Don Days are fascinating.
Don Days are fascinating.
There are two things Don does that I noticed as a pattern and pointed out.
First, he disagrees on word meanings. Such as, what constitutes “words of affirmation”. I believe statements I use such as “You are a good father” and “You are very dear to me” are BOTH expressions of affirmation, but he would only acknowledge the former as affirming. That means “I love you” is not affirming. I say bullshit to that. It’s pretty affirming to hear someone important to you loves you.
The second, is, he will answer a question with a response that is completely unrelated to the question. I believe this is a strategy he employs to throw me off track, to get me off talking about a subject that is uncomfortable for him. He might claim it is related to word meanings. But I’m going to call some serious bullshit on that.
Oh my, I criticize him so mightily here! But I do love him. Not forever, romantic, let’s get married love. But I do love him. No use denying that.
Do I feel guilty about calling him on his bullshit? Yes, and no. I adore the man. I don’t want to hurt him, wouldn’t do it purposely for anything. But it’s very important that I get to his truth, to the motivation behind his behavior.
Why does he do these things, attempt to throw me off track, off topic? Well, I’ve so far maintained he is incapable of manipulation. But I don’t think that is true any longer. He needs to know I am not going to give him an automatic pass on all the things he claims are Asperger-related when I don't believe they are. Nope. He’s human, he’s capable of manipulation, whether or not he even realizes it. I’m not going to let it slide anymore. I have to be true to myself, just as I expect him to be honest and true to himself. There is Don with Asperger’s, and there is Don’s personality.
I also posited to him when I ask for something that seems too hard or too daunting, he will tell me he is unable to do it due to his Asperger’s. I called him out on that. I told him I believe that sometimes he blames things on his Asperger’s that have nothing to do with AS, that he just doesn’t want to make the change or put forth the effort to meet my stated need. When I asked him how often he does that, he responded, “Probably quite often.”
The man is honest, I will always give him credit for that. I haven’t caught him in a lie, he’s always been transparently honest. And sometimes that’s painful as fuck. And I can’t tell you I appreciate it, always.
Sometimes, the way a neurotypical man chooses to frame a response to my question, not in the most intensely direct, blatantly honest manner, helps me make sense of the truth minus the sting. There’s a fair amount of sting with Don’s truthful responses. Ouch. Is it better? Rip the band aid off? I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe I’ll get used to it and appreciate it more over time. But right now. Ouch.
Don hurts my feelings sometimes. But is that on him or is that on me? When you ask a direct question, and you get a direct answer, not in any way softened to help the receiver receive the information in a kinder, gentler way, is that better? Probably, yes. Maybe I’ll get used to it and appreciate it more over time. But right now. Ouch.
The thing here, is, I need to learn when I get a painfully direct honest answer to a direct question, what is the mature response? The mature response is to not personalize the response. The mature response is to evaluate the information for accuracy and validity, and apply it towards making the needed changes in my perspective or behavior that I deem appropriate. Goodness me. That’s so so so much harder to actually do than I just made it sound.
We had a long text conversation the other night, and during that conversation, I decided I wouldn’t be the one to walk. He even gave me an out! A couple of times, actually. But I decided NO. I’m not walking. Why? The pain I have from some of his words and actions triggering past abuse I’ve experienced pales in comparison to the incredible benefit I receive when something he says or does directs me straight to an aspect of my character, personality, or communication style I need to address and improve. As painful as it can be, by consciously and deliberately staying in this relationship, I am finding my Truth, rejecting the parts of Ego that take me down, and making strides towards becoming my core, authentic self.
Plus, if I did walk, someone else would come along to trigger and teach me the same goddamn lessons. I’m due for them. It’s part of my soul work. I’m very very clear on that fact. If it wasn’t Don, it would happen someway, through someone else, through some other connection, through some other series of events. Just like with Married Man. It was the most despicable thing I've ever done, having that affair, but I learned things from him I could not have learned from anyone else in any other way. I was due. I thought losing that Great Love might take me down. I really did. But it didn’t. It made me better. The bad things make me better.
