Neurotypicals have such a bizarre way of communicating. It would be funny, except for all the times their lack of good communication has created problems for me. Of course, I’m certain that is an unfair overstatement, not to mention they don’t know what they are doing. But, wait, aren’t we autistics never to explain why something has happened? (Only they can do that!) We are apparently the ones who make excuses; they, on the other hand, give the proper explanations. (They are often mistaken.)
My wife is currently on a mission to disengage from any conversation the moment she hears me say the word, “you.” She can say it, of course, as much as she wants because, unlike her, I don’t hear it as necessarily accusatory. That’s standard advice, and they teach that in DBT, and I suspect it’s in any training for communication. Still, it seems both cumbersome and often passive-agressive to rephrase a statement that clearly could be said another way.
I’m talking about the normal flow of informal conversation. I understand and accept saying words like, “please” and “thank you.” Or, in a restaurant, there are more “polite” ways to order. I’ve had this reinforced when learning a foreign language. Occasionally, I’ve gotten strange looks for being too formal. But, one gets a pass for not being a native speaker.
Conventional rules for writing letters dictate you shouldn’t begin paragraphs with the word, “I.” In fact, I’ve heard that starting sentences with, “I” sounds arrogant! So, when I’m told to convert “you” into “I,” that’s just one more very unnatural rule to follow. I’ve wondered if I’d be better off converting English into another language and then back. I can’t have an informal conversation with my wife.
My goal now is to point out whenever she uses the word, “you.” Fine. I’ll play that game. I’ll set the same boundary she does! I bet she won’t like it. Of course, the harm has already been done. Rather than correct me, she walks out of conversations when she hears that word. It’s so bizarre. Overkill. In truth, it’s because she doesn’t like being told what to do (most people don’t), and that includes my advice about autism (boundary). To be fair, she’s made some adaptations, but they won’t last, most likely, based on the past. And, she absolutely is not interested in helping me fix my “mistakes” in real time. I also can’t review them with her! In other words, I often don’t know why I’ve upset her!
This happens with others as well, but she has gotten worse since discovering the “antidote” to my officialautism diagnosis is getting her own unoffical “diagnosis” of codependency. (It’s not an actual diagnosis.) My diagnosis of “requires support” was met with, “It’s not my job to help others.” Put another way, she clearly has stated she won’t “give up any of her happiness” to help anyone else. The biggest problem, as I see it, is that she typically views requests for help as asking her to give up her happiness. If it keeps her from having “fun,” it is bad. (“The purpose of a relationship is to have fun.”)
Now, that’s not the entire story. She doesn’t mind when others ask her for help if she understands it. Certainly, she does help me greatly in some ways, but if it doesn’t make sense to her, she thinks I’m just complaining. Or, if I ask enough, she will do it just so I quit asking. It’s complicated, but that’s not the point. How and why she decides to help me – and our children – is confusing and arbitrary, much like her attempted complete ban on the word, “you.” Moreover, I help her as well, and she doesn’t always need to do what she wants to do for me. I am capable of making my own breakfast, but I let her since it makes her happy. I was joking this morning that I can’t say, “Thank You” anymore.
So, be careful. If you happen to be standing next to my wife (or anyone else hellbent on speaking like a proper Neurotypical), as you are about to walk out in front of an oncoming car, I hope you can decipher her words in time:
“Pardon me, but it appears to me as if a car is about to cross paths with any pedestrian who is around me and currently about to step out into the street.”
As you are being scraped up off the pavement, don’t forget to ask her, “Why didn’t you just tell me to wait?” Then, you can watch her turn her back and walk away because you:
1) used the word, “why”
2) used the word, “you”
3) are complaining about being injured when she got a blister once
4) are ungrateful that she was in the process of warning you
5) wasted her time
6) are trying to take away from her happiness
7) are trying to bring her down to your level
8) are getting in her way of whatever she wants to do next
Life with a neurotypical . . . or, at least, life with this particular one, has led to this. I think, over time, it happens with most NTs. Therefore, it’s probably not a bad idea to come to an understanding as soon as you can, though you don’t have to declare you are autistic in all situations. (That’s for another post, I hope.)
I realize I often sound critical of my wife in my posts. The simple reason for that is because I live with her. So, I have the most interactions with her. These are regularly stressful ones about logistics that I don’t have to have with others. In other posts, I have or will note times other NTs treat me in similar ways.
I am still trying to decipher why some people treat me better than others, as I’m tired of getting hurt and taken advantage of by a few people, at the expense of most others. But, that’s for another day, though I’m making progress.
What is the remedy? I am trying to change how I speak all the time, but it takes so much energy, and it feels so wrong and fake. “Masking” is the excellent term someone (I don’t’ know who) came up with to describe when autistics subject themselves to pretending to be neurotypicals. (We tend not to desire to upset others.) After a while, the mask gets irritating. You just have to hope you get enough time alone and with your special interests to offset the stresses of masking. Furthermore, you need to make sure nothing too traumatic happens in your life — as if you have any control over that, or you will likely have no little to no chance of avoiding burnout. This is especially true if you don’t get the support you need, and I will always maintain that I did not, at least in some ways.
Now, I have to go venture out into the real world, and I’m getting better at doing that again all the time. I’m behind on my May 4 post, as it’s May 5. That’s OK. I have to go be useful today, and I’m going to do my best to do so as gracefully (i.e., masking) as possible.
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