situations—like tapping you on the arm when you’re talking for too long.

Ken: Absolutely. You are always there to help me with my socials skills, even when it becomes difficult and repetitive.

Christina: It’s a balance.

Ken: It is my opinion that each of us has strengths that shore up the other’s challenges.

Christina: Right. Like when we were in East Germany and we couldn’t find an English speaker at a train station. You kept working to solve the problem—finally translating word by word for the ticket person using the iphone translation app—while I collapsed in a puddle on the bench, overwhelmed and exhausted.

Ken: Thank you for noticing that trait in me. That I never stop trying and I never try stopping.

Christina: You are driven to solve problems—it is a massive gift in our lives and one of the best things about being in mixed brain marriage! Hey that’s cool—mixed brain. Shakespeare invented snow broth, I can invent mixed brain.

Ken: Mixed brain? (laughter) I do not know about that. Your brain may be mixed; mine is just mixed up.

Christina: (laughing) Ummm… isn’t that self-deprecation or the deficit model of autism creeping in here…?

Ken: No. As we stated in last blog’s helpful hint, a sense of humour is essential. If you are going to poke fun, then you must only poke fun at yourself. It is a vital survival trait for me to be able to laugh good-heartedly at myself.

Christina: Yes. Oh, another thing that makes it great being with you is your high standards for doing things. Like when we dug out the basement and you were down there on your knees for hours grading the gravel to a 4° angle all around the house with a garden trowel. Nobody on the planet would care so much—but we have a dry basement. Your personal standards make for slow progess sometimes. But I never have to worry about you slapping something together like my mom said my dad used to do—and then whatever he built fell apart.

Ken: I build things to stay together while I fall apart.

Christina: (laughs)

Ken: So many people have mistaken that drive for perfectionism, and perhaps it might be. That being said, my Aspie brain has two ways of doing things. Doing them correctly or incorrectly. I am wired to do them correctly; I cannot tolerate being incorrect.

Christina: Yeah. I know about the grey thing—how there’s no middle ground for you in anything. So, an “OK” job in any area is a failure to you. Unless it’s MY ok job! (laughter)

Ken: Definitely. These are my standards alone. It is my personal measuring stick. One of the things I admire about other people, however, is when they can stop when the truth is that good is good enough.

Christina: It’s great that you never push your standards on me or anyone. But I love being able to walk away at midnight, bushed, knowing whatever it is you’re working on will be perfect in the morning—though you might be dead!

Ken: To conclude—and to hopefully to return to this topic in the future—I would like to point out how your optimistic view of the world balances my pragmatism. It gives us many happy and light moments. Your optimism is contagious, and I prefer to go through life upbeat rather than beaten up.

Christina: Me too. Ok. What should we talk about next time?

Ken: How about the survival trait of humour and Aspies’ broad sense and use of it?

Christina: Sounds good.

 

Next Post: Diablogue #10 – “Humour and Aspies’ unique senses of it.”

“Awesome Aspects of an Autistic/Non-Autistic Alliance”

Diablogue #8

Christina and Ken enjoying a date night at Block 1912 on Whyte Ave. in Edmonton
Christina and Ken enjoying a date night at Block 1912 on Whyte Ave. in Edmonton

Helpful Hint: In any relationship, and especially one like ours, a sense of humour is essential. We must be able to laugh at ourselves and with others.

 

So, let’s diablogue:

Christina: A few people, one way or another, have suggested that the deficit model—the idea that autistic people have the problem and non-autistic people must naturally take the ‘helping’ role —is leaking into our blog. Like in the way we talk to each other. Or in the topics. It made me think. That’s why I wanted today’s topic: The awesomeness of being a couple like us.

Ken: I wholeheartedly agree. We need to address these points because they are very salient. That being said, I see a great deal—and perhaps more—benefits than deficits to our autistic/non-autistic relationship. Would you concur?

