SPEAK THE TRUTH OR ACT
I have discovered a new spectrum - should I be
true to myself and speak the truth as I see it, or play the diplomat
and tip toe around people's feelings? I've been working on this
for some years, wondering whether to be myself or adapt and save
my relationship before it was too late.
I was diagnosed with Asperger's
in my twenties, partly due to a lack of public awareness, and also
because I am a pretty mild case. It helped me understand why I had
a philosophy of life’s too short to put up with the bullshit - in
other words, I should speak my mind so that all concerned understand
exactly what I thought. If I don't like a situation, I am the only
one who can take responsibility for my own happiness and make changes.
Unfortunately, I was not aware of how asserting my views was negatively
affecting the relationship with my partner, friends and family.
I thought everyone was just over sensitive and approaching life
in an illogical way.
RElationship problems with Asperger's
As in previous relationships, my boyfriend was
naturally concerned and attentive to my needs, but then I started
to feel as if he was distancing himself from me. His job requires
him to spend a lot of time away from home, and consequently I was
often left alone to brood on my thoughts. I've always felt that
to live my life with integrity I needed to be honest, even if it
were confronting or resulted in making me unpopular. And it did
- I often had trouble hanging on to friendships, but figured if
they can't handle the truth, then they aren't real friends.
My boyfriend really opened up, and claimed I was rude and how everything
I discussed was about me, me, me. He said I was the distant one,
and he was only reacting to me. This was all news to me, I'd only
been in one serious relationship before and that person had taken
off without even saying goodbye.
Being analytical (something that runs in Asperger's!), I'd read
up on the need for communication so always stated my ideas clearly
and succinctly to him. It was difficult to see at first, but I could
understand how my no-nonsense communication style was causing more
grief than good, even though rationally this is an efficient way
to communicate. I was increasingly becoming angry and frustrated
with my partner’s lack of understanding and respect for my views,
while he was claiming the same about me.
a big decision
If I acted with integrity, my partner would probably
leave. If I put on a Pollyanna smile, and pretended everything was
okay, I felt unhappy. Was there something in between? And if so,
how could I integrate both my integrity and needing to play the
diplomat into the “new me”?
To cut a long story short, I saw a neuropsychologist for a while
and finally got a clear picture of what my boyfriend was feeling.
I admitted how ashamed I felt not having had a clue as to how my
insensitive words had hurt him. But I did explain that this didn't
mean my 'Asperger's identity' was necessarily at fault. We just
had a big chasm between us and some compromise was needed if we
were going to continue our relationship.
I told him how I was determined to work on a more
polite but still truthful style of communication. I let him know
that I was 100% committed to improving our relationship and I would
not give up just because some things seemed too hard. I went on
to explain that there are two things to consider: there is the Asperger's
syndrome, and there is me. I am not the syndrome, and it is not
me. I am still a person, and I have a condition called Asperger's
syndrome. If someone with cancer were feeling depressed and sometimes
snapped at loved ones on down days, people around her would not
demand that she “get over it!” nor tell her “you have no idea how
selfish you are!” The cancer is not the person, it is a condition
the patient has.
Just because people can’t see my Asperger's doesn't mean they should
be any less understanding. If I were in a wheelchair and had tubes
coming out of me, people would treat me with more tolerance and
understanding. I knew my partner had been listening not just with
his ears, but with his heart. The look of love and compassion in
his eyes affirmed my decision to take the step of changing my ways.
He even agreed that my honesty was a positive trait, when expressed
living with Asperger's is like running a marathon
My big challenge is to continue being aware of
my words and their impact on others. I need to be vigilant in my
conversational style. This will take time. Like training for a marathon,
one can only take one step at a time; but know that every training
run is one more brick you are laying down on the road to achieving
your goals. Difficult as this will be, I am determined to incorporate
these new skills into my speech. Furthermore, making honest statements
should not only include the things we don't like, but also the things
we do. Praise and compliments go a long way towards healing old
wounds and creating good relationships.
Of course there are heaps of other issues we face,
but I'll leave those for another story.
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