August 7, 2022 Journal Entry
I’m involved with a man with Asperger’s. His name is Don.
We’re friends with a romantic physical component. That’s the label I’ve come up with. I hate FWB and FWB doesn’t fit anyway. Our relationship will remain in this status. He is 15 years younger, with young children. We are at completely different places in our lives.
I knew from the start I am not Don's Person, nor he mine. I recognized we would never be a couple in the traditional sense. I understood almost immediately that Spirit brought us together to learn from one another and to enrich one another's lives.
Having learned what I’ve learned, through years of suffering I largely brought on myself, I know I am codependent as all hell. I know I have a martyr/savior complex, and I know I’ve gotten involved with a lot of men because I saw their pain and believed I could heal them. Not only that, I believed I was the only person that could heal them.
Focusing on healing these men, whom I did indeed love dearly, kept me very busy. I didn’t recognize the areas I was focused on healing in them, were, in fact, the exact areas I needed healing myself. I've owned that wisdom for quite some time now.
Imagine my surprise when I realized I was acting exactly contrary to that belief with Don, that belief which I fought so hard for so long to get hold of. I didn't see it! I literally did not see it.
#1: I am no longer Fixer Coco. I am New & Improved Coco.
As soon as we met, I started right in on the fixing. He definitely needs healing, I saw that immediately. I know this stuff. I know how to do this stuff. I’ve done this work. Therefore, my subconscious concluded, he definitely needs Me. And what's more, only I have the secret ingredients that can bring him to Truth.
I spent those first months trying to convince him of things that cannot be passed from one person to another. I spent a lot of time, and I mean a lot of time, trying to make him feel good about himself.
I should know better. I did know better. Yet it wasn’t until about month five, when I was so frustrated with him, and so frustrated with myself for being frustrated with him, that I delved into really learning about the challenges neurotypical women face in relationships with Asperger men. That jogged me into recognizing Fixer Coco was running things. Oh boy.
Once I figured that out, I immediately began correcting course. I landed on a strategy to remind myself I am no longer Fixer Coco. I am New & Improved Coco.
#2: I am not your mother. You are not my project.
I've said it out loud a few times, now. Don nods in agreement, but he might never grasp the magnitude of what I'm working so hard to accomplish - to alter my lifelong pattern of putting a man's needs ahead of my own. In spite of that, he is the person who gets the immediate benefit of my resolve to make this Big Change. Don has the winning lottery ticket in his pocket. He just might not ever think to check his numbers.
#3: Spirit brought Don into my life so I could leave Fixer Coco behind.
I'm charting a new course. I am putting into practice what I know is right and good and best for all: owning my own shit and not distracting myself by trying to take on someone else’s.
#4: When Don says things I believe are inaccurate, I need simply respond, "That's not been my experience."
I told Don I'd be stepping back, and no longer investing big energy into coaxing him to look at his assumptions and generalizations from a different perspective. When I said that out loud, I wasn't sure how I was going to do it. But I had committed to making the change, so I forged ahead.
My assurances freed him up to relax and be more authentic in communication. I so wish he could sit across a room and observe us interact. He's delightful. Sweet, fun, kind, smart, a tiny bit sassy, and occasionally incredibly witty. I love spending time with him. I'm blessed to know him.
There's a caveat. This more intimate, more real connection we're building is only sustainable if I recognize when Fixer Coco is running things. Once I realize she's taken over, I must gently nudge her back into the past where she has been permanently relocated (but doesn't quite realize it yet).
#5: Just like me, Don will recognize Truth when Don is ready to recognize Truth, and not one minute before.
It will take a great deal of self-discipline to put my new resolve into action. When Don says things that are inaccurate, I'm committed to overriding my habit of immediately putting forth a counter argument.
I haven't had quite enough practice yet to just shut up. To date, when he makes one of his sweeping generalizations, without clear evidence to back it up, I've gone on a bit. A few minutes in I see my error and stop. It's futile to persuade him, or anyone, to see things differently. People don't see until they're ready to see.
#6: Folks with Asperger's don't have a corner on the market for low self-esteem. That is a human thing, not an AS thing.
Don remains firmly wedded to his favorite lie: he has no worth. He's come to this conclusion based on the repeated marginalization he's experienced his entire life.
He might truly believe his experience is different, that he's suffered more than your garden variety neurotypical, and therefore he's entitled to hate on himself.
#7: When Don devalues himself, he devalues me. And it hurts.
I love Don, but I have always known I am not his Person. I’ve sometimes wondered how I will feel when he goes on his quest to find her. I’m not sure. But that’s really neither here nor there.