Christina: For sure. Let’s balance the scales. One way it’s awesome having you as a partner is how direct we can be with each other. We can say what we mean without game playing, innuendo, or hidden meanings. That makes our relationship upfront, transparent, and strong.

Ken: Agreed. However, in our interactions, others may see you as being pushy or bossy. As a matter of fact, when we first starting dating, you informed me, jokingly, “I can be strong minded about things!” At the time, I did not know why you said that, but I have never considered you pushy. Rather, you are direct.

Christina: (laughs) Works for me.

Ken: I do not have to guess at what you need or want. As for your “bossiness,” the reason that is an incorrect assessment by others is because if you tell me something that I really do not agree with, I stand my ground and state my opinion. And you will listen to it and we make a judgement based on that. A bossy person does not do that; they shout commands and expect to be obeyed.

Christina: Well, uh, who wouldn’t like being obeyed?! (laughter) But I think, umm…

Ken: (carrying on, unfazed) Being on the spectrum, two-way directness is essential to avoid making mistakes in the relationship because most of us do not infer, have difficulty intuiting, and refuse to guess. And we cannot decipher grey. So one of the things that attracted me to you is that you can handle direct and you can deliver direct—be direct. And that is such a relief. It is awesome.

Christina: Yup. Awesome. And it saves so much time. We can pack a lot into a conversation by cutting out social padding.

Ken: Yes. However, if need be—for example, if I disagree with something—then there is a discussion. You discuss and I listen. And like most men, I just do it or go along with it. Good men do not have to swing our clubs around and thump our chests to prove we are men. Most everyday things are small; it does not matter which way we do it—the results are the same. However, the critical decisions are never dictatorial; they are solved through a balanced alliance.

Christina: Right. Moving on… another awesome thing about being married to an Aspie is that your different viewpoint on things often makes me laugh. It’s delightful—even, or maybe especially— when it’s incidental or accidental. Your quirky ways of seeing things, your sharp right-hand turns in thinking, your automatic word-plays, crack me up—and they happen many times a day. I know that when I’m old you will always make me laugh. That’s precious.

Ken: Thank you, this is a good thing to know. The advantage for me is that it works and I do not have to work at it. It is easy for me, like autopilot, and you take it with ease. As a matter of fact, you seem to need it. It is important to be able to address your needs.

Christina: Absolutely. It’s stress relief. Thank you.

Ken: For both of us. Thank you.

Christina: Ok. Another awesome thing. You are hyper kind. I can absolutely count on that as your response to ANY situation. That makes me kinder every day out in the world, and it makes us kinder to each other, moment by moment. For me, our autistic/non-autistic alliance is like a twisting vine growing out of kindness-saturated soil. The Dalai Lama said that our only role on this planet is to help others along. To be kind. I believe it. I try to live it every day. Being in this relationship helps a lot.

Ken: For me, kindness and unkindness are behaviours. Perhaps the reason that we are kind is that we are often victims of unkindness, and so I never want to behave unkindly to others. We are compelled to be inclusive because we are excluded a lot. Being inclusive is usually interpreted by the world as kindness.

Christina: Yes.

Ken: What you do not realize is that in your reciprocal kindness, you are being inclusive instead of exclusive with me. There is mutual kindness; it is a balance.

Christina: Balance is good. Another example of the awesomeness of being with you is that I can always count on you to be there. In all ways. That matters. A lot.

Ken: You deserve no less. And you make me want to continue on this path.

Christina: We’re going to have to wrap this up.

Ken: Correct. However, to end, I wish to emphasize that what keeps us together, first and foremost, is our shared core values.

Christina: That’s what keeps all couples together—or what should. Everything else is small stuff.

Ken: There are, of course, many more awesome aspects to each of us. However, we are limited by space and time.

Christina: I think we need more blog time on this awesomeness track. Isn’t that awesome?!

Ken: Agreed. Shall we do Part 2 next post?

Christina: Absolutely.

 

Next post: Dialogue #9- “Awesome Aspects of an Autistic/Non-Autistic Alliance, Part 2”