Sunday, November 9, 2008

Aspies, Autists and Relationships, Part I: What a Difference a Decade Makes....

November 9 is a momentous day for us Germans.


The Berlin Wall came down on November 9, 1989.


Adolf Hitler (alongside General Erich Ludendorff and some associates) tried to seize power by force in the Beer Hall Putsch, which was crushed on November 9, 1923.


That in turn was the 5th anniversary of the abdication on November 9, 1918 of Kaiser Wilhelm II - who had just lost World War I - and the proclamation of the German (later known as the Weimar) Republic.


None more momentous to me than that fateful day ten years ago, November 9, 1998, when I met Emily Woodward. She was sitting on a table in the vending machine room of Robinson Hall A at George Mason University, reading Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire. I smiled at her, and she smiled back.


A little later on, I ambled down the hall and went into one of the computer labs, to put the finishing touches on my dissertation before I submitted it to the graduate office. I saw Emily at one of the PCs. I struck up a conversation with her - I've long since forgotten about what - at the end of which she offered me her email address. We corresponded a bit afterwards; I included my phone number in one of my emails, and she called me and left her number on my answering machine.


We talked practically every night; in fact Emily made a note of it after we'd talked for several consecutive nights. We made a date on campus. She told me she wouldn't be offended if I kissed her, so I did and she wasn't.

Emily was a local girl; she lived with her parents in Alexandria, Virginia. She was on a one-year leave of absence from the College of William & Mary (from which she subsequently graduated), taking courses at GMU.

By December, we were an item. One of my fondest memories from back then is sitting next to Emily on the couch in her parents' den, watching the CNN coverage of the Clinton impeachment hearings and vote in the House of Representatives.

Our relationship has survived some pretty strong up and downs, including some separations. Emily didn't like my going to Beijing for the fall of 1999 and winter of '99-'00 to teach Economics, but thanks to email, IM and even the Postal Service, we kept in touch. After Beijing, I lived in New York (where I'm from) for a little while, then moved back down to Washington, DC.

Sometime in 2003, Emily told me about Asperger Syndrome. Apparently, she had researched some aspects of my behavior and come up with AS as a likely cause. She urged me to read some books and articles about AS, which I did.

We became engaged on March 9, 2004, and took our vows on January 20, 2005. It's been a long haul.

I've worked to accommodate Emily as an NT. I engage her as much as I have energy for, including watching a few of her favorite shows with her (often on DVD) such as The Sopranos and vintage episodes of Saturday Night Live.

I go to some events with Emily as a couple. Events which I've agreed to ahead of time with full knowledge of what's going on and who will be there. I make sure to get plenty of sleep the night before (a good night's sleep is like topping off the social fuel tank, especially - but not only - for an Aspie or autist), and I stay civil to everyone. If I sense my social fuel gauge creeping too close to the E, I leave and take a walk.

Meanwhile, Emily understands my nature...probably better than anyone else. She understands how I need to spend time decompressing by myself in front of my PC. She knows that I do enjoy conversing with her but often in 5-10 minute segments, often on predetermined subjects. When I ask her questions, she tries her best to give me answers that are direct, to the point and whenever applicable (eg, how long, how soon, how much, how often) have a number in them.

We could both do better, and we're working on it. I'm working on reducing the time I spend with my PC to spend with her instead, and on going out with Emily more as a couple. Meanwhile, she knows that she needs to cut out her cracks about my employment and job search and her angry outbursts about my bluntness.

Tonight, we're going out for (probably) crab of some sort (Emily) and steak (me). (Remember, this is Maryland; crabs are everywhere!)


I recently sent Emily an e-card. Of course, I'm not going to reproduce the whole thing here, because some parts are just too personal. With her permission, here's part of it:

I love and need you so much for:



  • The way you understand me - better than anyone else on Earth


  • Your understanding the way I'm wired in the most literal sense - for that matter, your having researched it and told me about it in the first place


  • The interests we share, including law and politics and also the Sopranos interest you inculcated in me


  • Your having had the courage to make the first move with me in the first place


  • You really are a beautiful woman

No, physically you're no Anne Hathaway or Renee Zellweger or other big screen siren. That doesn't matter to me. I didn't marry a big screen siren.

[See - honesty is well received! You just have to word it right.]

I chose to marry you. And I choose to stay married to you...yes, even after you turn 30 - and 40 - and 50 - and so on. Until death do us part.

5 comments:

Medic61 said...

You are so lucky to have one another :)

StatMama said...

Congratulations to you both on this anniversary. All marriages require work and effort to make and keep them strong. Aspies require a bit more patience and understanding, and in turn they also have to have this themselves. It sounds like you two are doing great :) I wish you both many years of happiness.

Chapati said...

hey, i have been lurking, reading your blog, for absolutely ages now (can't remember how I found it!) and think it's great. I don't know any Aspies or Autists yet, but I really think when/if I meet any I'll understand them a lot better than I would have.

One think I love about the way you portray aspies/autists is that the way they think is so clear cut. So...black and white!

This post had me all teary, and becoming teary is always a sign it is time to wave and say hi! You are very lucky to have each other, very lucky you both love each other so unconditionally you work through the issues you have, and I wish you many more years of happiness.

:o)

Tanya @ Teenautism said...

Beautiful indeed, both of you. The effort that you put into your marriage is evident in the rewards you reap from it. So inspiring!

shantishanti.net said...

Jeffrey--it is the same for me--just as you've described in the following paragraph:

"I go to some events with Emily as a couple. Events which I've agreed to ahead of time with full knowledge of what's going on and who will be there. I make sure to get plenty of sleep the night before (a good night's sleep is like topping off the social fuel tank, especially - but not only - for an Aspie or autist), and I stay civil to everyone. If I sense my social fuel gauge creeping too close to the E, I leave and take a walk."