Sunday, November 30, 2008

Aspies, Autists and Relationships, Part V: An NT Perspective


My good friend Sam has posted about a defining episode in her past relationship with "Adrian," who was diagnosed with AS while they were dating.

Sam brings the empathy of a hard-core medic, the wisdom of experience and the skill of a creative writing major. As far as I know, this is a true story, involving the NT-Aspie relationship she previously told us about.

Keep in mind a few Aspie traits which raised challenges in their relationship. Aspies sometimes have problems understanding things, especially feelings, which aren't spelled out in so many words. People can discuss events and we will understand the events themselves.

It will be more difficult for us to understand how those things make people feel - especially if the feelings are expressed through nonverbal cues like body language, facial expressions and tones of voice. Those feelings may be rooted in past events which we may actually know about, but if the connection is not explicitly made it may not occur to us.

We need to make as great an effort as possible to understand how people are feeling. At the same time, we should ask others, especially NTs, to make themselves as clear as possible. We need to understand that we must ask NTs to go beyond their tacit understanding of "clear," which often includes figures of speech, hints, euphemisms, understatement, gestures, facial expressions and the like.

In making these requests, we need to model what we need them to do - ask in so many words. We need to explain that if something is not put in literal, verbal terms we are much less likely to understand it.

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

I reckon all couples could learn from that! Lack of communication is the biggest problem in a relationship.

Although it *is* really hard, often you don't even know how upset you are yourself, let alone be able to express it in words.

Tanya @ Teenautism said...

Good advice - I find that when I make it a point to speak in very literal terms with Nigel that he is able to understand things better.

Jeff Deutsch said...

Hello Chapati,

Indeed one can't always put one's feelings into words. The point in that case is not to hold it against the other person for failing to read your mind. It certainly might happen but you can't count on it or you will drive the both of you mad.

Tanya, that's the way to go. Obviously, you understand Nigel very well. I'm sure you've learned a great deal about yourself, too, since Nigel was born.

Jeff Deutsch