So, I embrace it, reluctantly, like embracing hot coals, but I do embrace it. Count it all joy and all of that business. But it’s harder than FUCK, I tell ya. To make a deliberate choice to stay in a relationship that is going to take you down to your basest truest self, to reveal your ugliest flaws and shortcomings, and to know that fact while you’re in it, and to know that it will continue for God knows how long, is a very painful and possibly stupid thing to do – on the face of it. But to know I'd better get the learning now, because it will just come back over and over until I figure all the shit out I'm due to figure out, is a daunting commitment, and at times, nearly too difficult to endure. Alas. Count it all joy and all that business.
Once I got hold of all that, and it did take me months to put all the pieces together, and only with insight from Spirit, it made it a tiny bit easier to submit to the process. But man, oh man, that man pushes me to the edge and over. Sometimes I have no idea how I’m going to successfully put to positive use the hurt, self-doubt, and self-loathing his behavior triggers. It’s just a bit beyond my grasp. Just a bit beyond my ability to manage.
But what do ya know, Spirit gives me the resources to manage. It aint me, that’s for certain. Spirit is inside, working, always, bringing Truth into my life. I’m stronger, better, specifically and because of this relationship with Don. But it hurts like nothing I’ve ever experienced, and it's the most complicated and difficult relationship I've ever had.
The major learning, is, the fears and self-doubt Don’s Asperger traits trigger in me have nothing to do with Don and have nothing to do with abuse. Don is not abusive. He is kind and he tries very very hard to accommodate my stated needs. He desires for me to be content; he desires to stay in friendship with me.
I asked him what the payoff was, for doing these things, for pushing himself to do the things for me that don’t come naturally, that he doesn’t consider doing without my asking. We all act in our own self-interest almost all of the time, as I explained to him in detail.
“I just want you to be happy, or at least content. I like helping people. I like meeting their needs when I can,” he responded.
Eh, I don’t buy it. He couldn’t articulate the payoff, but I can. He’s doing it because he wants me to stay in friendship with him. He enjoys my companionship. He enjoys being in this relationship with me, me specifically, and he’d miss it if I weren’t in his life. That’s the payoff. There’s always a payoff.
Probably he believes, at a subconscious level, if he articulated that, it would give me power over him. And no man wants that, Asperger’s or no Asperger’s. That’s a human thing, not an AS thing. And that’s fine. We all act in our own self-interest almost all of the time. Even if he fails to see it, chooses not to acknowledge it, I know it to be true. Silly boys. Sorry. But I think that’s the bottom-line gist of it… No one likes to think they have less control than their partner, and that is particularly true of men. HA!
Don is incredible, remarkable, fascinating, and worth the effort. Do I always feel that way? No! I vacillate constantly. The fact his behaviors trigger me to relive abuse I’ve experienced at the hands of incredibly abusive neurotypical men make me fear for my mental health. But over the past few months, putting all the pieces together, I get it. When I’m triggered, I’m provided the opportunity to evaluate Don’s motives, and reframe, rework, and redefine my reaction.
It's healing being with Don. Our communication, the difficulties of it and the intense effort we both put into understanding one another and connecting on a meaningful level, is helping me realize there is always context to consider. It provides me opportunities to change how I react, and helps me clearly recognize the times and circumstances when I need not react at all. It's helping me gain a right, grounded perspective.
Don’s motives, while not perfect, and while very human in many aspects, are never intentionally abusive. Never. He never sets out to hurt me, to put me in my place, to make me feel "less than". So, I get to learn from that, and reframe, for example, his lack of attention as him being all up inside of his own head and losing track of time. There is no hidden message, no passive aggressive motive. It's just Don being his Asperger self, Don.
Don is a good man. So so flawed, just as I am. But I am so blessed to have crossed paths with him. I am so blessed we are both committed to making this friendship work and to do the work to ensure its continuity.
Are there any guarantees? Absolutely not! But for now, I’m committed to learning all I can and need to learn from Don. I am learning things I could not learn from any other person at any other time under any other circumstances.
So many people come into our lives, right on time, right on point. Thank Spirit I have the ability to recognize her at work in my life and submit to it (as best I am able). Denial, anger, rebellion, then intense fear are generally my initial responses. Until I realize there’s a lesson at hand. And I better fucking wake up and get with the program, do the work and get the learning, which I now invariably do.
I Persevere. And life goes on.
[Initial publication: 7/19/2022}