I want him to be happy. I want him to find his way. I want him to find his Person. I will support him in that and have often encouraged him to step out of his comfort zone (where I apparently now live) and get on with it!
Don has built his own obstacles and walled himself in by choosing to embrace the lie he has zero chance of finding a "suitable partner". He routinely tells me he is devoid of any intellectual and physical characteristics that might attract her.
Early on, I protested when he said such self-deprecating things. I tried to convince him he was horribly mistaken. I also tried to explain that when he says such things, I can draw a pretty straight line to how he perceives me. He never got hold of my message.
#8: Don can and has learned to change his behavior to keep quality people in his life. But it's unlikely he'll ever realize when he's said or done something hurtful.
I've spent a fair amount of time talking myself out of personalizing his false self-perceptions in terms of how they reflect on me, but I haven’t been entirely successful. It still hurts.
A few weeks back, he went down his favorite path of self-condemnation, again. The herpes always clinches it for him. I’ve heard it many times now. He follows the same script. He doesn’t even think to change it up! (I just made myself laugh, there.)
"I'd have to find someone age appropriate, with kids, who was attracted to me, who has herpes..." he lamented. "There's a one in a million chance of that. It's not going to happen…"
Blah blah blah blah blah, I thought. And then I got a little bit mad.
I looked at him and said sarcastically, "Well, you've always got your default fall back woman, ME!"
Momentarily overcome with sadness, I turned my head away, trying hard to distract myself from the pain welling inside.
Don was silent.
He missed his opportunity to reassure me I am not his default, to tell me I am not simply the woman he's taken up with because I'm the woman that's attracted to him and cares for him deeply in the absence of a suitable partner. He missed that very specific chance to assure me I’m his friend, his valued friend, and that he absolutely wants me in his life, and for a very long time.
After a while, when I realized he had nothing to say, I said, "Amazing. I can make myself sad all by myself."
I commenced the internal flogging, berating myself mercilessly for once again personalizing something Don is mistaken to believe, and doesn't have a clue he is completely insensitive to say in my presence. After a bit of travel in that direction, I recognized I was on a dead end and turned around. I was very proud of myself for that. I’m figuring it out. I’m making big progress.
Don wouldn't hurt me intentionally, I know that through and through. He consistently demonstrates he cares about me. He shows me and he tells me. But man, he can sure miss the Really Big Cues.
I could have explicitly told him what he’d said really hurt, but I’ve told him before. He doesn’t make the connection. Maybe he is unable to make the connection. Or maybe he’s just not ready. Or maybe he just doesn’t want to.
#9: You must believe you have worth in order to act in your own best interest.
Just now, going back and rereading what I’ve written, I realize Don does value himself. He's smart enough, and lonely enough, that he works very hard at maintaining beneficial relationships. He knows it's in his best interest to keep quality people in his life.
#10: I see the places Don is making wrong assumptions about himself because I was him. I still am him.
It’s well past time for Don to pitch that tired old self-deprecating script. Maybe he’ll never see the need to do that. Or maybe he’s just not ready.
Rereading all these epiphanies, I'm beginning to think he chooses to stay in self-condemnation, which I now see is built around years and years of succumbing to self-pity.
When I slapped that label on it, I figured out why I knew he was doing that. Because I do the same thing. I'm better. But I still do the same thing.
#11: I'm a few steps ahead of Don in personal growth, but not very many.
I assumed, since I am so much older, that I had it all over Don in the personal growth department. And it's true, I have lived more years, and accumulated more wisdom simply by virtue of the passing of time. But that doesn't mean I've got it all figured out and he's still doing baby steps. I didn't give him enough credit. I know he's doing the work. He's just not doing it the way I did it. So at first, I missed he was doing it at all.
I'm the one that needed the reboot on perspective. Instead of feeling compelled to intervene in his process, I needed to get back to honing mine.
#12: Maturity and wisdom are attained first hand.
I know from personal experience it can be very comfortable to stay stuck. Change is hard. It's human nature to resist the obvious truth it’s time to change for as long as we can, until it becomes just too painful to ignore. Finally, we submit and begin in earnest to do the work.
I know first hand when we commit to a new course, and we're finally ready to put the stuff that's not worked for us behind us, we are reborn. We commence to rid ourselves of unneeded layers of false self and false protection, and open ourselves up to what Spirit intended for us to know. Our true self begins to emerge.
"Therefore if anyone be in Spirit, they are a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things have become new."
2 Corinthians 5:17