Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!
While Americans are rebelling against celebrating Columbus and the day he brought home syphilis to Europe, I’ll be cooking and eating turkey dinner.
I’m thankful that my husband and I are over our most recent fight.
We don’t fight often, but when we do, it’s over the same kind of thing. My husband refers to them by code now – argument 6B, for example.
This argument was the kind of fight we haven’t had nearly as much since we realized that I was autistic. A situation spiralled out of control because he thought I meant something other than I said.
It happens a lot because people are always putting layers of subtext onto your speech and there’s nothing you can do to control that.
And I’m guilty of it too, at times. In my family we always placed a strong emphasis on putting other people first, so it’s rare for one of us to outright demand something we want from others, or even ask straight-out. Instead we tend to tiptoe around feeling out the situation to determine whether we feel comfortable making the request.
And his family is much more comfortable with saying, “I want X. Make it happen.”
So Perfect Husband knows that I can and do rely on subtext on occasion, which muddies things for him.
Then I say something that strikes him as passive aggressive or hurtful and we have to have an argument.
This is how it goes:
1. I say something like “you were sleeping.”
2. His weird non-autistic brain puts a bunch of insinuations and coded meanings onto it, like “you are a terrible husband and father and deliberately neglect your family.”
3. He reacts negatively to my perceived attack, and we go around in circles for a while each trying to figure out what the other person’s problem is.
4. I spend a bunch of time explaining that by “sleeping” I mean “not awake”.
5. We apologize to each other and promise to try and do better.
This time I asked him to PLEASE give me the benefit of the doubt in these situations and he said that he DOES.
“If you knew how many hurtful things you say that I just automatically discount because I know you would never say something that mean…” he said.
When I hear stuff like this I feel both guilty and frustrated as heck. Because really how much responsibility can I be expected to take for something that goes on in someone else’s head? It’s one thing if the words I say are genuinely hurtful.
But if I say something perfectly innocent and someone else then puts a bunch of layers of meaning on it that I didn’t intend, then is this really my fault?
I want to make my communications kinder… but how do you avoid the landmines in someone else’s brain?
But the thing I’m really thankful for is that we can have a sense of humor about it.
“I put the keys on the counter,” I will say to my husband. “And by ‘I put the keys on the counter’ I do NOT mean that you are a bad husband.”
“Are you sure?” he’ll say.
“Can you hand me a can of Diet Pepsi?” I’ll ask him.
“Are you calling me a terrible father??” he’ll tease.
“I’m going to the bathroom,” I’ll say. “And when I say ‘I’m going to the bathroom,’ I do NOT mean that I think Elvis is still alive and walks among us.”
And he’ll scratch his nose with his middle finger.
Things are okay. For now.
And I’m thankful.
Been there a lot! For years my husband would get upset with me and say “I can’t read your mind! Why can’t you just *tell me* what you want?!” Of course it wasn’t easy for me given my own mental health challenges and the dysfunctional family I came from. We needed marriage counselling and I also needed additional therapy at a Mental Health Clinic. It wasn’t quick or easy, but it *was* worth it. In February2019 we will have been married for 28 years and (despite my myriad of health challenges) our relationship is better now than it ever was before. We genuinely enjoy our time together as much as we enjoy our time apart. A huge weight will be lifted from both your shoulders the second you *stop* walking on eggshells and worrying about whether what you say will be misinterpreted. Give each other permission to say “no” without guilt and just ask for what you want or need straight out. It’s SO worth the initial discomfort. Love and strength Dear One. You’ve got this! xoxo